This blog is mainly a rambling kind of diary of the transition from smallholderwannabe to smallholder.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

How did it get to Thursday already? I seem to blink these days and half a week has sprinted past me.

We got the potatoes lifted at the weekend. We had a reasonable crop of good potatoes from the pack of Roosters from the £1 shop. Nice to have some reds for a change. We were given a handful of unnamed seed potatoes which our allotment neighbour had no room for and they have produced a small number of very nice, small, waxy potatoes which will be lovely as boiled potatoes. The Kestrel, which we have grown for several years, produced a bumper crop of large and lovely floury potatoes. Some of them willcertainly take us more than one meal to get through them. The Kestrel have definitely earned their keep!

Last night we had sausage and mash: the second half of the pack of 30p for 8 sausages from the reduced section in the supermarket with mashed potatoes (some of the ones the fork went through on lifting - thankfully there were not many of those) and onion (homegrown) gravy with stirfried overgrown courgette (homegrown), mushroom, and green tomato (homegrown). It was a lovely meal!

On Tuesday night, I spent the whole evening peeling windfall apples into 3 bowls - one for nice apple pieces, one for nice peel and cores and the largest for grotty bits. I stewed it up but it took until bedtime so I left it to cool overnight and then bagged it up for the freezer last night. I've got two boxes of windfalls left to deal with so I'd like to try Frugal Queen's method of storing apples but these ones were put into small packs in the freezer so that they could be used for apple sauce with pork or sausages. Some of the peel and cores went to the rabbits and the rest has now been boiled up and is dripping through my jelly bag.

The other thing I did last night was to tick one item off my list of Things I'd Like to Try: I made butter. When I went to the supermarket, I happened upon some pint pots of double cream reduced to 39p each so I brought home 3 pots. My husband promptly took half a pot to whip for eating with bread (preferably homemade) and jam (homemade, obviously) which he adores. So I used 2 1/2 pints and that produced just under 1 lb 10 ozs of butter. My husband has requested scones made with buttermilk asap before his cream goes off. The butter has been divided up into 4 oz portions and frozen unsalted as apparently the saltiness intensifies in the freezer. The remaining bit has had salt added for use now. Unsalted butter will keep for 3 months in the freezer.

So £1 worth of cream has produced much more butter than I thought. Next time I happen on reduced cream, I will be able to calculate whether it is worthwhile buying it to make butter because I will know that a pint of cream produces roughly 10 ozs of butter. Verdict on the homemade butter will have to come later because he was too asleep this morning to remember to use mine on his breakfast toast. Cheapo butter costs 98p here so it will be a question of weighing up the taste of the homemade versus the expense of the cream. I wouldn't buy cream at full price but it is not always reduced sufficiently to warrant buying it. I washed the butter over and over to get the buttermilk out of it. However, when I thought it was clean, I was not happy to spot some more buttermilk leaking out when I was making it into little blocks for the freezer. Leaving buttermilk in it shortens the life of the butter outside of the freezer so this is one reason I decided on the small 4 oz blocks. Next time I shall wash the butter a couple more times after I think it is clear of buttermilk.

Actually, I have made butter before but not in any quantity. When we were first married, we still had proper milk delivered by a milkman and I used to save the top of the milk and use it for cream and also to make a tiny bit of butter when there was too much month left at the end of the money. I don't really count that because when you use top of the milk or single cream, you only get a very little butter for all the effort you put in. With the double cream yesterday AND a food processor (not a jar shaken), there was a lot of butter made and packaged and in the freezer inside 30 minutes.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

This is the recipe for courgette and green tomato pickle. Of, course, I haven't actually tasted it yet so I don't know how good it is. I like green toms and courgettes and I love most pickles and chutneys so I'm hoping it is a winner because it uses glut items. Usually I note down where I got a recipe from but I didn't with this one so I can't give credit where it is due. I copied it off a forum a few years back and that is all I can remember. I'm including the author's comments:

While you are in a chutney mood, here's a recipe for a courgette pickle that I devised to use up some of the overgrown courgettes, very good with jacket potatoes and cheese, we ate some straightaway and started a new jar after a month.

2 lbs courgette/marrow peeled and diced
1 lb courgette/marrow skin left on diced
1 lb green toms, could use onions instead, cut into strips
Layer up in a bowl with salt sprinkled on, don't need a lot, leave overnight.
Drain off the liquid that comes out and put veg in a large pan.

1 pint cider vinegar
1 tabsp crushed coriander seeds
1 teasp each ground ginger and chilli flakes
1 tabsp curry powder
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 tabsp sugar
Bring to boil and simmer till cooked and thickened, takes about an hour but didn't go all mushy, put into clean screwtop jars, made 2 big jars.

Back to me again: I used up all the green toms that were a bit damaged and by the time I had chopped them up, there was only 12 ozs so I added two onions and a large cooking apple that needed a bit cut off. I didn't have enough cider vinegar so I used half a pint of white malt vinegar with the other. I didn't use the curry powder because my husband would not have been prepared to try it if I had and I used more sugar because we quite like a sweet pickle. But I used the basic recipe... : ) I was quite surprised that so much courgette shrank to just two large jars. My neighbour called in today and has gone home with a copy of the recipe to help use up some of her courgette mountain.

Friday, September 24, 2010

I'd decided not to make any more chutney this year as we haven't eaten much of last year's batch. However, I'd been given some green tomatoes that needed to be used up quickly and I had a surfeit of overgrown courgettes. Then a recipe for a green tomato and courgette pickle scribbled on the back of something else fell out of another book as I picked it up ... So I've made it. The thing with pickles and chutneys is that you mostly can't eat them straightaway as they need to mature. I want to try it and can't. I'll have to wait and try it with the Christmas cold meat leftovers.

I want to make a little bit of red onion jam to put in my offspring's Christmas stockings. They all love things like that and my husband wouldn't touch it but should there be a little pot left for me, I'll be well pleased. I've still got a few windfalls left so I'm wondering about a small amount of chilli jelly for their Christmas stockings as well. And that is another thing my husband would not even consider trying. He is very conservative in his tastes although he is incredibly more willing to give things a trial than when I first met him.

My offspring all love their Christmas stockings and I find it quite a fun challenge to fill them with nice things at little or no cost. Once upon a time I thought that stockings would stop when they left home but they enjoy them too much and were horrified the first year I didn't do them. I collect bits and pieces all year but now it is September, the hunt for things that they will like is well and truly on. They get a mixture of fun things and nice things with a sprinkling of useful things thrown in too. Last year, for example, I happened to be in a branch of Tesco which had reduced all the packets of clothespegs to 25p so guess what turned up in the stockings? My husband thought I had lost the plot there but they were all pleased to have a few extra. And they had a laugh when they unwrapped them. Wrapped, of course, in recycled paper. I keep a long cardboard tube from some turkey foil and wrap any reasonable sheets of Christmas paper around that so they can be stored safely until the next Christmas but not take up too much space anywhere.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

I've done enough ironing for two weeks so that the pressure is off if next weekend is as busy as I am expecting. The cauliflower is in the freezer and so are the beans. And 13 little pots of autumn jelly are cooling in the kitchen. Last year this kind of jelly was called hedgerow jelly because all nine of the fruits were picked out of country hedgerows but I didn't manage enough variety to call it that this year. Besides, some of the fruit was out of a garden and I only managed six varieties. Tastes good, anyway, whatever its name : )

It is my daughter's birthday today and she and her family along with my son and his family and my other daughter went to Go Ape. They all went on Friday so they camped for two nights with the adventure toys for adults bit on the Saturday. They all had fun apparently, swinging through the trees etc. I just had a fit when I read the advertising leaflet and saw the price. With all these trees that are in our neighbours' garden but overhang ours and block the light - well, I'd have let them swing through those branches for nothing! But it is not the same, I suppose and they are a different generation.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Spotted this on the tv last night:

Free sample of Felix for cat owners. Free - my favourite price!
After the open days, life has started to get back to something more akin to "normal" at work. I'm grateful for that although this week I had to write a review of the last year in the run up to the annual appraisal. I hate doing things like that. I'm not good at using the right jargon/buzz words. I usually write it how it is and then run it past my husband so he can translate it into jargon for me. When he has something important to write, he runs it past me so that I can check his spelling and grammar (he's a scientist), delete tautology and general woffle. See, we're a team! He adds and I take away.

Today, we have 2 ginormous cauliflowers (grown by my friend) to cut up, blanch and freeze, beans to prep and freeze and another batch of jam to make. I'm not going to make any chutney this year because there is enough left from last year to do until next summer. There is also washing and ironing to do as my husband does not have a shirt ready to wear on Monday and I haven't much left either. I'd like a bit of rest sometime this weekend too as all the other weekends until half term are getting a bit fuller than I like already. We need to get to the allotment soon because there are more things to harvest but lack of time and start-of-school-year colds (both of us - yeuch!) mean that I need to concentrate on saving what we already have harvested, rather than harvesting more when it might survive a little longer in the ground.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Yesterday and today were open days at our school. That meant tidying completely, putting up displays and generally making the place as pretty as possible. It amazes me how much there was to tidy up after only one week of school.

Our school featured in the tv programme "The big school lottery" about the choices for secondary school. Parts 1 and 2 aired this week. Next week is part 3. Part 1 was the group of year 6 kids talking about their hopes for "big school" and about the 11 plus exam. Part 2 was the process for assigning a pupil to a school from their selection of choices and about getting the results of the 11 plus exam if they had taken it. Part 3 will be about this group of kids' first day at their secondary school. Our Head was thinking that we would have more people round the school after the tv programmes but I'm not sure there were any more than usual. Mind you, it was pouring with rain both last night and this morning...

We got to school half an hour early last night and left three quarters of an hour late. We did the same this morning - and were run off our feet the whole time. When such an event has set times, why do people turn up after closing time? And why do they still expect the grand tour?

Monday, September 06, 2010

Rosehip syrup recipe for Jane:

Rosehip syrup Stage 1

1.8 kilos rosehips
2 ltr water.
Mince the washed hips and add to the water in a pan - simmer for 30 minutes.
Remove from the heat and stand for 15 minutes.
Add another 1 ltr water and simmer again for 20 minutes.
Remove the pulp to a bowl, cover and leave overnight.

Stage 2

Put the pulp back into a large pan, add 1.5 ltrs water and bring to the boil, then simmer for 20 minutes.
Pour the pulp mixture into a jellybag and place over a bowl to drip overnight.

Stage 3

The next day, pour the resulting juice into a heavy pan and put on a low heat.
Add 895g of sugar and stir until dissolved, then boil for 5 minutes.
Strain the syrup, then pour into sterilised bottles.

You can use this as a sauce on puddings, to make a summer drink, or as I do, poured liberally onto plain yogurt.

(From Home Made & at a fraction of the cost - Polly Pinder)

I had this saved on my work computer. I think I got the link from another blog/forum last summer. It is not as faffy as it sounds and the result was very nice. I think I did about a quarter of the quantities because that was the amount of rosehips I got my hands on. And you don't have to deseed the rosehips : ) which is a bonus. My biggest problem was finding enough small jars/bottles to put it in.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

The jam saga continues. I went to visit my friend on a farm yesterday so that we could pick some blackberries. I also found a few sloes - yay!!! And some hips and haws and hazelnuts so I feel some hedgerow jelly coming on. I also acquired some windfall apples so I will be making blackberry and apple jam today. Right now, I'm just taking a break from peeling, chopping and removing bad bits from a very large pile of those apples. I have three saucepans beside my chair - one for good bits for the jam, one for bits of nice cores and nice peel for stewing up for some pectin-full liquid although the rabbits will be pleased to eat a bit of that, and the last pan for the bits that are not so nice and will go into the compost.

Back to work. It is a good job I got ahead on the ironing before term started.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Back to school was not as fun as being on holiday. Since workmen were coming in to do major things in my room during the holiday, I had to totally clear the decks at the end of term. That meant being creative about where to store all the Stuff that normally lives around the room. Actually, despite the best efforts of the cleaner, I was surprised to find how dirty it all still was. All the flat surfaces had been washed but the not-so-flat and the upright ones and the keyboards/screens/mousemats etc were dreadful. And I couldn't remember where I had put loads of things...

I was tired and thinking about an early night about 9 o'clock when my daughter phoned to say that she was in Tesco and they had reduced 8 crates of raspberries to 10p per punnet. She had picked me up 30 punnets and was that enough to make some jam...? So I got out the jam making things and sorted out some jars and had just put them in the sink when she arrived. So I've just finished making 10lbs of jam. I'll make some more tomorrow. I can't face staying up any later now. And quite a few packs have gone into the freezer for winter puds. And some have gone into me : )

Isn't she a good daughter! Her dad's favourite jam is raspberry and our crop at the allotment was very poor so he is absolutely delighted to have a supply again because he thought he would have to do without his favourite jam until next year.