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

Friday, October 14, 2011

The school chicks are nearly grown up now.  They are 15 weeks old this week and they are all lovely.  Unfortunately one of the three is male.  Apparently, I read somewhere, 55% of chicks turn out to be male so to have two of the three female is pretty good going.  However, every time the headmaster meets me in the corridor, he asks when he is getting his chicken dinner.  It isn't funny any more because I have committed the cardinal error of getting too involved and I'm fond of the poor bird.  I'm beginning to wonder if I can get away with buying a chicken from Sainsburys.  Will they notice any difference?  Cockerels can be nice or they can be nasty and this one looks set to be a nice one.  Also, he looks very like a typical little brown hen so he isn't going to provide much of a dinner anyway.  He is a skinny teenager right now.  Laying hens are very thin because all their energies go into egg production.  They are bred this way and you need an all-purpose "utility" bird like a Rhode Island Red or one of the varieties of Sussex to get a cockerel that would feed a family while the females lay a reasonable number of eggs.  Or else a Ross-Cobb or a Sasso or Hubbard or something like which all grow to look like the Sumo wrestlers of the chicken world. 

I'm been busy with apples. Again. Still more to process.  I peeled and cored and cooked enough apple to give me 23 small jars of stewed apple to which I added sugar and lemon juice and then processed in a water bath.  I cooked the peel and core and a few chopped up small apples and strained them through my jelly bag and then sieved the must and added that to the stewed apple before I bottled it. With the juice, I made 6 jars of mint jelly which will be a couple for us and the rest in goody boxes for Christmas.  When I make it again, I will use more mint.  I stripped most of the leaves off my plant and chopped them up fine but the jelly could take being mintier.  I wanted some leaves left to make a jar of concentrated mint sauce to keep in the fridge to go with the half a lamb that we bought, most of which is still in the freezer. Next time, I would also add a small quantity of vinegar (cider vinegar, maybe?) to add a little more piquancy as it is quite sweet.  My husband likes it but then he has a sweet tooth.

We had lamb for dinner (with the spoonful of mint jelly that would not fit in the jars) on Monday night because it was my birthday.  It was a good meal!  Yesterday was my son's birthday so we had a grand family get-together last weekend which was fun.  I do enjoy it when my family gets together for a meal and I would really miss that if we moved out of the area to find a smallholding.

With some more of those apples, I was wondering about trying the potted apple from Tracing Rainbow's blog.  No water bath needed. The recipe was taken from Mary Norwak's "Lark Rise Recipe Book " which was published in 1986.

I'd also like to put a few bags of prepared apple (large size pieces) in the freezer for apple pies.  Then maybe the good ones can be kept a while for gradual using a few at a time.  Considering that I was scrounging around for apples when I starting my annual preserving binge, I've ended up with absolutely loads.  One lady at work has two apple trees and was offering to share her bounty and had no takers apart from me. I had too many little plums and had difficulty finding someone to help with the surplus.  With the current uncertain economic climate, I would have expected people to be more interested in free food, not less.  Nowt so queer as folk, as they say.

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