Monday, January 28, 2013

Raspberry jam

With being housebound due to the snow most of last week, my preserving instincts started to rise again. It does become a bit of an obsession with me and one that sometimes I do have to control. I think it must be a deep rooted urge to store ( a bit like a squirrel) and to nurture and provide for my family.

This morning there were three punnets of raspberries looking at me when I opened the fridge at breakfast time ( the other punnet was eaten last night for tea and delicious it was too!)
and being very mindful of the recent report about throwing away and wasting food I though I had better do something with them promptly.

Working out the quantity of  sugar needed!
I resorted to my trusty cook book - the internet!. Actually I often spend hours perusing my cookbooks and the recipes I have collected over the years but today I thought I would see what the world wide web had to offer:

I loved Leda's story about her father who kept her potted gifts for something special- this is such a lovely story and actually struck a note with me. In my early days of preserving I found it difficult to disturb and open my jars and loved having a full cupboard. Now I would rather they were opened and enjoyed as I know there are more recipes to try and I need more space to make more!
I love my French copper jam pan!

I love recipes that have a bit of history to them or at least an anecdote and so I thought I would share these posts with you. In fact I used a combination of  recipes from Very Berry handmade's Aunt Kath's recipe and Sofya's recipe .  Sofya is from USSR but is now living in Winconsin America. You can find Sofya's recipe here

So how did I get on:

Well firstly I didn't read the recipe properly - I should of heated the raspberries in the pan on the hob whilst the sugar heated in the oven- thats what happens when you try to rush things- I don't think it made to much of a difference. Although I would choose to heat the raspberries next time. Also I used jam sugar -which has pectin added and I did get a good set. Sometimes I like a runnier jam.
The raspberries as you can see were not the dark sweet juicy ones of summer/ autumn and so inevitably the taste isn't quite up to the jams of the later season. Finally I didn't wait for the jam to cool for a few minutes before bottling- as you can see the jars on the left of the pictures - the fruit has floated to the top where as a few minutes later the fruit remained evenly through out the jam!  All in all I  achieved what I set out to do and I have a lovely jam to have with my tea today!

Next time I  want to try this raspberry and jalopeno jam - it sounds very intriguing!

Market bargains!

At the end of  the day on Friday last week I happened to be passing thought the market in my local town and spied some fantastic fruit and vegetable bargains:
This salad box was going for a fiver:

Not sure what I will make with the aubergines - possibly a pasta dish or may be a dip?

These seville oranges _ were £2 for a bowl -on weighing when I got home- there was over 4kg- that equates to £4 for just over 4kg- guess what I'm making this week? Oh and I can use the lemons from the salad box too!

These raspberries were four punnets for £5- as they were the last of the day! We have eaten one lot with meringues and cream for pudding and the rest I have made into jam- more about in my next post!

and last but not least these satsumas ( still with their leaves attached!) were only a pound!

As the saying goes these are only a bargain if they are eaten or used ! I think I will be glued to the internet looking for new recipes this week!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

"Seven Dwarfs and an apron on tour" or as I prefer "Seven Dwarfs on the piste!"

This is the story of seven dwarfs (Doc, Sleep, Dopey, Happy, Grumpy, Sneezy and Bashful) who hadn't been skiing ( well some of them ) for several years and who felt the need of an adventure in the Alps.
On top of the Glacier
As times were hard, their wives allowed them their adventure but with the proviso that it had to be on a budget. So they planned, booked and set off on their intrepid snowy adventure in the early hours of a dark and very snowy morning.

They were truly magical dwarfs - in order that the families didn't miss out - they even arranged for it to snow at home for the time they were away.

 I am very glad to say that these dwarfs kept to their word and were very good with their budgets. They took it in turns every evening to cook their evening meals cooking delights such as Penne arabiatta con chorizo, Chicken fajitas, Chicken tikka marsala, Saucisson avec lentilles and a very impressive Tartiflette made by Grumpy. A similar recipe can be found here.

 It was unfortunate that Snow White wasn't able to travel with them to the Alps ( she was still in the coma after eating the Wicked Queen's poisoned apple ) and as a tribute to her each dwarf  would wear Snow White's apron whilst cooking.

Many lovely meals were cooked, many hours and kilometres of skiing were done - travelling over many valleys and covering several glaciers. They were very intrepid, hard skiing and dedicated dwarfs who made daily visits to "The Office".
At the Office

 They had such a wonderful time that on the last day they took Snow Whites apron out for a tour - each dwarf having their turn wearing the apron. The apron went everywhere that day- on the slopes, up cable cars, into cafes and on chair lifts, with each dwarf having to ski at least two runs with the apron.







 A great time was had by all and if by magic - they arranged for snow at home to turn into rain, so that they were able to return to their loved ones with out a hitch! So they headed home making plans for possible future trips.

Friday, January 25, 2013

My Dad's Blackberry Gin !

This is for Mrs Thomasina Tittlemouse who kindly requested the recipe for the Blackberry Gin my Dad  made for Christmas this year. As explained to Mrs T, my dad is not known for his culinary skills - in fact  he has to look up the recipe to boil an egg!
However he was absolutely delighted to have been asked for his recipe-  Its more of a general method rather than a detailed recipe-so here goes!
My Dad's Blackberry Gin

Blackberries - enough to fill 1/3 of container
White or unrefined sugar
Take your quantity of blackberries and remove stalks and debris. Place in a bowl and lightly squash with a potato masher. Poor / transfer into a sterilised demijohn or glass bottle and fill to one third of the container. Add approximately one sixth of the container of sugar and top the bottle up with gin. Close container with lid or cork.
Swirl gently and leave in a cool dark place. Swirl bottle gently a couple of times a week for several weeks and then leave to stand.  The resulting concoction will the need to be decanted after two to three months depending on how quick you want to drink it!
To decant- the mixture could be strained through a sterilised jelly bag, or just poured through a coffee filter paper and funnel as in my previous post ( boiling water  having been poured through first to make sure it was clean) into your chosen sterilised bottle. Although in the coffee filter method you would need to be careful not to pour the fruit pulp into the filter.  So as not to waste anything -the alcoholic fruit base could be frozen if so desired and eaten with ice-cream at a later date. Beware this could be headache inducing!

The sweetness of the liqueur can be adjusted at the bottling stage. I quite like mine to be not too sweet and have found this level of sugar to be right for us

 Having decanted and of course taste tested the blackberry gin I thought I would check on the allotment ( on foot of course!)
On the way there- watercress beds on the right

Add the entrance
The snow is starting to disappear !

At the entrance of my wild plot

My lovely blue shed
My lovely blue shed looks as if it needs some repair work- Mr H looks after the building and structural work- so once the snow goes I think he will be looking to repair the roof_ pretty please!

 It all looks so very pretty in the snow- disguising all the weeds etc!

 My lovely friend's shed - itsnt it pretty - I hope one day to get my girls painting flowers on my shed  so that mine is pretty too! Maybe I will just have to paint  mine in stripes for now!
 I am so looking forward to spending time down at my allotment  and making  it a pretty restful and productive area! roll on Spring!
 And at home the snow is disappearing - I hope the cyclamen and primulas recover

The snow is going!
I'm off to look at my seeds and next time hope to show you some I bought this week! See you then!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Geting ready for the new growing season - Potato days

Whilst the snow has stopped play (well the digging of the allotment in particular) I have been using the time to make plans for the growing season.

 I had earlier in the month purchased some first early seed potatoes. Unfortunately in my haste to purchase the most delicious and productive variety I forgot to mark down which variety I chose in the end. All I know is that they were described as being tasty and a good cropper- what more does a girl need to know!

 I have put them out to chit being  very mindful of the very cold weather - they will be kept in our utility room which proffers lots of light, coolness and frost protection! For those of you new to chitting, the potatoes are placed so that the little mark where the stem was previously is placed facing downwards (i.e. underneath the seed potato ) and the eyes ( the little sprouty bits) upwards.

I tend to use egg boxes  to place the potatoes in and  learning from past experience write the variety  in pen on the egg box so that when I move them around I know which ones are which!
 I haven't bought my second earlies yet - I will go for Charlottes- they always go down well at home. In the past I have grown a number of varieties . In fact I have grown too many potatoes and not left enough room for other crops. So this year I think that will be it - in the hope that I will grow some more exciting things instead.

The Hampshire potato day is being held this weekend in Whitchurch and is well worth going to if you like growing your own. There are lots and lots of varieties of potatoes ( they didn't have Charlottes tho' the other year :( ) and you can buy them singly if you wanted! Beans and peas and shallots are all available loose. Seed suppliers also attend for example Thomas Etty who supply their seeds in little brown packets with a vintage style print and picture.  All items are  offered at a good price!

 If you are not in this neck of the woods, there are other potato days around too. You may be able to find a day near you here

Saturday, January 19, 2013

And we have snow!!!!

Being based at the bottom of the UK a little inland we don't see snow as often as other parts of the UK. In fact as a child I lived in Kent and we saw snow often ( much To Mr H's amusement- he used to think snow only happened in the north!).
Really - snow!

I think I will stay put today- its much warmer in here!
 I now have immense admiration for my parents who didn't let snow stop them from getting to work. We lived about 20 odd miles away from school and work and I can't remember a day when we didn't attend school and I know they didn't ever miss work!  We didn't have a four by four and in fact we had a VW Beetle - ( rear engined and we had to weigh the front down with cobble stones in the front boot) I don't think schools were closed on snow days in those days! I know I know those were the days and all that!
 Anyway the point of my ramblings is that we have snow here in Hampshire ahead of Kent who will receive their snow dump tomorrow I believe! So Mum and Dad and elder daughter I hope you are prepared!

 Hope you don't mind but I thought I would post a few photos  of the garden to mark this event!

Even Mr H thought this was arty!

Anyone for dinner?

Dinner for two?

And being indoors I thought I would decant the homemade blackberry gin my Dad made for Christmas- the glass decanter which came from Denmark and was a wedding present many moons ago makes an ideal vessel for a delicious liqueur don't you think?

Hoping you are wrapped up warm and those that like the snow are enjoying it!
 Me- I am so looking forward to reading and catching up on other blogs this weekend!