Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Christmas Bits and Bobs

I popped into The Works at dinner time today (Monday)and ended up spending more than I had anticipated.  They had loads of bits and bobs in for Christmas decorating, and crafting; and apparently they will have more in later on in the week.  Ostensibly for Christmas some of the bits could be used all year round like the ribbon.

Please note this is just me letting u know what I have found out and about on my travels. I have no connection with said company apart from buying stuff in my own right.

Packaging for Christmas pressies

Some berries to add to Christmas wreaths, packaging, or garlands.

A big pot of PVA for £3

A  wooden cut out Angel for the fireplace or window cill or you could have them hanging from a chandelier or the like.

Further wooden cut outs

Another stamp

Metallic mesh for decorating garlands and the like

Some crayons for colouring in.

Wooden Christmas tree cut outs for putting on packaging, garlands, and wreaths amongst other things.  Oh and some paper scissors.

Seasonal stamps including holly leaves, santas face gingerbread man and fireside scene

Larger wooden cut outs to create free standing trees for the table or window cill.

See through Christmas baubles ideal to put a little extra tree present in for family members or friends and then hang them off the Christmas tree.

So not a bad little haul.  Very pleased with the ribbon.

The goodies have found their way into my Christmas box.  I have a big box full of all sorts of bits and bobs just for Christmas so that when I come to play I have lots of bits and bobs all in one place.

Are you planning Christmas decorations or the like yet.  Would love to hear or is just me getting into the Christmas spirit a tad early.

Catch you later.



Monday, 21 August 2017

Trying to find something to wear

I am very lucky in that I have quite a nice selection of clothes - I would not say I am fashion conscious but I do like nice things. With my step-son's wedding coming up at the beginning of September I have been looking for something to wear for his big day.  Unfortunately I am not svelte bit a little tubby round the midriff despite in the past eight years going down from a size 26 to a size 18.  Not through dieting but being sensible and walking a lot as it helps keep my joints active and keeps my weight under control.  That is why it is important to me to still be able to walk as much as I can (despite having the operation on my foot before Christmas).  I still have too many bumpy bits but hey I am down to a size 18.    That to me is a result.

I quite fancied the idea of a smart dress that did not make me look too big as I thought it might be more slimming but everything I like the look of either did not like me.  I am not an old lady yet (with apologies to you older ladies) but I subscribe to the view that age is a state of mind and I intend to age disgracefully just like my darling father.  It does not help that I have lost a couple of inches in height and I cannot wear heels like I used to!  However in the greater scheme of things.

Today I found a dress, a couple of skirts, a tunic top and a couple of tops.  The dress is a marooney red lace effect with short sleeves; I am thinking about getting a contrasting jacket to keep my arms warm but I am still not sure whether this is the dress or whether to wear a skirt jacket and top ensemble that I have and have never worn or whether something else will take my fancy in the meantime.  I do need to find some shoes and probably a matching handbag once I decide on what I am wearing.  I do want to do my step-son justice and look the part but I don't want to spend an awful lot of money in the process.  I think it gets out of hand.

I have the hairdressers this Saturday to have my hair tidied up and a colour popped on - its a while since I had it done but my grey is starting to spread a little and it needs sorting so what better time.  I am going to consult with my hairdresser on Saturday as I quite like the idea of a chignon for the actual wedding so I will see what she says but I thought it might give me a little extra height at least on the eye line.  Just want to look nice - have found in the past that the classics seem to suit me best, but I do love pretty things as well.  So at least I have some options but I am still not sure.  Oh well will see how it goes - the marooney dress has a lot going for it.

Catch you soon.




Here is a link to the dress I bought yesterday



Evening all

Just waiting for my tea to cook so am taking the opportunity to do a quick post. Been a very busy day at work and I am going to be busy this evening.  Once tea is eaten then into the throes of Peach and Chilli chutney and hopefully a batch of plum jam done in the jam maker whilst I am doing the chutney.  I was quite pleased with the flavour of the apple chutney I made last night.

The Peach and Chilli chutney is one of my favourites; very much a ladies chutney and one which I have been making for a few years now.  Together with the five spice pickled peaches they make some lovely eating with a plate of ham and pork pie.  Yum.  I love to be busy and I love this time of year for squirrelling away all sorts of goodies.  So I shall be plodding through the week to get as much as I can done.

The recipe for the chutney is here:

And the recipe for the five spice pickled peaches is here:

I also want to do some peach jam and some peaches in syrup in the canner.  The only bit I don't like doing is skinning the peaches!

Right I had better get a wriggle on my tea's ready.

Catch you soon.

Pattypan xx

Perfick Apple Chutney

So named because it came from the Darling Buds of May recipe book and I thought it would be easier for me to remember which recipe I used.


6 to 8 large Bramley apples about 4lb in weight
1 pint of malt vinegar
1 large onion
About 1 1/ packets brown sugar 1 - 1/2lb
2 teaspoons of ground ginger
1/2 a teaspoon of mixed spice
A good pinch of salt
A pinch of cayenne pepper


Peel core and chop the apples and cook them in a big jam /maslin pan with half the vinegar and the chopped onion until they are pulpy. Add the rest of the ingredients and cook until thick.

You will have to keep stirring to stop mixture burning. This will take quite a long time of gentle simmering and the mixture will reduce rapidly.  Dont worry it is meant to do this.

There's a way of telling when the mixture is cooked.  Take a wooden spoon and drag it along the bottom of the pan through the mixture.  If it makes a parting and you can see the bottom of your pan its ready.  Pour into clean hot sterilised jars and cover with vinegar proof jam jar lids.

This made approximately 4 1/2 jars. It tastes fab already but needs to mature for 6 weeks then you can use.

From the two bunches of beetroot I ended up with 5 jars of sliced beetroot.  So not bad going 10 jars fif the pantry shelf.  Am going to make some more of this. Peach and chilli chutney on the agenda next.

Catch up soon.



Sunday, 20 August 2017

A little bit of domestic bliss

Things are quiet. OH not well and in bed his bad is back and when I went with him to take Missy for a walk we ended up doing an abbreviated route.  I have been in the kitchen cooking more beetroot which is now cooling and waiting to go into its vinegar and an Apple Chutney that I have not tried before but which is from the Darling Buds of May cookbook.  Perhaps it should be called Perfick Chutney.  Its a simple one and the quantities seem about right do not think it is going to take too long to thicken up.  It also ahs onion, cayenne, ginger,  dark brown sugar, mixed spice salt and malt vinegar.  I think it will make up for a lovely chutney to have with a bit of cheddar and my pickled onions which will get done one night during the week.  I am at my happiest when in my kitchen.  So that will be a few more jars for the pantry.  It looks as though I am going to be cooking all week.  

I am also hoping to get some of the plums turned into jam as well.  I love this time of year when it is all systems go on the preserving front.  There is nothing more satisfying than after all the hard work and effort having a cupboard full of useful preserves to get us through the winter months until next year when we do the same again.   Its a ritual, a soothing one when despite the hard work I feel at one with myself.

Right I have a hot date with the maslin pan.

Catch you later.



I just am going to have to make this Hedgerow Terrine

...........Its speaking to me.  The simplicity and using up bread.  Sourdough is used in the recipe but on the basis that you use bread for summer puddings etc. I thought I would use an unsliced loaf and cut it in thick slices to achieve the same effect.  Here's me making use of what I have rather than necessarily going out and buying something.  It looks stunning and it necessarily uses up bread  that may go to waste and seasonal fruits from the hedgerow.

750g of prepared hedgerow fruits as per the method below
50ml of red wine
5 tablespoon of golden caster sugar
8 slices of day old sour dough bread
clotted cream to serve


Place the fruit and red wine into a saucepan with 4 tablespoon of the golden caster sugar.  Cook gently until the fruit is soft.  Taste and add extra sugar if too tart.

Remove the crusts from the bread spoon a little juice from the fruit into a non stick 900g loaf tin line the base of the tin with the slices of bread.  Using a draining spoon add half the fruit.  Continue layering the fruit and the bread finishing with a layer of bread.

Pour the juice from the saucepan into the tin allow to cool and then chill in the refrigerator for a minimum of 8 hours and a maximum of 24 hours,

Carefully turn out the terrine onto a serving dish.  Cut into slices and serve with the clotted cream.

Cannot wait to try this.

Catch you soon.



I am totally in love

With this new book to me (second hand from the Charity shop) For £1 yesterday.

It has some super recipes in - ones that you would want to try.  It is split into four sections relating to the seasons.  It has a lot of luscious recipes in - I have only browsed through the book and already several recipes are jumping off the page what I call substantial solid eating in line with the seasons.  Take for instance in the autumn section:

Mussels with thyme and bacon
Creamy garlic and thyme mushrooms
Chicken liver pate
Chestnut and bacon salad
chicken ham and wild mushroom pie
Cinnamon beef casserole
Cobnut meringues
Steamed chocolate pudding with hedgerow sauce now that looks lush
upside down plum tart
Blackberry omelette
Damson Betties
Pear apple and blackberry compote
Rosehip and Cardamon cake
Hedgerow shortcake tart
pear and ginger loaf
potato and savoy cabbage soup

So I am looking forward to using this book I really am.  It represents really good eating across the board.  The above recipes are only a sampling.  There are plenty more.

I am well chuffed.  One to look out for if you want to eat seasonally.

Catch you soon.



More Charity Shop finds

I also nipped into the charity shop this morning; not really looking for anything but I came away with the following:

A little green Le Creseut Jug £1.50

A recipe book from the Landscape Magazine - all seasonal recipes and some lovely recipes £2.

Another lovely cook book this time from Lorraine Pascale.  Some yummy recipes in there as well.  £2.

Jamie Oliver's 15 minute meals.  One that I did not have also £2.

Another couple of books also at £2 apiece.  Some interesting recipes in the first one and a Nigel Slater cookbook.  Both of which I am looking forward to browsing and reading.

This picture was bought for the picture frame.  I am not keen on the print but this nice sturdy pine frame for £3 I can do a lot with.  I am not sure what I am going to do with it yet.  I have lots of pieces that would look good in it; but I have an idea in mind will have to have a play and see what I can come up with.

There were also six cut glass drinks glasses with roses cut into the glass.  Very pretty also £1.50.

So not a bad little haul for a quick trip round the Charity shop.

Catch you soon.



PS  I nearly forgot to show you a find off ebay.  As you may all know I love animals and particularly my feline friends and I won this off ebay.  Now I just need to find a nice frame for it.  It is worked in tent stitch some larger and some smaller.  But I am quite pleased with it.

Saturday, 19 August 2017

My Old Faithful

My old faithful preserves book has fallen apart due to its constant use.  So I have just spent the last hour or so threading the pages into plastic sleeves with the intention of putting all the pages into a Lever Arch folder.  It has proved very useful over the years and is a good one to get hold of if you are new to preserving.  It is called Home Preserves by Jackie Burrow and was a Marks & Spencers publication.  There is no ISBN no as this book predates that system.

Put it this way this is one book I would not be without as it covers all kinds of preserving..  Hence me going to all the trouble to keep it even though in plastic sleeves.

Right on to the next job.

Catch you later.



P.S.  Have just done a search here,DWAZCv5hjWSTE_1497963026_1:1:1&bq=author%3Djackie%2520burrow%26title%3Dhome%2520preserves

There are some copies available look to the second column where the prices are cheaper.

Hope this helps.


Distraction of the wrong kind

I have been past the veg shop a couple of times today already.  I already know that I have two trays of Victoria Plums waiting inside for me.  But I have been looking at what to purchase today and what to make with it.  This is where my best laid plans started going awry!

I noticed that they had runner beans in and they looked good.  My first thoughts with runner beans are Piccallili!  So that is what I had planned on doing.  I knew I had the recipe on my blog somewhere but could I find it.  You got it nope.  I eventually found it after about an hour and a half trying to locate it.  Why go to all the trouble because it is the only recipe I have come across for Piccallili I actually like.  It is very different to a normal one as it has stem ginger in it.  I think this lovely preserve is more suited to a lady's palate than a man's but OH wolfs it down just as much as he did my original recipe which is the Pam Corbin River Cottage recipe.

Here is the link if you want to have a go at making it yourself.  It is well worth it.

Since posting the above I have been back to the veg shop and bought my runner beans, red peppers, carrots, courgettes, cauliflower, broccoli, cucumber and squash for the piccalilli.  I will set too and prepare these and pop into a sterilised bucket later on.  They are then dry brined for 24 hours then washed through so I need to start this process this evening. So lots of cutting and chopping.

I have also bought more apples, more peaches, my pickling onions were in and so I have bought a stone of those  - some to go in the piccalilli and the rest to be pickled. The first of a few batches as I always keep plenty of pickled onions and shallots in.  Some go as presents but for the best part we eat them as they are ideal to serve with cold meat and cheese. 

I picked up the plums I intend to make plum jam, plum jelly, plum chutney, plum and apple jam and if there is any left over some wine.  I will get more in the week to do bottled plums for the sugar plums.

There is also apple chutney to do.

So I think I have quite a few things to keep me occupied.

Will catch up a little later chopping permitted!



Planning for Christmas 2017 Part 2 - Gathering things together

The crux of organising anything good is in the planning  - its the boring part but to make things run smoothly and be time effective its best to get this off to a fine tee.  Why because there is nothing more frustrating than starting to make something and then having to stop half way through because you haven't got what you need. It interrupts the creative flow and wastes time. Its the same with anything you do.  The more time you take to plan the better.  So if you cannot afford to buy several items or bits and bobs in bulk break it down piecemeal and work one project at a time.  Use the cheapie book shops or places like B & M and Wilkos and the Works (cheapie book store that also has an extensive range of craft items quite reasonably in the shops but they are on the Internet).  My personal opinion.

I am a bit gung ho on the preserving side at the moment mainly down to the short time period some foods are available and I like to make the most of what comes my way.  So the sooner I get something on the pantry shelf the better.  I can tick that off the list and move on to the next project.  Oh yes I do keep a notebook; all my scribbled notes and ideas go onto this WIP list.  The finalised contents then get transferred into a book so that when it comes to the following year I know what I have made and where the recipe came from and what I gave to who so half your organisation is sorted.

Tomorrow I have a busy day planned on the preserving front.  I have another two boxes of plums coming as well so its going to be an early start.

Chutneys need at least six weeks to mature so if you want to have a go at making home made chutney do so but make sure you leave a minimum of 6 weeks before use there is no way round this as your chutney basically matures in the jar.  So if you want your chutney for use at Christmas  really your last cut off point is beginning of November for use for Christmas.  So really now is the time to get cracking if you can.  Things like cranberry chutney do not take as long to cure as traditional chutneys but the earlier you can get this done the better.

I also start clearing out the old dried fruit at this time of year and make mincemeat and chutneys out of these.  Don't waste them they are perfectly more than okay to turn into mincemeat and chutney.  I equally also start buying in the fresh dried fruit for use in the Christmas Cake, the Christmas Plum loaf and the Dundee cake.

I recycle jars and bottles and use replacement lids; I save ribbon and cards from previous presents and decent pieces of wrapping paper.  I make my own labels for my preserves and wine - I also buy some and handwrite the labels depends how the creative streak hits me at that particular time.  I use string, brown paper and pen.  I make my own packaging labels put them in a safe place and forget where I have put them.  Its an age thing.

The brown wrapping paper can be picked up quite cheaply from the Pound shop or at least the one I have access to.  I buy this on the roll.  You can use this plain to wrap your presents up and then wrap with string or pretty decorative ribbon or you can decorate it yourself using stamps and a little ink or paint. There is always something that you can do to put your own twist/spin on things.  I also buy rolls of plain lining paper and you can use this to create your own wrapping paper with paint, stamps inks the same way or you can use it for the children to draw on, on the floor whilst you get on with something else.

Start buying a few postage stamps every week for Christmas cards to go to family and friends.  It is easier on the pocket this way round.

Another thing I do is if you have family that live near each other I send the cards to them and ask them to pop them onto the relevant family member.  Or we visit one particular member and then ask them to pass on.  You have to do what you can to keep costs down and no doubt that family member will be taking cards etc in their own name so it really does kill one bird with one stone.

If you do not have an address book make one up.  I then work through my address book year on year dealing with cards, and typing up address labels and getting everything organised and sorted.  I also write a Christmas letter to those of my nearest and dearest to enclose with the card(s).  Christmas is about family and it is  a way of keeping in touch.

I am also collecting fir cones, mini larch cones, teasel heads, twigs etc. for use in home made Christmas decorations and wreaths.  I have plenty of cinnamon sticks in hand as I bought some last year and did not use them.  However I am this year after five spice seed heads (from the local Asian or Chinese shop) and I intend to get some styroform balls and wreaths painting the base in gold and then decorating with the five spice seed heads using a glue gun.  These decorations can be hung or used free style to decorate tables etc.  With the Cinnamon sticks I already have I intend to have a go at making a garland with fir cones in as well.  One of the most stunning displays I saw for a Christmas window was a shop in Spalding a few years ago.  They had decorated the window very simply and naturally.  Someone had sourced blackthorn twigs/branches and decorated the window as though you were looking into a picture frame and then put those pretty cheap battery operated lights in with the twigs it really looked stunning and probably did not cost the shop owner as much as some of the other shops for the window design apart from a bit of planning and ingenuity.

I also intend to start playing with the salt dough again and make some little wreaths and plaques as well as candle holders paint them up and varnish them and then if they come out alright pass them on as pressies.  

So at this time of year there is always something to do and gather about you.  Go pick brambles and make bramble jelly or bramble and apple jam, or if you are lucky to find damsons or bullace make wild damson gin or jams from either the damsons or the bullace.

Its about gathering things together in readiness for having a go and giving a part of yourself to someone else.  Sometimes the things given freely mean the most - well in my book they do.  Going to the time and effort of doing something is a lot more personal and filled with love and good intent.  How can you not appreciate something that is from the heart.

Oh and don't forget to snap up little baskets or tins as you can always make "mini hampers" to put a pot of jam in or some home made sweeties in a tin.  Charity shops or pound shops are good for these.

So just a few ideas as they have come to hand.  There are loads more which I shall be airing in due course.

Happy planning



Friday, 18 August 2017

Long Day and Family Research

Extremely glad to be home.  Although now the second job starts.  OH is fishing and I have housework to do tonight.  Don't feel like it but it must be done as I have too many things in the pipeline to do which would be affected if I did not do what I have to do tonight.  Its a chain reaction.

Last night I gave in and did a little family history research.  We don't know too much about my mum's dad's family as apparently they did not talk about relations or who was where not like we do today.  Mum's Dad left home when she was about 10 years old which compounded matters.  Not only was my Grandmother abandoned with ten children during the war years his family did not have much to do with them either.  So I grew up knowing my Dad's parents and my mum's mum died when I was 17 months old.  Even though I was so young I still remember her presence even though I don't have a visual of her apart from photographs. Apparently it was my Gran who got me into the habit of dipping my finger in the sugar!

That was not the end of the saga though.  My grandparents never divorced and would have got back together  as my Granddad asked if she would move to another town.  She checked with the children and they did not want to move so as a result being the mum she was sacrificed her own happiness for that of her children.  They never did divorce and my granddad actually attended her funeral.  After her death he eventually remarried and ended up losing his second wife to cancer as well.  Mum went to see them and then lost contact with them.  I think she felt in a difficult position as if she was betraying her mum even though she loved her Dad.  This is the simplistic run of events obviously matters were much more complicated than that.  

I got divorced and started to spend time with my closest cousin visiting on a regular basis and I got it into my head that I wanted to meet my Granddad.  That visit was to bring a chain of events into play.  My cousin was refusing to take me even though I did not know the area where Granddad was living and in the end I told her she didn't have to come in.  I duly attended and he was pleased I had made the effort to go and see him.  My cousin's curiousity got the better of her and she also came in.  I liked what I saw he had a generous chuckle and wicked sense of humour.  We had a photo taken which I treasure even though I did not really know him I sensed an affinity with him.  I could not help but like him.  I only met him the once but that visit got my mum going to see him again on a regular basis.  Then Granddad started having circulation problems with his legs and ended up having one of them amputated due to gangrene.  Not long after he passed.

We went to the funeral and my mum was really cross that his new family were pulling the shots and dictating what should and should not be done and I had to keep her quiet but that was the upset coming out.  Losing her Dad like that hit her particularly hard.

A couple of years moved on.  OH started taking part in fishing matches and made a new friend locally who came from my home town.  It came to pass that not only did he know my Dad's Dad because he had trained him to be an Engineer, but he also used to play darts regularly with my Mum's Dad.  He was able to provide me with some photos of my Granddad.  Now how small a world is that.

Mum eventually received a box of photographs I think via one of her brothers that had been Granddads.  It also has his Army Service record book in it.  He was with the Royal Artillery (the same Regiment that my brother went into).  Mum gave it to me and had started to mark on the names of the people she knew on the back of the photos which has been a partial help.  One of those photos was of my Great Granddad my Granddad's dad.  We had no idea of names only that he had a large family. 

Last night I went on Ancestry and I found my Granddad and my Great Granddad and extended relatives that I knew nothing at all about.   Mostly by his sister's names, and that is how I located the information I was looking for.  Mum bless her had told me stories or at least the ones she knew and passed them on to me.It was a bit mind blowing  because after all these years I was getting the information which I had been seeking for so long.  Its like joining all the dots together.  What is even more amazing to me is that I was actually born in the area where my Granddad and his Father were born and lived.  I am probably the only grandchild to be so born so close to the family's roots.  Completely proper Lincolnshire unspoilt countryside and farmland with pretty little villages not far from the Wolds.  My Great Grandfather was a farm Labourer and could write and my Grandfather worked in the flax Mill near Sleaford after he came out of the Forces.  I have always had a great love for the land and growing things which has been prevalent on my Dad's side but I knew it went deeper than that.  From the face of things It would seem that its a family thing  working the land from all sides.  I had not heard of some of the place names some I had through my mum but what I tend to do is get the map out and try and find out where these places are and that can be very revealing and interesting in itself and also explain so much.  It would also appear that we have had brave members of the family lost to the war but I need to do further research on that.  I am not sure but believe it was my Granddad's brother but that will need further research.   And at the moment I am just so pleased that I have found missing members of the family.  However it has opened up a lot more names to research so it may be that during the winter months I will start regularly going back on Ancestry again to do further reasearch.    I have the majority of the names on my Dad's Dad's side but not mum's and I have not really been looking at her side.  I am just pleased that at least now I am able to put flesh on the bones as it were to these missing relatives and that they have been found.

Right I am off to get a wriggle on.

Catch you soon.



Thursday, 17 August 2017

I Blame Tracey!

I was busy reading my Internet friend Tracey's latest offering late last night where she mentioned that it had come over all dark and looked as though it was going to rain.  I think she sent it this way!  I think that was earlier on the evening. Here's the link to her blog:

Come 12:45am last night here in Peterborough I went down to get his lordship in (Demetri) who was not co-operating at all.  He could not even be tempted with a piece of  chicken.  I came back in and went out again and all of sudden rain out of nowhere and I got drenched/  The cold type of drenching where it makes your inner core go cold.  I had to wait until it stopped before I could lure his highness anywhere near the gate and then as it started to rain again he thought better of it and shot in,  So for getting wet I blame Tracey - only kidding.

Joking aside it was still wet this morning when I eventually managed to get up.  Unfortunately I ended up falling back to sleep and ended up getting up in a bit of a hurry which always leaves me wrong-footed.   However it has brightened up now and is a lot muggier than it was.  However, Autumn is very slowly putting in an appearance.  I think I am going to go blackberrying over the weekend,  OH is fishing and I might well trek down to the river and collect some berries both elderberry and blackberries.  I definitely want to make jam and jelly and some more wild berry vodka.  I also want to make elderberry jelly and some canned hedgepick pie filling which consists of apples, elderberries blackberries and plums oh and I nearly forgot elderberry wine!  So that is an outline plan for Saturday as long as the weather is good.  It also means that I will be able to do a little bit of hubble bubble toil and trouble preserving in my own little world and able to get on as I please. I also have blackberry and elderberry cordial to make.

Tomorrow night I have the plum wine to continue with and to pop it into the demijohn.  I also have the peach to do I have not managed to get to it so far and as OH is fishing it may well be the optimum time to get stuck in on the wine front.  Means I can play a little and get the wine store a little more filled than it actually is.  That means at some point I am going to have to sort out the understair cupboard where my wine racks are.

Tomorrow night will also be the plum and greengage jam session. So it looks as though I am going to be missing and busy in action again.

Today has been a really long day and I am glad to be home but cannot wait to break up for the weekend tomorrow.

Right better get on.

Catch you soon Pattypanxx

Pickling Onions and Pickles

I was told this morning that apparently the pickling onions are  on their way with a bit of luck I will be able to buy some this weekend.  Shallots will be coming soon as well. I had specifically asked for both the same as I had asked for Greengages and Victoria Plums.  Its good to know that my supplier is listening to me.

I always make a lot of pickled onions and shallots as they are good in stews or with a ploughmans or just as a snack.  By preference I prefer the shallots but then again that is what my Nan used to do and they were the first kind of pickled onion of any type I had eaten.  I think they have a bit more punch than ordinary pickled onions.  Well mine do!

For the pickled onions or shallots I prefer the Sarsons Vinegar jars for storing them in with my own home spiced vinegar with the addition of bay leaves, home dried chilli and peppercorns.  If you are not keen on chilli take it out after a couple of weeks or so and the spiced vinegar in the pickle will not get any hotter.

I cry bitterly when preparing onions of any kind.  However I have found that if I soak the onions I am going to prepare for about an hour in hot boiling water it softens the outer skin and you don't get the harshness so much of the onion.  You leave the onion soaking and prepare them one by one.  I then brine the onions by popping them in a bowl of salt water putting a plate over them to make the onions stay under the water and then leave for 24 hours or so.  Then wash them and drain and dry them.  I then prepare the vinegar by boiling it and then letting it cool a little.  Stuff the jars with the onions or shallots making sure that the onions are equally spaced out in the jar and then adding the vinegar to the top. I then go round the jar with a knife to release any vinegar bubbles.  To keep the onions submerged I use some greaseproof paper that has been folded into a little square and pop that between the lid and the onions and once the lid is on it helps keep the onions down.  Label and place in a cool pantry.  Enjoy.

I was only thinking the other day about preparing two large jars of pickled eggs and thinking about getting the trays of eggs in to do the same.  One is kept for Christmas and the other one OH can have in-between now and Christmas - I am not keen!

I also have bread and butter pickled cucumbers to prepare as well and some spiced oranges.

So the pickle pot will also come out starting with the onions.

I also have the remnants of a net of onions that need using up so I may well make some onion relish/marmalade as well in the spirit of waste not want not.  Right had better get a wriggle on.

Catch you soon.



The forager's/pulling hook

What's one of them you say.  Something my grandfather cobbled together out of a long metal rod with hooks either end.  The idea behind it being that you could pull down branches on trees nearer to you so that you could harvest whatever was on the tree or in his case the apples.  Makes life a lot easier.  However if you are going wild fruit picking as well it is useful to take with you as well.  I am only 5ft 3 inches these days having shrunk by some two inches and I really struggle so along goes the hook with us when we go out searching.  Well its a lot less suspicious than dragging a step ladder along.

I am keen to locate some damsons but so far no luck. Think we need to be out of town for these, but we will see.  I have never found bullace yet either. Cherry plums of different colours and yellow Mirabelle plums yes and sloes and blackberries.  Some lucky foragers also have access to Medlars which I have never tried and quince.  I am keeping my eyes on the crab apples as I love plain crab apple jelly especially served as apple sauce with a lovely piece of pork or equally the spiced version which is also a favourite.  Roast Pork is a firm favourite here.

Well if the worst comes to the worst when you go out picking and take your hook with you, you can always say that you have pulled out in the middle of nowhere.  However I think the interpretation of "pulled" might mean different things to different people.

Happy foraging.



Wednesday, 16 August 2017

A funny thing happened on the way to work this morning!

I have been going to work by taxi since my foot operation and I needed change to give to the driver so I nipped round to the local shop to get some change.  On my way back I was accosted by the veg shop owners who called out did I still want any Victoria Plums!  I ended up buying the box and a box of greengage as well so it looks as though jam making is well and truly on the cards this week as well. 

I love Victoria plums, probably because they are the variety that my grandparents used to grow and we used to pick or scrump them off the tree when we visited.  The Victorias and the Black Diamonds.  We were taught to be wary of the wasps as well and to survey the fruit all the way round before picking it.  Nan always used to stick some jars with water in and a blob of jam to keep the wasps off the fruit hanging them off the lower branches and we used to help make those up when we went as well.

OH has had a few of the Victorias to eat as they are also one of his favourite fruits.  He is partial to a plum or two.

I also have the greengages which I like as well so greengage jam is definitely on the cards.  Looks as though I am going to be busier than I envisaged.  Oh well it will keep me out of mischief or get me into it one way or another.

I most definitely want to bottle some of the Victorias as I want to use them to make sugar plums for Christmas.

Something else for the pantry shelf.  I did plum wine the other day and I have peach wine to make later on this evening.

Its all good stuff with no nasties in.  Its good to be independent and not overly rely on others to supply everything to you.

I need to do some work over these winter months to sort out some semblance of a kitchen garden for next year as you really cannot beat home grown veg in the bigger scheme of things.  However I am a big believer in making use and taking advantage of anything that comes your way.

Right had better get a wriggle on if I am to get a sit down before going to bed this evening.  I am tired so I do not want to be too late.

Catch you shortly.



Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Planning For Christmas 2017 Part 1

Oh no not that C word some of you groan.  Yes it is early, however I am working on the basis that time is short  and for what I want to do time is tight and of the essence.  Commiserations to you who are groaning but there is very much a method in my madness.  Carry on reading and you will find out more below.

Come the end of August beginning of September every year I start buying those extra bits and bobs or fresh ingredients and filling the pantry with an array of different produce.  I  turn raw ingredients prepared by my own fair hands into long keeping  chutneys, jams, pickles, dried goods, canned goods  and fill the pantry shelves or boughten prepared items.  Lets be realistic here I aim high but if I run out of time then I do of course buy things rather than make them.  I am not perfect although my overall aim is to do as much as I personally can it just isn't always possible.  So the whole process is not one to make you feel guilty that you have not made your own fruit cake (when you have bought a perfectly good one from M & S) but more along the lines of doing what you can with the time  and resources you have and what works for your family as a whole. 

One of the reasons I go through this process year by year is that we as a family celebrate Christmas; I am following on in a family tradition and doing it a bit at a time helps on the budget especially in the month of December.  This is what my Nan did all her life; especially during and after the War when food stuffs were very scarce. My mother did the same. It was and is a way of paying forward for tomorrow really so that we can have those little treats and have a celebration and a good time and have something to look forward to especially on grey winter days.  Everyone needs something to look forward to.

I and many of my extended family members particularly my cousins just love Christmas.  Not everyone is into Christmas but we are.  We like to give everyone a good time and good food without being totally OTT on how much we spend on Christmas presents and if we do not have much money in the first place then we set to and make our own. However we do like the whole process of giving and sharing with our friends and our nearest and dearest and doing what we can with what is available to us.  We love the whole process whether that be collecting pine cones and storing them in baskets and then turning them into fire lighters by either drizzling scrap ends from candles over them and letting them set or setting them into little night lights when the wax is melted and using them as fire starters minus the metal case or whether we have hand sewn a Christmas stocking for a young nephew or niece. 

A big part of Christmas is setting the scene making things look lovely,  making things smell nice, think scented candles or a burning wood fire with fir cones piled on, mulled wine, making your own garlands and the smell of spruce and cinnamon used in home made garlands and a Kissing bough. Or scented orange pomanders piled in a bowl on the dresser.

I have a chandelier wrought iron effect lamp in my dining room and I always tie a bunch of greenery off the base of the lamp with ribbon so it hangs down and if spruce is used it smells wonderful. Making those Christmas decorations yourself, getting the children involved with the traditional customs of Christmas or in crafting and having a go gives a lot of satisfaction.  Children learn to do things at our coat tails so letting them have a go  and explore how to do things in a safe environment actually encourages them to do more.  It lets their creativity free as well as yours.

Decorating the house, playing that Christmas music, getting all nostalgic and remembering Christmas from times past and remembering those who have passed before us.  It is allowed how you celebrate Christmas your customs and traditions is really down to you. Something when you work full time you are not always able to do to the extent that you want to do it.  Despite all the ramifications and despite all the hard work I want to get back to a simpler way of celebrating Christmas.  I am planning on having the week off before Christmas this year so that I can get stuck in and get everything ready for  Christmas.  

This Christmas, I am aiming to make a lot of the presents myself whether that be hand crafted items or a little mini hamper of preserves etc.  The Christmas cakes will have to be made in September this year and it will give the cakes which are fruit cakes time to mature properly.  I say cakes as I always make a couple; one for me and one for my brother and his family.  I will probably do the Christmas puddings as well to get them out of the way and also to let them mature properly in the pantry well wrapped and perfectly safe.  However I do prefer to do them on the allotted day i.e. Stir Up Sunday but we shall see how things go in the long run.  I also want to make a couple of Dundee Cakes.  Fruit cake has always been a big thing in our family.  The ladies who have gone before me really could make a good cake.  I get by and my brother soon eats his way through it so I think that speaks volumes.  Especially if it is covered by Royal Icing.  However both of us hated Christmas cake as kids but we loved the marzipan and the icing.  These days we like both.

I have been quite active on the flavoured vodkas, gins and wines this year.  I have a Newcastle Brown Beer kit to try and I also have plans to do a Bitter and  Lager from kits and  country cider from fresh apples as well as a variety of different fruit home made country wines. I also want to get back to the family tradition of having Sunday dinner with a glass of home made wine.  Something that my Nan always did. However although I get by with the winemaking I will never be as good as what Nan and my mum were.

My preparation encompasses a number of different storage methods i.e. the cold pantry, the pantry shelf, the freezer, bottling, chutneys, pickling, drying, clamping, the wine chiller/wine cellar (shed) meat and charcuterie, cake making, Royal Icing and Marzipan (Marchepane), crafts, sewing, patchwork, crochet, knitting, embroidery etc. etc. and a variety of different skills.  Don't say you can't do something.  That's something I used to say but you never know unless you have had a go and actually tried.  You get better the more you practice.  Yes you will make mistakes we all do its all part and process of learning but each time you do something you get that bit better each time and learn from your mistakes.  Something is only as complicated as you actually make it.  I know from my own experience that I am or have been a chief offender in this regard.  However please do have a go at something  - you don't have to do as much as me but you can do a little and the satisfaction gained from actually doing something yourself actually gives you a boost and makes you feel good about things in general.

One thing I am abysmal at is drawing and painting no matter how hard I have tried I just have not got to grips with this.  But if you can turn out a decent piece of work with the few strokes of a brush you could make your own hand painted Christmas cards.  I have a friend who either crafts her own cards or embroiders them and those lucky recipients keep those little gems and bring them out year after year.  They are worked with love and are little heirlooms.  So go on have a go.  We all have something to bring to the table at the end of the day.  If there are several members of the same family join together and all do something then share it around between you.  You are not only re-affirming  and strengthening your bonds of friendship but working to do something for your families as well. Share the skill sets you have.

The other reason I do so much is that I actually enjoy doing it.  It gives me a lot of pleasure, keeps me occupied and certainly not bored.

There is lots to do and I am getting very excited about things.  I am hoping to get blackberries and elderberries this week for turning into useful things for the pantry shelf, including, jellies, jams and wines.  However I am also looking at collecting fir cones, small larch cones, teasel heads to make decorations and twigs to make little Christmas star decorations or to be used in garlands.  

I am looking forward to making candles, I have sourced some moulds and also soap making which I have not done before. So lots to do and so little time to do it as usual.

On the meat front I also want to do Gravlax again for Christmas and maybe a spiced beef or "bombed beef" as I have also heard it referred to (has Saltpetre  in hence the term "bombed"!).  I also want to get some Salami made and Pork Pies.  But we will see how things go.

Just plans which are not set in stone and could well be changed as things go on but an outline of what I would like to achieve.

Have you thought about Christmas yet or is it still far to early to formulate your plans in your mind's eye.

Would love to hear from you.

Catch you soon.



Meet the Moggies

  • Merlin (approx 18 months)
  • Squeak (approx 2 years)
  • Poppy (approx 16 years)
  • Tyson (approx 17 years)
  • Tinky (official name Clover approx 18 years)