Saturday, 28 August 2010


Well what a week, rain rain and more rain.  Even today although we have had a far better day the sun has been out, but we have had another heavy shower this evening.  Our weather seems to be changing and we seem to be getting all the weather in one hit and sort of nothing in between. Ah well we need the water  there have been large cracks in the land where we walk the dog and not just small cracks quite large.  Its a firm fact that without water we don't eat or survive, so we really do need it.

I had a bit of a lay in this morning, until 10.00 a.m. then I have been pottering getting the washing done etc.  The past two weekends I haven't been home so its very much lots of work to do this weekend.

I have been busy as usual paid a visit to the veg shop this morning had my usual Saturday morning chat with the ladies.  They report that the farmers local to them are having trouble getting the grain in - from going to very dry weather and then to torrential rain has caused havoc.  So much so that the charges for flour etc may well go up astronomically.  The grain feeds the animals that are reared for our meat, the meat then goes up - its a viscious circle and it hits everybody somewhere down the line. Prices go up but they never ever seem to come down when there is a good harvest or plethora of goodies.  If meat goes up, people don't buy as much and pad out their meals with stuffings, and lots of vegetables, but if the prices of both go up, it becomes a little harder, especially when you are on a limited budget and we have to do the best we can with what we have. That's why I am bottling fruit etc as padding a meal out with a pudding is another way of feeding people and making sure that they are getting their vitamins. It can also be served with yoghurt for breakfast as well.  So there are a lot of potential uses. What is worrying is that after Christmas next year the VAT goes up again, which yet again is going to impact on everyone, but more so on those of lower incomes.  So if you can afford to put up a few extra bags of bread flour or ordinary SR or Plain flour, it can always be stored in the freezer in polythene bags to stop the flour grub spoiling your store.

There was a very good programme on during the week about the food that is wasted from the supermarkets and four top chefs were commissioned to create a menu out of products salvaged from the supermarket waste bins etc.  It seems crazy that there is so much waste why can't it go to the local charitable trusts that arrange the soup kitchens etc or like they do in the states, pass it on to those on a lower income so that everyone gets to eat properly.  Theoretically no one should go without in this day and age, but sadly this is still a big fact of life, so when you see waste on this scale it really is unacceptable especially when there is all the effort that has gone into growing the raw materials in the first place, and then secondly the processing and cooking costs involved as well.  Its nonsensical.  Right better get off my soapbox before it gets ugly!

Well at the Veg shop I have bought 3kg Victoria Plums, 1kg of Apricots, 2 kg of pears, some leeks, cauliflower, carrots, apples, cherry tomatoes.  They didn't have much available today as they are going away for two weeks, but I bought enough to be going on with.  Will have to go to the City market at the end of the week to top up on the fresh veg and fruit from there for the next few weeks, will just have to take my shopping trolley with me to bring the goodies home in.  Yesterday I bought back another couple of kilos of gherkins for pickling for Christmas. I decided it would probably be fairer to OH to do some to eat shortly and then have some still for Chrimbo as well.

This evening we have taken Missy out to stretch her legs - I took my foraging pack with me as well - I wanted to pick some blackberries, elderberries, haws, rosehips and hopefully a few plums but OH wasn't having any of it.  So I will hit on those tomorrow.  I did come back with half a bag of rosehips which I intend to dry for use later on for winemaking, tea, etc.    The hedgerows are very full this year and I have lots of recipes that I want to have a go at including popping a lot of fruit down in the freezer as well.

The evenings are starting to draw in, have had to put a sweatshirt on today to keep warm, so I think autumn is with us early so far.  I just wish I had a  proper open fire so that we could burn logs and fir cones etc

I am having a week off work from the end of this coming week.  I am in need of the break as have only had two days off so far this year.  Hopefully  then I will be able to take full advantage of nature's bounty in putting up goodies for the pantry and making some extra's for Christmas presents.  I have already spotted a couple of places to get sloes from, (last year couldn't get any) now need crab apples think OH may be able to get hold of these for me from where he goes fishing.  I have never come across any exotics like quince, purple bullace, wild damsons, mulberries, medlars yet.  But I keep hoping.

Here's looking forward to "playing" tomorrow.

I am hoping that the weather is okay first thing as that is when Missy will be stretching her legs again and when I intend to do a touch more foraging.  I am hoping to get a good quantity of blackberries and elderberries in order to make my friend Leanne's hedgepick pie filling which is processed in kilner jars with apples and then put into pies or sponges etc.  I also want to make some wines, as well as bramble jelly, elderberry and blackberry jam, rosehip and apple jelly, rosehip syrup etc.

I also need to go to Farm Fresh to stock up on butter and some other bits and bobs. I have also asked OH to take me to Lidl to see what they have.  Its been a while since we have been there and I need to start stocking up now so that we have plenty of options for the winter months.

We have a nice piece of roast beef for lunch tomorrow so am looking forward to that. Well better get on still have lots to do.

Take care everyone



Elderberry and Blackberry Jam

This is a recipe to make use of the wild fruits that are free for the picking from the hedgerow that makes a lovely flavoured jam  to have on piles of hot buttered toast.


Equal weights of blackberries and elderberries washed and stalks removed (with the elderberries I use the tines of a fork to pull the berries off the very fine stalks)
Preserving sugar


Weigh the fruit and then put in a preserving pan.  Using both hands squeeze all the fruit gently (the colour does stain the hands but it does wear off eventually so you might like to put on a clean pair of food hygiene gloves at this point).  Slowly bring to the boil stirring the fruit constantly then keep boiling for approximately 20 minutes.

Meanwhile for each 450g/1lb of fruit measure out 350g/12 oz of preserving sugar and warm briefly in the oven (this helps speed the setting process up) .  Add the sugar to the pan at the end of the 20 minutes then mix thoroughly, bring back to the boil and boil again for another 20 minutes or until setting point is reached.

Pour the jam into warmed dry sterilised jars and cover whilst still hot


Sunday, 22 August 2010

Preserving time

Preserving time, the time when I peacefully get on with the process of preparing fruit for bottling together  with preparing fruit for pickling.   A time for thinking and contemplation and making sense of all those thoughts that run through my head at breakneck speed  and sometimes do not get to see the light of day. A time for cogitating and making sense of a number of factors.

The beetroot is bubbling away in the big stainless steel pot on top of the cooker, as I write, following a well versed process in readiness for being pickled.  Alongside in a saucepan sugar is melting into water in readiness for being made into syrup to preserve the blood red plums and the blackberry, pear and apple mix, the pears and the nectarines for the pantry shelf.  All is calm apart from the gentle hubble bubble of the water as it reaches peaks and troughs and slowly cooks the contents of the pan. The work is methodic and calming and the peace and tranquility gently chills my tired soul, but also fills my pantry shelves.

There is a lot to do and so little time to do it; I am thinking of savouring those blood red plums with pure home made vanilla ice cream and perhaps a touch of cinnamon for extra flavour.  If I had my way I would add it to the jar, but OH does not like cinnamon at all, so I tend to add it just for my portion. Comfort food of the highest order to cheer up long cold winter nights.

Hubble bubble toil n trouble - Alchemy of a different kind

Preservation Orders and the Pantry (1)

I am a great believer in seasonal food and enjoying foods as they come into season, but I also love putting up food for those dark days of winter when everything is grey and cold. Being able to eat well during those grey days is what spurs me on to do more and more myself for my pantry shelf.  But its not that far back that if we didn't put down a much food as we could - we just would not have survived through the winter months of the year.  With large supermarkets containing near enough everything we could wish, dream or hope for - there would appear to be no need to do anything about it. But hey, life has a habit of kicking things into touch when you least expect it.

 I am not so sure about this practice of over-reliance as we only have to go back as far as the Second World War to see the effect of food not being available and everything being rationed.  I think an over-reliance on what is available in the shop can be dangerous, and I think that is why I like to hedge my bets so to speak and have my own store available to me, contrived by different methods of squirrelling away whatever comes your way throughout the year. Its hard work at times but  I actually love doing this sort of thing and I get a lot of pleasure and satisfaction out of this.  I don't always manage to make what I would like to make, but somewhere down the line I do try and fit things in, even though I am working full time.

It was bought home to us with a bump a few years ago when there was a power problem  in the States a few years ago and the over dependence on oil.  We need to get back to a more sustainable way of living I also think that living in a small village for many years where there weren't hardly any shops, when you did go shopping i.e. once a month usually you used to stock up for all sorts of eventualities so that you always had something to feed the family with or make use of something else with the addition of a few ingredients became very ingrained, because for the best part I still run my Pantry  and Freezer this way and the times that it has got us out of trouble are numerous.  I have a belief that if the Pantry is well stocked then you have no need to worry where the next meal is coming from.  We eat well and plainly - nothing too exotic although from time to time I do have a go at something different, but it gets us by at the end of the day. Somedays we only have what I call a scratch meal, something simple like pasta with home made pasta sauce, which is scrummy and satisfying to boot.

My latest passion is bottling fruit in order that we have a supply of good food through the winter months. An old method but one that is cost effective as the jars sit on the shelf once processed .  Okay you have the initial outlay for the bottles and seals, but once this is paid out all you have to pay for are the ingredients for re-filling them with and new seals (a box of 12 new seals currently costs £3).  Even if everyone just put up a few jars of this and that it all helps to get you into a mind-set where you are getting used to doing things on a regular basis then after that you go on automatic pilot and just do things as needed (well I do). And if you have empty jars you will want to fill them as they need to earn their keep).

I would dearly love a "Canner" in order that I could then process things like pate and confits etc.  But that one will have to go on the backburner for a while.  But that will not stop me with playing with things like home made faggots or Savoury Ducks as I know them in the months to come, but I think next on the list will be having a go at some Greenback bacon. Bacon is a big favourit with everyone here.

In the meantime, I will try and do what I can with the various options open to me i.e the Jam Pantry, The Freezer, The Cellar and next year the Garden is going to be playing its part too

This morning...

This morning, I have woken to golden sunbeams blazing through the windows and infecting every nook and cranny with joy, instead of rain which we have had on and off for the past few days, but we needed the water to freshen up this world of ours.  Sunshine makes me feel happy it soothes us all like balm infecting everyone with a better mood.  This bodes well for the day which is going to be busy and another family orientated one.

Even though we live in the city there is a certain kind of peace that descends every so often and  you can simply be in the moment.  Its rare here but we do get it, whereas in the countryside it does not take as much finding. 

I hope you have a lovely day wherever you are.  Missy needs a walk am going to see whether can wrinkle OH out of bed so that we can stretch her legs.

Catch you all later



2010.08.21 My Day

I have had a quiet day today - have been researching some recipes for future posts and generally having a wander around, lurking and mooching and enjoying myself after a busy week at work, as well as doing the washing and some general tidying i.e. putting some of my numerous books back on their respective shelves.

However I did go to the veg shop today primarily to get a new sack of potatoes and also a tray of eggs as I was out of both.  The potatoes are Wilja not a long keeping potato, but I am only ever happiest when I have a sack of spuds (£6.75 a sack) in as you can always get a meal in a hurry with the aid of the humble potato.  (Like tonight's tea - fried egg and home made chips [I always save the vinegar from pickled onions and use it occasionally on chips to give a spicy lift] served with bread and butter.  Went down a treat.  Perhaps we are a bit odd but we only like home made chips!  We do eat them very occasionally from the fish and chip shop but never really enjoy them.  Next week I am after a large net of onions, in readiness for preparing a lot of chutney and probably also make some soup if this damp weather goes on for much longer. Home made soups are soothing for the soul and literally a meal in themselves.

However, I did buy some other bits and bobs including the sweetcorn which was 3 cobs for £1 so I bought £4 worth i.e. 12 cobs, three of which are already used up. Last year I bought a gadget a sweetcorn stripper so I intend to use this and put the sweetcorn kernels into the freezer. OH is rather partial to chicken and sweetcorn soup so I think this will be where this is going to end up being used.

I didn't buy that much for me today - still quite a bit.  We eat a lot of fresh veg and fruit. However I did come away with 1.5 kg of Fiorelli pears to make some more bottled pears, and 4lb of purple plums, and some Nectarines yet again I am going to bottle both of these for the winter store.  I also intend to do some sugar plums out of the plums for the Christmas sweetmeat plate as detailed how to do on the Victorian Farm Christmas website.  It will be something different for the table and I have a beautiful square cut glass tray which is ideal for serving crystallised fruits home made sweetmeats, like fudge etc on.

I have also bought 5 kiwi fruit.  I intend to have a go a drying these. I also bought some more apples to put in with some more bottled blackberries and I have picked another 3lb of blackberries from the garden this afternoon in between the rain showers.  I have beetroot soaking in the sink ready for preserving. Not sure what recipe I am going to use for this though yet.

However, I was having my usual natter to the Veg Shop owners and I was asking about Victoria Plums -  the signs are that its not going to be a good harvest this year as the frosts hit the blossom  and then the rains haven't come when they are needed. That added together with the fact that trees tend to have a really good year and then a rest year - its not looking promising.  Unfortunately, we forget that the weather has a massive impact on what is grown.  Whereupon we used to get regular amounts of rain, we tend to be getting it all at once at the moment.  Our weather patterns seem to be changing.
I also need to get a few fresh chillis as I have a new to me recipe to try  - have had the recipe for a little while just not got round to making it yet, its a blackberry chutney.  I also have a recipe for cherry tomatoes to try out  - semi dried ones that you store in oil in the fridge. OH is very partial to these too but they do cost an arm and a leg.

So over the next few days I have the following to do:-

Bottle plums in syrup [3 large kilner bottles prepared ]
Bottle Nectarines in syrup
Bottle Pears in syrup
Bottle Blackberry and apples in syrup
Make some Crunchy Apple Sauce
Bottle Apples in Syrup
Bottle Cherry Tomatoes in brine
Preserve Beetroot [done]
Blackberry Sauce
Blackberry Coulis
Dry some more apples
I also have some pears and apples to add to the Rhumptopf
Plum Lollies
Cider Lollies
Make Plum Sorbet
Blackberry Sorbet
And Bob Flowerdew's Plumple (a plum and apple spread)

There are still lots of things I would like to do I have a penchant for making some home made pesto and freezing this, together with some mushroom duxelle freezing in the individual ice cube trays and just taking the mixture out as is required.  I would also like to make some cassis and some blackcurrant cordial (home made Ribena).

Tomorrow we are being taken out to lunch by my Mum - my brother and family are also going.  Its sort of a delayed celebration for my mum's transplant and also the fact that my nephew at 16 has just attained an A level I.T. exam - grade B - 2 years earlier than he should have - but he is at an excellent school and is hoping to return to do further A levels in September as long as his grades are good enough. At the moment he wants to be a Doctor  So really well done we are all very proud of him.

As usual so much to do so little time to do it.

Catch you all later



Saturday, 21 August 2010

Marrow Rum

My Grandparents used to speak glowingly of Marrow Rum - in fact  I believe my Nan used to make her own as she used to make many things. I remember as a youngster being intrigued by Nan's Pantry - she would never let me in for fear I would knock something over, but I remember there being all sorts of goodies in there with a big Meat Safe at the bottom.  Ah now Meat Safe's there's a subject for another day.

 Equally I have heard all sorts of horror stories about how it went manky (the marrow) and it didn't look very appetitising etc etc.  But when hearing older people speak there has always been the "romance" or rose coloured spectacles element when they reminisce about certain wines or alcoholic conconctions and they seem to gain this glazed look as they are looking back on a memory from so long ago.

I however have never tasted it - never tried it and really don't know what I am letting myself in for but I have decided to bite the bullet and have a go. (I know I am not on my own here too), but  if I don't like the end result I just won't make it again and just put things down to experience.

But then, just again there is an outside chance that it might be something special and I might be missing out by not trying it.

Well whatever; the proof of the pudding will be in the eating

The following is taken from The Lark Rise Recipe Book by Mary Norwak.


1 Large firm Ripe Marrow
Demerara Sugar

  1. Use a very firm marrow which is too tough for cooking or for cutting with a knife.  Cut through the stalk end and scoop out the seeds and the pulp.
  2. Fill the marrow cavity completely with sugar.  Put on the top part again and sellotape it back into position.
  3. Put the marrow into a bag made of strong cloth and hang in a cool dry place. 
  4. After two weeks fill the marrow with sugar again and seal the top again and hang back up in its cloth bag again.
  5. This time after four weeks the marrow will begin to drip. Take the marrow from the bag and make a hole in he bag where the sugar is beginning to drip through (I have put a funnel into a jar with muslin over the funnel but underneath the marrow to catch the liquid)
  6. Cork the bottle lightly as fermention will soon beging.  In a few weeks when fermentation has ceased cork firmly.  Keep for a year before using.
Well its in situ, don't know what it is like but there is only one way to find out.

Fresh Sweetcorn

Have been to the veggie shop this morning and have the first of the harvest of fresh sweetcorn.  There is something very delectable about fresh sweetcorn,especially when the cobs are heavy and are golden in colour.  They seem to call eat me eat me with lots of butter oodled over them.  So guess what we are having for lunch today!  The water is boiling as we speak.

The cobs are grown not far from where the Veg Shop people live in Lincolnshire, and I have had them in past years and frozen them down for the winter months (although I usually cut a cob in half for the freezer - today we have the luxury of a whole one each or two in the case of OH.  They go well with a brunch or just to eat plainly and simply.

I do love seasonal food.

I am dribbling at the thought .....

Catch you all later




I cooked the sweetcorn bringing a pan of water to the boil and then adding the cobs of sweetcorn letting it come back up to the bubble again and then cooking for 5 minutes.  It was delicious, crisp and very sweet and I put a knob of butter on each.  I am glad I only had the one cob - I don't have a big appetite, but it was delicious.

We then polished this down with a fresh nectarine that was oozing juice and also absolutely deliciious. A lovely meal  - food does not have to be complicated to be enjoyed at its best but you certainly need a knapkin to mop up.


Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Scented Geranium Leaf Jelly

I have a rose scented geranium that is living quite happily in a window box in the back garden.  It even survived last year's bad weather.  Apparently the geranium comes in lots of different scents of which the lemon and the rose seem to be the best known .  Up until nowI haven't really known what to do with it.  However I have been reading some of my books that I haven't looked through for sometime and have found the following recipe.  I don't know what it is like so am only going to make the one batch to start with and if I like it then will make more next year. I am going to have a go at this recipe over the weekend when I have a little more time to play and I have time to let the jelly drip overnight through my jelly bag.

The recipe is from Gifts from Nature by Helen Sudell ISBN 1-85967-502-6


3 1/4lb cooking apples roughly chopped
3 pints water
juice of 2 large lemons
about 20 large scented geranium (Pelargonium) keaves plus extra to decorate
sugar (see method)


Put the apples in a large pan with the water lemon juice and scented geranium leaves
stripped from their stalks.  Bring to the boil and simmer until the fruit is tender.

Strain the fruit and liquid through a jelly bag suspended over a large bowl and leave for at least 2 hours (I always let drip overnight).  Do not squeeze the bag or the juice will be cloudy.

Measure the juice and pour it into the cleaned pan add about 1lb sugar to each  1 pint of liquid. Stir over a low heat to dissolve the sugar then bring to the boil. Boil for about 10 minutes or until setting point is achieved.

Pour into warm sterilised jars or glasses and place a washed scented geranium leaf on the surface of each before sealing with lids, waxed paper circles and transparent paper covers.

The rose scented geranium is meant to impart a delicious perfume to clear apple jelly.  Serve with pork, ham or duck or serve on buttered scones or with muffins.

Blackberry & Apple Curd

Now the brambles are ready for the picking part of the problem is finding recipes that can be useful through the winter months that will add variety to the palate.  This one is particularly nice on hot toast, in a Victoria Sandwich, in scones, tarts and meringues. 


1lb blackberries
1/2lb cooking apples
Juice of a lemon
12oz butter
1lb sugar
4 eggs

Wash and hull the blackberries.  Peel and core then chop the apples.  Place in a pan over a low heat until the juices start to run and the fruit is cooked and tender.  Alternatively place the fruit in an oven proof casserole, still without water and put in a low oven.  Liquidise or sieve the fruit.  Squeeze the juice from the lemon and strain into a double saucepan or a bowl over a pan of simmering water.  Add the fruit pulp, butter and the sugar and stir until all the sugar has dissolved.  Beat the eggs gradually then add to the fruit mixture.  Cook gently still stirring until the mixture thickens.  Pour into hot jars, cover and seal in the usual way.

Makes approximately 1 1/2lbs


Monday, 16 August 2010

Busy Weekend

I haven't been at home this weekend as have been out and about.  Saturday I was helping a friend with some workshops, and it was a very good day.

Yesterday we descended on OH's sister for a family day. 

A short while after OH lost his parents (about five years ago) out of the blue the family were contacted by a lady who had been trying to trace her birth family for many years.

Its a complicated story, but OH was adopted as a child by his grandparents (his birth mother he was bought up to believe was his older sister).  It would seem that she was about 18 years old when she had OH and he was bought up with in the family. [He always knew something had happened because he could remember attending Court as a youngster, but he was alwasy on his own] However what was not known was that his birth mother went on to have another child within a year of OH being born.    We think things must have been tight as OH's parents only had a two bedroom property and they had the younger sister and OH both with them.  For such a decision to be made there must have been extentuating circumstances because this is a family that love children.

OH's older sister remembered odd things from when she was younger that hadn't made sense and also things that had happened just before her sister died (the younger sister is some 7 or 8 years younger than her sister). OH's birth mother wanted her baby girl before she died (she went on to have two more girls) and when the elder of the two went to her and said I'm here mum she pushed her away saying that it wasn't her.

After the initial contact there have been text messages, emails and telephone contact, and despite arranging a meet up earlier or trying to they didn't come to anything.  That is until yesterday when we went to my sister in laws and we eventually got to meet the long lost sister.  We did everything low key as we didn't want to overwhelm her.  It turns out that she was adopted by a local family, but even stranger OH and her used to haunt the same venues - she's into fishing  - so's OH - its not the only coincidence.  Also she is the spit of her birth mother and sister in law got a bit emotional because she has been without her sister for many years. Equally when she was growing up she didn't look like anyone but yesterday she met up with family who have a likeness and she could identify with.  It was a good comfortable day - we had a buffet lunch  - she met part of the family not all of them.  That will come in time and at her own pace.  The photo box was raided to try and fill in a bit on the family history etc for her.  The family is what it is  - no frills just ordinary folk having a family day.  We certainly enjoyed ourselves and I hope sis did too.  The strange thing is her birth name is exactly the same as mine.  Now OH isn't completely on his own and nor is his sister.  Its been good and everyone got on very well and hopefully there will be more visits to follow - but no pressure everything in its own time.

Welcome back sis (sis with partner "three plates") Nick - we like a chap that loves his grub!

And part of the family in the back garden

Now I have to catch up with the housework - if I'M missing for too long please send out the St Bernard with the Brandy barrell.  I also have some letters to write - so bear with me.

Catch you all later



Sunday, 15 August 2010

Further Further Update on My bottle fetish

Hi everyone hope you are all okay.

This is getting to be a little bit of a saga but I thought I ought to let you know about a cheap source of kilner jars, where you can buy the bottles singly.  I walked into Wilkinsons on Friday and there arranged on the shelf were a load of Kilner jars of both sizes.  No prices on them but I went to enquire anyway (I had just bought four more at £10 from John Lewis) and the small ones came out at £1.97 a jar - that would be 5 jars for £10. I assume the bigger ones will be cheaper than John Lewis but will find out when I go in during the week again.  In John Lewis they are £3 a hit. (The large jars in Wilkinson are £2.50 per jar)

Just thought I would let you all know in the name of getting as much as you can for your money. I know I am paying out now for these jars now, but come end of preserving for this year will still carry on buying a few jars here and there.  Next year I will then be able to start my bottling pantry earlier on as will have the jars and the seals there ready and waiting. I also intend to hit the pick your own farms next year as well.  The main purpose of this is to store as much as I can out of the freezer as well as in it, but probably more meat than is currently in there. There are lots of things I want to have a go at including salami making.

Have to pop off now hopefully will be back later.



Friday, 13 August 2010

Liver Transplant 20th Anniversary

Today the 13 August is the 20 year anniversary since my mother underwent a liver transplant  at Addenbrookes hospital in Cambridge as her own liver was diseased and failing.  This was revolutionary at the time and the transpant was used to treat the liver disease she was experiencing at the time known as primary biliary cirrhosis a condition where the tiny bile ducts became diseased and hardened thus cutting off the lubrication points in the liver and thus turning her liver into a piece of stone as well as causing various other problems.  A disease of the auto immune system, the experts now know that this particular disease comes back even after the transplant and they are starting to establish that it may be down to a defective gene.  The latest news is that they believe it is down to possibly 16 genes and that its cause is not what they thought it is.

All I know is that one particular family's loss has enabled my mother to have 20 years of precious life that she was not otherwise expected to see.  For that I and my family are very grateful for their selflesseness at a time of great distress.  So today although a celebration where my mother is concerned I am also thinking of the family who lost so much but in so doing have given my mother a precious life.  I thank you for this - words are not enough.

But thank you whoever you are and wherever you are.

Pattypan aka Tricia

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

New Books

Yesterday I came home with a treat two books that I have had my eye on for sometime.  The first The Grow Your Own Drugs book - I have been hanging my nose over this for quite a period of time and it has paid off.  I only paid £2 and the latest cookery book from The Hairy Bikers Family Cookbook everywhere I have seen it in town was £10, but I managed to obtain it from the Bookman who calls at work for £5.  So was well chuffed and that is two more off my ever ending list. The Bookman who calls sells for The Book People

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Best Laid Plans of Mice and Men

Well I had it all figured out what I was going to achieve this evening especially as I still have a back room that looks like a bomb has hit it.  Mind you I have found things I had forgotten I had but the plus point is that I have been having a thorough sort out as I have been going along and underneath the stairs is all sorted out and very organised for me.  I also found a box of CD's that I had forgotten I had had.  I have been playing with my computer and am gradually getting used to using different elements.  Music is the latest one and so finding the CD's means that I will be able to download them and then have music playing whilst am composing for the blog etc.

My choice in music is somewhat ecclectic at the best of times.

If you haven't yet heard it the Fishermans Friend CD is extremely good.  But then I like traditional music and these types of songs tell a story which is all part of our heritage and from where we are from originally.  Back to grass roots as it were.

Anyway back to my evening.  I had planned to get on with the back room again; on the way home Geoff gave me a note from my friend over the road who I have been helping out with her computer.  Her partner had bought her a new computer and she was so excited but hadn't got a clue what to do with some of the basics (Neither had I really - but I managed to get it fathomed out, her Sky package loaded, modem operational and Internet and Facebook sites all working).  It has taken me a couple of hours but at least have managed to sort her out so that she can do what she wants to do on it and have given her shortcuts so that she can access the ones that she uses on a regular basis. Up until a couple of weeks ago she didn't know how to send an email now there is no stopping her. One quick lesson and she is flying bless her. But it is helping her and me in a roundabout way as I am learning too.  A little time and effort helping people when they are in need never hurt anybody.  Well that's my take on things.

Hopefully will be able to get stuck in tomorrow night as I am not around on Saturday as I have a course to attend and Sunday my OH gets to meet a sister he has never met - long and very complicated story but it will be interesting to see how things go.  I think that she has a lot of questions to ask, which are very understandable in the circumstances.

Catch up with you all soon.

Kind regards

Tricia (aka pattypan)


Further update on my Bottle Fetish

As a result of wanting to buy single kilner bottles as I don't necessarily have the £25 upwards to buy a box of 12 which is definitely a cheaper way of buying things.  I decided to write to Lakeland as my feeling is that it is losing Lakeland sales but not only this, this in itself precludes people on lower incomes actually having the opportunity of bottling some goodies for their own pantry because they cannot afford to buy the bottles.

This is the response I received from them. 

"Thank you for taking the time to get in touch with us about the Kilner jars.

I've had a look into this for you and we don't stock the jars individually at the moment, however I have passed this suggestion onto our buying team for their consideration for the future.

We're always interested to hear what our customers like, so your suggestion is very welcome.

As always, if there's anything else we can help you with, please do let us know. You can email us at or call our customer services team on 015394 88100. We're available Monday to Sunday, 6.30am to 10pm and will be happy to help."

So if there is something that you particularly like to see i.e Canners, single kilner jars etc etc.  Pick up pen and paper or email them  as it would seem that the only way to get these items in situ as it were is to bombard them with mail requesting the same. The more the merrier. So if you are interested go on email them.

Sunday, 8 August 2010

2010.08.07 & 08 My Weekend

Well its been a busy weekend and I have been bottoming out the dining room this weekend and under the stairs, constant washing and cleaning making sure everything is tickety booh doing the room section by section.  This room holds a lot of stuff as well as the cupboard under the stairs being my Jam Pantry and store for jars, bottles decorating equipement etc etc.  To get it absolutely A1 ok is going to take me another couple of nights, but it will be a job well done when it is finished.

I thought I was out of jam jars but I have found a load under the stairs so that is very useful so was quite pleased about that.

This room is the through room and tends to be the room where stuff is left - I am aiming to put a stop to this  so that I can utilise the room for doing my needlework - I have lots of stuff to do but haven't quite found the enthusiasm to start it but will get there.  One thing that is on the cards though is a couple of marrow bags for covering marrows which I intend to use for Marrow Rum.

OH has been fishing most of this weekend so it means have been able to get stuck in and get a lot done.  He came back this morning and we then took Missy for a long walk.  She decided to go dyke hopping but just didn't quite make it.  Not once but twice.  Result one two tone mucky pup,.  She got chucked in the river which cleaned her up at least she is white again now.  But I managed to get over 1lb wild blackberries and 1lb wild yellow plums as well as some meadowsweet so will get stuck in with bottling these and either making some meadowsweet beer if I have enough meadowsweet alternatively it may go towards cordial.  I think I may have left it a bit late on the meadowsweet front for this year as there wasn't much today.

We have had roast chicken boiled new potatoes, cauliflower, leek, carrots and gravy for tea it was very scrummy.

Missy is currently curled up on her blanket next to me flat out not a care in the world.

Well must get on still have quite a bit to do before I go up this evening  (which includes rounding the cats up) and then it will be all systems go again tomorrow night.

Catch you all again soon.



Update on the bottle fetish

For those of you wishing to enter into this "bottle and jar fetish" that I seem to have inadvertently engaged in along the road of "learning preserving" these are the bottles that I referred to the other day which are ideal for Elderflower Champagne and Ginger Beer.  These size bottles normally cost over £3 per bottle, but buying them off the shelf with contents included they cost the princely sum of £1.50 per bottle.  I obtain mine from Waitrose.  The contents are pretty good too.  I aim to have a healthy supply of these bottles for my next venture into Elderflower Champagne next year in readiness.  It will also mean that I will be able to make my Ginger Beer on a regular basis too. 

Also very useful are the traditional Grolsch type bottles with the kind of pressure lever on the top to keep the contents secure (the same as on the lemonade bottles that I have just bought) so if you get a chance of acquiring them do so they are extremely useful.

Here's a photo of the bottles that I bought on Friday.  Sorry about the quality done in rather a hurry.  Case of less haste more speed, but you will get the jist.  It is the French Pop made by Lorina Pink Lemonade and Sicillian Lemon Lemonade.

Saturday, 7 August 2010

Meadowsweet Beer

Whilst out walking last weekend I noticed that there was a lot of Meadowsweet on the walk and I wondered if you could do anything with it.  I have found this recipe which sounds promising and I have all the ingredients in house.  So hopefully when OH gets back from fishing tomorrow we will be able to go for a walk and I will be able to gather some (pending the weather being ok) and have a go at making this.  It is supposed to be a light refreshing beer.

The recipe is from Gail Duff's The Countryside Cookbook:


4oz/125g meadowsweet leaves
1lb/450g malt extract
8oz/225g light brown demerara sugar
1 gallon (8 pints)/4.6 litres water
1/2 oz/15g dried yeast
1/2 teaspoon/2.5ml brown sugar per 575ml (1 pint bottle)


Boil the meadowsweet leaves in 3 pints/ 1.725 litres of water for 15 minutes.  Dissolve the malt and the sugar in a further 3 pints/1.725 litres of water in a large container.  Strain the meadowsweet liquid on to the malt and sugar reserving the meadowsweet.

Boil the meadowsweet for a further 10 minutes in 2 pints of water/1.15 litres.  Strain the liquid onto the malt and sugar solution this time discarding the meadowsweet.

Cool the liquid to lukewarm and sprinkle the yeast on top.  Leave the beer covered until it begins to ferment.  Then put it in a warm place for three days or until fermentation stops.

Rack off the beer and bottle it adding 2.5 ml (1/2 teaspoon) of sugar to each 575ml/1 pint bottle.  Seal tightly and leave the beer undisturbed until it is clear (about 1 week) before opening.

So hopefully I will be playing tomorrow evening.

I don't know what this tastes like but unless I make it I never will know.  If I dont't like it then I will not make again, but equally if it is quite nice will put some down on a yearly basis.

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Side Effects - Bottle Fetish - Replacement Lids

One of the side effects of making preserves of any kind is a keen interest in sourcing nice shaped bottles, jars etc without paying through the nose for them.   Am a bit sad I am afraid. In the spirit of waste not want not I always check products out that I buy  - especially if in jars and bottles to see whether I can re-use them or not.  Certain firms sell replacement lids so I always have a mind as to whether or not I can recycle them for next to nothing.  I also buy new jars too especially bottling jars for long term storage of pantry basics like, pasta sauces, fruit in syrups, in wine, pie fillings, etc.  The more preserving I do the more I want to do and the more I want to expand into other areas as well, but what I actually buy is dictated by the funds currently available to me. However, the containers once bought you will have infinitum (unless you give them away - but I tend to tell people that I want the jars back in any event i.e. that if they want replacement jams, jellies etc then they have to give the jars back).

I do object for paying through the nose for things so when I get the opportunity to check out the charity shops  and/or car boots for jars bottles or unusual containers I take full advantage - especially as you can usually pick up rare and different containers for next to nothing and the charity concerned raises funds for much needed assistance.  What I call a win win situation.  Both parties benefit.  At the car boots you never know what is going to come across your path. In the past I have picked up some lovely jars from this sort of venue.

Friends also bring me in replacement jars - I use as many as I can for Jam - using new replacement lids, so potentially use the size jar for which I can easily access lids.  For the present this has been Lakeland replacement lids.  Those that are not suitable get recycled at the local recycling centre.

Some of you may know that I am a lucky owner of a Tefal Jam Machine.  I am very chuffed with this piece of equipment.  It makes my life far easier and makes a very good setting jam.  When this machine came it came with 6 Bonne Maman shaped jars, which are ideal for cheeses as the sides are straight and also make a nice sturdy bottles for other jam recipes.  I contacted Lakeland about this direct as I liked the shape and sturdiness of the jars and asked if they were going to be supplying these. Unfortunately not, was the reply.  These jars came as standard from the manufacturer which is French. However you can recycle your Bonne Maman jars as John Lewis do replacement lids for this sized jar.

I do not use the old style cellophane covers on jam jars as I have found them to dry out the preserve very quickly which spoils the preserve.

I also popped into Waitrose today to check out certain grolsch style bottles.  They are selling a certain sicillian lemonade and pink lemonade for about £1.50 a bottle.  You get a refreshing drink and a re-usable bottle for this price, which is far cheaper than buying this type of bottle which can cost you upwards of a couple of pounds at least per bottle.  I have plans to buy a couple for a few weeks in order to build up a collection for using with cordials and also with Apple Pop and Ginger beer.

Useful contacts for bottles and jars

Ebay you quite frequently get old kilner jars on offer.  Some of the larger jars you can if you can get hold of them use the Leifheit seals which are similar to the Kilner metal seals if you are unable to locate Kilner ones.


Hobbycraft have started selling these types of bottes and jars but their prices are a bit steep although they do have some different ones.

John Lewis

Ascott smallholding supplies for the hex sauce bottles 30 for about £16 (or thereabouts).

The Jam Jar shop - very reasonable on prices and quite a selection of very useful things.

And of course your local supermarket.

You can always try Freecycle as well.

I also bought four small Kilner jars today from John Lewis at £2.50 each (the larger ones were £3 each) in readiness for doing some more bottling over the next few weeks.  I have contacted Lakeland by email to see whether they have any plans for doing this.  I am sure that I am not the only person who cannot find a lump sum of about £25 to £30 to buy the 12 jar boxes from Lakeland.  If people were able to buy the jars individually like at John Lewis, it would open up a further opportunity for those on lower incomes to perhaps make use of the seasonal glut of food or to put something up for their own larders for the winter months.  Bottling, once you have practiced it once or twice is not difficulty but like most  things when you have never done it before it can be nerve wrecking, but each batch you do, you will learn something each time.  The only way that I know of to try and persuade these companies to help out is to email them and ask questions and ask them if they are going to do anything about it.  So go on harass them.

Bottling isn't complicated just time consuming, but it does bring its rewards.  Preserved fruit with no nasties in.

Catch up soon.


Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Checking out the £ Shops

I popped into my local £ shop today for a quick nosy round as haven't been in there for a few weeks. I am glad I popped in as I was able to snaffle a new ironing board pad which is extremely thick, (for a £1 altho had £1.99 on it) so at some point in the not too distant future my ironing board is going to get overhauled. In the spirit of waste not want not and why dump it when it isn't brock!  All part and parcel of the slow re-organisation of the household basics.

I also managed to find 22 latex gloves (at the time of this post not sure whether 22 gloves or 22 pairs!) all for £1.

I also bought two bottles of disinfectant the ones that smell like flowers which always make the house smell nice.

I also noticed that they had 8 colourcatchers for £1.

The soup bags that Lakeland sell they do their own version for £1 a box Lakeland are about 3.99 a pack.

Its worth using these resources as it means you get reasonable basic stuff at sensible prices which means you can actually save and get those little special items that you possibly would not get otherwise.  Look after the pennies and the £1s will look after themselves.

The only problem with the £ shops is that stock differs quite wildly from shop to shop and from time to time that you go in.  But they are worth a look.

Monday, 2 August 2010


Unfortunately I have come home to bad news.  Merlin my youngest cat at 3 1/2 years old has passed over.  He had been off colour for a couple of days, we thought that he had a bit of a chill although he seemed brighter this morning before I left for work.  OH informs me that he thought things had gone a bit quiet and when he checked he had gone.  He couldn't believe it either.  It just wasn't expected because he has always been a larger than life Moggie,  a big un, a bruiser who regularly yowled at the back door when he wanted in and used to come and sit on you when he wanted fuss.  Had to have his daily fuss. His world just wasn't right until he had sat on you for his one to one attention.

He is now buried under the Cherry Tree in the back garden (under the tree that he regularly used to scale)


Wild Yellow Cherry Plums/Bullace

These are the latest wild plums that we have been harvesting from the hedgerow today.  They are pure yellow plums, the others started yellow and went pink  These are pure yellow with yellow flesh and a flavour reminiscent of apricots.  I think this batch are going to be bottled in syrup in readiness for puddings during the winter months.  Stewed plums and custard or served with vanilla or cinnamon ice cream scrummy.  I am extremely partial to cinnamon and cinnamon ice cream - unfortunately OH isn't partial so I have to make everything without and then add it to my portions where I can. Although with the Cinnamon Ice cream I make a batch just for me. 

If we manage to get some more, some are going to my mum for her freezer, but I would like to get some for some more jam for the colour variation if nothing else as the different colours also play their part. Especially if you make some old fashioned jam tarts.  Could look really good and attractive done as individual tarts or one large one segmented each segment with a different colour.  As they say we eat with our eyes first.

Sunday, 1 August 2010

Things to do in the Next Few Days

  1. Make Blackberry And Apple Jam. [Done] 4 jars
  2. Make Wild Cherry Plum Jelly. [Half way there]
  3. Make Wild Cherry Preserve batch 2. [Done] 3 jars
  4. Pickle the Gherkins 2kg. [Done] 2 Large Jars
  5. Make Nectarine and White currant jelly. [done]
  6. Make Redcurrant Jelly. [done]
  7. Make Apple and Lemon Curd. [done]
  8. Bottle Yellow Cherry Plums. [Done]. 1 jar
  9. Bottle Pink/Red Cherry Plums [Done] 2 jars
  10. Bottle Blackberries out of the garden. [ Done].  1 jar
  11. Pickle more gherkins.
  12. Pickle Eggs.
  13. Pickle Quail Eggs.
  14. Ratatouille Chutney
  15. Pickled Fennel
  16. Bottle Apples
  17. Bottle Bilberries.
  18. Dry Tomatoes and preserve in oil.
  19. Dry more sage.
  20. Dry Thyme
That's it for starters

2010.08.01 My Day

Its been a quiet day today; I am slightly incapacitated with a poorly wrist - think its down to the arthritis, but I have a splint on to support my wrist and my hand at the moment as I don't want to let it get any worse.  I don't make a good patient at the best of times.  Too darned impatient!

Early on we took Missy for a  long run and I managed to pick a few wild blackberries, still early but the odd one is ready here and there and there are no end of berries to come in the next few weeks or so.  They taste very sharp.  The elderberries are starting to blacken as well so they won't be long.  Will have to sort out some recipes in anticipation of these black gold to come.

  We looked at the Cherry plum/bullace we have been harvesting but they are nearly now all gone. We are not the only ones who have been harvesting nature's bounty.  These are the ones we collected before.

However, we spotted that there were loads of "golden plums" high  up; so we determined would go back later in the day to see if we could with the aid of a rope and stone see if we could capture the bough and then the fruit.

So dear little Missy has had two walks today (she is now snuggled up on the settee next to me but absolutley flat out )as we went back off again and managed to obtain about 4lb of the yellow cherry plum/bullace, although quite a few fell on the floor as they are just ripe for picking.  However, the trees are at the top of a slope, so the ones that fell ran to the bottom of the slope each time, but there we are something worth the bother is worth the effort.

These are intended to be bottled in syrup for later on in the winter months.  Hopefully we will manage to get some more in the week. There are quite a few trees and I am ever on the look out for different types of wild produce. 

I have noticed that there is an awful lot of meadowsweet down by the river.  Will have to see whether that can be utilised or not. It's something that I don't know too much about and part of the fun for me is researching recipes and picking out the ones that appeal to me to have a go at. I think I tend to be a tad experimental with recipes in any event.

I have completed the Wild Cherry Plum Preserve batch number 2 and have changed my mind re the Wild Cherry Plum Cheese and have decided to make a form of membrillo with the pulp instead.  [Please see separate post]. The Jelly I didn't get round too but that will go in to drip overnight with me making up tomorrow evening.

I have also started the Home Made Pickled Gherkins [ see separate post]. OH is quite partial to these and goes through them at a rapid rate of notts but these are for Christmas so hands off Mr M!  You are banned!        

We have had Roast Chicken done on the Roasting Spit for tea done in butter and then served with a side salad with a hot garnish for the leaves of mushrooms cooked in butter and then served as a hot dressing liberally sprinkled over the leaves.  This time I used button mushrooms.  I have also fried some onions just to lift the flavour a little more.  Was very tasty.  Its been a busy weekend and its going to be another busy week.

Catch you all soon.

Pickled Gherkins

I paid a quick trip to the market on Friday and had a nosy round a new Polish Delicatessan stall on the market looking for some cervelat, (a salami style sausage that has a lot of flavour and does not last long in this household) unfortunately they didn't have any.  So I went to the small deli shop just off the market.  That shop seems to have been taken over as there were different people in there. 

However,  I found proper gherkins at 1.35 a kg so I bought 2 kg to pickle this week.  I also bought some dill off the market too. I intend to make another batch, this time using the dry brining method OH can then compare which version he likes best.

Not sure how to do this as never done gherkins before - cucumber yes - in fact the methods are very similar.  I had a search on the Internet to see if I could find anything that appeals and nothing really took my fancy.  So I hit one of the basic books I use on a regular basis The Basic Basics Jams Preserves and Chutneys Handbook by Marguerite Patten ISBN1-902304-72-1.  This book is a little gem as it gives you lots of basics by way of ingredients to let you go on and experiment yourself.

You have a choice with this recipe as basically you can have a nice crunchy pickle or a softer version  I asked OH what he fancied and this time he has gone for the softer version.  However I give the version for both as then you will have the choice suiting your own particular palate.

Dry Brine

A dry brine will produce a crisper product as the salt leaches all water out of the product being brined.  This consists basically of food being sprinkled with a good layer of salt leaving it overnight or for the length of time specified by the recipe.  The salt is then rinsed away with plenty of cold water.  So want your pickle crisp then use this option.

Wet Brine

For a softer pickle, unless specified to the contrary in the recipe you are using allow 2oz of salt to each 1 pint of cold water.  Simply mix the salt with the cold water.


I have two kilos of Gherkins and I now have them brining in three pints of water 5 oz salt in two separate bowls with a plate and a saucer on the top of each to keep the gherkins submerged. They are to be left overnight and I will carry on processing them tomorrow evening when I come home from work.

They will then be drained in plenty of cold water so that no residue of the salt remains.  Leave to drain  very well.  Pack into sterilised jars.  Prepare spiced vinegar of your choice. 

If the gherkins are small they can be left whole but if too large they can be finely sliced in even sized portions.  Ordinary cucumber can also be processed in this fashion.

I am going to use white spirit vinegar infused with a clove of garlic, a bunch of dill and some onion finely sliced with a little sugar to season the gherkins.  I heat treat everything in a saucepan by simmering and letting the ingredients infuse and then go cold.  I then intend to top up each jar to the top .  I always wedge some clean greasproof paper into the top of the jar to keep the contents submerged.  Seal and then store on the larder shelf for at least two months before opening.  - Preferably have a lock on the Pantry Door  with a large NO ADMITTANCE SIGN so that No one can help themselves in between! Drastic measures have to be taken in this household whenever I am in preserving mode and sometimes things have to be hidden!

[I will recount a story of when my step-children were at home.  Their mother never pickled or cooked to the extent I did and so therefore my preserving sessions were a bit of a mystery and of great intrigure to them.  On one of my first forays into bottling I spent all morning bottling some cherries and raspberries and left them to cool on the freezer.  I was quite proud of myself and of the fact that I had managed to put up something special for the winter months for all of us.   When I came down the following morning  - the jars had mysteriously come open.  Not one or two but three in total (there were six altogether).They had opened them intrigued as to what all the fuss was about and after all they had helped with pickijng the cherries and the raspberries. Needless to say it never happened again, but it was a steep learning curve for me and for them. Quite funny in retrospect but not at the actual time!]


Well I got the Pickled Gherkins done two large jars of them.  I might get some more at the end of the week  if I can and make another couple of large jars as OH fond of them, that way round he will have some before Christmas and some for Christmas.

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)