Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Black Grape Jam

Now the jelly is on the go my mind has turned to thoughts of jam and I have found the following recipe.  Me thinks the jam pan will be on the go after the jelly is made.  

1kg/2lb seedless black grapes - if not seedless cut the grapes in half and remove the seeds.
750g/3 cups warmed sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
50g/ 13/4 oz jam pectin or a sachet of dried pectin

  1. Remove the stems from the grapes and place in a large pan with 80ml / 1/3 cup of water.  Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer covered for 5 minutes
  2. Add the sugar and lemon juice and stir over  a low heat until all the sugar has dissolved.
  3. Return to the boil and boil the jam rapidly for 10 minutes stirring often,  Remove any scum during cooking with a skimmer or slotted spoon (I always put a knob of butter in to stop the scum spoiling the preserve).  Add the jam setting mixture and boil for a further 5 minutes or so.  Remove any scum from the surface with a skimmer or slotted spoon
  4. Transfer to a heatproof jug and pour immediately into clean warm jarsm, roughly dividing the whole grapes between the jars and seal.  Leave the jam to cool and if possible turn the jars on their ends every 15 to 20 minutes in order to ensure tha the grapes are evenlyh distributed throughout the jam. Label and date.  Store in a cook dark place for 6 to 12 months.  Refrigerate after opening and use up within 6 weeks.

 Serve with a fruit bread or fruit scones.

Grape Jelly

 Being as my very good friend bought me a load of grapes in I have some of this dripping as we speak soon to be made into another lovely jelly.  I love making jellies as the colours are so shiny and vibrant and tasty.  A lot of people don't like fruit lumps or pieces in jams and so are quite partial to jellies in preference.  I like both.  Looks like I am going to be busy tomorrow night when I get in from work.


1 kg/2 1/4 lb grapes

For every 500ml/16 fl oz of juice:

675g/1 1/2lb caster sugar
100g/3 1/2 oz liquid pectin
freshly squeezed juice of a large lemon


  1.  Put the grapes which can be solely one colour a mixture of black and white into a heavy based stainless steel pan and crush them.  You can use a potato masher to achieve this.  Add 150ml/5 fl oz of water and then bring to the boil, reduce the heat and then cover and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes until the grapes are very soft.
  2. Crush the grapes again then spoon the mixture into a jelly bag and allow to drip overnight.
  3. Measure the juice then measure out the correct amount of sugar, pectin and lemon juice.  Put the juice and sugar into a preserving pan and bring slowly to the boil, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. 
  4. Add the pectin, increase the heat and boil rapidly for 3 to 5 minutes until the jelly has set.  Pot into hot sterilised jars seal and label.
Grape jelly is traditionally used in peanut and jelly sandwiches, but I think it will be just as yummy on scotch pancakes or crumpets and toast.

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Quick Ginger Beer

As promised here is the alternative recipe for a "Quick Ginger Beer" that I have come across but have never made.   There's a batch of this brewing as we speak.


1 oz root ginger
1lb sugar
1oz cream of tartar
1 lemon
8 pints of boiling water
1oz fresh yeast or 1/2 oz dried yeast


  1. Put the ginger into a piece of clean cloth and hit it with a hammer or heavy weight until the ginger is bruised.
  2. Put in a bowl and add the sugar and cream of tartar.
  3. Grate the lemon rind and squeeze out the juice and add to the bowl
  4. Pour in the boiling water, stir well and leave until cold.
  5. Mix the yeast with 5 tablespoons luke-warm water and add to the bowl.
  6. Cover and leave overnight.  Strain through a muslin cloth and bottle in strong screw-topped bottles (e.g. those used for cider or beer).  Leave for 48 hours before using.  
I am hoping this version will be less explosive but then again its me making it!

Bits n bobs

Saturday my veg shop people were back so I did a big stock-up yesterday buying sweet potatoes, cauliflower, leeks, carrots, parsnip, onions, celery, cabbage, broccoli, apples, tomatoes, apricots, lemons, garlic, a melon, pineapples, to name but a few of the ingredients.  With this colder weather I am keen that we both get plenty to eat - good solid home made food that will do you good in the long run.  The tomatoes I am going to make into pasta sauce and bottle. The apples are also going to be bottled for puddings etc.  I might put some of each into the freezer as well. The tomatoes are primarily as a base for a soup as I have acquired some soup/stock bags from the pound shop.  I also intend to bottle some more plums.  I have been looking for some damsons and also some purple bullace but so far no luck.  Damsons make a lovely jam.

I also managed to get a load of my stored bottles sterilised in the dishwasher ready for use in the coming weeks ahead. They will have to be done again but where they were being stored they had a lot of dust and insects in them, but they have scrubbed up well so next time round it will be a shorter programme to deal with them.

We have roast chicken for tea for tomorrow night, so I should be able to get a chicken stew and a stock out of what is left over, primarily for making soups, but also for use in gravies etc.  I bought some fennel, thyme, lemon grass on Friday from the town market.  I dry the thyme for use during the winter months and I have a cordial recipe for the lemon grass. that I wish to try out but I need some more bottles so hopefully will be able to order those come pay day.  The fennel is going to be turned into a pickle - have not tried this before but it is supposed to be good with fish and being as I like fennel and aniseed flavours I thought that this would be something different to tempt the palate with during the winter months.

The moon was full last night and to start with I din't think we were going to see her in all her glory, because of cloud, but that soon passed and she was hanging there blazing brilliantly down through midnight bluy black skies.  There is always something magical about a full moon.  I couldn't find  my camera (which is in a safe place) so was  not  able to take any photos.  But when the cloud was round the moon there was this yellowy golden outer circle, which I was always taught is indicative of colder weather/frosts and it sure has been cold here the past couple of days or so.  We had the sun yesterday although the wind was brusque and had a very sharp edge to it.

Today we have woken to miserly hissy spitty rain and grey drab skies enough to dampen the best of spirits, a day for staying close to home and the warmth. [ Its on days like this that I desperately crave a proper fire for burning logs and fir cones on.  A fire always cheers up a dismal day so much and of course it keeps the damp at bay and warms your inner core] and of course  there is the hitting  and spitting and loud cracks  that logs give off  as it burns] .

But today  I had things to do.  OH took me to get my crab apples today, well the first batch at least.  I have red crab apples and yellowy green ones, both make a lovely jelly, but its nice to ring the changes with the colour of the jellies as it adds a little more interest.  We also found a load of eating apples, which are crisp and delicious so some of those have come home too.  I am going to put some up for store in the cold stone shed, wrapped in tissue in some blue trays that the veg shop people have given to me in the past, so hopefully will have some nice eaters for use at  Christmas the rest will get either frozen down for use in puddings for  both the freezer and the bottle store 

The crabs will get used up in jellies, pastes, cheeses, wines, syrups, making pectin for use in the early jams and jellies for next year rather than buying certo.  I also intend to make chilli jelly and chilli jam both of which are delcious with cheese and meats and also some sweet chilli sauce. [I am quite partial to a plate full of home made chips covered with sweet chilli sauce or those chicken dippers that Birds Eye do]

Needless to say when we got in we were both very cold and had a steaming mug of milky coffee each.  OH finished off the remains of a Cottage pie that we had for tea last night which was very tasty.  I had a bit of bread and butter with a lump of cheese, an apple and some pickled onions, but then again I am relatively easy pleased.

I was  also given a load  of red grapes the other day so I am   going to look  for a recipe to use these up in as well. They are tiny grapes, but so full of flavour and sweet so principally am looking at a grape jelly for starters.

I am pleased to report that my neighbour has told me that I can have the japonica quince which is growing in his garden. He has told me that I can have this on a regular basis.  He did not know what they were he thought they were a form of apple.  So I am well chuffed.  They are still in his garden but I will go and collect them later in the week once I have managed to deal with everything else.
Next weekend I am hoping to do a couple of batches of home made pesto and also the souper mix vegetable paste ala the River Cottage Preserves book.  I made this last year and am coming to the end of the supply I made then.  I use it whenever I do a cooked meal as a basis for a gravy or an addition to a vegetable based gravy. I also quite like a couple of teaspoons of this in a mug filled up with boiling water as a warming drink on a cold day.

I also intend to do my picallili then - yet again the recipe from the River Cottage Preserves book.  Its the best recipe I have come across for Picallili everyone who has had a jar usually comes back for more.  

I also start my maths class tomorrow night, so tomorrow evening is out of the equation or the best part its a two hour class from 6.00 p.m. to 8.00 p.m.

I have also volunteered to give my friend Eve a refresher course on how to crotchet, so will pop into see her one evening in the week to get her started.

It will soon be Masawati coffee season.

Have a lot to do and so little time to do it as per usual.

Catch you all soon

Take care wherever you are 



Friday, 24 September 2010

Crumpets for Tea

I love crumpets but strangely enough have never made them at all.  I have all the equipment just never got round to making any.  I have therefore been inspired to have a go.  What has spurred me on is the new Hairy Bikers Family Cookbook "Mum's know Best" ISBN 978-1-4072-2458-9.  I managed to get mine from the Book People - they visit at work  - for a fiver.  It might be worth paying a visit to their website to see whether it is still on offer - it really is a lovely book and has some really good recipes in - really good home cooking with the occasional twist.  

These are on the menu for Saturday night's tea.

Apparently it makes 12


350ml whole milk
225g strong white bread flour
125g plain flour
7g sachet of fast action dried yeast
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon of caster sugar
1 level teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
150ml warm water
softened butter for greasing the rings


Put the milk in a saucepan and warm it very gently until tepid.  Sift the flours into a large bowl and stir in the yeast salt and sugar.

Make a well in the centre and stir in the warm milk.  Beat well with a wooden spoon for 3 to 4 minutes until the batter is thick and elastic.  Cover with clingfilm and leave to rise in a warm place for about an hour or until doubled in size.

Mix the bicarbonate of soda with the warm water.  Beat this into the batter for a couple of minutes and leave to rest in a warm place for a further 30 minutes.  By this time the batter should look risen and be covered with tiny bubbles.  Heat a flat griddle pan or large heavy based non-stick frying pan over a medium high heat.

Generouls butter the insides of 4 crumpet rings or 9cm chefs rings and place them on the griddle or in the frying pan.  Warm for a minute or two. Using a dessertspoon drop 3 large spoonfuls of the crumpet batter into each ring it should come up about 1.5 cm up the sides of each ring but no more.  Cook for 9-12 minutes or until lots of bubbles have risen to the surface and burst and the tops look dry and set.  Carefully lift off the rings - this shouldn't be too difficult as the crumpets will ease back from the sides when they are read y (use an oven cloth and take care as they will be hot)  Flip the crumpets over with a spatula and cook on the other side for 2 minutes or until golden brown. You can keep these crumpets warm while the remaining batter is prepared or serve immediately spread with lots of butter.  Cook the rest of the crumpets in the same way as the first washing and rebuttering the rings well before each use.  The crumpets can  also be cooled and then roasted.

When dealing with the last few crumpets the batter may have thickened up and the bubbles take longer to burst if this happens prick each one lightly with a cocktail stick.

Worth making a big batch.

Looking  forward  to these for  Saturday nights tea  -  thought I would post up  in case any of  you want to join me 

I love doing new recipes and playing around generally.

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Autumn Pumpkin Chutney

Well I have started to see the odd pumpkins about and I absolutely love Pumpkin.  As you might have guessed Pumpkin and Squash is a firm favourite in this household. I developed a liking for it when I went to Australia some 30 years or so ago.

I am always on the look out for new recipes and I have found the following recipe in some cut outs of recipes I had put to one side.  I am not sure where its from, (the recipe that is)  but Pumpkin season is already here if you grow your own and I am hoping that it will shortly be available for me to buy so that I can feed my pumpkin passion and freeze some down for the winter months (we love it roasted and I prepare this for the freezer and then just drag it out as I need it.  I always make sure I have a couple of pumpkins for the cold shelf as well.

The orangey colour of this chutney is enough to cheer the heart on a cold winters night.  We love chutneys of any description and I am hoping that its as good as the recipe promises.

Makes approximately 1 1/2lbs


1lb 12 oz pumpkin washed
1 onion
1 large cooking apple washed and cored
2 yellow peppers washed and de-seeded
7oz demerara sugar
1 1/4 pint red wine vinegar
1 tsp ground ginger
Pinch ground cloves


  1. Cut the pumpkin into large pieces keeping the skin on but discarding the membrane and seeds.  Cut into small chunks and put in a heavy based pan.
  2. Chop the onion, apple and peppers into 1/2 inch pieces and add to the pan with the sugar, vinegar and spices. Heat over a low heat to start with and keep on stirring until the sugar has dissolved.  Simmer for about 50 minutes or so stirring occasionally.
  3. When the chutney is ready it will "smell wonderfully aromatic". The pumpkin should just be holding its shape but will have softened and the juices should be shiny and just sufficient to cover the vegetables.
  4. Remove from the heat and carefully spoon into sterile jars. Cover. 
  5. Leave approximately a month before using allowing the preserve time to "Mature".  Store in a cool dry place.
I think this would be a good one to have with goats cheese or in a ploughmans platter  - or how about adding a couple of spoonfuls to a casserole or stew.

Memories are made of this

Well what a busy weekend.  Please forgive me a tad if I rattle on a bit - its a while since I posted and am just stretching the writing muscles a tad and also showing my age to boot.

Saturday was spent at my Mums.  She is having a new central heating boiler installed and the plumber needed to do work in the attic.  One small problem the attic was heaving.  Enter one son, one daughter, one daughter in law and two nephews.  We spent the day clearing the attic of rubbish and bits and bobs. My nephews were intrigued to see what would come down next, including a load of toys that were still living in the loft that belonged to my brother.  Mum sorted through items as to what she did or did not want.  But one of the things to come out of the attic was special cards going back years - we have left mum to sort those out as and when she is ready, no doubt that will be emotional for her as she is very sentimental.   Clearing the attic  was something that had been bothering my mum for sometime, but she couldn't get in the attic to get things sorted.  Hence the cavalry.

It was a good productive and constructive day, but most of all a good family day.  There were no tears, but many memories, and good quality family time, which we don't always get these days.  We had fish and chips for dinner   It was funny at times as well especially when my brother started to get ratty and he reminded us all so much of my Dad, with his slight lack of patience at times.  A real chip off the old block. 

The loft was always my father's domain -its where his dark room was  - we have always had a dark room wherever we have lived, as photography was always my Dad's hobbie and passion.  

All sorts of things came out of the loft, and it was slightly emotional at seeing items that had memories that went back to childhood.  Yep they are only things, but a link to a memory or memories which are far more important in my book.  My father was a keen exponent of photography and one of the things to be "found" was his first camera case which was made of pig skin.  Dad always had this with him when we were little and I bought it home with me to use for my camera.  There were also all sorts of other gadgets that came down, most of them my dad had obtained to use with his home movie making - he used to make cine films, latterly dvd movie productions complete with music and sound tracks.  

Needless to say both dustbins were full and my brother paid three visits with a full car to the local tip. A big pile of stuff went to one side for a local charity.  Items that neither of us wanted but at least is going to do some good in a fresh quarter.

There were also my grandfather's concertina's which also brought back a lot of memories as my grandfather always used to keep us entertained as children either with his banjo or by playing the concertina  To run my fingers over the wood of the case, and to touch the concertinas that my grandfather had so proficiently played bought back a host of lovely memories. My brother has the banjo and no doubt in due course the concertina's will both pass to my nephews.  Both are musical and play the flute and other instruments so it seems sensible that these family heirlooms should pass to them in good time.  Unfortunately both my nephews never knew their great granddad and the eldest only just about remembers his great grandmother or "Nan" as she was affectionately known.

Another link with my childhood was a big box of 78 records and 45's.  My mum is one of 10 and the brothers and sisters used to buy records and these were left at home when they all left.  They took what they wanted individually but there was this big box left that was given to me as a 2 to 3 year old that got an awful lot of play.  Some were broken along the way but looking through those records when I got them home, really bought things home. (they are not to everyone's taste but it wouldn't do if we were all the same  Such titles as:-
Bachelor Boy by Ray Pilgrim
Living Doll Cliff Richard
Yes Sir That's my Baby/Shakin all over Johnny Kidd and the Pirates
Running Bear Johnny Preston
Hava Nagila The Spotnicks
Zorbas Dance 
Flashback The Rockin Berries
Lonely Boy Paul Anka
The Young Ones Cliff Richard
Halfway to Paradise Billy Fury
Deck of Cards Wink Martindale
My Old Man's a Dustman Lonnie Donegan
Old Shep Elvis Presley
Can't Help Falling in Love/Rock a Hula Baby Elvis Presley
Singing the Blues Tommy Steele
Oh Carol Neil Sedaka
Big Bad John/I won't go Hunting with you Jake Jimmy Dean
To a Sleeping Beauty Jackie Gleason

And a whole host more to boot

In time I would quite like to obtain an old record player so that I can give these classics another airing.  There are also lots of 78 by Elvis Presley, Alma Cogan, Liberace, Anthony Newley, Doris Day, and a host of others.  One day wait and see.  I also have a big pile of 45 singles and LP's (remember them ) from my own teenage years.  I have a lot of CD's as well, but they are not as tactile as the LP's or the singles.  

Even though I don't play an instrument at the moment, music always has and is a very big part of my life.  I am a frustrated piano player in an alternative life.

I have also purloined a very large wicker basket for storing all my wools and squares in that I am crotcheting at the moment (I have a partwork that is called the Art of Crotchet with full explanations as to how to do different  patterns) in an attempt to stop Missy nicking off with them and now that the winter evenings are setting in I shall really have to get cracking.  Its ideal to pick up and do of a weekday evening after coming home from work.

A family is made up of many different components, but to me the over-riding one is always love.  We always knew that whatever we did wherever we went that we were both loved and cherished by our parents.   I just  wish we spent more time like we did on Saturday - it reminded me so much of when I was growing up. Just being able to be plain Tricia with no expectations just acceptance.  There was always love - always teasing the occasional dust up (like the time my brother used my rear end for target practice with his air pistol as I was bending down to get washing out of the washing basket to hang on the line.  He swore blind to my Dad that he hadn't [my rear end knew differently].  Baby bruv did own up in the end to my Dad not long before he passed.  Nowadays we have a good laugh about it.

But hey that's being part of a family  and I am very blessed in that I have a very loving family. Its a strange old mix, as  events, thoughts, feelings, items, memories, music, different bits and bobs all go towards the family memory chest and as the song goes "Memories are made of this".

Take care everyone



Wednesday, 15 September 2010

2010.09.15 My Day

Brrgh autumn  seems to be well and truly with us, the first of the cold weather seems to be manifesting itself. Today started with grey skies and a blustery wind.  About mid-day the sun actually escaped for a little while  but had gone in again by the time it was my lunch time.    These fluctuations in the weather don't do my arthritis much good and trigger episodes so I haven't been too clever today.  I am off to see the Consultant next week, so hopefully they will be able to get a different medication control in place rather than steroids which I am still on.
Because it has been cold  I wanted something nice and warm for tea tonight.  As a consequence we have had lamb shanks with mint gravy, boiled potatoes, french beans, cauliflower, calabrase, and peas with lashings of mint gravy, followed by treacle sponge and custard. Scrummy  - reinforcements for cold weather and not bad going as all ready within an hour of getting home and served on the table (I was home for 6.00 p.m.)

I have a stew on the go as well in the slow cooker.  I started it off last night, but often find the flavours develop more if the slow method of cooking is undertaken so will probably end up having that on Friday night when I get home from work.  Served with Champ it should be a quick warm meal for a Friday night with some chunky bread to soak up the gravy.  That's the best bit - the gravy.  You get all the flavour with proper gravy.  I might put on a home made rice pud tomorrow night to have for Friday tea as well
I am getting cravings to have a proper baking day but that won't happen this weekend as on Saturday I am off to help my mum clear her attic out with my baby brother.  She is having a new central heating system fitted and they need to go in the attic so we have been asked (my bruv and I) to go and assist.  Plus it means we get to spend time with each other and with my nephews which is all very positive from my point of view.  

Both of my nephews are very well balanced youngsters.  The eldest has not long had his GCSE results.  He received one lot of exam results early.  We hadn't appreciated that this was for A level results.  He is only 16.  It turns out that he has passed with flying colours an IT exam at A level with a B grade some 2 years early.  He had aready got four GCSE's having been entered for a couple the past couple of years on the trot.  He was also entered for a further 9 GCSE's this year.  He wants to be a Doctor and he got A* Grades in both Chemistry and Physics the rest are all A grade passes and his lowest result was French Grade B, so we are all extremly proud and pleased for him.  Fortunately he is at a very good grammar school which elicits the best from all of its students.  My younger nephew has also gone to the same school so fingers crossed in a few years time he will do well also.  

Well I had better get on, I have lots of things to do yet.

Catch you all later



Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Japonica Quince

I have spotted in a neighbours garden a load of Japonica Quince and I am going to ask him if I can have them as he does not seem to do anything with them and in the spirit of waste not want not and with the promise of a jar of the preserve, I am hoping that he will let me have these.  Its something I have always wanted to have a go at but never came across any to actually use or know of anyone who had any.  So I have been researching and from what I can see, the Japonica Quince is more acidic than the normal Cydonia Quince or the larger tree Quince, but that the recipes are more or less interchangeable.

If he lets me have them I intend to make some Quince Jelly and some Quince Cheese and hopefully some Membrillo, so will have to see how it goes.  This is all very new to me so I am looking forward to experimenting a great deal.

I am also looking out for the Cydonia Quince as well, as it would be good to compare the flavours by making the same or slightly different recipes.  I also have a recipe for a Liqueur as well.  Never having tried either version I don't even know if I will like the flavour but nothing ventured nothing gained. 

Here's keeping my fingers crossed


Monday, 13 September 2010

2010.09.12 My Day

I haven't been too well the past couple of days having suffered from an upset stomach and the beginnings of a cold.  Fortunately both have subsided and I felt a little more energetic today and we took Missy for a constitutional walk, but not where we normally go. We went to  a  local Woods (a place I have been going to since I was a small child  - we regularly used to go for picnics there with friends and many a happy time was had there as it is a lovely place to roam. and have a nic pic. I even took the step-children there when they were growing up.  I felt the need to be near trees and in open spaces today it really tugged at me and I needed to get out and about.  Not often I get like that but today was definitely one of those days.
I love walking but I also absolutely adore foraging of any kind- I like looking out for new sources of different wild produce. There were lots of mushrooms but I dare not pick them. I was taught how to recognise field mushrooms and a couple of other varieties as a child, but because it is so long since that knowledge was used I am not very confident. apart from  with Puffballs - we have had about three more large ones this week.  However I do intend to put this missing information right at some time and am going to look into this in some detail.  It has been a lovely sunny day with a breeze here. I went armed with my foraging kit which consists of a pair of rubber gloves, some scissors, rolls of polythene bags and carrier bags and bin bags  in my wicker basket together with my stick.  I always take these with me when we go for a walk on the off-chance.  I had every intention of actually collecting together some fir cones for use in a couple of projects I have in mind concerning Christmas decorations; I was looking for sloes, crab apples, blackberries, rosehips as well as for puffballs and haw berries.  We found all these but we also found hazlenuts and beech mast.  However, I came home empty handed for a change but with good reason.

As we were walking throught the woods we bumped into a retired couple with a black labrador dog and we got talking as you do, and we ended up walking together. They were on holiday camping on a local site up the road, and are originally from Swaffham in Norfolk.  We spent a relatively quick three hours on a very long walk, chatting all the time and found that we had many things in common despite the difference in ages.  In fact they were super company. It turned out that the husband used to keep bees (at least 6 hives) which is an interest of mine,.  I have been on a training course, but don't keep bees at present becasue of a grumpy neighbour.  They also grow their own veg and fruit but also have a passion for preserving and bottling, making wine  generally making use of anything that came their way.  In fact they have told me that Thetford Forest regularly put on mushroom identification courses so I am going to look into this and see if the gap in my knowledge can be improved so that at least I can come home with the right mushrooms rather than making everyone poorly.   They are moving sites on Tuesday and are coming to stay on a local site in Peterborough so we have arranged to meet up with them and go out for a meal.  Its funny how you meet folk and get talking and end up getting on like a house on fire.   They were very good company.  Needless to say Missy came home cream-crackered and has spent most of the evening fast asleep on her bed.
Most of the people I work with seem to think I am a little odd because I am quite passionate about cooking and preserving in particular, but hey it wouldn't do if we were all the same now would it.
We used to make wine years ago and weren't too bad at it and then for many years have not made it; I am currently in the swing of things again and hope to get a lot more made within the next few weeks, hopefully ready for Christmas, including Cider, and a Lager and Bitter kit.  My Nan always used to make a lot of really good wine as did my mother.
We are hoping to get a shed shortly in order that I can sort my dining room out which is currently housing both my chest freezer and and an upright deep freeze, as a result of which space is at a premium, after which I am hoping to decorate the dining room and the kitchen prior to Christmas, but will have to wait and see what happens, pennies providing, but it needs tidying up.  The kitchen only needs painting out, but the dining room needs papering and painting.  So will have to see how things go.

I am back to work tomorrow after a completely chilled out week at home. I had so much to do but didn't get round to all of it, but I have chilled out a bit which was the whole purpose of the exercise.  Hopefully I will be able to book another week's leave soon.

Well take care everyone and look after yourselves


Saturday, 11 September 2010

Spiced Plum Jelly

I love plums - in fact a lot of the preserves I put down each year tend to be plum related.  This one in particular goes well with pheasant and chicken (and also perks up gravy) and also goes well with cheese. 


1.6kg red plums
400ml cider vinegar
150ml Port
1 cinnamon stick
8 cloves
8 green cardamom pods
700g granulated sugar


  1. Cut up the plums anmd place them with their stones into a very large heavy based saucepan.
  2. Add the vinegar, port, spices and bring to the boil, cover and then simmer for about an hour.
  3. Tip the contents of the pan into a jelly bag suspended over a bowl. Allow to drip through I usually allow overnight as a minimum. Do not squeeze the bag as this will produce a cloudy jelly which will spoil the appearance of the preserve.
  4. Place a couple of saucers in a cold fridge or freezer (these will be used for testing for a set of the jelly)
  5. Measure the juice from the jelly.  Add 500g of sugar to every 600ml of juice. Bring to the boil stirring occasionally until all the sugar has dissolved. Then simmer until you reach 105 degrees C on a jam thermometer.  The time taken varies per batch. Whilst the jelly is simmering switch on the oven at Gas Mark 6/200 degrees C and sterilise your jars for about 6 minutes.  The jars should be warm when you fill them.
  6. Skim off any scum as this spoils the visual asthetics of the jelly or jam. Some preserves produce a scum, this can be skimmed off with a ladle, but I usually add a knob of butter when the jelly comes to the boil as this helps stop the scum forming.  Test for a set by bringing one of the saucers out of the fridge/freezer and placing a spoon of the jelly on it.  Put back into the fridge or freezer for about 6 minutes.  If the sample sets i.e. looks jellied and forms a skin when you put a finger through the sample and does not rejoin up the preserve is ready for bottling if it is still watery it needs further cooking until the set is achieved.
  7. Fill the warmed jars and cover with a waxed paper seal.  Put on new screw top lids. Store in a cool place.

Friday, 10 September 2010

That "Christmas" word

Well its official that "C" word has  reared its head again along with all the produce to go with it.  Our local Coop has all the Christmas bits and bobs in i.e the full range of goodies to tempt customers to part with those few extra pennies.  Well yes it is September some four months to go until Christmas.  Most people have only just had their "summer" holidays. And it is somewhat of a body shock and wake up call to be reminded that Christmas is drawing nearer and nearer and parents start worrying about how they are going to be able to afford that particular present that "Betsy" or "Bob" wants as well as make sure that there is plenty to eat on the table for the Christmas celebrations and afterwards as well.  Please remember that Christmas in reality for most families means that they only get time off for a day or two, although traditionally Christmas was a festival of 12 days and that for the most part the shops are usually closed for a one or two day period in any event, so you don't have to go overboard.

Even the cheapie book shop has Christmas cards in, the Charity shops too, Lakeland have started bringing a few things in including cake decorations for the Christmas cake. Even a stall on the market that sells fabric and vinyl table material even has a Christmas design as well as  quite a choice of Christmas fabric for the avid crafter. Oh well - it doesn't seem that we are going to change them so might as well take advantage and plot and plan and budget for the weeks ahead so that we are not faced with an astronomical bill all in one hit just before Christmas. It doesn't mean that I am going to rush in.  With a little careful planning and thought we can achieve this.  After all Christmas is a religious festival.  Although I have my beliefs, for me Christmas is primarily a time for spending time with family and friends and spending quality time with everyone.

For some years now, every September I have started buying a few things a week and putting them up for Christmas. My squirrelling instincts come out and every item is precious and hard earned.  I have had a huge red polythene chest that I keep in the cupboard under the stairs (the jam pantry) and I fill this  with a few choice items per week. Its quite satisfying to see things build up and know that you are accumulating good stock items that  will mean that you and your family will have a Christmas of sorts and without having to pay through the nose for it. I buy in things like After Eights (eg these were £1 a box in my local pound shop this week), amaretti, jellies, Icing sugar, mixed fruit, nuts, marzipan etc. etc. tinned fruit, tinned cream, crisps, pringles, wines, spirits, (and from what I have seen spirits have gone up a lot just recently so it would pay to try and by these if needed when they are on offer), crackers and biscuits etc the choice is yours as we all have different palates and love different things.

I make sure that my baking ingredients store is well topped up as then I will have free reign  as to the choice of which recipes I can actually bake come Christmas.  I always do a Christmas bake  - traditionally in my family it has always been on Christmas Eve (early morning going through the day listening to the carols on the radio), but that is another subject altogether. 

However I am drawing the line at tins of sweets this year at the moment as they want £11 a tin round at the Co-op at the moment per variety the largest being Quality Street at 1kg in weight the others being Roses and the mixed chocolates like mini Mars bars, Snickers Bounty etc. and they are less than 1kg.  If I can get them cheaper else where I will do but not at that price at the moment and they may well be off the list for this year altogether.  I will have to make the most of what comes my way.  But they were £8 for two tins last year - ridiculous that they want £11 a tin now.

I look at the date stamps on the items I am considering buying and only buy those items that go well into next year that will keep for quite a period.  I make a list of items that don't fit into that category for contemplation nearer the time.  This is a good way of taking advantage of bog offs or special weekly offers that are ongoing within the different stores.  I have in the past  also re-used old sweet tins to either put a mixture of different sweets in (ones that we like - in recent years we have gone off the variety of sweets provided by the regular manufacturers as they have messed with the contents and with the flavourings) so I would rather do this and then provide a selection of a few choice home made sweets - they really are not complicated once you have had a go and played and found your way round the recipes.  I love proper Turkish Delight but it is expensive.  However, it is very easy to make, can be made a few weeks before Christmas and keeps relatively well. Plus by making it yourself you get more for your money.  Home made fudge and toffee are also good ones to do as well.

Christmas is not about keeping up with the Jones'  or about being a slave to the kitchen but being able to have a good main meal and at least a few luxury items - most of which you can prepare yourself in advance with the aid of the freezer, a pantry, a jam store, wine cellar/store, fridge and by taking advantage of the seasonality of things and making things like jams and wines and beers cider chutney curds mustards oils vinegars. And there is still a lot of produce to take advantage of yet so if you get your skates on you can add a few extra goodies to your own pantry/larder cupboard to ring the changes with a little time and effort.  Making as much as you can as you go along means you will have more time to do the things that you really need to do and enjoy doing them as well.

I am very fussy when it comes to Sausages and Sausage meat and I like Lincolnshire style sausages which has quite a bit of spicing and herbs in - that is my choice.  I cannot always afford what I would really like to due to expense but what about buying a 1lb or 1kg of sausagemeat on a weekly or every other week basis  and making sausage rolls and then freezing them.Then whenyouneed them you just bring them out and cook them.  All ready prepared can be ticked off the list so that you can get on with other items thus maximising your time.  So don't panic, you can achieve what you need to  as well as make lots of other things along the way. 

I am particularly keen this year to go collecting where I can greenery to add to the decorations I already have.  I had always thought it complicated but after the wealth of Christmas programmes on last year it has sort of demystified the process slightly and  I am particularly keen to have a bash myself.  that all takes time and needs to be done a couple of days before Christmas so yet again if all the basics have been done in good time with the preparation this will give you more time to deal with the asthetics and enjoy doing the pretty bits with regard to the decorating etc.  Its also a good time to go collecting willow and making your own frames for Christmas decorations as well as a good time to pick up those fir cones on that walk to turn into Christmas decorations or fire starters (that is if you or a friend has a proper open fire) as well as teasels for drying.  There are lots of options open to you that need not cost the earth and whats more it helps reconnect you to the season as you are giving so much more of yourself by putting all the extra attention and effort into things.  They say that you only get as much out of something as the effort that you have put in.

Well enough of my ramblings for now I hope it has given you some food for thought and I hope it helps you formulate your own little plan of action.

More ramblings to follow at a later date.



Sunday, 5 September 2010

Elderberry and Apple Wine

I started this the other night and since then it has been merrily bubbling away in the bucket.  There are two gallons on the go (approximately 8 bottles)

Ingredients for one gallon:

3lbs elderberries
4lb apples
1 gallon of water (8 pints)
juice of 4 lemons
Yeast Nutrient
3lbs sugar

String the elderberries and put them into large saucepan and crush them (I used a potato masher).  Wash and chop the apple and then put in the pan with the elderberries. Bring them to the boil and boil for about 15 minutes then decant to large sterilised bucket.  Cool the mixture to lukewarm then add the yeast, yeast nutrient and the pectolase.

Cover the brew and leave it in a warm place to ferment for four or five days stirring every day.  Strain the liquid onto a syrup made with the sugar and 1 pint of water.  Add lemon juice.  Pour into a 1 gallon jar (I have 2) and fit a fermentation lock filled with some sterilising solution.  AS the wine clears, rack the wine as required.  When ferementation is complete bottle.

Leave the wine for at least a year before opening. Longer if possible (3 years) apparently the older elderberry wine gets the better it is.

I have an idea from the aroma emanating from the brewing bucket that this is going to be a tad pokey.

Will probably get another batch on whilst I am off on holiday (especially if I can't touch it for a year) - will come in handy for next Christmas  - talk about pre-planning.  I am just hoping that there will be no purple stained floors in the meantime.

Mushroom Duxelles Sauce for the Pantry

This is a recipe for the pantry for the winter months that I intend to have a go with.  Although my mushrooms will be the puffballs that OH obtained yesterday and also this morning for me.


3oz butter
8oz onions peeled and finely chopped or grated
1 1/2lb flat mushrooms finely chopped
1 teaspoon mixed dried herbs
1 teaspoon of paprika
1 pint dry white wine
1 pint of stock
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
grated rind and juice of 1/2 large lemon

Cooking time about 25 minutes

This recipe comes from a very old cook book I bought when I first got married The St Michael Cookery Library Home Preserves by Jackie Burrow ISBN 0 904230 81 3.

To Quote;|

"This makes a thick concentrated mushroom sauce. It is often made in French cooking when it is used to flavour other sauces.  It can also be used as a condiment sauce on the side of the plate."

Melt the butter in a saucepan add the onion and fry gently for 5 minutes.

Add the mushrooms and fry fir 3 minutes then add the herbs and paprika and fry for a further three minutes.

Add the wine, stock, salt and pepper and lemon rind and juice.  Boil rapidly until nearly all the liquid has evaporated, but the mushrooms are still moist to give a thick sauce. This will take approximately 15 minutes depending on the size of the pan.  Stir occasionally to prevent sticking and frequently near the end, when most of the liquid has evaporated.

Spoon the sauce into prepared bottles or jars prsesing down well to prevent air spaces forming in the jars. Cover and sterilise by the hot water bath method.  Label and store.

Makes about 1 1/4 pints.

Am off to play

Catch you all later

Saturday, 4 September 2010

Natures Bounty

OH took Missy for a quick walk this morning but was back rather promptly as there was a fishing match on down where we regularly walk her.  However, he did not come back empty handed.  He bought me three puffball mushrooms.  I was both delighted and then thrown as I although we had spoken about the puffballs before and trying them, neither of us to date had tried them.

Puffballs are meaty - they smell mushroomy and are best so everything I have read suggests served simply in slices cooked in a little butter, which I did but I added some fresh chives to the mix.  What a revelation.  We one puffball between us just to taste with some hunks of bread and butter.  This one is definitely going on my repertoire list.

The recipes suggest that this mushroom can be used in place of aubergine as it also takes on the flavour of the items that they are cooked with. However, as with all things much care must be taken the puffballs should only be eaten if their innards are white if they are turning yellowy or purpley, dispose of.  All I did was take a thin peel off the puffball and then chopped it in slices.  It is very spongy and soft and is cooked within a couple of minutes in a little bit of butter.  Serve.

I am going to do some slices of this for the freezer as it will be marvellous with game pie or casserole in the freezer months.  I also intend to do a duxelles and freeze it into individual ice cube trays to bring out and use when needed.

Puffballs I uhderstand are also a good specimen for drying and then turning into a mushroom powder.  Each mushroom variety that is dried like this imparts their own particular flavour when preserved and helps add another layer of flavour to whatever you are cooking.  However they must be processed straight away as once picked they start to deteriorate.

OH now has instructions to bring home any puffballs that he might come across.

One more for the store and one more recipe for the repertoire


OH came back with another one this morning.  Now have to look for something to do with this for the pantry.


Well I am home on holiday for the week.  Have lots of things to do and lots of thing to try.  I also need to recreate some semblance of order to my home its got a tad out of hand again.  Catch up with you all later as I am busy busy busy


Thursday, 2 September 2010


Well the Elderberries are all sorted after going through them and stringing them with a fork to remove the berries and leave the stems intact they are now residing in a brewing bucket in readiness for making Elderberry Wine.  There was 8lbs plus so I have made a couple of gallon of wine. I have never made this wine myself before and am following a recipe from Country Wines and Cordials which apparently makes a sweet strong rich wine which is best drunk after at least a year's storage but preferably three - I don't know as I will be able to wait that long but I am going to give it a go.  It is currently cooling in the bucket, ready for the next stage.  Will post the recipe later on and if I don't try the recipes I will not know whether to repeat the recipe or not, so it is going to be a case of try and see.

Catch you all later.



Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Hedge picking and processing Rosehips for Drying

Well I managed to get out yesterday foraging in the hedgerows, predominantly I came back with two carrier bags of Elderberries and over four pounds of Rosehips - somebody had beat me to it with the blackberries, will have to source another site. We were out for well over an hour and a half.  OH walked the dog  - I did the foraging - I came back with purple stained hands and a purple splattered hoodie and that was using scissors to cut the elderberries.  The rosehips I picked by hand were nice and large  - I am hoping to get some more at the weekend. But needless to say I got scratched and had little cuts from the rosehip stems.  There are various ways of using the hips, either fresh, processed as below, left whole and dried, left whole and fresh.  For years I have known of the method of drying them whole, as this is what my Nan used to do to make Rosehip wine during the winter months when there was little else available to make wine from. (i.e put the hips with a cut in them in a baking tray on low in the oven until dry).  Its a good stop gap and it makes a nice wine.

I have had a lot of problems recently with my arthritis and in the end I went to the GP because I had increasing pain problems.  A a result for the past three months I have been on steroid medication for the treatment of my arthritis, which I and the Doctors are not happy about. Things seem to be getting worse rather than better.  I hadn't realised how much pain I had been putting up with until the GP put me on the steroids and I felt more comfortable.  They then tried to reduce the medication right down to 5mg but they have had to increaseit again in recent weeks and I have been referred to the hospital to see a Consultant in the middle of September.My local GP has tried to wean me off them, but my system has been complaining and not responding to tactics.

Needless to say I have been reading extensively again a believe in self-help; in particular I know that rosehips are full of vitamin C, we used to be dosed with "Delrosa" as children (rose hip syrup). One particular article caught my eye - that of using rosehip powder which is full of vitamin C  and has anti inflammatory properties has been extensively used in Denmark for coping with osteoarthritis and taken in the form of sprinkling on yogurt or as per this recipe. I have therefore decided to try this out to see if it works for me. 

 I therefore spent last evening processing the rosehips, extracting the seeds (a very tedious and long drawn out process) .  But then again, anything that is worth doing is worth doing well.  The reason for this time consuming processing session is basically to remove all the little seeds and hairs from the seeds.  They are the base of "itching powder" and so great care has to be taken to remove these as they can cause major problems and irritation to your system.  So I think perhaps I am being a tad over zealous, but better safe than sorry.

First of all I topped and tailed the rosehips to get rid of the black fuzz and the green core.

Then the rosehips had to be cut in half to expose the seeds.  The recommendation was to use a melon baller to remove the seeds, but I used a small teaspoon to scrape out the contents.  I wore latex gloves so that the seeds would not irritate my skin and cause itching.

After scraping out the contents - this just leaves the shells behind

I then placed the shells onto tissue on a tray and it is now currently in the airing cupboard drying out the rosehip shells

I did start and dry them like this for a couple of days but I then popped them into a tray in the lowest setting on my oven for about an hour making sure to turn the hips so that they all got a turn at the heat.
This should form the basis for a couple of items I want to have a go at.  The Rosehip shells dried in this format can be used to make rosehip tea or be ground down in a coffee grinder/spice grinder or in a food processor to make rosehip powder.  This is what I am interested in using to see whether or not it will actually assist me in keeping the arthritis at bay and making me more comfortable. We are actively encouraged to take vitamin C, and apparently in this format it is a lot stronger than normal vitamin C.   And if nothing else, the use of the powder for the Christmas sweet recipe is a good excuse to have a go in itself.

I also intend to get some more Rosehips at the end of the week and also have a go at other goodies for the pantry shelf too.

Next the elderberries!

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)