Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Background Information on Bottling and the Process Part 1

This is a bit long winded for which I apologise and there is another part to come but really you need to read the long winded version first and then I will give you an idiots guide right at the end.

A little information to read for background information
An Explanation
An English term for preserving usually fruits in a syrup or tomatoes in brine where the fruits are placed into bottle and then a syrup added usually the neck of the bottle. 
It’s a traditional way of putting up food in the pantry in times of plenty for use during the winter months.  The fruit is heated in special jars and bottles to sterilise it by killing off any nasty spoilage micro-organisms present in the fruit which in turn forms an airtight seal whilst the jars are hot.  It also stops any other nasties getting into the processed bottles.  It is important that the process is followed correctly – it might seem a bit faddy to start with but with time and practice you will begin to see why these rules are in place.  It also becomes easier as  you get used to the routine and memorise it.  Remember Hygiene care and attention all play their part in this process.  Different fruits require different processes and different timings.
Normally we do not process vegetables in this manner in this country as they are low in vitamin c and therefore potentially more at risk of developing botulism where the food becomes poison in the jar and which if eaten often ends up being fatal. 
Tomatoes seem to be the exception to this although I always add lemon juice to each jar or citric acid and vegetables if processed are usually processed in what the Americans refer to as a pressure canner which is based on altitude and has a higher pressure range  than the British pressure cooker which is a different creature altogether although there are similarities.
Types of Bottle or jar
Bottles for bottling or canning in come in all different styles sizes and with different fittings.

Clip top jar - above image
Kilner jars produce clip top jars and bottles which have a metal framework on the outside of the jar or bottle  and on the underside has a bright orange gasket which I normally soak in boiling water to soften and sterilise it before placing it on the lid making sure that it is nice and flat.  If it is nice and flat and flush it usually means you will get a very good airtight seal which when clipped down with the metal lever makes the jar airtight. 

Kilner metal seal and screwband closure above photograph
They also do screw top jars which consist of a screw on ring which has an internal disc or gasket  made of metal that in effect forms the lid.  Mason Ball Kerr jars also follow the same format as the Kilner jars.  The Kilner jars are the original jars used in this country but in America it is more likely to be Mason, Ball, Kerr jars.
A little history
Many years ago pigs bladders used to be used to cover the outside of jars to make the contents airtight.  In that respect I am so pleased things have moved on.  When I first started preserving when I was 19 there was a membrane that you could buy called Porosan which you tied to the outside of the jars and bottles particularly with regard to pickles to stop the vinegar fly spoiling the pickles.  I speak from experience with this but as I did not bottle or can then I can only surmise that the Porosan used to be used on the outside of the Kilner bottling jars too to ensure a good shelf life.
Inspection of the jars/bottles
All bottles jars and lids should be inspected carefully before using and should be  free from chips and cracks.  Rubber rings and seals must only ever be used once; they are not for multiple use – this is down to hygiene and to making sure you get that perfect seal. 

Processing fruit and not achieving a seal is very frustrating as you end up having to reprocess the contents which is not ideal or end up with the contents in the fridge having to use them up rather than having the luxury of picking them off the pantry shelf during the winter months from  your long term storage.  This in reality does happen so do not get too despondent if the odd jar or so fails to seal properly.
Washing and Sterilising the jars/bottles
The jars and bottles should be washed thoroughly  rinsed and left to drain – they are easier to fill if they are wet on the inside.  If bottles are very dirty sterilise them by immersing in a pan of cold water then bringing the jars to the boil and boiling for about 5 minutes.   Do not immerse cold jars into hot water as they will shatter.  This is especially pertinent if the jar is full of hot fruit and then breaks as because it is under pressure the contents are likely to splatter everywhere and if it splatters you it will burn you and also possibly the glass will end up cutting you.  So utmost care must be taken at all times.
With really dirty jars I also soak them in in baby sterilising solution i.e the liquid or the tablets but I do make sure I rinse them well if I do this.  There are different ways of sterilising the jars/bottles.  my favoured way these days is in the dishwasher.
The jars are usually sterilised first either by putting them in the oven getting them really hot; running them through the dishwasher or popping them into a pan of water and then bringing the water to the boil and then loading and filling the jars whilst still hot.
Filling the bottles with fruit
All fruit must be in A1 condition for bottling and canning so discard over-ripe or spoiled fruit.  There are other ways that you can use these up depending on exactly what state the fruit is in.
Wash and prepare fruits according to the type eg hull soft fruits, top and tail gooseberries and currants – tedious work but worth the effort.  Remove any pith from citrus fruit as this is bitter and will spoil all your hard work so remove as much as you possibly can.  Cut into segments or slices.  Apples and pears need coring and cutting into quarters or slices.  Plums, apricots and other stone fruit can be bottled whole or halved and stoned.
The fruit should be paced tightly into the prepared sterilised wet jars.  I use a wooden spoon handle to manipulate the fruit into the jar so it sits properly and you can get as much fruit as you possibly can in press down gently as you do not want to bruise the fruit. Fill the jar or bottle to within 1 to 2.5cm/ ½ an inch to 1 inch from the top.
The choice of liquid is water, brine or syrup.  Usually syrup produces and has a better colour and flavour, but it can cause the fruit to rise in the jars.
The Syrup
There are varying strengths of syrup per recipe but more often than not the proportions of sugar to water to create a syrup are 225g/8 oz sugar to 600ml/1 pint of water. Honey or golden syrup may also be substituted for sugar.  A syrup can also be flavoured with spices, lemon or orange rind and then strained or with liqueurs spirits or wine.
To prepare the syrup slowly heat the sugar with the water stirring until it has all dissolved.  You need to keep the heat low as you do not want the sugar to burn.  Then add your flavourings if using and boil for  approximately one minute or so - in reality I tend to do it a little longer.  Depending on the method used for processing there are several variations which I will discuss in the next part.   Then either pour the syrup hot or cold over the fruit in the bottles tilting them to get rid of any air bubbles.  I also pop a skewer into the jar to release any air pockets as well. Make sure that the bottles and jars are on a wooden board or other non-heat conductive surface as when you pour the syrup in the jars may crack.

I usually have the metal lids or the rubber rings soaking in boiling water and then as it comes to each jar I pop them on the glass lids in the case of the rubber rings  and then pop the clip fastener down and lock.  In the case of the metal lids I pop them straight onto the jar as I fill each jar and then lock down with the screwband tightening it firmly and then turning it back a quarter turn to allow steam and air to escape during the processing or they may burst.

There are other ways of processing the bottles and I shall discuss this next in part 2.
Continued on part 2


As we slip gradually into autumn

I love all the seasons they all have something wonderful to bring to us especially autumn usually with her glorious displays of colourful leaves and beautiful sunsets and we start to harvest for the winter months and pop stuff up on the pantry shelves.  A hive of industry but  a different season none the less.  Mornings when the mist re-appears and you end up getting some beautiful sights of mist swirling inbetween trees making it look ethereal an creepy.  As the poem profoundly says seasons of mists and mellow fruitfulness.  And a time to find  mushrooms in the wild if it has been moist and damp enough.

I was therefore slightly shocked to walk into the Co-op this evening to find that on 31 August they have put the Christmas sweets out or at least the sweet tubs of the well known brands out.  Oh well commercialism rules again.  And no  - I have not bought any yet give it another week or two at least.  The long stop dates were February next year. As I indicated within my Christmas box post earlier in the week.  I buy those things we like and I plot and plan to get them when things are tight and I take advantage of the offers where I can - its not always possible and you have to be realistic.  I do however go more of a bundle on ingredients from which to make things and I do not intend to be a slave to commercialism but to cherry pick and do my own thing.  After all the main thing about Christmas is the celebration of family and the getting together and sharing things - the celebration of a birth and the sharing of food being two of those items.

I have fresh food to work upon at the moment to get it all stuffed into the pantry in different formats.  plum and peach chutney are on the cards and some more plum jam and jelly.  Fortunately I have the jam pan to help out.

Right I had better get a wriggle on  - we have a grumpy so and so who wants his tea.

Catch you later.



Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Well its been a lovely day.......

Weather wise and I have been cooped in an office with air conditioning and have been frozen.  Its a good job I had my cardie with me.  Different story when I came out for dinner boiling hot did not need the cardie and enjoyed the sunshine.  Met a couple of friends had a good catch up really pleasant time.

This afternoon I have struggled to stay awake.  This evening instead of coming home OH took me out to where he now fishes.  Charming little lake.  Very peaceful and quiet with lots of wildlife.  We bought some fish and chips and then went and had supper at the lake.  I found some sloes so hopefully will have sloe gin later in the year and then sloe chocolates.  yummy.  Also found another crab apple tree - am marking spots so that I can return.  Now very tired and struggling to stay awake so I think it is going to be an early night to catch up on some shuteye.  the most glorious of sunsets this evening on the way home.  Absolutely stunning.  So have kind of chilled a little.  Now its jet black outside and its about 8;40pm.  The wheel is slowly moving forward autumn is slipping in little by little.  All the more need to keep on piling those items into the pantry for those winter days.

Catch you later.



Kitchen Notes Tuesday 30 August 2016

Well the blackberry and apple jam has turned out alright despite me using eating apples.  I prefer Bramleys or crab apples with this recipe as it gives it a spikier sharper flavour but for a free pick of blackberries and using up some eating apples on a thrifty perspective it has not come up too badly.  The only thing with eating apples is that they really hold their shape where Bramleys go soft, so I just had to cut the apples up into tiny bits. But it is a wonderful colour and I have five jars out of this just for a little time and effort and being thrifty.  The jam will be lovely on scones with fresh cream.  Yum.  I am hoping to get more though as a great favourite in this house is bramble jelly.

I also got five jars of Victoria plum jam as well.  I made a last minute batch yesterday before going to bed so quite a bit of jam made yesterday.

This evening I have another batch of Victoria Plum jam to make and I also have Victoria plum jelly to start off - it is ideal as a base for stir fries.   I also want to make some plum chutney.  If you have time if you can make some chutney now it means it will be well matured in time for Christmas.  I shall get more plums tomorrow off the market for bottling - when it came to it the plums I got were a little softer than I thought they were so they have been used in other ways.

Whilst blackberrying yesterday I came across some rosehips.  They are not quite full colour yet but I have my eye on them to dry for rosehip powder and also for rosehip jelly and syrup.

That C word  - no apologies - I am not using it on a commercial basis I am using it more for organisation and getting things squirrelled away.  The prime idea behind the Christmas box and with the preserving is that primarily I aim the choice of foods towards Christmas but in reality the preserves will last a year; chutneys even longer. You have to use your common sense when it comes to food and best before dates.  Or if a particular preserve has not shifted as quickly like a marmalade you can always use them up in muffins or the like or strain the peel out and use it as a base for an orange sauce to go with chicken or duck.

One of the things I really am not into is buying cake - I would rather just make a little here and there and the jams get used up in this, with puddings and with pies and tarts.  Plum jelly is also a nice alternative to apple sauce with a piece of roast pork and can also be used as a sweetner in hot toddies as well as can crab apple jelly.  Redcurrant jelly gets used up in gravies as does a little cranberry jelly.  Plums can also be mixed with a few elderberries to give a slightly different version of the jam and also with apple - if you only have a few plums topping it up with apple makes it go that little further and gives a slightly different flavour. 

Also when making jellies do not discard the waste that is left after draining the juice away.  Pop it through a fine meshed sieve and pass it through you will end up with a thick paste consistency and this can be cooked on the top of the cooker in a pan with sugar to make either a thick membrillo style paste which can be chopped into squares and sugared and served as sweetmeats or turned into a cheese to be served with proper cheese and crackers.  So this is what I will do with the leftovers from the jelly.  You have to be ever so careful when doing this as things can catch ever so quickly because of the density and the sugar so you do have to hover over it and watch it like a hawk.  Also if it spits keep out of the way as it is boiling hot sugar and it hurts.  I know this from past experience.

One of the benefits of making your own preserves is that you have ready made presents to give to those non-cooking friends.  All you have to do is pretty the jar up and label and probably give it with a nice bottle of wine or a jar of chutney as a Christmas present.  So nothing need go to waste. There are always strategies for dealing with things.

Catch you later.



Monday, 29 August 2016

Shush its that C Word The Christmas Food Box

Its that time again when thoughts turn towards popping up stuff in my case a very large red plastic box with a lid on it that is stored under my stairs in the house as it is not easy to get in and out of.  I popped round to get an ice cream earlier on as I was a little hot after being in the kitchen.  I was checking the shelves out whilst I was in there and I noticed that a lot of the stock already on the shelves has a long stop date of March 2017.  This particular shelf was biscuits, cream crackers etc.  Some of the items were on offer.  I bought a couple of boxes of some cream crackers and one or two other bits to start off my Christmas food box.  Basically where I can afford it I pop a few bits up on a regular often weekly basis where I can - its not always possible but buying a bit here and there in advance actually helps the budget and means come the beginning of December money will be available to buy those presents as part of the food is already paid for and stored.  All the basics can be bought in advance, tinned stuff, dried fruit - whatever your basics are.

For many years I have been preparing the Christmas box for this reason - and especially when the children were home - in fact if you go back through my blog there are several posts in relation to this.  I also make things when I am quiet and pop them in the freezer things like sausage rolls, mince pies and then cook them from frozen.  It saves time which for me is the biggest thing and also on pennies.  Check the pound shops out especially tinned stuff like salmon or tuna and if it has a long stop date buy it and stash it. you have the filling for a mousse, or sandwiches or for some vol-au-vents.  Although figuratively speaking the food is for Christmas in reality it is for the next six months or so.  It gives you more choice of ingredients and the security of knowing that you have food to eat, not only for Christmas but for the coming cold months.

There are rules  - I take advantage of offers on sweets - although I am selective as to what I have - you cannot have everything but you can have your favourites. Use the pound shops for things like sweets and crisps and savouries.

I bake. 

I make my own Christmas cake, and Christmas puddings at the end of September for the cake, and traditionally the pudding on stir up Sunday in November.  However this year the puddings will be made at the end of September.  They will be stored under the stairs where it is nice and cold - they will keep.  They are full of dried fruit and they also have ale and spirit and or cider in.  They will keep and mature as long as they are wrapped tightly in foil and in a cool place.  Don't fancy that  - and there really is nothing wrong with it make your pudding cook it and then freeze it.  I always give my puddings a minimum of 6 hours cooking so that they go nice and dark, after its cooked  then freeze it.  Take the pudding out of the freezer the night before Christmas Eve to defrost.  Yet again leave it somewhere cold.  Re-cook on Christmas morning in readiness for your dinner.  Don't like Christmas pudding there are alternatives.  In fact going back through the blog there are lots of recipes  if you want to check them out.

No its not too soon for Christmas for all the hype maybe for the practicalities of being comfortable on the food front you have to give yourself a head start.  buy a few things where you can when you can  - some weeks you may not be able to.  Every little helps as they say.

Christmas Eve is the day I bake for Christmas  - this is a long standing family tradition going back to my great grandmothers time.  This is the time that I will make the fancier bits and bobs.  I tend to buy ingredients more than anything then make things myself.  There are shortcuts things that are actually very quick to make but which look impressive.  Everyone has something to bring to the table skill wise its just finding out what their strengths and their weaknesses are.  If you are a big family do things as a family especially if you are all going to be together  for Christmas.  If one mum is good at the baking let her do it  - but help and then split the costs between you - skill sharing.  If one is good with doing the decorations let them do it  - with assistance from the rest of the family of course but you do need a team leader.

Include the children give and delegate little jobs from an early age.  The magic of Christmas starts at home it is a time to believe and enjoy - make your own traditions involve them.  The more you involve them the more they learn on a social level as they really are learning at your heels and how to do things.

My family have been doing this for years.  During the war things were tight.  Things were not available and if you came across a tin of salmon I was kept for a special occasion as was tinned fruit.  You made the best of what you had but you also planned in front and this is what the Christmas food box aims to do.  Apparently for a good ten years after the war was over there were huge restrictions on food and I think it was just prior to me being born in 1959 that foodstuffs started to be available again.  We are spoilt today.

I cook Christmas Dinner and once all my baking and dinner are done.  That's it - cold cuts  - pickles, chutneys, baking filled with my home made jams.  Quiches made from home cooked bacon, home made pates, potted shrimps, home cured salmon.  It can all be afforded with a bit of plotting and planning and budgeting for those essential items and taking advantage of offers.  Salmon is not difficult to cure, just time consuming and you can always freeze any excess.  This year I quite fancy having a go at some spiced beef as well as some Salmon. 

you know what you and your loved ones like to eat.  Christmas is about feasting and sharing - sharing the love of your family with good food is perhaps one of those gifts that evolves from good intentions and wraps your family in love.  Its not complicated if you break it down into segments.  This year I hope to use the kitchen notes post to actually mention what I am going to be preparing that week.  You can even make your own ice creams and sorbets.  Children love ice cream - get them helping you.  You do not need fancy equipment although if you have it use it.  Ice cream can be made with a plastic box and a whisk to break the crystals down once frozen.  Its about blending things at the end of the day with things that work for you with convenience items, to get the balance right with the time you have and the pennies available and still being able to live well.

What do you do - when it comes to Christmas.  love to hear from you.

Kitchen Notes Monday 29 August 2016

All done and dusted;

5 large jars Bottled cherry tomatoes

7 large jars Bottled whole medium sized tomatoes

Outlay 5 x nets cherry tomatoes and 4 pots of tomatoes from the greengrocers total £9.00

6 jars mixed summer fruit in syrup
10 jars of mixed berry jam

total outlay =£19.00 including sugar and fruit.  The jars of mixed fruit if you bought them in the shop and not the size I made them would probably cost you anywhere of £4.00 apiece or more so that six jars at £4.00 each = £24 just for the six jars.

Will look lovely over ice cream like a sauce or drained and on top of a cheesecake or panacotta or even mixed with some fresh apple and made into a sponge pudding or drained and added to a home made chocolate or vanilla sponge with fresh whipped cream to create your own "gateau" or in a Swiss roll. There is so much potential there.   And do not forget the strained juice you can add some lemonade or soda to it and use it as a cordial.  Do not waste a drop. The colour is just absolutely glorious. And then of course I have ten jars of mixed berry jam.

So making your own can pay off in the longer run.  The mixed fruits are more expensive than usual ingredients but at the end of the day if it gives your family something different and that it is going to be used that is all that matters.  However how much would you pay for a tin of mixed fruit or a jar and you would probably only have half the amount that I have.  Its swings and roundabouts at the end of the day.  If I could get to a grow your own farm I would go there but in the absence of that I use the offers going on in the shops weighing up how much the fruit is and how much is actually in a pack.  I buy blueberries this way and as blueberries are good for you full of antioxidants that help fight any kind of antibodies caused by rheumatism and the similar auto-immune disease. I have plans to make a lot of little pots to have with breakfast i.e served with yogurt on home made muesli or granola.  yogurt is home made too.  

I am off to get some more mixed fruit during the week from the market and that will be another batch of fruit to put up to make meals more interesting and colourful during the winter months.

Then of course I have

5 jars of greengage jam
10 jars of greengage jelly

total outlay £5.00 for fruit and three bags of sugar on offer at 50p per bag = £6.50

I have also picked 1lb of wilding blackberries today and so am going to add some eating apples to them to make some blackberry and apple jam which is lovely on toast.

Still to do

Roasted tomato pasta sauce
Tomato salsa
Apple and Tomato chutney
More cherry tomatoes to bottle

Victoria plum jam
Victoria plum jelly
Bottled Victoria plums in syrup
Chinese style plum sauce
Plum Chutney
Plum mincemeat

First batch of Piccalilli started in brine.

Pickled Red Cabbage.  Two beautiful large red cabbages shredded down and brined overnight.  To be washed through and drained then vinegar added tomorrow.

Mint jelly

Cranberry jam

Mixed fruit salad
Pears in syrup

Have the remains of a net of onions to use up so may make some onion and garlic marmalade.  This really is a short term preserve but it soon goes so I do not mind making little batches of this as it is a waste not want not recipe which goes well with all sorts of cooked meats and pies really perks them up.

Lots to do as usual.

Catch you later.



The first pick there are not many blackberries this year where we walk Missy I am hopeful that OH will take me out next Sunday to an older stomping ground but which is not so easy for me to access unless he takes me and as he is fishing again at the weekend... Nevertheless today I have managed to pick about 1lb.  I have some eating apples and so I thought I would make apple and blackberry jam.  The berries themselves are real wildings very tiny but we have not had the rain just recently on a regular basis so I think the berries and the elderberries have been badly hit.  Not many berries in the bushes at all with either.

Had a lovely walk in the sunshine down by the river.  I went armed with a couple of freezer bags in my pocket especially for the berries and my hands are now stained purple.  Well its a little bit of something extra for the pantry shelf and will be well used with pastry and cakes alike.  hopefully I will be able to source some more soon as we use a lot of blackberries and a lot of fruit generally.  I will be using the simple recipe of 1 kg of fruit to 1kg of sugar so shall weigh the berries and then just make up with the apples.    I prefer Bramleys but around here have not been able to find any recently in the shops. I am hopeful to find more berries in any event as there are several recipes I would like to make for the pantry shelf.

We have a roast chicken cooking in the oven and are just simply going to have it with some bread and butter - finger food for a lazy day.

Hope your day has been a good one.

Take care.



Sunday, 28 August 2016

Sunday Roundup

Well its been all go in the kitchen.  I now have 12 jars large ones of tomatoes whole or cherry tomatoes with an additional two half jars of cherry tomatoes.

There are six jars of mixed summer fruits in syrup  - half jars - enough to top a cheesecake during the winter months.  I shall probably do some more during the week as well if I can get up to the market again.  probably the same combination of fruits and then a batch with some plums, possibly elderberries and blackberries in and if I can get some damsons that would be brilliant.  I have asked at the veg shop and she is going to keep an eye out for me.  Damsons make the most wonderful jam with the addition of orange juice which is heavenly and a beautiful colour to boot. 

Being as I am an out and out foodie the idea next year is to grow a lot of the stuff myself.  You cannot or very rarely get hold of tayberries or more unusual fruits unless you grow them at home and so I want to get a firm strong foundation/basis down for next year. 

I also want to make some hedgepick berries which is a combination of the wild fruits cooked down with cooking apple or crab apple added to it and then bottled down.  My friend Leanne's creation.  I am also after some quince for membrillo.

The greengage jam is in the jam pan as we speak.  I have another batch to make as there were plenty plus the additional freebie ones that I was given as well which will go towards making jelly  So after the second batch of greengage is done the jelly will be started and left to strain overnight.  The first batch I have 4 1/2 jars out of.  The second batch is currently on the bubble.

I then have a batch of mixed fruit jam to make as well.  Will be lovely on toast, crumpets, croissants, in porridge or semolina pudding or in a home made sponge cake or swiss roll.  The colour is very vibrant.

So quite a productive day but still so much more to do.

Right better get a wriggle on.  Catch you later.



Catch up

No I have not emigrated just up to my neck and more at the moment with the preserving. 

Apologies for not blogging much at the minute as I am up to my eyes in preserving.  We have tomatoes on the go at the moment being bottled in my new to me vintage dual purpose Kilner jars. They are wider necked/mouthed than the newer jars.  you can use the jars with Leifheit gaskets which fit the original Kilner jar rings but you can also get the Leifheit
rings.  I prefer these jars as they are wider necked/mouthed and make it easier to get whole tomatoes in, pears, plums and other larger fruit.

I get mine predominantly from P D Headley of

he sells vintage jars and also will restore the rings.  He also sells on Ebay.

This is a packed jar just before it goes into the preserving pot.  Seems to be packed tight. 

They do shrink a bit however and look as though they are at half mast.  might chop them up for a much tighter pack next time.

So far nine jars of whole tomatoes 8 in the picture but I could not get in the other one.  Has been processed in a separate batch. They also have thyme and basil in them.  I  have just started on the cherry tomatoes and then there are the Italian plum tomatoes. I also have oven roasted tomato pasta sauce on the go as well. Went to the market and got them all at a good price.  Will probably pop back during the week for more. We use tinned tomatoes at least a couple of times a week and this in effect is what the tomatoes are.  I used citric acid and salt in the mix and the recipe book I have says that when it comes to use them if the tomatoes are a little tart add a little sugar.  I tend to do that anyway when cooking with tomatoes so its no big thing.

Plus I have Victoria plums to bottle in syrup and a batch of jam - there are about 5kgs in total and some Greengages for Greengage jam and jelly.  Fraid its full steam ahead at the moment literally - I am using my Bielmeir pot for the bulk processing - me and it are getting introduced to each other and I am learning about what it does and does not like.

I was given extra greengages yesterday as the veg shop are on holiday.  In previous years as they are a large family I have slipped them a couple of jars of chutney etc. and they quite like my efforts.  Mum in particular Joan was talking about her favourite chutney being Tomato and Apple.  She mentioned you cannot buy it and I had not seen a recipe.  However I have since located one in a new to me book so I think some of that will be made.  They quite frequently knock of a bit here and there as I buy such a lot of fresh fruit and vegetables.  So its a win win situation.

Catch you later.




I have not forgotten about instructions for bottling just bear with - in the middle of a post about which I am trying to make user friendly and am not totally happy with result so far but it is work in progress and hopefully there will be some photos as well.


One heck of a storm yesterday that rumbled on an on and we had lots of lightning a proper electrical storm where the sky looked decidedly funny.  I was in Waitrose when there was one heck of a thump I thought the ceiling was coming in.  I do not like storms at the best of times.  They make me nervous.  Mum when we were little used to tell us it was Santa Claus turning his toys over.  Mum was frightened and so was her mum and it was her way of trying to keep us calm by making little of it.  Needless to say at that age we bought it.  However the crunch yesterday  must have meant that he had a very huge toy sack.

Anyway here are some photos of the sky as I walked into town.  Needless to say we had torrential rain later on.


Monday, 22 August 2016

Apricots and Almonds in Syrup

I have more Apricots to preserve this time they are going to have a dash of Amaretto to them to give a very adult pudding.  Remember once the Apricots are eaten then you can always use the syrup on pancakes or even the fruit on pancakes or even with some soda as a long cool drink


85G/3oz of Granulated Sugar
450g/1lb of Apricots halved and stoned
60g/2 oz blanched Almonds
Approximately 250ml/8 fl oz of Amaretto


If you prefer to skin your Apricots before bottling them plunge the whole fruits into a bowl of boiling water  - like you would a Tomato or a Peach – I always cut a little cross in the top and bottom of the fruit before plunging into the hot water to help with getting the skins off hold them there for approximately 1 minute and then plunge into a bowl of icy water and then peel off the skins.  I also use the Amaretto from Lidl's which will possibly cost you about 5 a bottle works out cheaper this way and you end up with some left to drink.


Start by making the syrup;

Heat the sugar and 150ml /5 fl oz of water in a large saucepan over a low heat as you do not want the sugar to burn and then caramelise, stirring all the time until the sugar has dissolved.  Make sure you cannot see any sugar crystals you want it all mixed in.

NEXT; blanch the Apricots a few at a time in a saucepan to form a single layer in the syrup bring them to the boil and boil for approximately one minute until the Apricots are slightly soft but still hold their shape.  Dealing with the Apricots in this way means that the syrup comes back to the boil fairly quickly and that the fruits are covered and cook evenly.

Transfer the Apricots to a sterilised jar or jars with a slotted spoon and add half the almonds repeat with the rest of the Apricots

THEN; Put the pan back onto the heat bring the syrup into a boil and then pour the syrup over the Apricots dividing it between how many jars you have –  sometimes you do not have enough syrup so I will make more this does tend to vary and because you are using Amarretto in this one there will possibly be no need for it as you then top up the Apricots and Syrup with the Amaretto to cover the Apricots completely.  Leave to cool.  Seal and label the jar.  Once the lid is on securely and only then gently tip the jar upside down a couple of times to combine the syrup and the alcohol.  Store in a cool dark place for up to four weeks for the flavours to develop.  Once a jar is open refrigerate it after opening as the contents will no longer be air tight.


Bottled Fruit Salad

This is what I am hoping to make next bank holiday weekend.  Fruit salad in bulk so that I have plenty of to go through during the winter months.  OH is partial to fruit salad and I quite like it as well.  It was always fascinating for my brother and I when we were younger when mum used to open a tin of fruit salad, dish it up with some Ideal or Carnation evaporated milk - remember them and then we used to fight over the cherry.  However no cherries in this if you did add the colour would only leach into the syrup and turn everything pink.  You could if you wanted add a candied cherry or two when serving but I think this will go down nicely as it is. 



450 ml water
¾ pint of water
350g Sugar
12 oz of sugar
Grated rind and juice of 2 lemons
Grated rind and juice of 2 lemons
500g of apples quartered, cored and sliced (peel if liked)
1lb of apples quartered, cored, and sliced (peel if liked)
500g of pears peeled, quartered cored and sliced
1lb of pears peeled quartered cored and sliced
500g of oranges peel and pith removed cut into slices
1lb of oranges, peeled and pith removed then cut into slices
500g peaches peeled and halved stoned and sliced
1lb of peaches peeled and halved stoned and sliced
225g of green grapes halved and seeded
8oz of green grapes halved and seeded

Cooking time about 1 hour

Other fruits than those above may be substituted but remember that dark fruits will colour the fruit salad.

Other bottling methods may be used for this fruit salad.

Make sure you have bottles sterilised and warmed ready for use you can then just go to these when you need them.


Prepare the syrup first so that the prepared fruit will not go brown.  Place the water, sugar and lemon rind into a saucepan.  Heat the contents gently stirring to dissolve all of the sugar then bring to the boil and boil for 1 minute.

Toss the fruit lightly in some of the lemon juice to prevent browning. Carefully pack the fruit into the prepared warm jars.  Add the reserved lemon juice to the syrup and return to the boil. Pour the boiling syrup over the fruit.  Place the rubber rings and lids on the bottles but without clips or screwbands.  Stand the bottles on a baking sheet lined with newspaper 5cm/2 inches apart. Place in the centre of a preheated oven and secure immediately with clips or screwbands.  stand the bottles on a baking sheet lined  with newspaper 2 inches apart.  place in the centre of a preheated cook oven 105 degrees C/300degrees F, Gas mark 2 and cook for 45 minutes,  Remove the bottles from the oven and secure immediately with clips or screwbands and leave to cool. 

When completely cool test for a seal then wipe clean, label and store.  Makes about 1 ¾ kg / 4lb in weight.
This recipe came from a Marks and Spencer cookbook called Home Preserves by Jackie Burrow.  There is no ISBN number but it is a very useful little preserves book that I have had for many many years.  I use it that much the book has fallen to pieces and I am going to pop it into plastic sleeves to preserve it  - please excuse the pun.

Kitchen notes Monday 22 August 2016

I thought I would share this link with you for a home made liqueur site I have found on Pinterest as I know that a lot of you ladies like myself like to dabble with a little bit of homemade this and that.

Lots of interesting recipes here.

We walked Missy yesterday evening and on our travels as usual when I accompany HRH I am scanning the hedgerows looking for anything I can possibly use and turn it into a preserve or two for my pantry shelf. 

On this walk I noticed that there are a few blackberries around and I have said that I will go with him probably tomorrow night as I have physio tomorrow and collect a few.  I have also noticed a few elderberries but not many about.  I think all this recent dry weather has impacted quite heavily on the fruits of both certainly where I am going  at the moment.  I will possibly get OH to take me for a ride out next weekend after he comes back from fishing to see if I can find any better ones in the fens.  There are no Sea Buckthorn berries at all on any of the trees where we walk so I think the frost has got a lot of the blossom early on.

However the find of the night has to be some crab apples.  They are not very big   yet again I think lack of water has impacted but I am pleased nonetheless that I have actually found some and there are several trees so I am hoping the rain we had last night will help the fruits burgeon some more.  One of my absolutely all time favourite wild preserves is Crab apple jelly either plain or spiced it is absolutely superb served with roast pork instead of with pure apple sauce.

Went looking for the Mirabelles and there were hardly any - I think the blossom got the frost as there were no signs of them on the main tree and yet the one to the side is more protected and there were a few but not many and they were not ready. None on the ground either. So a bit hit and miss so far but I shall keep my fingers crossed and my toes plaited that I shall come across other goodies although Mirabelles and Cherry Plums are firm favourites.

Even if I only get a few wild blackberries they can be put in the freezer until I can accumulate a few to make something with.  Maybe some of the crab apples I found today would go very well together.  For a nice jelly.  The best part about making jellies is that  you only use the juice so you still have the pulp left over.  Do not ever chuck this because you can make what is known as a cheese.  It is a lot firmer than ordinary jam and is traditionally served with proper cheese or cold meats.  It takes a little more cooking but is an extra out of ingredients that you have already used and paid for so why waste it.  A lot of the older recipes take this into account.

Hardly any Rosehips but a few Rowan berries which I shall snaffle a few to make Rowan jelly.  I am keen though to get the Rosehips as I think they will help me a lot over the winter months especially as I will be making my own Muesli and Granola as well as home made porridge a little sprinkling of some dried rosehip powder would be well disguised in something like this.

And of course there is Elderberry Rob and Rosehip Syrup.  Good for colds with some honey and always worth the making.  The syrups can always be turned into ice creams and sorbets if you make enough of them as well.  There is absolutely no end you can do the trouble is in deciding what to make.  I have a rule if I make a recipe and I don't like it I never make it again but very few fall into that category.

I also need to start playing with the computer for my preserves labels and tops.  I managed to get quite a few sheets of labels from Wilkos the other day and I want to sort out some suitable toppers to go with. 

Right had better get a wriggle on.

Hopefully catch you later on.



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)