Monday 27 October 2014

Harvest Monday - happy Halloween!

So this is a bit early but we're away at the moment and wanted to do this while I remembered. Here's a little cartoon I drew a few years ago....poor Bob.

And on to the veggies and fruit....haven't been able to get to the plot for a few days, so not too much to report:

Still picking basil and ripening tomatoes (in a paper bag in the kitchen).

Some sweet and chilli peppers in the lean to at home

A courgette! I've left the plants in case they decide to squeeze a couple more out. The plants themselves look rather sickly but we're still getting warm days sometimes and not had any frosts yet so may as well leave them

I actually found some climbing beans too, in the back garden, nice and tender, amazing! Glad I've not had chance to tidy everything up yet, it keeps growing!

I was given two big bags of apples this week from different people. The first lot were a bit rough, so I processed them straight away into stewed fruit (I added some frozen fruit too - mainly raspberries - and a jar of old red currant jam as a sweetener).

And the other bag is in a lot better nick, so I'm keeping them til I'm ready to make elderberry jelly (I have the elderberries frozen). I'll give most of these away as Christmas presents.

Hope you all have fun hallowe'ens! Wooooh.

Linking in to harvest Monday at Daphne's dandelions.


Monday 20 October 2014

Harvest Monday - better than expected

Yep. Autumn is here now. Not much chance of getting on the plot after work anymore as its getting cold and dark sooner and we've got lots of busy weekends in a row (and for the past few weekends). It's all fun stuff but means the plot is a bit neglected (and the house is a tip). I did get nearly 3 hours on the plot yesterday and made a start at clearing the bed I'm going to sow broad beans. Of course I got side tracked many times and didn't seem to finish one job off. I had wanted to clear the bed for garlic too but didn't even make a start on that. Never mind!

And on to the pickings this week:

Thanks to the warm daytimes I've still got some courgettes limping along. The chard is doing ok too.
We were doing some baking for a hen weekend and there was some leftover melted chocolate, so I cracked open a few of my hazelnuts, toasted them and coated in the choc, yum!
Also toasted some flaked almonds and added some sultanas (not home grown!). Brandy snaps in the background made by Jan. I also made cheese and courgette muffins (using my courgette) but forgot to take a pic.
Toms ripening in a paper bag in the kitchen, basil from the lean-to and rocket from the garden.
A lonely pepper from the lean-to.
Headed down to the plot yesterday (Sunday) after coming back from the hen-do. These carrots were a nice surprise. And a couple more courgettes, one was a big 'un! Not sure how I missed this one before the weekend. A happy courgette-face too, although one of the little squashes was brown inside so it ended up in the compost
I had some neglected perpetual spinach that had got out of hand, so cut it right back and picked out the best leaves. Discovered a few missed potatoes when weeding the leeks (that I planted out where the pots had been). Brought back a few onions from the allot shed and cut a teeny bit of broccoli. Also found a small butternut squash and brought it home to ripen. I've now taken up all my winter squash plants as they were all looking very sorry for themselves. It's ironic that the courgettes have out-lived the winter squashes!

And finally, a few more toms ripening slowly in the kitchen. These went into a curry with the big courgette, a couple of carrots and the spinach. Very nice :) If I was being clever I'd have picked one of the chillis from the lean-to and added that as well. What can I say, I'm not clever!

Linking in with Harvest Monday on Daphne's dandelions. Also must apologise for not being very social on people's blogs at the moment, October and early November this year are v busy for me, which is quite unusual!


Monday 13 October 2014

Harvest Monday - a bit of colour

So I'm writing this on a train, heading back to Norwich after a weekend away at a lovely wedding. The weather has been surprisingly sunny for the weekend but has now turned cold and rainy. Apparently we had a big thunder storm in norwich over the weekend too, with more rain expected.

Although there's not been loads of pickings this week there's been some nice bits of colour;

The tomatoes have continued to ripen, in a paper bag in the kitchen. We've also got basil growing in the lean-to which is holding on. Just enough to have in sarnies for lunch at work.

The pepper plants in the lean to still have a few fruits on. They're really sweet. They were from a couple of teeny plants I bought for 70p each and grew on, after mine died (over watering I think). A last run on the beans too, before the weather turns really cold.

I had a couple of squash plants growing in the back garden. Only one really did anything, I grew it up and along the fence. The other two were just from seeds that germinated from my compost so got planted out later and didn't really have enough time to get going (but it was worth giving them a chance anyway).
Well, I'm not expecting to get much more of a harvest today, but will have a quick look in the garden when we get back if it's not raining too badly. I doubt whether I'll get to the plot but you never know.
Ok, it has rained all day so not much action going on here. We did roast a squash for tea and I also roasted the seeds (didn't get any piccies though, will do next time). A while ago I'd read lots of ways of roasting squash seeds - some people soak them, some people remove all the stringy bits of squash innards, some add oil and seasoning. I've forgotten the details but decided to leave the little bits of innards attached as someone did say they'd added flavour. And yes they were tasty! Roasted on gas mark 4 for about 20 mins, no oil or seasoning, just kept it simple.
Linking in with the good folk for Harvest Monday, hosted by Daphne's Dandelions.


Friday 10 October 2014

Quince jelly

So these were quinces that andrew from my allot site gave me. He has a really small bush that he grew from a seed. He reckons this year it had 90 fruits! They're not v big fruits, with not much flesh so I decided to make a jelly as you just chop the whole lot up rather than having to cut out the core etc.

I used a jelly recipe from the River Cottage preserves book by Pam Corbin.

First chop up the fruits. I didn't weigh them as it didn't really matter too much - you work out the amount of sugar to add after you've strained the juice off. Although you do add 100ml of cider vinegar in the recipe. Not sure what that actually does to the recipe but it had a very good set.

Anyway, here's the quinces having a rinse. Although it looks like some are damaged (brown) they're actually all fine and rock hard.

And one chopped in half - not much flesh as probably an ornamental variety.

You add enough water to cover the fruit and bring to the boil then simmer (covered) until the fruit is soft. I did chuck in two or three apples too as they needed using up., that you can see on top. I hadn't added the water at this point.

After they were soft I gave them a bit of a bash around with the spoon to break them up a bit and get more juice out.

Then I used my makeshift strainer (upturned stool) and left them overnight. You scald the jelly bag first to get rid of germs, I do this by putting it in a small bowl of boiling water.

With the straining, I start it off with the jug a bit higher up (more plates) to reduce the amount of splash, then remove some plates when it starts filling up. Also I strain straight into a jug as the next thing is you need to know the volume of juice anyway, so it saves washing up.

In the morning - if you want a really clear jelly you're not meant to squeeze the bag but I'd rather get more jelly for the effort, so I squeeze it as much as I can! You have to be careful the bag doesn't split.

This is the juice that had come out by the morning
And after I'd given it a good old squeeze, quite a lot more!

When you know the volume of liquid, you measure a particular ratio of sugar. For every 600ml of liquid you add 450g of sugar.

Bring the liquid to a boil and then stir the sugar in ( it's important to add the sugar after the liquid is boiled) making sure it's all dissolved and add the vinegar (I'll have to just check at what point the vinegar went in, am writing on the train, heading away for the weekend).

You then rapid boil for 10 mins or so and can check for a set (turn off the heat and place a teaspoonful on a cold plate). I could see as soon as I turned the heat off it was already set, as a skin started forming on top, so had to act quickly to pot it up into sterilised jars. It's got a really nice flavour, and lovely colour. The batch I made a few years ago was pink (made with proper cooking quinces) but this batch turned out a nice orange.

It was pretty clear despite the extra squeezing! I didn't get too much scum either - you can skim that off whilst boiling. I left it and just moved it aside and then ate it at the end (after all, it's just the same as the jelly, just has air bubbles in). I used a small glass jug for filling up the jars as they're quite small jars and the funnel wouldn't fit it.

So that's it! If I ever get a bit more space I think I'd grow a quince tree. I wouldn't be allowed one on my allot as they've introduced a maximum number of trees etc and I already have more than that witht the apples and plum and hazel. Maybe I could sneak a little bush in though.


Monday 6 October 2014

Harvest Monday - not quince jelly

It's rainy today after some lovely sunny days. And we're meant to have rain all week so probably not many visits to the plot, even in my lunch break (the grass is quite long and I'd get soggy feet)

A quick round up on this weeks pickings first...

Still a few courgettes and apples to pick. And I pulled up a few carrots, which I'm quite pleased with as don't usually have much luck. I only sowed a few, there's a few more to come.

Got some more beans from the back garden. I had another lot about the same but forgot to take a pic. Pretty much the last few of these, maybe some more slim pickings to come. The last ones have been on a sort of spur I Iet grow out and trained up and over extra looks messy but has staggered the crops a bit more (the rest of the wigwam has finished)

Picked a bit of chard

And some more yesterday just as it was getting dark. We'd been out picking chestnuts during the day (biked out of the city to a wood a few miles away) and collected these...

We roasted some last night and have left the rest in plastic bags in the fridge (with holes in the bags for air circulation). They're meant to last a few weeks like that which is good as am really busy for the next few weeks and these need quite a bit of time for processing. There's still lots of chestnuts on the trees so might have another ride out in the middle of November, which is the only weekend coming up that we're not away or busy! ( not normally as busy as this, esp in autumn)

Also found a few more potatoes that I'd somehow missed! They're a bit scabby (due to our sandy soil) but should be fine. One massive one that I really can't believe I missed, it was right near the soil surface too.


And lastly from today, I picked the last butternut squash (popped to the plot in my lunch break before the heavy rain started) as thougt all the rain might split it. Also the last of the berries and some apples a work colleague brought in (I just took a few, there were loads, she says from one little tree!)

I was going to post about the quince jelly I've made this weekend but have run out of time, so will try and do tomorrow or later on this week instead.

Linking in with the good folk for Harvest Monday over at Daphne's Dandelions.