Monday 28 September 2015

Harvest Monday -elderberry and apple jelly

We've had a few lovely sunny days recently, (chilly in the shade and at night though), which is keeping the harvests coming along, albeit a bit slower this week. I haven't got photos of everything but you get the idea -
Blackberries, chard and Dwarf beans and courgettes, all from the plot
Tomatoes from the lean-to at home. I picked a few more too,and took them round to our neighbour when we popped in to meet their 2 day old baby girl.....eep, so cute. I will be popping round a lot!
Runner beans in the back garden still coming,
A couple of different pickings
The bean plant that over-wintered in the soil hasn't produced any pickable beans yet but it has some teeny ones that might grow big enough (actually you can see some of the flowers from it in the bottom left of the pic above)
Meals have included, poached eggs and veggies on toast
Veggies with spicy bean pie (a quick meal last night after a day out at the beach with Jan's young nephews who were visiting with her sister)
This week I also decided to start sprouting beans again (after a break of several months....the seeds I had before were really old and lots of them didn't sprout and just went mushy). So, we bought a new pack of mixed beans for sprouting, which have sprouted really quickly, I've done two jars in a row in less than a week! Sprouted beans are meant to be good for helping with thyroid conditions too, so good for Jan.
Nice with noodles
And with quinoa. I also made a lovely salad for lunch today, with toms, dwarf beans, courgette etc) but no photo, just tasty memories ;)
So on to the jelly.....last week I picked elderberries and froze them for when I could get hold of some apples. Luckily for me, one the other allotment holders has a big apple tree in her garden nearby and has lots of spare windfalls, thank you Carly.
So I decided to make elderberry and apple jelly, using the hedgerow jelly recipe from The River Cottage Handbook 'Preserves' as a base.
The rough quantities are:
1kg crab apples or cooking apples (I used sharp eaters, which seemed to have ok pectin)
1kg berries (blackberries, elderberries, Rowan berries etc) I used mainly elderberries from the freezer plus a few blackberries I'd picked that day
Lots of granulated sugar (I use organic Demerara)
First of all, give the apples a wash and then chop them up, including all the cores etc (these contain the pectin) and add the berries (the elderberries are in the bottom of the pan under the apples). I also added some spices at this point (ginger and cinnamon)
Add 1.2 litres of water and then cook them all for a while until soft. I then mush them up with the back of a spoon to get more juice out.
Set yourself up some kind of contraption for straining out the juice (overnight if possible). I use an upturned stool - the jug needs to be quite close to the bottom of the bag so the liquid doesn't splash too much. Make sure you scold your straining bag first too, to kill any bacteria.
The morning after, lots of juice. I do then use a spoon to gently press down and get more juice out, as I'm not too worried about getting a cloudy jelly and want to maximise quantity! Straining straight into a jug means you can see straight away how much liquid you have - the next stage needs maths, yikes - for every 600ml of liquid you need 450g sugar
Add the liquid to a clean pan, bring slowly to the boil and then gradually add the sugar, stirring to dissolve the sugar. I also added a few cloves at this point (keep count of the cloves so you know how many to find. You could add them when cooking the fruit at the beginning instead, but I forgot)
The recipe says then rapid boil for 9 - 10 minutes, without stirring, until the setting point is reached (this always takes much longer for me though). I also have a tip at this point - do not get distracted and let your pan boil over...oops! For a start it wastes your precious liquid (and is also very messy). You can also scoop off any scum if you like (it's just aerated liquid)
Finally, pour your jelly into sterilised jars and seal up using your preferred method (I re-use lids if they are in good condition but otherwise use the selophane discs which shrink over the jar tops. Now, I must admit I did clean up a little bit before taking this photo, hehe. This is the point at which I scoop out any scum and the cloves, which float to the top of the jar.

So, 6 jars of yummy jelly. I will probably give these as Christmas presents.

This coming week I need to dig up my potatoes so that I can use the space for planting out garlic sets and my little brassica plants....we'll see if that actually happens!

Linking in with Harvest Monday on Daphne's Dandelions


Monday 21 September 2015

Harvest Monday - colourful beans

A quick whizz through this week's harvests as I've been making my eldest nephew a birthday card this evening. He's going to be 21......21!! Unbelievable.
On the fruit front, there's actually been a few blackberries - a couple of tubs like this. They need picking quickly though because all the rain makes them go soft. I'll pick some more tomorrow I expect.
I've picked some elderberries from the tree in the back garden but have missed lots that the birdies have eaten. Also some of the nicest sets of berries were too high, even with a set of steps and a rake to hook them down. I'm going to pollard the tree this winter as it's gotten really big and shades the garden a lot (it's on the south side) , plus I read that they fruit on the current year's growth, so will make it easier to pick the flowers and berries. Also, Jan spotted a tree with good fruit overhanging the pavement from a school nearby so we picked some of them too, and I've spent a couple of evenings sorting through them.
I have to be careful not to ping berries off everywhere....they stain easily! Ive put them in the freezer for now - I'll either make a jelly or cordial with them later.
More toms coming along, a bit slower but steadily
Lots of green things
And some more (rocket from the back garden)
I made walnut pesto to freeze
More green things
And some more (chard and beans have done well this week)
A more colourful plate (Carrot and red cabbage from the market though). My 5 gherkin plants all got eaten when young so I've not made any sour pickles this year....but I still have one jar in the fridge which is amazingly still ok over a year later!
Yesterday's pickings....this week I spotted blight on my maincrop potatoes....they'd had brown blotches on, which could have just been natural dieback but then after a few days I spotted white bits on the back of the leaves which I think is an indication of blight. The plants had had a long growing season anyway, so I cut the tops down to help prevent the spread of the blight spores. I decided to lift the first potato plant....there were some big uns!
Lovely roast
And the colourful beans for tonight's cheating meal of a tin of baked beans, but with veggies cooked first before adding the beans. The red colour is the stem from some beautiful chard plants.
I went to the Norwich Vegetarian and Vegan food fayre this weekend...lots of lovely things to buy and a tombola where I won some Booja Booja ginger truffles....Mmm....and already eaten, finished off tonight. It's actually a local business so is nice to see they've done so well. I remember first trying them years tastebuds were more suited to sweet things and I didn't like them that much but now I'm much more sophisticated, (haha)!

I had two slightly unusual naturey encounters this week....on my way in to work one day, I was walking along a quiet leafy lane off a main road that leads to the 'campus' when the all little birds in the trees started to be very noisy all of a sudden....then a sparrow hawk whizzed past, closely followed by two magpies chasing it. Cool!

On Saturday afternoon I was at home and some activity in the back garden caught my eye....little birds flitting around. Then suddenly a blue tit was in the lean to just in front of me (with a window in between us). It happily hopped around on the tomato plants and on the shelves before flying out the door...I knew if I tried to grab my camera it would've gone so decided to just enjoy watching it instead...ah what a cute little bird.

Whoops, I just remembered I left two dishes of oven roasted Sage and tomatoes in the oven from yesterday...I'd better put them in the freezer, oops!

Linking in with Harvest Monday on Daphne's Dandelions



Monday 14 September 2015

Harvest Monday - cut, cut, cut

I had a good three hours on the plot Wednesday morning, starting to cut the paths which were really really overgrown ( I use shears which takes ages but I like it because it's quiet and you get down low and notice things you wouldn't normally see. It also means you can be quite careful about what you do or don't cut - Like slugs (do) and frogs (don't).
I did see lots of massive slugs, urgh, but also a very jumpy froggy, who I really enjoyed watching. One of my robin friends came to say hello too and I saw a red admiral butterfly. When I went down the far end of my plot a whole gang of house sparrows flew into the spot I'd just been and lined themselves up on chard plants which have gone to seed, pecking away on the seeds (chard plants produce loads of big corky seeds). The sparrows must be really light because there were so many of them on the plants but the stems only gently bent over, bobbing away.
With all the rain we've been having, my winter squash plants have gone crazy, which is great as several had been sulking and not doing much (it had been very cool and dry early in the year), but now the risk is that the fruits will split with all the extra water.....
I always plant one in a compost bay I'm not using. This is a butternut.
It's taking over!
Some nice looking fruits coming along
Hello under there - on a bit of glass to keep it off the soil
And on to the harvests...
I was surprised to find so many more blackberries one day, I hadn't even taken a tub down to the allotment
In the lean- to at home I picked some of the sweet peppers, they've actually started to ripen, yay. I have two plants on the top shelf.
Lovely colours
The beans in the garden are still growing ok
And a good haul from the plot (on Wednesday I think)
Here's a vegetable Ood for any Doctor Who fans out there. Or perhaps a Zoidberg.
Quite a lot of toms still ripening in the lean-to, and a couple of hot peppers
Some more yesterday
And yesterday I decided to pick a few of the borlotti beans from the allotment, the colours are amazing. There were more dwarf beans as well, I have them growing under my corn
Lovely. Does anyone know why some aren't marbled? Are they just not as mature?
They were really yummy in a dish with all my own veggies (And quinoa)
Earlier in the week I made a dish to use up lots of the toms and someofthe greens and herbs
We're trying to eat more eggs for Jan to get vitamin D, so we're making various concoctions with veggies, here scrambled eggs on sourdough bread
One of my friends on Facebook is always 'liking' Jamie Oliver dishes and I noticed he's been putting eggs on top of his dishes...must've been reading my blog ;)
And tonight a quick meal with quorn sausages as well....a bit of a treat

I've been doing some more path cutting on the plot this weekend and have started cutting out the old summer raspberries....and am hoping that someday soon those squashes will ripen! And I still haven't picked any mint!

Linking in with Harvest Monday on Daphne's Dandelions