Where growing, making & good living come together

Adventures in Preserving: insert your own hilarious jam pun here

Posted by on Wednesday 15 September 2010 in cooking, growing, preserving, wild food | 4 comments

I had yesterday largely away off work/from my computer in order to catch up on my preserving.

As I tweeted last night:

Today I’ve made 5.5lbs of spicy marrow chutney, 3lbs of marrow & chilli jam, 4lbs of blackberry & apple jam, & 3lbs of spicy plum chutney.

Also made 3lbs of ratatouille & 2 giant marrow cakes. All using stuff from the garden; recipes for everything to follow on the blog soon!

And as I added this morning:

I have a blister on my hand from hacking up all the marrow yesterday. It’s like when I got a blister from too much spinning. I’m hardcore!

All the courgettes/marrow were from the garden – I used five out of six of the marrows I harvested the other day, and had collected 2.5lbs of courgettes for the ratatouille. The ratatouille also included tomatoes from the garden.

The spicy plum chutney was made from the remainder of the plums from the tree outside the kitchen, the ones that are either wild plums or cherry plum but either way, tasty plums. And the blackberries are from the field next door to our house. (Both fruits had been frozen for a couple of weeks but needed to come out to make room for the ratatouille and marrow cakes.)

I was truly exhausted by the end of the cooking session and when I count it in jars, it doesn’t feel like I’ve got a lot to show for all the work – but when I think that along with the last batch I made, it’ll more than fulfil our jam & chutney needs for a year, it feels like a lot more worthwhile.

Some of the recipes I kinda made up on the fly, others I tweaked from existing recipes – I’ll post them all with my modifications over the next week or so — let me know if you have any preference for ones to see first!

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Wild plum/cherry plum jam recipe

Posted by on Monday 23 August 2010 in cooking, growing, preserving, recipes, wild food | 9 comments

So last week, we went fishing for fruit on the mystery fruit tree outside our kitchen window. We collected 5.5kg of the plum-ish fruit, probably sacrificed as much the floor gods, and there is still a fair bit up there (albeit not terribly accessible). We’re not sure if they’re wild plum or cherry plum as everyone seems to have different opinions on what constitutes one or the other. Whatever they’re called, they’re very tart but also very sweet.

John wanted to try making plum wine (more on that another time) so I only commandeered 2kg of the harvest for our first batch of plum jam. (I’ll do another smaller jamming once he’s decided how much wine he is making tonight.)

The recipe calls for preserving sugar but granulated sugar would work just as well – preserving sugar is more expensive but the bigger crystals result in a clearer jelly. You don’t need jam sugar (sugar with added pectin) as there should already be enough pectin in the fruit.

UPDATE: Just a quick note to say that in 2011, I added a few drops of vanilla essence to the jam and it added a lovely round flavour. I can’t remember exactly how much or when (I think it was after the sugar so it wouldn’t be cooking too long, but wanted to mention it anyway, because it was delicious :)

Wild plum/Cherry plum jam recipe

2kg of ripe wild plums or cherry plums
1/2 pint of water
1.5kg of preserving sugar (or slightly more if you want it sweeter)
The juice of a lemon/liquid pectin if needed

Jars (we misc old food ones – it probably fills about 6 x standard 450g/16oz jars, but have a seventh on standby just in case)
Waxed paper discs

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Fishing for fruit: catching wild plums with a fishing net

Posted by on Thursday 19 August 2010 in wild food | 4 comments

Over the last week or so, we’ve slowly been watching the mystery fruit (on the mystery fruit tree outside our kitchen window) turn from green to deep red. We had no idea that the tree was a fruiting one until green baubles started appearing earlier in the summer and still aren’t quite sure what the fruits are – we think it’s wild plum. As I said the other day, John thought they tasted almost peach-ish but yesterday our friend George taste tested our harvest and declared them to be plum.

Or mostly plum.

Or plum related.

We’re treating them as plums.

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Mushroom spotting at The Chevin, Otley

Posted by on Tuesday 17 August 2010 in wild food | 4 comments

As I mentioned in my quick round-up yesterday, we found loads of mushrooms while walking at the Chevin, Otley with Lily-dog at the weekend – lots of different types and lots of each type. Unfortunately we didn’t have our mushroom identifying books with us so I had to make do with taking photos of some of them and attempting the identification later. The identifying is the most important thing for me at the moment – there are too many inedible and poisonous ones for me to want to try eating them until I’m more confident in my knowledge.

I’ve made some stabs at identification here – anyone got any feedback or better suggestions?

FYI, all the mushrooms here were found in the grass, but in a tree lined area so not exactly open grassland or deep dark forest. I didn’t pay that much attention to the trees but it was a largely deciduous area rather than the planted pine woods around there.

Mushroom 1

This was the first big one we saw. A light orange sombrero-shaped top with pinkish white gills underneath.

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A few days off

Posted by on Monday 16 August 2010 in cooking, frugal, growing, wild food | 1 comment

I’ve just had a few days offline to clear my head a bit – I spent a lot of time reading, resting & DSing so it wasn’t as productive as four days off work usually is, but there are a few things to report:

Massive egg update
The supersized chicken egg we got on Monday has been repeated on a few days this week – not a scientific test but definitely more likely to happen after they’ve had a good portion of green treats the day before. We’ve had a couple of them and they’ve been double yolkers – which is a worry as it hints that there is something wrong with the fine lady’s reproductive system (even though they’re still young, I think they’re a bit too old for it to be a “really young and still learning” quirk). Will keep an eye on the situation.

Foraging & fruiting
Took Lily-dog for a long walk around Otley Chevin on Saturday – found the most wild mushrooms I’ve seen in one place but unfortunately didn’t have our identification books with us, doh! Took lots of pictures for post-hoc identification – means we can’t forage them but the identification part is the more important bit at this stage in our learning really.

We also found the dregs of some wild raspberries – so ripe it was hard to pick them because they’d fall off as soon as we went nearly them.

Speaking of which, the bramble bushes in the woods next to our house are just about ready to give up their first glut – John had some as a pre-breakfast snack while dogwalking this morning and declared them delicious. Have to go picking soon.

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Growing vegetables for chickens

Posted by on Thursday 22 July 2010 in chickens, growing, wild food | 1 comment

As I mentioned in my post about the economics of getting started with chickens, we’re hoping to feed the chickens a combination of bought-in food (nutritionally balanced layers pellets) and “free” food – scraps, foraged stuff and things we’ve grown especially for them in the garden — and it’s the latter I want to think about now.

Before they moved in, I had started growing some stuff for them (specifically radishes because they’re such a quick crop) and I’d left some lettuces in the ground for longer than I would have done normally, because I thought they’d like them as a snack. They didn’t. The radishes were slightly more successful but only for the green tops, not the red roots – which would be great if we liked radishes because we could easily share but since we don’t, it seems inefficient to grow them.

So anyway, I’m trying to find crops that I can grow for them to supplement their pellets. They’re currently snacking on borage (which they’re eating in the somewhat blurry pics here) and bolting spinach. I’ve got some perpetual spinach & chard growing too – we’ll use some of it, but it’ll be mostly for them. I should be able to start picking those in a few weeks. Around the same time, we’ll be harvesting carrots so they’ll be able to have the tops from those. For late winter/next spring, I’ve sown kale & spring cabbages, and there should also be lots of brassica leaves/surplus — but there is a bit of a gap in the middle between the autumn and late winter/spring harvests.

Next year, I’ll be more on the ball and have early winter cabbages ready to feed them then but now I’m trying to plug the gap with quick-grow stuff. Any suggestions? I’m too late for planting comfrey for them but there still maybe a little time for clover?

I am going to keep foraging for them too, with the rule that unless I can identify something so definitely that I’d be confident to eat it myself, I won’t feed it to them. It’s a cautious route to take – probably missing out on a lot of good stuff for them – but I’d rather be cautious than have a poisoned chicken. They very much like nettles which is a good thing given how many we have around here! I’ve been wilting them to lessen the sting but I’m tempted to dry a lot now to have for over the winter.

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