Wednesday 30 September 2009

How to make tomato ketchup

This is a spin off from building the greenhouse - we had a bumper crop of tomatoes. We used the surplus to make tomato ketchup. This video shows how we made it.

Saturday 26 September 2009

Picking sweet chestnuts

I headed into the wilds of Crystal Palace Park, near my house in London yesterday, and filled a shopping bag with sweet chestnuts, all still in their casings. I thought it useful to get them now, to beat the squirrels to them. Strong gardening gloves are needed to pick them.

This morning we removed them from their casings. Again, the gloves were needed. My hands now ache. It was not an easy job but at least we have a few kg of sweet chestnuts for use over the winter.
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Friday 18 September 2009

Sweet chestnuts

Outside Crystal Palace station, near our house in London, are some sweet chestnut trees. In past years I have always intended getting round to picking the chestnuts but never managed to find the time. Having given up my job, it is now easier to fit in these tasks. Under one of the trees today the ground was covered with the spikey shells in which the chestnuts grow. I turned up with a hessian bag and a pair of gardening gloves but found that what was inside them was little more than a tough skin and no flesh. This was rather disappointing until I noticed that the other trees were not carpeting the ground with chestnuts. They were still growing though I recovered a handful.

It will be another week at least before the other trees are ready for picking. I will be back for them! We need sweet chestnuts for winter cooking and to turn into flour. I'll blog on doing this at a later date.
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Jam today

That sloe jam I mentioned a couple of weeks ago - the one that didn't set: remember it? I made it at our house in London and there I left it to go home to Sunniside. I am back in London again and what do I find? The jam has set! It only took a couple of weeks! Baffling but at least I don't need to redo it.
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Monday 14 September 2009

Beans, plums and apples - preserving for another day

It's funny to think that our runner beans were a failure last year. Now we are facing the problem of how to preserve such a large crop. The freezer is full so we are turning to a more traditional way of keeping them - salting them. We have three vary large jars full of beans, a carrier bag full of beans waiting to be preserved and still the bean plants on the allotment continue to produce for us.

The plum tree we planted last year also had a big crop, despite its small size. A carrier bag full of fruit was brought back to the house. I've just bottled 2 jar fulls of whole plums. The rest that were a bit past it were cut open to remove the stone and boiled in the left over sugar syrup. They too are now in 2 jars.

And finally, I am still sorting the apples picked 2 weeks ago. The better quality, larger eating apples are being put into boxes, packed with shreded paper. The rest will be used in jams, pies etc though some will be preserved in syrup.

All of this will of course be covered in various videos that are currently in production.

Friday 11 September 2009

How to make blackberry jelly and fruit cheese

Bramble or blackberry jelly was one of the first jam type products I learnt to make, years ago as a kid. Dad taught me. At the age of 79 he still goes out to pick blackberries and crab apples to make jelly (in this recipe we used eating apples). The video also shows how to make blackberry fruit cheese from the left over pulp.

Blackberry and Apple Jam

A couple of weeks ago we picked a large quantity of wild eating apples. We brought home 4 hessian sacks and 2 large carrier bags full of apples. The bashed and bumped ones, and those that had been partially subject to a meal by a passing bug, along with those too small to be treated as eating apples, are ideal for using in cooking and have been put to one side. Some of them I used this evening to make 15 jars of blackberry and apple jam. Here's what I did:

You need:
2kg blackberries
1 kg apples
about 1 litre water
3 kg sugar
juice of 3 large lemons

Peel and core the apples. Put the peel and cores into a pan and add the water. Bring to the boil and simmer for about half an hour.

Into the jam pan put the blackberries. Chop the apples reasonably finely and add them as well, along with the lemon juice.

Strain the boiled skins and cores and add the liquid to the jam pan (I do this to ensure I extract the maximum pectin from the apples - there's more in the skin).

Boil the mixture and simmer away until it has pulped down. Any lumps of apple left should be very soft and soaked through with blackberry juice. When the pulp is in this condition add the sugar and bring back to the boil. Make sure you stir constantly.

Check that the setting point has been reached then add to warmed jars.

This jam is a early great autumn flavour. It's a good way of using up all those free blackberries growing in the hedgerows and surplus apples that won't keep. I've also used this recipe in the past in the days when we bought most of our food from the supermarkets. I remember one year having a pile of apples that didn't get eaten and were in serious danger of ending up in the compost bin. I used them for jam making. It had a lovely tangy flavour to it.

If you want to sharpen the taste add more lemon. And if you have a huge glut of apples, increase the proportion of apples and blackberries to 50:50.

Wednesday 9 September 2009

How to make sloe gin

Another video, this time on how we make sloe gin. The sloes were picked in Cambridgeshire when we visited relatives at the end of August rather than near Sunniside. As we are further north, the hedgerow fruit ripens later up here.

Wednesday 2 September 2009

How to make rhubarb and ginger jam

The allotment recently produced a good crop of rhubarb so we made a batch of rhubarb and ginger jam. Here's the video!