Friday 24 September 2010

How to make blackberry vodka - the video

It's autumn so there is an abundance of blackberries. In this video we made blackberry vodka.

How to dry tomatoes

We have a glut of tomatoes from the greenhouse but didn't want to freeze them or preserve them by making them into a pickle or ketchup. So we had a go at drying them. This is how we did it.

Allotment update - August 2010

Sorry this is late. My excuse is that I've been away for quite a bit of September. The video covers our beekeeping course, harvesting potatoes grown in bags and picking cauliflowers, runner beans, tomatoes, baby leaks etc.

Saturday 18 September 2010

Making blackberry jam

The wild blackberry crop is in full swing now. Yesterday, in less than an hour, I picked over 2kg from one corner of Lotties Wood, next to our village of Sunniside. Blackberries grow everywhere and you will find a good supply of them growing in urban areas as well. Blackberry jam is easy to make and it is one I recommend to people who ask me for jam-making-made-simple recipes. I used the blackberries I picked yesterday to make 9 jars of jam. This is what you have to do.

Blackberry jam recipe

Put your blackberries into the jam pan after weighing them.

For every kilo of blackberries add the juice of 2 or 3 small to medium lemons.

Apply heat and bring to the boil.

Keep the pan simmering until the fruit has become a mushy pulp.

Stir in the same weight of sugar as weight of blackberries and bring back to the boil.

Keep boiling until the setting point is reached (to test for this put a tablespoon of jam onto a plate, allow to cool and if it forms a skin, it has reached the setting point).

Then add to warm, sterilised jars.

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Friday 17 September 2010

More blackberries

I walked over to Lotties Wood, on the edge of our village of Sunniside, this morning to check out the hazel. It's not quite ready yet. What I picked instead was a tonnage of blackberries that will keep me going for a while. And there are mountains more still to pick. My first job is to make blackberry jam which I will set away in a few minutes.

The blackberries are early again this year. In my youth we used to call school half term in October "Blackberry Week" as that was when we went picking blackberries (sometimes we called it potato picking week). I wonder if climate change is changing the times when wild crops are ready for picking.

Tuesday 14 September 2010

The price of food

Consumer Prices Index announced today at 3.1%. This is higher that the Government's target though not unexpected. The pressure on inflation is coming from two sources - air travel and food, both of which we need to use more economically anyway. My confession is that I have just stepped off a plane, one of three flights I am making this year. I am hoping to have an air travel free year next year though I can't guarantee it. What I can guarantee is that next year we will be closer to our goal of food self-sufficiency. The rising cost of food is having only a marginal impact on us simply because most of what we eat we have either grown or foraged. It's a lifestyle choice for us but it is one that is paying a dividend, despite the hard work! Nevertheless, I have been predicting food price rises for the past three years, hence one of the reasons why we decided to become more self-sufficient.

Changing eating habits, growing what you can, wild food foraging and most importantly, avoiding food waste can have a major impact on a household budget. As food prices continue to rise, we are all going to have to be more intelligent with the way we get our food and use it.
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Sunday 5 September 2010

More crops

Three trips to the allotment were needed yesterday to carry back everything we picked (though one trip involved picking blackberries growing next to the allotment.) We picked more tomatoes, runner beans, gherkins, cucumbers, rhubarb, cauliflowers and cabbages.

The tomatoes were semi-dried in the oven for four hours and then stored in a jar of olive oil. Everything else has gone into the freezer, including the cauliflower leaves (steamed first).

We kept one cauliflower aside however to make cauliflower cheese. Watch out for the video on this. I'll edit and post it up soon.

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