Sunday 31 October 2010

How to make crab apple jelly - the video

There are still plenty of crab apples around and they are great for making jellies - they are packed full of pectin, that all important ingredient for setting jam (along with acid, heat and sugar!)

We make crab apple jelly most years. It can be spread on jam but is also very pleasant with cold meats.

Saturday 30 October 2010

Filming for the Horticultural Channel

The Horticulture Channel is being launched in March 2011 and I have spent today being filmed for it. The producer came up from London today with camera and we headed off to the allotment and the local woodland to shoot some footage before heading back to the kitchen to film there as well.

The website is being developed but you can visit it at

Wednesday 27 October 2010

Bye-bye piccalilli

piccalilli Aug 10

The plan to become self-sufficient can have some unintended outcomes if we don't think properly about what we are doing. If we have a surplus, we get a table at a local makers' market so sell it and to promote what we are doing to encourage others to grow at least some of their own food.

Alas, we took all the piccalilli we made in August to our first makers' market last week and ended up selling it all. This was a mistake. We have made 7 jars and we should have held some back for ourselves. We have had great reports from those who bought a jar but we never had the chance to taste it ourselves. We will have to wait until next year to make some more!

I do have a video filmed about how to make picalilli. It's not edited yet. Things have been a bit busy recently. I'll try and get it sorted soon.

Pink fir apple potatoes

pink fir apple potato Oct 10

I'm not sure if I need some therapy for this but I have been raving recently about how good the pink fir apple potato is. It is one of the crops of potatoes we grew this year and we are very pleased with the results. It has a lovely pink skin - though how fir apple comes into the name is not something I can answer.

Cook them in their skins which are after all their most nutritious part. Lightly boil them. Very good as a salad potato.

This is one we are hoping to grow again next year.

Going nuts about hazel

hazel Oct 10

If you haven't yet got in your hazel crop it is probably too late. The squirrels would have beaten you to it. Hazel nuts are one of our wonder foods. They are high in vitamins and essential oils. But what really interests us in the protein. They are stuffed full of it. And as we aim to become self-sufficient, having a good supply of protein in the face of reduced meat consumption is really important.

Over the past month I've been out picking hazel five times in local woodland. Most will be used in nut loaves. We have stored them in a hessian sack in our garage. Nice and cool and dark there.

Friday 15 October 2010

Jam production line

hedgerow jelly Oct 10

I am having a jam-making day. Yesterday I set away some hedgerow jelly and having strained the pulp overnight, today I carried out the final stage of turning the strained liquid into jelly. I then pressed the pulp through a sieve and made hedgerow butter from the puree.

Not content with that, I made some bramble jelly using some leftover blackberries and crab apples. On the cooker at the moment is a pan full of crab apples which I will use for making crab apple jelly.

Tonight however I am off the jam treadmill. Instead I will be making pear and apple chutney. The apples were picked wild in September but I picked the pears over the weekend from a derelict orchard near our village.

And finally, if you haven't picked your hazel nuts, get them as soon as possible. They won't last much longer. I've been out five times to pick them and have gathered about 6kg. That's our protein supply guaranteed for a few months!

(Photo is of the hedgerow jelly ingredients - minus the sugar of course)

Tuesday 12 October 2010

Another fully self-sufficient dinner

I should have posted this on Sunday but I'm running a bit late on things at the moment. On Sunday we had a fully self-sufficient meal. For starters we had corn on the con. Main course was pheasant, roast parsnips and roast potatoes and sage and onion stuffing. The only disaster was the stuffing itself. The sage was rather old (dried and left over from last year). Nevertheless, it was a good meal.

I have subsequently stripped the pheasant and the meat will be chopped up and mixed with mashed potato and coated with breadcrumbs to be fried, later this week. The bones were used to make stock for a leak, potato and nasturtium soup. I picked the leaks on Sunday. They were actually thinnings but I had no desire to see them go to waste.

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Beekeepers' meeting

We are planning to keep bees and in August we went on a beekeepers' course. As a result we joined the Hexham Beekeepers' Association. Tonight was the first meeting we have attended. It was a question and answer session. All useful stuff for us. We are definitely going ahead with getting at least a couple of hives even though it all looks a bit daunting. I'll keep you in touch with progress.

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Saturday 2 October 2010

The problems of storage

Our freezer is full. We have no room for another. In the allotment world, this counts as a mini-disaster. As the crops come in, we are desperate for storage space.

I extracted from the freezer earlier this week a bag of lemon skins to make into marmalade. This barely scratched the surface in terms of freed up space. There is a large bag of blackberries in the freezer as well and my plan is to use it in a hedgerow jelly recipe. But it rained and rained through the week, preventing me from picking the other berries I need. As I have now come down to London for a few days, the jelly will have to wait. So the freezer continues to be full.

What we have no space for are the runner beans and cabbages. Dad is kindly donating space in his freezer for the beans though there are still loads to come in. I'm rather concerned about the cabbages however. They are still on the allotment and the rabbits are getting fat on them.

We are pickling what we can. Runner bean chutney is interesting! But we are going to have a big sort of all the food stores when we get back to free up freezer space. Were we to get to the bottom of our chest freezer, it could be interesting what we find!

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Friday 1 October 2010

Lemon marmalade

Lemon marmalade does not at first thought appear to be something a person into self-sufficiency in the UK would produce. After all, we don't grow citrus fruits. we buy them in the supermarket who have had them imported over vast distances. We do however use lemons in some jam making, especially with soft fruit which has insufficient pectin to allow the jam to set. Lemon is high in pectin so we add the juice to the jam mix.

I've made quite a bit of blackberry jam recently so we have been getting through quite a few lemons. So here's a tip you may want to try to cut down on waste. Save the lemon skins. Add them to a bag in the freezer and when it's full use them to make lemon marmalade.

Boil up the skins but keep a few fresh skins for shredding. Add the shreds to the strained liquid and reboil, adding 1kg of sugar for every litre of liquid.

Check for the setting point then add to warm, sterilised jars. the result is a good sharp marmalade, produced from something that would otherwise be thrown onto the compost heap.

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