Monthly Archives: August 2017

vinegar pete…

Way back last autumn the lovely OH helped out with some apple juice pressing.  The event was in aid of raising funds for our local library and all the apples were sourced from local orchards.  He brought home a 5 gallon fermentation bucket of juice and stuck it in the piggery.  Over time, the juice fermented, the sugars turned to alcohol and then to acetic acid.  This cold pressed, unfiltered, unpasteurised vinegar also contains the ‘mother’, a collection of beneficial bacteria, enzymes and proteins – it’s meant to be very beneficial healthwise.  The lovely OH tried some, hasn’t pegged it, so we’re good to go.

We use a lot of this vinegar, not just as the base liquor for pickles but also, for making flavoured fruit vinegars.  At the moment I’m picking a couple of kilos of raspberries several times a week, so this decant was most timely.

I’ll leave the fruit to steep for around 5 days before straining through muslin, adding sugar and briefly boiling.  Once the liquid has cooled I’ll bottle it.  It’s a really simple process, much easier than making jam or chutney. We add a good heft of fruit to our vinegars so they are much better than commercial versions.  The ratios I use are 600ml vinegar to 1 kilo raspberry, then 450g sugar to every 600ml of strained liquid.

Elsewhere on the holding, the berries are ripening on the elder  and we’re running out of elderberry vinegar – our replacement for balsamic.  So that’s next on the list.

Perhaps I’ll also make a blackberry version – it’s always good to try something new!

 

 

 

 

 

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a bit of the exotic…

Jam is so easy to make and we grow so much fruit that it is no surprise that we haven’t bought any for quite a number of years.  Though, over time, we have learnt which crops we want to devote effort to making a preserve from.

Strawberry – yes; Raspberry – yes, Gooseberry – no.  However top of the list maybe, just maybe, is Apricot.  This year, back in spring, we had all the indication of a good crop….

unfortunately, we have taken a hit from ‘brown rot’, a fungal disease caused by the pathogens, Monilinia laxa and Monilinia fructigena.

Our apricot tree is undercover so I suspect the spores were carried to the flowers by wind.  The first notable sign of the infection has been on the mature fruits.  Even so, as we are making jam we just cut out any dodgy bits.

We planted the apricot is at the back of the Dutch barn to give it maximum heat.  As the barn borders the old orchard, there will always be a bit of a risk from brown rot because we have a number of ancient top fruit standards, including plums.  I don’t clear fallen fruit as avidly from the old orchard as I do from the new plantings – perhaps I need to revisit this as we don’t seem to be visited anymore by the badgers.  They used to hoover up a lot of windfalls.

The peaches, however are completely untouched!

 

 

 

I say! tomato…

Title – just for ‘mid brother come blog critic’.

Once in a while I stumble across a fruit or vegetable variety we have grown and think … ‘this is the one’.The’Cuore di Bue’ tomato we are growing in the polytunnel this year is superb, and less temperamental than ‘Marmande’, which has been my ‘beefsteak’ tomato of choice to date.  Well no more.

This delicious ox heart tomato is a weighty fruit with dense flesh and not too many seeds,

which makes it ideal for slicing, in salads or … for making tomato sauce.   So that is what I did in the afternoon whilst the rain bucketed down outside.

Europe has a heatwave – we have torrential rain.

Still, the inclement weather gave me the opportunity to make up a big batch of sauce which we can use on pizza or pasta.  I’m always pleased when I find a recipe that uses considerable quantities of produce; this one called for 5lbs of tomatoes; 3 medium onions; 8 cloves of garlic and a variety of herbs – all of which I could source from our kitchen garden.  Big tick.

Using up 8 cloves of garlic was handy.  Our considerable garlic crop was lifted a few weeks ago and we’ve been drying the heads in trays undercover in the dutch barn.  As I was helping out on our smallholder association stall at a local agricultural show, we cleaned the largest bulbs and I took along a basketful.

I managed to sell quite a number but then diminished our profit by purchasing a vintage, blacksmith forged, garden line winder from my fellow smallholder who had brought along a selection of old tools.

Somehow I don’t think I’ll be making my fortune from selling our produce.

Reading this week: The Thoughtful Gardener by Jinny Blom.