Category Archives: apple

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!






a stitch in time…

saves nine.  So the saying goes.  I used to hear this, mostly when the hem of my school skirt was adrift, (though I usually thought ‘that’s what sellotape is for’).  Why the saying?  We had heavy frosts in the middle of April. Though I fleeced newly planted peas we didn’t have enough fabric to cover all the crops and I’ve noticed that some of the strawberry plants are showing symptons of ‘black eye’.

This has been caused by the frost.  I’ve been picking off the flowers as these won’t develop fruit.  We’ll need to see if there has been any other effects once the strawberries start to develop.   The kiwi also took a hit, certainly on the leaves.

The flowers might not be affected as they were in bud and until the cultivar ‘Jenny’ starts flowering we won’t get fruit from the kiwis anyway.

The apples were starting in flower when the frosts came; I’ll have to keep my fingers crossed for them.  Elsewhere it all looks pretty good.

I will have to start on the thinning soon.



at the back of the north wind…

Oh my, the air temperature has dropped dramatically since the beginning of the week though, hopefully, we have seen the last of the ground frosts.   Of course, being aware of the oncoming weather is to be forewarned.  I have brought all plants in pots undercover and have been draping the tender new plantings with fleece….

which is somewhat ancient and because it has been stored in the piggery over the last year, rather tattered courtesy of the mice.   It reminds me of Miss Havisham’s wedding dress.  Still it does a good job of protecting the plants on chilly nights.

Last week, the lovely OH cut the orchard and the grass of the vegetable plot, leaving the areas where we have spring bulbs. Everything is looking spruce, which reminds of the sage advice on making a garden look good if you have limited time i.e. ‘cut the grass and edge’.

The plums, damsons and gages have finished blossoming so hopefully had good pollination.  The apples are coming into bloom now; I hope the cold weather won’t affect the pollination too much.

Whilst the cold weather has set back germination a little, I have, amongst others, recent sowings of peas, lettuce ‘Little Gem’ and Basil ‘Aristotle’ coming through at the moment.  The latter makes lovely green mounds and is an excellent choice for pots.  No sign of Basil ‘Genovese’ yet; I have bought another packet of seed just in case the lack of sprouting is due to old age.

More tulips are in bloom…

and the artichokes are producing flower heads.  I’ll pick some of these to steam and serve with a mustard vinagrette for a light lunch tomorrow…

Bon appetit!



arc de triomphe…

No, not in chic Paris, but here on the holding.   The lovely OH has cracked on with erecting his home-made rebar pergola.  This not only adds structure to the garden but will provide support for some luscious climbing roses and clematis.  I love the way the rust colour of the bars mirrors the hues of the house bricks.

dsc_0024dsc_0025We’ve pushed ahead with pruning 2 more rows in the orchard….

dsc_0028and the potting shed has been cleared ready for sowing and propagation…

dsc_0027all systems go….


packing a punch…

Wassail 2017!

Okaaaay, confession time, we missed celebrating on the Twelfth night, (old Twelfth night that is, we’re well past the equivalent Gregorian calendar date).  To be fair it was very dark when we got back to the holding on the 17th so the wassail was rescheduled for the following day.

This year it’s ‘Dry January’, so we laid aside the mulled cider in favour of spiced apple punch, which is just as delicious.  To 1 litre of juice, (the last bottle that had been given to us by a local cidermaker), I threw in a couple of star anise, 1 cinnamon stick, 3 cloves and some strips of orange peel, then simmered for 5 minutes and left to infuse for another 5.  We were also a bit shy on the bread front, (it’s a no wheat/dairy/caffeine month for me as well).  I eschewed hanging wraps or a pitta in favour of small slices of rye.  dsc_0010wassail2The lovely OH found a different toast this year…

Stand fast, root! bear well, top!
Pray God send us a good howling crop:
Every twig, apples big;
Every bough, apples enow!

WASSAIL the trees, that they may bear
You many a plum and many a pear:
For more or less fruits they will bring,
As you do give them wassailing.

Keeping with tradition we toasted our Bramley in the old orchard, but this year, in the new orchard, it was the turn of the ‘Pitmaston Pineapple’, to receive the libation.

dsc_0014(Pitmaston still needs its winter prune…)

To round things off we started pruning the orchard – first row done!

Reading this week: The Cabaret of Plants by Richard Mabey

it’s hygge round here…

Apparently, hygge has been a big, big trend for 2016.  Though I have to say it passed me by until I read a plethora of articles on ‘hygge’ in autumn. So I looked up the meaning.  Well, I like to think that the lovely OH and I have been bang on the zeitgeist even if we didn’t realise it.

To get in the right mood, right on cue the weather has obliged and turned the holding into a winterscape.

dsc_0027dsc_0023dsc_0030Chilly on the outside but warm indoors and what better way to have a ‘hygge at home’ moment – cozy fire, lit candles, blankets, and great food.

Simplicity is in, so the lovely OH prepared gravlax…

dsc_0007dsc_0008which we partnered with fresh salads (beetroot & apple; pickled cucumber; potato); rye and crisp breads, plus blinis topped with creme fraiche and lumpfish caviar.

dsc_0001Served alongside a flute of sparkling champagne.

Happy New Year!








jobs for the weekend…

…could be viewed as a list of chores but when the weather is as glorious as it is at the moment then being outside and working on the holding is anything but.

dsc_0651First up – a nice compact job of cutting down the autumn raspberry canes. We only grow primocane varieties now, (Polka, Autumn Bliss and Joan J),  as I think these are the best-flavoured berries, plus All Gold for the yellow fruit.  In the past, I have left this pruning job until the tail end of winter, so I’ll see how things fare with this change of tack.  I did have a go at double cropping but found that too onerous to keep on top of, though looking at the stands I could have beendsc_0636dsc_0656a bit more rigorous with cutting out the weaker canes.

dsc_0648As I cut, the lovely OH shredded and carted the whole lot off to the compost bays.

dsc_0657This year’s canes of the hybrids, tayberry and loganberry, will bear fruit next summer so have been left.  Job done and cup of tea time!  Next up – pruning the soft fruit and clearing suckers from the pears and medlars.

Whilst we try to keep on top of pruning and clearing in our productive areas elsewhere we are very untidy, as the wildlife wouldn’t thank us.

dsc_0655dsc_0653My favourite tree at the moment is an unknown apple variety in the ‘old orchard’, still laden with yellow gold fruit.   Next year I may try to find out what variety this is.

Going into winter we still have good things for eating, plenty in the stores plus  red and savoy cabbage, kales, chard, celeriac and parsnip in the kitchen garden.

dsc_0640dsc_0644dsc_0643Reading this week: The Making of the British Landscape by Nicholas Crane.