Blackberry Jam

By the time I had sorted out the photos for this post, autumn had arrived.  Now it is just in time for berry season!

First there were the redcurrants and now the blackberries are in full swing.  So, Blackberry Jam is now sitting in the cupboard, and if I thought the redcurrant jelly was good, well this jam is even better.  Not too sweet, it still retains its flavour, and is delicious.

Place the blackberries in a large pot with a little water (for 4lbs of fruit I used 1/2 cup water).  Bring to a boil and stir and crush the fruit until the fruit has broken up.  The not-so-black blackberries can be blamed on my dad – a very over zealous picker!

Put the fruit through a strainer/seive.  If you want a clear jam then do not push the fruit through.  The juice will eventually drip through (although it could take a while).  When the juice has collected, measure out the sugar.  For every 1 litre of liquid put 750g of sugar into a pot.  Over low heat stir until the sugar has dissolved.  Bring the liquid up to a boil until the jam reaches a temperature of 105c.  Put the jam into the sterlised jars and store for two weeks until the jam has set and matured.

The jam test – place a plate in the freezer for ten minutes.  When the jam is ready, place a teaspoon on a plate and drawer your finger through (be careful – it is hot jam).  If the jam parts then it is ready.

Delicious on toast, crumpets, anything you can lay your hands on really.  We had some jam left over and had it still slightly warm over ice cream.  A real winner.

~ Pru

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Capturing the Flowers

With all the rain that we have had in the last couple of weeks, I missed my chance to capture the peonies in the garden. I am heartbroken. This is the problem with peonies – you wait and wait and then they come along and go so quickly.

My plan now is to run into the garden whenever the rain stops and take photos. On Tuesday mum and I did a quick trip to the allotment to check that everything was okay after the bad rain. (All is okay, but the weeds are beginning to thrive).

Elderflowers galore at the allotment – thinking elderflower wine, elderflower syrup, elderflower cordial…

An explosion of chives at the allotment. I actually dislike chives, but love their flowers.

When its not soaking wet, this is a lovely place to sit with a cup of coffee. Herbs – lemon balm, chives, mint and lavender blossom in the vase.

Flowers into strawberries!

Do you find that you need to document everything to make it seem real rather than just looking and enjoying things?

~ Pru

The allotment at the moment

I have a bit of a problem.  Blogging.  I take the photos, upload them and then stuff happens and I never get around to showing you the photos.  I am also very, very behind on posting photos of Brette’s kitchen which I know you will love – this is coming this week.  I promise.

Last Sunday I spent a couple of hours at the allotment.  With the weather finally dry and quite warm it was the perfect time to assess and damage from the rain and to kneal on the ground humbly and weed.

The entrance to the allotments.

I was so pleased to find that apart from a lot of weeds, everything is growing really well and there are positive signs for the future.

Weeding around the broad (fava) beans completed, next time = the peas!

Flowers turning into strawberries.

And here are a couple of photos of other allotments in our section.

The grassy one:

The perfect one:

I live in hope of making our allotment a bit more perfect, but we need to wait until the end of the summer before making many changes to the layout.  Oh, if only to start all over again…

~ Pru

Allotment Update

It seems that everytime I go to the allotment I am armed with either the camera or the phone, but because a vegetable sprouting from the ground looks so much better in real life than through a camera that I haven’t been posting.  This post is to keep my mum happy (eventually I will be happy too).  We like having records of how we have done, the progress made and the life of the vegetables and fruit that we grow.  Without further chat, photos!

The allotment at the beginning of March.

The allotment now.

 

Mum and I deal with the first bit of the allotment (at the far end in the photos).  We are focusing on peas, beans (of many descriptions), spinach, lettuce and potatoes.  Also, fruit (rhubarb, red currant, black currants, blackberries, raspberries and strawberries).  We will do the tomatoes at home in the vegetable box.

Slowly but surely, broad (fava) beans.

Mum and I installed the posts this weekend to support the blackberry bushes.  This year, the aim is to prune them and stop them from becoming a big mound of prickliness again!

Nothing better than shelling peas that you have grown yourself.  Nothing better.  So we are planting lots of peas and practicing the art of succession planting.  We have this row in at the moment (planted on both sides) and another row was planted at the weekend and a third row will be planted in a few weeks.  Last year we froze some of the peas and enjoyed them a couple of weeks ago, and you could tell the difference.  I love these peas.

So, there you go.  Things are starting to emerge from the ground and soon there will be flowers and buds and I will be plotting and planning with the cookery books.

~ Pru

Poached Rhubarb in Vanilla Syrup

Sometimes I become infatuated with something.  These past few months its been rhubarb.  Soon it will be peas and then it will be tomatoes.  But at the moment, rhubarb is the thing I dream about.  I have been charting its progress at the allotment for the last couple of months, taking tiny peaks at it when it was kept warm and strong under an old tin bucket, and then when it finally emerged I have been thinking long and hard about when I could twist its stalks and start cooking it.

So it was decided, Easter Sunday.  Easter Sunday would be the first day of eating our rhubarb.  A milestone on the calendar.  We would look back in a couple of years and reminisce about the rhubarb.  Sadly, dad wasn’t that well at Easter and so mum and I ate the rhubarb on Tuesday instead.  If you keep rhubarb in the fridge it is fine for a couple of days.

The first recipe for what will surely be a marathon rhubarb-eating month was Poached Rhubarb in a Vanilla Syrup.  It’s a Martha recipe, although I did change it slightly, which I tried last year and loved.

  • 6 stalks of rhubarb cut into inch sized pieces.  I stop cutting once I hit the green.
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1 vanilla pod.  Scrape the seeds out of one half and add the other half (whole) to the saucepan.
  • Whipped cream to serve
  1. Boil the wine, sugar, water and vanilla for six minutes in a saucepan.  Keep an eye on it as the liquid will quickly evaporate.
  2. Add the rhubarb and turn down to simmer.
  3. Keep an eye on the rhubarb.  It should take only a couple of minutes to cook.
  4. Take the rhubarb out of the poaching liquid and reduce the liquid to a thicker syrup and cool slightly.
  5. Serve with whipped cream.

The thing with this recipe is that it isn’t too sweet.  You can still taste the sharpness of the rhubarb but it is wonderfully complimented by the syrup.  And mum and I am sure will look back on the first rhubarb of the year, the day after Easter Monday with happy memories!

If you have a rhubarb recipe I should try?  Please let me know.

 

~ Pru

Mid March at the allotment and in the garden

Such a long title!  I honestly couldn’t think of anything nippy or fun.  It is what it is.

Work has begun on the allotment.  Mum and I are taking on half of the allotment this year, and although dad has been very tardy in beginning work on his section (!) mum and I have begun plotting and planning and this weekend we spent four lovely hours weeding and planting our first crops.

We have planted two new rhubarb plants but cannot eat from them for a year – they need time to mature.  We were lucky with this rhubarb plant last year though and I am already dreaming of poached rhubarb and rhubarb tarts – expert posts and recipes in the near future.

The garden pretty much takes care of itself, we are fortunate that we have very few weeds and although the roses have just been pruned and the deadheading of the hydrangeas has also been done I know that soon there will be a hive of activity.  Last autumn we set about planting more bulbs.  Daffodils and irises mainly.  I am still not keen on tulips in the garden and prefer to pick them up from the florist for indoor fun instead.

So, how is your garden coming on?  I know the daffodils are slightly early but I couldn’t be happier to finally have some colour popping up.

 

~ Pru

Are you following me on Twitter or Pinterest?  If not, then click on the links.  It would make my day, possibly my week too!

Filled Courgette Flowers

A colleague at work asked if I would be using any of the courgette flowers on our courgette plants this year. The answer was ‘no’. I love filled courgette flowers but I much prefer to watch (and then eat) a fully grown courgette. But they stayed on my mind. I had tried them before and had really enjoyed them. There is something special about them, like the whole world hasn’t yet caught on and they aren’t turning up on every street corner yet. So when I saw them at the farmers market I purchased a couple of packs.

The flower is just the shell for whatever filling you put in it. Mine consisted of 1/4 cup goats cheese, 1/4 cup cream cheese, herbs and seasoning. After taking the stamen out of the flower they are ready to be filled, twisted and dipped into batter and gently fried.

These were pretty to look at and tasted really good. The little courgette cooked enough but hadn’t gone all mushy.

The great thing about these, is that you can fill them with anything. Dorie Greenspan has a recipe in her new book for shrimp and I can imagine Parma ham working really well curled inside the flower.

~ Pru