Thursday, 28 August 2014

A kind of alchemy with vinegar

The whole house now smells of vinegar - that must mean that it's chutney season.  First chutney of the season is green tomato chutney, one of my old favourites.

It's a recipe I've not used before, its by Darina Allen, and needs a kilo of green tomatoes and a kilo of apples and is spiced with ginger, allspice and black pepper.  We had some leftover apples from a recent visit to family in Devon and our garden is filled with green tomatoes.  The weather has meant some of them were starting to split so we decided to pick a load of them for chutney.

It feels like a kind of alchemy to turn chopped up fruit and vegetables and use vinegar spices and salt to turn them into a chutney.  I hope to make some of Mr C's favourite marrow pickle later in the year.  If all goes to plan I hope to donate a couple of jars of each type to our Christmas Fayre in late November. 

Monday, 25 August 2014

A sloe day

Its a rainy and surprising dark August Bank Holiday Monday and I've been pottering around the house tidying up after quite a busy weekend.  The house is filled with stocks, one of my very favourite flowers, as it was my birthday last week and between Mr C and my family, I've been entirely spoiled.

We were very lucky with the weather yesterday as we went sloe and blackberry picking.  Although we didn't expect to be picking sloes until next month, it seems a lot of berries are early this year.  We found a blackthorn bush which was heavy laden with berries which were all very ripe.
Sloes are one of those fruits that aren't particularly useful for the usual things like crumbles and pies and eating.  Anyone who has tried eating one will testify that they aren't sweet and pleasant.   However, we plan to make some sloe gin this year and were determined to get some, and luckily my brother in law knew of a great place!  We managed to pick almost ten pounds of sloes in about an hour, leaving a lot of sloes behind still.  I did wonder how many people pick sloes each year?

We have taken our half of the sloes and washed and frozen them.  By freezing them, we will not need to individually prick every single berry when we come to make our sloe gin.

After filling our buckets we also picked about three pounds of blackberries.  If any berry can claim to be the best and most readily available free food, it has to be the blackberry.  Brambles will take over every patch of ground if left alone, including our garden.  The positive to having this painfully prickly, almost invasive plant is the wonderful berries that appear each summer and autumn.
The is something quite magical and beautiful about the blackberry.  It always evokes childhood memories of blackberry picking or of blackberry and apple crumble.  Nature provides so well this time of year.  The hawthorns were also laden with haw berries, although after having made haw sauce before (and the amount of work it takes to de-stone a haw berry!), we decided against picking any.  This beautiful insect was found amongst the hawthorn, it looked as if it was made of copper.
On a rainy day like today it seems that Autumn isn't far off, although I'm sure the weather will change again.  It is a day for staying inside and remembering bank holidays where it rained all day and I watched old films with Cary Grant, Doris Day and James Stewart... 

Friday, 15 August 2014

The sound of silence

We've been rather busy of late and not really doing very much that was interesting to report.  After coming back from our sojourn to the lakes, it has been mostly all about work rather than the lovely things we like doing back here at Hazel Cottage.  We did manage to fit in a visit to see family in Devon and see how happy the pigs and chickens are in their new homes.

It was great to get away even for a weekend, and just spend most of our time outside.   We also managed to collect the first lot of apples....

 We brought a few of them home and some have been made into rosemary jelly last weekend
I also made a few jars of raspberry jam from our home grown raspberries but didn't take a picture.  It was lucky that I didn't eat the raspberry jam straight from the pan as it was so lovely!  The other apples are now sat in our kitchen and larder, waiting for me to make apple crumble or apple jam

The brambles are coming into full fruit here, although they were a little behind in Devon still.

"In August, the large masses of berries, which, when in flower, had attracted many wild bees, gradually assumed their bright velvety crimson hue, and by their weight again bent down and broke their tender limbs."
-  Henry David Thoreau 

Everything in the garden is starting to look as if it has overreached itself and it starting to look tired.  There is very little that is flowering in the garden, which makes me think about how I can change the garden next year.  As soon as I do that, I want it to be autumn and I can start cutting back.  I must remember to listen to Thoreau again:

“Live in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influence of the earth.”