Monday, 28 September 2009

Malvern Autumn Show

Our twice yearly pilgrimage to Malvern show was this weekend.
The show was great. My favourite was, as always, the giant vegetables. Although these weren’t as big as last year they are still impressive and all the other vegetables categories were also impressive- I think I’ll have to look into trying to enter next something next year!
As for buying things I was very well behaved and only brought four different sorts of garlic which I will be putting in the ground as soon as I manage to get home in the light. I also brought some multiplier shallots (not sure if they are perennial or annular as the man selling them was a little confusing) which you’re supposed to pick little shallots off as it grows.

Sunday, 27 September 2009

Damson Vodka

With the leftover damsons (the ones that couldn’t fit in the saucepan!) I’ve decided to make a vodka liqueur. I half filled a kilner jar with damsons then added 3oz of caster sugar.
Then I filled the jar to the top with a litre of vodka, sealed it, shook it and I’ll now leave it in a dark cupboard for as long as I can bare to wait (shaking it when I remember to help it mix).

Damson Jam

Last weekend we made some damson jam.
I managed to leave work early for the first time in ages so I drove over to mum and dad’s farm to pick some fruit.
As well as picking up a massive bag of russet apples I also managed to come back with two huge bags of damsons. I love eating these raw but one of my favourite childhood memories is eating rich damson jam (that’s as solid as rock) on hot cross buns, so I thought it was about time I dug out the old recipe book and made some.

I could get just about 2.5Kg of fruit in two saucepans and stewed it down, before I read in the instructions that I’m to try and remove as many pips as possible. This turned out to be a massive task and I think I spent the best part of an hour using every appliance in the kitchen to try to find an easy way of removing them, in the end I used a potato masher to try and push the flesh through a colander and picked out any pips that may have escaped (I'm still putting a disclaimer on the jar though!).

I then weighed the mixture again and added an equal quantity of sugar and boiled it until setting point was reached (where it wrinkles when placed on a cold plate and you push your finger through it).I had some jars warming in the oven and a plastic funnel (can believe I don’t normally use a funnel!) to help get as much as possible in the jar.
In the end we made 11½ jars and if I do say so myself it tastes pretty good!

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Red Mite Hell

Well the red mites on the chickens just dont seem to go away.
All through the summer I've been having trouble keeping these vampire bugs under control and no matter how many times I clean out the house, put powder down and dust the chickens, they keep coming back. I do seem to be on top of them a bit more now, the chickens are looking healthy besides all the trouble and they're laying really well - We've started to sell a few again which is nice.

Other than that its been a lovely weekend, I didnt have to work saturday so managed to do a few jobs round the house and in the garden and had my brother round for a BBQ. Afterwards we watched the channel 4 series "Alone in the Wild" which is amazing and it's started me off looking at doing more survial courses in the future.

Sunday, 13 September 2009

Trimming my Bush

I had to work this weekend which kind of knackered my plans about going to the Ludlow food festival but we did manage to get there just before it closed, then stayed out in the pubs around town with some friends. It was also my little sisters last weekend before she goes off to uni in the big bad city.
Coming back home I forgot to borrow mums hedge trimmer again (for the 10th time) so I decided that I should invest in one. Its not great but its done a good job and it'll be alright for what I want to do with it (no good for my tree surgeon brother) and the garden looks so much tidier for it.
The super yeast keeps bubbling away and when we're sat having dinner in the dinning room we can hear it pop pop popping away. I think this will be a good gift to take with me when I go and visit my sister at Manchester uni.
The garden seems to be doing alright despite the neglect its had the last couple of months, I've just got far too many tomatoes to use up. I think tomato soup is on the cards for one night in the week...

Monday, 7 September 2009

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No its super yeast!

Started my super yeast kit yesterday to make 20% alcohol. The kit is fairly straight forward although it says to fit an airlock straight away and when I've done this in the the past its always bubbled over. It hasn't yet but I've put a tray under it just in case.

I also brought a set of "Kilner" type bottles to store it in as it's only meant to take three weeks to brew and its not really the type of thing where you drink a bottle in one sitting! They also look pretty cool and I thought I could flavour each bottle differently, so far my ideas have ranged from herbs like mint and rosemary to herbal tablets and Vimto! any ideas will be greatly received.
Work today wasn't the usual inner city mess that I normally have. Instead of going to the centre of Birmingham I got sent to a warehouse in deepest Dudley to move the bathroom pods for the project I a foreman on. I sent the one wagon off and another one just didn't turn up!

We got bored of waiting and saw that there was a canal and decide to go for a walk. Turns out there is a massive nature reserve right by where we were, in the end we walked for well over an hour and picked a massive bag of blackberries (after Steve had worked with me all last week he had decided that jam making sounded like good fun - I start to rub off on people!).
Also managed to get home before 7.30 so picked some runner beans (this is a big achievement for me as so far they've produced none and none last year) and also picked off about 200 caterpillars from my brassicas!

Sunday, 6 September 2009

Marrow rum - part two

I'm on a real buzz for making wine again at the moment.

Went over to my best friend in Shrewsbury on Saturday night and had a mad lock in, as he's the landlord, till four in the morning drinking all sorts of weird drinks, the one with peppers in I will never drink again! So its got me keen to get all my wine going again as they can be great fun to drink, strong and a talking point as people don't realise how easy it is to do.

Also went to Mum and Dads this weekend (the miles I do is unreal) and had a good tidy up of all my old brewing and wine making gear and cleaned some up ready to make some more in the next few months. I've got about 6 gallons of wine ready to be bottled up now - plum, strawberry, elderberry, crab apple and damson.
The made up marrow rum seems to be working. Its started to drip into the bowl and gone soft so today I made a slit in the bottom and drained it into a demijohn. I'll leave it until the morning before I'll fit an airlock on it.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Marrow Rum

Managed to get away from work an hour early so it let me cook tea and do a few other little jobs.

For tea I made a tomato and basil sauce with pasta, nearly everything was out of the garden except the pasta - haven't found a plant for that yet.

Whilst that was cooking I've also managed to dig out my food dryer and started to dry some sage leaves for making my own dried mixed herbs to use over winter.

And then the fun bit! Haven't made any wine or alcohol in ages and I've decided its time I start again. Tonight we began making marrow rum.

First we hollowed out the marrow (well its an over grown courgette but I'm not telling anyone!)
Then packed it with brown sugar

Before pouring over it some bakers yeast we had activated a couple of hours earlier (with a little lemon juice to help things along).

We then taped it back up,
Before hanging it in a pair of tights in the airing cupboard (something mum would never let me do! hope it doesn't make our towels smell!) with a bowl under it to catch the drips. I will keep you posted on the next stages of development.

Quite keen to make some more wine soon, so keen I went online last night and brought some "super" yeast that can make wine up to 23% - should be fun for parties!