Its been a busy few weeks, I planted the majority of my seed last weekend and have them in the freshly cleaned greenhouse under panes of glass to encourage them to grow quickly, as its still quite chilly outside and they need all the heat they can get. It took a surprising amount of time to do this and used up a fair amount of potting compost but its great to get a head start on the planting. Last year, I started all of my seeds off in May which was much too late for most of the crops so I’m hopefully for much earlier and more productive crops this year. I am only going to water once as a week as I don’t want to encourage mold to grow in the greenhouse and that should be enough for now for the seeds.
So far, I’ve planted in trays:
Broccoli – Hybrid variety
Cucumber x 2 – Marketmore
Cherry Tomato – Cerise
Courgette – Black Beauty
Onion – Rinjunsburger
Sweet Pepper – Californian Wonder
All Round Lettuce
Turnip – Golden Ball
Aubergine – Listada de Gandia
Pumpkin – Ordinary Variety
Pumpkin – Hundred weight
I also planted a set of Onions -Stuttgartere Riesan Variety straight into the ground.I have some more seeds that I’m going to plant straight into beds but its been raining the last few days so it will have to wait until the next dry day.
We have drank the last of my Sloe Wine and Sloe Liqueur which went down a treat, so I was left with two pounds of sloes that had been soaked in wine [these were rather red and swollen in appearance but very soft] while I had about a pound of sloes that had been soaked in vodka which were now very hard and black and wizened in appearance curiously enough.
1 Pound of Sloes
1 Pound of cooking apples
2 Pounds of white Sugar
Enough water to cover the fruit
I boiled up the sloes and the apples after first washing the apples and then simmered the fruit for about ¾ hours until it was totally soft.
I then sieved and strained the fruit using a muslin cloth [as you don’t want the hard stones of the sloes in your jam] and put the mixture back into the pot and boiled it up again then.
When it was boiling nicely, I slowly stirred in the sugar and kept stirring until all the sugar was dissolved and let it boil for about 15/20 minutes.
I then did the cold saucer test to see if my jam was setting, where by I place a saucer in the freezer for three minutes or so then put a spoon of the hot jam onto the saucer and see if it slides off when moved and if it sticks to the plate, the jam is done!
Have enough jam jars cleaned and sterilized [which you can done by placing in a warm, not hot, oven for a few minutes]. Carefully pour into the jars, then quickly seal with waxed covers and then place your jam pot covers on top with a elastic band or a ribbon if you are giving them as a gift. When they are cold, don’t forget to label them with the name and date they were bottled.
I ended up making half a dozen small pots of Sloeberry Jam, which was a pleasant dark red colour and tasted bitter sweet, quite plain but tasty!
I then made half a dozen large pots of :
2 Pounds of Sloeberries
1 pound of cooking Apples
3 Pounds of Sugar
A cup of Rowan Berries
A cup of Blackberries
A cup of Elderberries
A little water
I placed the sloeberries, Rowan berries and apples in the pot with enough water to cover the fruit and boiled for ¾ hours until soft.
I then sieved and strained using a muslin cloth [this is particularly important as Rowan seeds are toxic if ingested but the fruit has antibiotic properties].
I placed the washed Elderberries and Blackberries into the pot and boiled up until it was time to stir in the sugar.
I then boiled up the jam for another fifteen/twenty minutes, did the cold saucer test to check if it was setting and then bottled my jam.
This jam was the most glorious luminous purple/red colour which seemed to glow in the morning light and tasted quite spectacular.
I made ten large pots of Blood Orange and Pineapple Marmalade on Monday which was fun and surprisingly easy to make. I had distilled off the last of my Pineapple liqueur that I made last September and had a pound of brandy soaked pineapple left over. To make this marmalade, you need:
1 pound of pineapple
1 pound of blood oranges
2 Lemons [don’t use the rind]
2 and a half Pounds of sugar
I chopped everything up apart and boiled up the mix with enough water again to cover the fruit and after a hour, when the fruit was soft, I added the sugar and boiled for 20 – 30 minutes. I did the set test and then bottled as before.
This made a lovely bright golden marmalade, medium cut, but quite subtle in taste next time, I will try using the famous Seville Oranges which have a stronger flavour.
I will leave you with a short favourite poem of mine:
Mary to Martha
You haunted the hot kitchen
Through the summer’s warmest days,
Preserving fruits and berries
In a dozen novel ways.
Your task was very tiresome,
But you couldn’t let things spoil;
And now these bright, sweet – laden jars
Repay you for your toil.
I wandered up the hillsides,
Arm in arm with some slim breeze,
Or lay and heard the woodthrush
Pay his tribute to old trees.
I watched the flowers’ shadows
Weaving patterns, cool and kind,
And these and more things lovely
Are preserved now in my mind.
When winter days are frosty,
You will have this peach preserve,
And I’ll have dreams, like petals,
Falling in a swift, white curve.
And you will serve me peaches
With iced cakes at suppertime,
While, of the petal memories,
I’ll make for you a rhyme.
Violet Alleyn Storey