What can be better than a homemade Christmas present? So the chutney is so lemony it makes your ears squeak. The elixir is overly potent and my friend swears she will kill me if I give her husband any more feathers but I know the recipients of these gifts will enjoy a little of the countryside being bought into their homes during this season of confinement, especially when the gifts are wrapped in my potato printed homemade wrapping paper.
potato printed wrapping paper
Hurrah, Kirstie Allsopp, see my festive delights and weep.
There’s no question about it, autumn is in the air. The starlings are gathering, the blackberry’s are ripening, the nights are drawing in. Free food is dripping from every hedgerow and who am I to ignore my instinctual need to gather this harvest before winter sets in? This week I found a recipe to deal with the mass of lavender that sprouts all over my front garden.
You will need
- 20 lavender flowers, chopped
- 2 tablespoons of mustard seeds
- 3 lemons scrubbed and chopped into small pieces
- 2 onions, finely chopped
- 2 oz sultanas
- 1 cinnamon stick
- pinch ground allspice
- sugar to taste
- white wine vinegar
chop the lemon peel and flesh into small pieces removing the pips and pith. Place in a mixing bowl and sprinkle with salt. cover the lemons with vinegar and leave for 24 hours. Next day place the mixture in a pan and add the rest of the ingredient. Bring to the boil then reduce the heat and simmer. The mixture is ready when you can run a wooden spoon down the centre as it does not fill up with vinegar. Remove the cinnamon stick and pour into warm jars. Seal tightly.
This is a spicy and unusual chutney which goes well with meat and cheese.
Not normally a fan of pictures of people’s lunches but couldn’t resist showing you this photo of my foraged and bagged lunch. Sea beet and eggs courtesy of one of my marshland farmers.
This spicy jelly is best made after frost has allowed the apples to blett. It is well worth the effort and would go well with cold meat, cheese or on toast. It is the perfect taste for Christmas.
Medlars are brown, hard fruits which are native to England and can sometimes be found growing wild in hedgerows. I picked mine from the apple orchard at Othona in Essex and left them in my cellar for a few weeks to blett. This is a process where they become soft and brown. The frost seems to have the same effect and we have experienced that even in Kent this year. Once bletted the fruit looks rotten but don’t despair this is when it is at its best.
You will need
3 pints of water
1 large lemon
sugar (as per instructions below)
Wash and chop the medlars and put into a large saucepan with enough water to cover them. Simmer slowly until you are left with a brown pulp. Strain the pulp through a scalded jelly bag or pair of tights. I found the juice did not run easily so gave it lots of squeezing. Measure the juice and weigh out 12oz sugar for every pint.
Put the sugar in a bowl and place this in a cool over until warm and dry. Add the lemon juice to the pan of juice and bring to the boil. Stir in the warm sugar and stir without boiling until it has all dissolved. Increase the heat and boil the liquid rapidly until the setting point has been reached. (about 25 minutes) Skim off the scum and pour into warm sterilised jars.
Here in England the clocks have gone back, the nights are drawing in and Autumn is upon us. It is time to gather in the remaining fruit from the hedgerows and prepare for the season of colds and sore throats and what better health tonic do you need than Rosehip syrup. One rosehip contains 30 times the vitamin c of an orange, so I am fond of quoting on guided walks. Just think what a whole spoonful of this stuff can do.
2 litres of water (plus another litre for a second boil)
450g granulated white sugar.
Prep the rosehips by removing the stalk, cutting them into two and removing most of the seeds and small hairs. Do this with a knife and try not to touch the hairs too much, there is a reason that small children of yesteryear used the hairs as itching powder.
Chop the rosehips up a bit smaller and then throw them in a pan with the 2litres of boiling water.
Bring the water back to the boil and then take of the heat and let it steep for 15 minutes
Pour the juice into a jelly bag or some old tights and let the juice drip through.
Put the mush back into the pan with another litre of water and go through the process again to extract more goodness.
Pour the juice into a pan and reduce until you have about 1 litre left.
Once the juice has reduced, add the sugar and stir until it dissolves.
Bottle in sterilised warm jars.
It can also be frozen for later in the winter.
tasty plum jam with cherry beer brewing in the background
It’s harvest time and the hedgerows are bursting with so much fruit that I can’t keep up. Kent is blessed with many old orchards, some now abandoned or turned into community orchards where the fruit is available for anyone to pick. I scurried away from Iwade yesterday with a bag of Victoria plums with which to make this great recipe.
- 1/8 kg or 41b of plums halved and stoned
- 375 ml or 13flo oz of red wine
- mulled wine spices – I used cinnamon, cloves and cardomen
- orange zest
- 1.8kg or 4 1b granulated sugar (but play with this it always seems too much to me)
Follow these instructions
Put the plums and wine in a large pan
tie the spices and orange zest into some muslin (or a old pair of tights)
Bring to the boil and simmer for about 15minutes until the plum skins are soft
remove the spice and add the sugar
boil rapidly for 10 minutes ( I gave mine a stir to stop it sticking to the pan)
test for a set (stick a dollop on a cold saucer and see if it wrinkles)
remove any scum from the top
pour the jam into warm sterilised jars and then seal
It can be stored for a year but once open put in the refrigerator and eat within 3-4 weeks
Beer made from stinging nettles might not sound the most palatable beverage but, try it, and you will be harvesting this handy plant every spring.
- 100 nettles (young or nettle tips are best)
- 12 litres of water
- 1.5 kg sugar
- 50g cream of tartar
- 15 g yeast
Boil the nettles with 12 litres of water for 15 minutes (in batches if you don’t have a big enough pot). Strain and add the sugar and cream of tartar. Heat and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Wait until tepid and then add the yeast. Stir well, cover and leave for a few days, otherwise it can have too much fizz. Bottle and cork.
Like all home brewing nettle beer is a bit hit and miss. I have made some excellent supplies with a heady alcohol content and have also made some dud batches which were stinky enough to clear a cinema when opened surreptitiously during a Harry Potter film (the closest thing to a potion I had). Just be careful when you uncork, they can go off with quite a bang!