Petal’s Preserve goes a bit…boozy #gdnbloggers

There have been a lot preserves made, in terms of jams, jellies and chutneys. I have also had a go at steeping fruit in alcohol to make liqueurs of a kind. This year, I have used fruit from the plot to test out my home brewing kit that was sat unloved for the best part of twelve months. Plus, we have a lot of courgettes, squashes and spinach flying around and this seemed a way of avoiding the gluts.

The recipe that I have used is simple enough-the Sister Sparrow fruit wine recipe-with fruit being placed into a fermenting bucket. Boiled sugar syrup is poured over the top, with yeast, nutrient and enzyme being added when the must is cool. This is left to ferment, before transferring and racking into an air-locked demi-john. Once clarified, the liquid can be re-racked. (This involves transferring from one vessel to another using a siphon and the best quality gravity that you can obtain. It is a two person job, and I tend to borrow a willing parent.) This involves drawing off the  liquid and avoiding the sediment of yeast et cetra at the bottom.

It all started with strawberries, there were quite a lot of them. This first batch was something of a learning experience, having not had a big enough bucket. I may have got a little enthusiastic with this one, and rushed the process. The wine is now bottled-prematurely,  I think-could have done with sitting for a bit and being racked again. It is however, a rather pretty pink, and tastes okay! I’ve wrapped it in brown paper, so that it doesn’t lose the pink colour.

So that was the starting point, and I have to say I was bit enthused as to what I might do next.

Today, I have some time working with two would be wines. The first, was summer wine. The second was apple wine. The summer wine involved rhubarb, left over strawberries as well a hotch pot of red, black and white currants. This was transferred into a demi-john, and will be left to clarify. This is the second rhubarb wine; a previous version involves the combination of Rhubarb and redcurrant, minus the strawberries. I have to admit, that when it is was in the Demi-John, it looked a lot like I had blitzed a plastic ‘My Little Pony’. (Please don’t do this, you do not wish to be in trouble; that is a figurative statement). That is two. Three, three involves blackberries. As a teenager, I read ‘Blackberry wine’ by Joanne Harris, so this was actually the thought in my head. If wine could talk! The batch made actually involves more than blackberries, there are plums and even more currants in there. The currants were rather rocking it this year! At some point, I will try and make some pure blackberry wine, rather than have additional ingredients.

Apple wine is a little different compared to my previous home brew experiments. I had quite a bit of apples stashed in the freezer as well as some freshly harvested ones. These were cored, peeled and sliced, combined and stewed down to a puree of a sort. Once this has cooled, the magic ingredients will  be added so that it can all ferment for a bit.

Think that actually brings the tally up to five different batches. With blackberry wine being considered, the aim of these is to practice. On the plot, there are three grapevines. These are boskoop glory and Madeline Sylvaner. Whilst these are dessert varieties, I believe these can be used to make home made wine. This is basically why I have grape vines!  Many of the experiments need to stay stashed for a while, they will need to mature and build their flavour. As nice as the strawberry wine was to sample, it will be cloistered away for a while.

S’not all roses and butterflies #gdnbloggers

gladsroses

Looks quite pretty, doesn’t it?

A staggering great big bouquet of roses and glads, all grown on the plot; do not be fooled by the roses though. They were really quite thorny and somewhat vicious as they were cut. I have the scratches to prove it!

As aggressive as the stems were, the bouquet is simple reminder of the successes that can be had in having an allotment plot.

Thing is, this year, the season doesn’t feel as much of a bumper success as it might have been. It feels rather different compared to the previous seasons, and I’m not quite sure of what to make of it.

As we broach the end of August, I will have been dabbling in GYO seven years exactly. I have had an allotment plot for a little less. Something has seriously dented my allotmenteering and GYO-ing mojo.

In the first instance, the plot is not as productive as it has been previously. I think half of it, is exactly where I want it. I know, more or less, everything that is going on and how. The rest is something of an overwhelming wilderness where it does feel as though I have quite literally lost the plot. Mum’s plot on the other hand, is heaving and we are now officially sick of marrows and courgettes.

I’ve yet to get any marrows or squashes; the slugs and snails are chopping through what plants remain. There were strawberries, all now done and dusted having gone into wine. Currants were harvested, and they too have gone in home brew. Tomatoes are actually doing well; these are trussed up regularly, and one batch of green tomato chutney has already been made. In the poly tunnel, the chillies are on something of a go slow. Potatoes need digging up, though we have had small batches as and when required.

So what is it, that makes it all feel a bit, well, meh?

I have yet to break from work for a summer holiday; my summer holiday is delayed until the middle of September. Over the last ten weeks, work has been busy and there has been less opportunity to go play on the plot. With the plot being behind where it should be, that’s a double whammy.

I do have some time in the coming weeks re-commune with plot; that’s basically where I go wander, survey and try to formulate a plan as autumn and winter draw in. I can only describe the sensation as having lost a football match where you have been subjected to something of a goal rout. There is a serious loss of spark.

On a positive note though, it will be a year this week that I self published ‘Playing with Plant Pots: tales from the allotment’. I am as proud of it now, as I was a year ago; there was also the second book as well. I am taking both of those as a reminder that being on the plot can be positive, it is a learning experience and I enjoy it. There is a third book-not gardening and also fiction-that is in progress. Part of me is twitching, thinking, about writing another gardening book. I have the cover in mind! I just don’t know what I might put into it.

This could just be a duff year, or the figurative seven year itch. I really cannot tell you.

Let’s hope the meh lifts.

 

Beetroot experiment: Bit of a pickle

Not my experiment, but my mum’s. She fancied pickling some beetroot.

The youtube link is here.

The recipe is fairly simple. A clutch of beetroot were boiled in salted water. The time given is between 25 minutes and 2 hours depending on size. The skin was then peeled away, before the beetroot were sliced and put into a jar with red wine vinegar.

Shall see how they go!

 

Chole: That’s chickpeas, to me and you

What with all of the plot produce going into Mum’s Kitchen, and it largely being Indian recipes that are being made; I could actually share them with you. There is a plethora-or a raft, if you want synonyms-of Indian recipe books, chefs, and even youtube channels dedicated to Indian cuisine. Some of which, is wonderfully simple; others are wonderfully complicated and demand you have a huge, great big supermarket sized pantry. I say pantry, as larders don’t translate into punjabi. I don’t believe in making things complicated, and I do like to share the things that are successes.(That’s also a mental note to actually share the stuff that gets made.)

Anyway, looking at the stash of squashes that Mum harvested today, I thought hmm, well, I’ll make chickpeas. I didn’t fancy battling the squashes. Not today.

You can find the youtube link here. (Well, yes, there is a channel)

What is in that pot?

  • Onions-two large ones from the plot
  • Garlic-from the plot
  • Coriander-from the plot
  • Ginger
  • tumeric
  • Chopped tomatoes from a tin, and a handful of ripened plot tomatoes
  • ground down habanero paste
  • cayenne chilli powder
  • turmeric
  • garam masala
  • salt
  • water
  • Chickpeas

The process then:

  1. The onions were blitzed in the food processor, with garlic and ginger being chopped.
  2. In a pan, olive oil and butter were warmed and cumin seeds added to them.
  3. Onions, garlic and ginger were then added and caramalised.
  4. With the onions, garlic and ginger golden, a tin of chopped tomatoes and some ripened plot tomatoes were added.
  5. To this, we then add spices. Garam masala, salt, chilli and turmeric. I also added some finely chopped coriander that came from the plot. It didn’t come chopped, no, Mum did that.
  6. This mixture was the cooked through, there is a visible colour change. If the tomatoes are really red, and the onion mixture already a deep caramel, this really will look quite vibrant.
  7. Next, chickpeas were put in and stirred through the mixture so as to coat them.
  8. Once coated and allowed to imbue with the mixture, water was added to make a gravy.

The point of this was to not only show a simple recipe, but also indicate how plot produce might be used. Might even do it again in the future!

Strawberry wine and beyond #gdnbloggers

From the last post, you will have seen that there was an experiment on the go with strawberries. It is time now to move the experiment on.

The youtube version can be seen here.

 

Having left the fruit to ferment for three days, the must  is suitably calm and ready to be transferred into the demi-john. It was a slow but steady process to strain the must through the scalded muslin, as I was doing it pint by by pint and there were five litres in the bucket. As you can see, this has nicely filled the glass demi-john. For now, I am using the demi john and will most likely be transferring and racking into five litre water bottles fitted with a grommet. I know that  second had glass demi -johns are available, and this is something that I might look into should the experiments work. The plan is to now leave the demi john alone, for about three months. I will need to keep any eye on the bubbles.

There is still a lot of fruit to use, and the next experiment is going to involve rhubarb and red currants. These are sat on the side defrosting.

Beyond this experiment, there is the small matter of the plot grapes.

There are three vines on the plot, red and white. These are boskoop glory and madeline sylvaner, which are dessert varieties. These can be used to make wine, the second hand wine making book suggests that acid is added to them, if these are the only ones available. I am not aware of any of the plot neighbours having vines, and there was a crop last year. So the plan-I think this has always been the plan really-is to wait til October when the now baby grapes have ripened to harvest and to try and make some wine out of them. Other than making vinegar, my other concerns in the volume grapes required. The recipes all require a significant amount of grapes, at least 13-14 lbs of fruit. Right now, the wine being produced is using 4 lbs of fruit, so that is a significant difference and depends on the vines producing enough. That, or the quantity will have to be scaled down.

At least now, there is a big enough fermenting bucket.

Blenheim Rose Garden #gdnbloggers

bleheimrosegarden.JPG

The day after the hottest day of the year, and it was the second hottest day of the year.

And I got to see Blenheim Palace Rose Garden again having had a rather nice, traditional Afternoon tea. (Was the orangery, and not the Indian room, but still lovely).

I’ve not been to many rose gardens and I am sure that there are quiet a few. This was however the first one that I ever got to see, and it’s never lost it’s charm. I couldn’t tell you all of the rose varieties exactly, there are so many in the circular garden. This was my third visit, and I got see the roses in full bloom.

If ever, you wanted to propose to someone, do it here!

Blenheim is amazing anyway, it had me at the history; so the rose garden is a wonderful bonus. There is also the Capability Brown landscaping and lake to add to the whole adventure. On the side of the lake,  near the victory column, is an abandoned secret garden which is a hidden gem and worth trekking out and rummaging for. Just avoid the sheep on the way, and you’ll be fine.

bleheimme

Yes, I burned my shoulders (Yes, Bollywoods do actually burn and I am rather pasty). I missed a bit when slapping on the factor 50. It is the factor fifty that is ironically sat on the shelf post re-application. The adventuring hat-if it’s good enough for Indiana Jones-did it’s job, and the sunglasses are always mandatory in the rare, but very bright sunshine.

Plot experiments abound! #gdnbloggers

Since I have yet to play with the preserving pan and make jam, jellies and chutneys, I have been looking for experiments do. It doesn’t help that I have a lower than expected courgette threshold.

This week, I have considered two things.

  1. ooh, dehydrator; could do home made chilli powder
  2. And hold on, you have a home brew kit that you have yet to christen.

But first, let’s look at what is actually working on the plot.

Plot tomatoes are sprawling, having absorbed a fair bit of sunshine and have sent out lots of yellow flowers. It is quite easy then to spot the red smudge of tomatoes as they turn red beneath the foliage. I somewhat revel in the going red, as with previous experience I have had to ripen tomatoes at home. The raspberries are a combination of polka, a well established set of canes and newly planted ones. Above, you will see that the trug is rather full. Contained in that trug was coriander and fenugreek from Mum’s half plot and my mint. I still have mint to harvest actually, it really is very productive.

And at last! The plot glads are coming through. It does feel a little delayed in happening, but I have spotted two of the blooms breaking up the green tomato foliage. I do rather like the purple ones. Though somewhere on the plot are black ones, and I’ve never seen those in bloom before.

Now, I said something about experiments.

The experiments are two fold. In the first instance, I decided to find  dehydrator. Primarily as I fancied dehydrating chillies for chilli powder. However, we also have lots of mint and fenugreek. These were the first things to go in, as well as some garlic, red habaneros and also some mango. Garlic, didn’t go so well; perhaps I should have sliced it a little thinner. Ir’s still usable, just very very dry. Red Habaneros, had me sneezing and took over a day to dehydrate. These were shop bought though, from a local Indian supermarket and were effectively a pilot study should I actually get a few chillies from the poly tunnel. The mango was also shop bought, and was a collection of under ripe fruit that I wanted to make mango powder. I use mango powder for chutneys, it has further uses in Indian Cuisine. Again, an experiment; as it took two dozen mangoes to get 100g powder. I shall be reflecting further on the merits of garlic and mango dehydration. What did work well, and took hardly any time at all, was the drying of the herbs. I was rather pleasantly surprised by how green the powdered fenugreek was.

Then there is the second experiment. The rather boozy one.

First thing first, I have parental consent (There are people who will huff and puff at this, I assure you; as an activity that a bollywood young lady ought not to do. So let’s make clear, that :: blows raspberries::  Beyond that, not my roof, there are still agreed understandings). I am old enough-yes, I am-to imbibe it, and I’m not distilling anything. Look, there are far worse hobbies, and with less palatable outcomes. With the parental consent, comes the first refusal of quality control and production management.

(I had actually decanted a year old steeping of Cherry brandy actually, as Pop’s wondered where my experiments had gone from the pantry; so it’s not as though the experiments have noses turned up at them. Was a case of “Punam, you had bottles of gooseberry gin, where did they go?” You’ll have to imagine it being said in Punjanbi).

strawberryferment
Fermenting strawberries

As you may already be aware, I dislike strawberries. However, the strawberry God was kind this year and blessed us with with pounds of the things. All frozen, they were waiting for their fate to be decided. With the preserving mojo a little off kilter, I wasn’t too sure about what to do with them. Then I remembered that I had a brewing kit, yet to be christened, and a second hand wine making book. Not to mention, some rather lovely Grape Family members who are rather experienced home brewers. (My immense and heartfelt thanks to these lovelies who have been so supportive in getting my experiments of the ground.)

It just had to be done really.

Fruit was defrosted and the kit actioned. There was a bit of drama this morning, as it became apparent that we were having a ‘Jaws’ moment.

We needed a bigger bucket.

Over night, as expected there was fermentation; happens when you add yeast, sugar and water. I awoke to the smell of fruity boozy-ness, and found myself fighting strawberries off with a plastic spoon. All in an attempt to not make a mess of the carpet in the garage.

Needless to say, we have found a bigger bucket. There is just over five litres of liquid in there. A demijohn is at the ready, to decant the must in the next few days. This is my first foray in proper home brewing, so you can imagine the nervousness, and the first of a list. But first, let’s get this one done.

Experiments. Always the best way to learn.

(Sat here, it is impossible to avoid the waft of fermenting strawberries.)

Chillies and Cherries #gdnbloggers @Victoriana_NG

I very nearly forgot! Whilst I have picked one purple haze already, I have also grappled with a jalapeno and a couple of hungarian hot wax. They are both unripe, they both could go red on the plant. However, I have removed them so that other fruit get something of a chance to develop. The are both varieties that have a kick anyway, so i’m taking my chances with them as they are.

Then there are the cherries, morello to be precise. I have managed to grow cherries!! And in Birmingham! That might sound reasonable to you, but I didn’t expect the tree to crop having only been in situ less than a year. Alas, we had a handful of cherries. And my, how nice they did taste!  I simply cannot be detailed enough. This small harvest, I think we had one each, tasted so superior to shop bought ones.

I thoroughly recommend this variety, and just growing cherries anyway. The tree in question, a bought two-one morello and sylvia-was from Victoriana Nursery.

Chillies and cherries, both a success.

 

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