Category Archives: Food ‘n’ drink experiments

Super Sunny Sunday with seeds! #Gdnbloggers

Hold on, this could be a bumper blog. I have lots to share!

Today started off with a seed check in. I was thinking about what seedlings I have, how i might keep rolling with growing season and what I might sow next. It turns out that there were quite a few and at varying stages of development. I would have expected that the chillies would be a further on. However, they have been growing with less light and heat that they might want. The plants have only just been moved to warmer and more light part of the house, so I am hoping that this will go someway to nurturing them a little more. Tomatoes are actually quite fluffy and feathery, and could probably do with being potted on. They are few in number, in comparison to previous years. Last year, there were thirty something plants and we have lots of green tomatoes. Hopefully, these will be enough; but me being me, there will be probably be further plants bought and in a episode of hysteria. Today really was going to be about taking stock, reflecting and remembering to enjoy the allotment.

 

(You can see the youtube version here)

Remembering the allotment, started with a Rhubarb rummage. Okay, so it happened on Mum’s plot, but it was a rather positive experience. Mum inherited quite a bit of rhubarb, and today some of it was harvested.

This looked like fairly heavy duty, industrial strength rhubarb; I am convinced that my hands were zinging with its acidity after I had finished chopping it all up. I am not yet sure as to what I might do with it, and there is a something like eighteen pounds now in the freezer. That could result in a fair bit of crumble, preserves and perhaps a batch of homebrew. That said, there is already some rhubarb wine stashed safely away.

You can also find the youtube video here.

The whole concept of taking stock, also involves reclaiming the plot. This is happening slowly, and I am realising just how much I have missed playing on the plot. This really isn’t going to happen over night. It has, after all, taken me a fair few years to get this far. Again, there are plans. The sort that can be changed, are on a short list and can be done in a manageable way. Having a long list of things to do, just makes it harder to get back into the swing of things. It did help that the sun was shining today! Otherwise, the rather grey and melancholic pathetic fallacy with the weather can rather make it difficult to take a walk down to the plot.

It does look a bit green and leafy yes; there are lots of weeds, patches of grass and patches of bare earth that do rather need to be put to good use. The plot is not exactly a show garden. I wouldn’t want it to be. It is a working document garden; things change and all the time. There are also those amongst us, who might disagree with that I have been doing; if we all had the same opinion, there would be one very stagnant status quo, and no room for innovation.  There is potential for movement and forwards. It might not be immediate or quick, but it will  happen.

I can genuinely say, that I have felt that bit happier and less frazzled in taking stock today and also getting my hands dirty. I have a timely reminder of self care, and how it is important to look after yourself and every part of you. Lately, I have spent alot of time cooped up indoors typing, concentrating on two different school work fronts and not really made-yes, made-the time to play on the plot. Simply going to harvest rhubarb, to take this video has been something of a very bright, very apt reminder that it was time. Even seed sowing took on a therapeutic role today. I felt altogether rejuvenated really, and I haven’t felt like that for a long time. See, Sunday has been school work Sunday and for three quarters of a decade. That had to pause today. I had my work set out, ready and everything; there was even a post it list. Only the plot was what the psyche needed today, it was what the actualizing tendency and organismic self needed.

Person centred theory makes a lot of sense when it comes to the my allotment plot. Go read about Carl Rogers and his potatoes.

His were in a basement, mine happen to be under dirt.

The youtube version  of the video can be found here.

As well as taking stock and reflecting,  lots of seed sowing has been happening today:

The first session involved sowing sweetcorn and some further scarlet emperor. I have previously sown a handful of runner beans as well as some climbing french beans. However, a few of these have rotted away in the modules in being too wet and cold. I always find it a little tricky to get the balance right when it comes to how to much water to use. There are a few survivors though, and for these I am thankful.

(Video on you tube is here)

The second session of seed sowing involved sunflowers and marketmore cucumbers. It has been a while since I have last sown and experimented with cucumbers. So why not have another bash! For now, the polytunnel is out of action, but I would rather have the cucumbers outside anyway. Sunflowers are rather dear to me; again, I haven’t sown them in a while and the last time that I did they all rather keeled over in the cold. The ones sown this year are a single giant variety. In the past, these have been over six foot tall and have a mass of triffid like flower heads. It does feel a little late to be sowing them, but it does all feel like a good chance to do so.

(Video on youtube is here)

Having harvested  fair bit of rhubarb, I then thought about double checking the home brew from last year. Last year, there was a lot of homebrew experimentation and lots of learning experiences had. Most of the experiments have been put into bottles, but there are three demijohns waiting in the wings.  There is the rhubarb, strawberry and currant wine, as well as blackberry wine which is rather recent actually; as well as apple wine, this is taking it’s time clarifying. On the shelf though, we have strawberry wine. This was the first experiment that was ever done; and it does rather taste of cheesecake. Second, there is Blackberry, plum and currant, which is just as claret coloured as the blackberry wine. Thirdly, there is is Rhubarb, currant and gooseberry.  Not quite sure what will happen to them all, and how! I  might have to take stock and see if there are good homes for it all.

 

In other news. Good news; I made a list!

Not the sort that I would be checking twice, but that made by someone else. The lovely people at Waltons have very kindly placed me on their list of adventurous blogs!

You can find the list at https://www.waltons.co.uk/blog/9-more-adventurous-allotment-blogs. It would appear that I am in very good company with a few fellow #gdnbloggers.

It did make me smile, that the blog is more adventurous!   I guess that echoes one of many reasons that the blog exists and also how far it might reach and into the world.

I guess I should continue and with the whole adventurous allotmenteering! If that isn’t a bit of encouragement, I don’t know what is.

 

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.

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.

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.)