Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Gooseberry Jam

One of the miracles of cookery is how green gooseberries make a ruby coloured jam.  Here is my recipe:
1. You need equal sugar to fruit, try to have a mixture of ripe and underripe fruit. Wash it, no need to top and tail the fruit unless you're a masochist!
2. Put the fruit in a large pan with about a centimetre of water, heat gently until the fruit has softened and fallen apart. Help it by stirring from time to time.
3. When the fruit is soft and largely disintegrated, add the sugar and stir until dissolved.
4. Turn up the heat and bring to the boil. As it boils, it will create scum on the surface which you should skim off. At this stage it will still be green.
5. After around 10 mins, there will be less scum.  It should start turning pinkish, if it does not do this it isn't hot enough, so turn up the heat. It may froth quite a bit, just make sure it isn't so hot it is catching on the pan bottom but otherwise do not stir.
6. It will turn a bit more pink and the sound of the boil will change as it thickens. Test it by dropping a little jam on a plate, leave it a few seconds to cool and then push it across the plate with a finger, if it wrinkles it is ready. Turn off the heat and put into pre warmed jars.

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Picking fruit in the rain

The appalling cold and wet weather encourages slugs and snails so I went out picking in the RAIN today.  I must be insane.  Still, I did get a small haul of loganberries, strawberries and broad beans.

The loganberries are doing well and putting out long shoots for next year so this winter I must make a permanent framework for them.

Monday, 27 July 2015

Soft Fruit Glut!

So many strawberries I am having to be creative!  Made some redcurrant and strawberry jam, but now am having to stuff excess fruit into the freezer as there is a limit on how much we can eat. Today's haul is blackcurrants, which are very good this year - large and juicy. They are also on long stalks which doesn't always happen. I think this may be because of the scarcity of late frosts which tend to destroy fruit. While the spring was very cold it was largely above freezing. Lots more fruit to come!

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Late bloomer

This is my New Dawn rose, flowering a full month later than in 2014! The cold summer is set to last for the duration, with temps in the mid teens Celsius. The coldest summer I can remember.

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Mid July Doings

 With the plants all in and growing, it's time to do other things.  This area used to be a herb bed, but got overgrown and suffered from an invasion of mint.  I have been digging mint out of here for the last 12 months and have almost won the battle though I will have to remain vigilant.  Tip: never, ever let mint escape from a pot!  My plan here is to extend the rhubarb bed by splitting the plants you can just see at the top.
 The ground here slopes and soil washes downhill.  So I need to build a small retaining wall at the lower edge to retain it.  I dug out a small trench for some foundation bricks.  I found these years ago near where I live in an old stable, now demolished.  On top of these I put some concrete lumps and a few bits of breeze block, and then finished it off with stone pieces, again from the village and most likely bits of demolished toilets!
 The wall looks a little bit messy but it is actually quite sturdy, I took a lot of care fitting stone pieces together, in a drystone wall style.  Soil will gradually fill in some of the gaps and consolidate it.  I'll let the ground settle a bit, then weed it again and cover it with compost and manure to improve the soil.
 Next problem - weed and brambles smothering my apple trees.  I chopped the brambles right back, I have kept some in an area to the right where they don't get in the way as I really like blackberries but they are invasive and have to be controlled.  I also discovered a young ash tree that must have been there a year or two but I hadn't spotted.
 I can actually see the apple trees again.  I took the opportunity to thin the apples, removing excess and weak fruit.  The June drop actually happened in July this year given the late spring, but the youngest tree in particular needed thinning due to the weight.
 First redcurrants are picked, the start of the busy soft fruit season for me. Blackcurrants next. 
Lots of strawberries, and an opportunity for strawberry and redcurrant jam!

Sunday, 5 July 2015

Roses and Late Vegetables

 Despite the long, cold spring, flowers are finally blooming.  This is purple toadflax, it's a wildflower which made its way into my pot plants a few years ago.  Rather spectacular for a wildflower, I let a few seedlings through each year to provide these showy flower spikes.
 The roses has finally started.  This is the old bush rose outside which is having a spectacular year.  It has benefitted from the removal of a very large tree nearby for construction of a temporary bridge you can just see in the background, to facilitate repair of the old bridge.  It has more water, light and air now and clearly appreciates it.
 My New Dawn rose is finally flowering, a full 2 weeks later than last year.
 And the peony is also contributing.
 2015 has been the year of the polytunnel/cloche.  This was the picture a little over a week ago, with cool days and colder nights I have kept plants under here far later than normal.  All the vegetables are late this year.
 I would normally have started harvesting these Desiree potatoes by now, but they're not ready yet.
 The Salad Bowl lettuce has come good just as the warm weather arrives, so that was good timing.
 The beetroot is doing well in a rather dry bed under a tree.  There is a fine balance here - it appreciates the dryness but if it is dry too long I do have to water.  But we look to be getting a good crop here, with the second sowing doing well.
 Lots of strawberries but again a couple of weeks late.
 Broad beans are coming on but also late, I saw a field of these nearby which are also in the same state, so even commercial farmers have struggled this year.
The peas are now doing well but the second sowing are practically the same size as the first sowing, so planting early seems to have been pointless!