all hands on deck

It is that time of year when it’s all hands on deck to pick, pickle, jelly, jam, syrup, or preserve in some other way.

There is so much free food out in the hedgerows and indeed your garden, and I don’t mean the vegetable patch.  In the past I have been overwhelmed, unable to do everything and then become exhausted and slightly resentful that I missed out on something.

There is nothing different this year.  In fact I should be more busy as I am taking my turn to chair The Durham Shopping Extravaganza, I am President of our village WI and this is the first full year that Liz and I have been running Messy Church.  But I’m much more in control.  I think I may have Mother Nature on my side.  The late spring and summer has meant that the harvests are just a little bit later and sit nicely in the school holidays.  Furthermore as I am not going back to work in September I don’t have to panic to get everything in before term starts.

Today I picked the rosehips.  Our front garden (actually probably the side garden, but it’s a bit hard to explain) is surrounded by rugosa and dog roses.  And the rosehips are looking splendid.  I stuck to the rugosa today

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and boiled them up for rosehip jelly.

 

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As they are notoriously low in pectin I boiled up some bramleys which have conveniently ripened at the same time.

 

 

Now they just have to drip away overnight and jelly making tomorrow.

We never really use the rosehip syrup all that much so I may pass on that this year, although I will dry some and whizz them up to make rosehip tea.

Back to my old favourite lavender.  I was going to make plum cobbler last night (not my plums, they are still green, but British ones nonetheless) but nobody was in the mood for something quite so heavy.  Poached plums were requested for tonight and we thought we would experiment with serving them with lavender syrup.

They dehydrator is working overtime (currently filled with past their sell by date raspberries) but I managed to squeeze in a tray of lavender and as I type it is seeping away in sugar syrup.

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I’ll let you know whether poached pears and lavender are divine or disgusting.

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On the no plastic front, my stainless steel atomisers arrived today.  I couldn’t find any without a plastic atomiser head.  Do they exist?  The next job will be to make up the cleaning fluids and fill them up 🙂

 

from vodka to seaweed

I’m not the world’s greatest vodka fan.  I would be hard pressed to tell the difference between Grey Goose and Aldi.  On the other hand it is a wonderful preservative for things like chillis (which are dripping off the plants in my greenhouse) and even I quite like a vodka and tonic when the vodka has had a little help.

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From left to right, lavender vodka, raspberry brandy (the interloper) and raspberry vodka.  It is harvest time and if I don’t get down to making cordials, jellies and infusing spirits soon there will be little left.  There are plenty of recipes for fruit spirits I don’t follow any of them.  I take the flower or fruit and add them to the spirit.  My personal choices are brandy and vodka although when the brambles come out later in the year I will make bramble whisky, the strong flavour of the brambles complements the whisky, it goes well with brandy as well but is pointless to waste vodka on them.  Vodka is best for the subtler flavours such as flowers and raspberries.  I don’t add any sugar.  If you want to make a liqueur then I prefer to add sugar syrup to taste once the infusion is complete.  Personally I prefer to leave it as pure spirit, if somebody wants a liqueur I can always add the sugar syrup later.

The rosehips need to mature a little more before they are ready but the meadowsweet

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is everywhere and I want to get plenty of syrup made before it fades.

There is so much in the garden, and not just that which I planted which needs to be harvested.  Today I will collect and dry comfrey and lavender.   Comfrey is no longer considered safe to eat due to its high levels of alkaloids   but it is a great healer.  You can use the leaves direct on a wound during the summer months and I shall make a salve for the winter.  It also makes a terrific fertiliser.

I like to have a good store of culinary quality lavender and what better way than to grow your own?  It’s great in baking, and its soothing properties makes it good in salves as well.

Finally I must dry out the seaweed we collected at the weekend.  The lavender smells better but needs must!