Sunday 29 September 2013

Brrr ...

We have just completed a job we both don't enjoy doing. The outdoor and indoor freezer check has been completed (not normally a problem) but the outdoor upright freezer needed thawing and DB has just done that and cleaned out the freezer outdoors.

Every time, we begin with gloves to try and protect our hands, each time we discard them. Guess there are some things you just don't remember as jobs like this are infrequent!

As autumn is already here and winter will soon be coming, we like to begin batch cooking. By jigging around the drawers, we have managed to get ourselves just about one of them empty.

Go on, I know you want to know - herewith said list. It became blurred when I shrank it so sorry about that.

Friday 27 September 2013

Kitchen Days Part 3

First of all, welcome to my new follower the womble.

Another autumn day finds me in the kitchen once again. This time, making a Green Tomato and Apple Pie courtesy of here

There are many recipes on the internet for this but thought I would give this one a try as I have used many of their recipes before. I did cut down the sugar though as 1/2lb, using sweet apples, would have been too much. With hindsight, I would use 170 - 180C rather than the stated 200C, as 50 - 60 minutes at that temperature, the pie most certainly would have burnt if I had left it in for that long!

Anyway, herewith some photographs as I was making it.  The tomatoes are meant to be skinned but although I have success using the hot water method to skin ripe tomatoes, it didn't work with green and I had to use a peeler - very fiddly!

This is after slicing and adding all ingredients except the butter.
Here is everything, except the butter, on top of the base pie crust. You can see by the shiny appearance that more juice is coming out.
Once filled, this was the spare juice. Again, with hindsight, I think it all should be left to drip for longer to get as much juice out as possible. It might even be worth salting the tomatoes overnight to dry out their juices BUT I have no idea if doing so, whether it would make them more chewy or not.
Top pie crust on - oops, forgot the butter, ah well!!
I used some of the left over juice on the top crust.
Here it is after baking for 40 minutes at 190C - my choice as it was browning a little too quick. There was more juice in the bottom despite adding the requisite flour to help soak it up - but it was more sauce like. I really don't think it was cooked for long enough as there is still quite a bite to the tomatoes.

Anyway, we had a quarter each with custard for our lunch!
Would I make it again. I don't think so. To me it seems a waste of good quality eating apples. Both those and the tomatoes were chewy, not a texture we like in apple pies. So in retrospect, I'll stick to the British apple pie and use my green tomatoes up in something else!

Anyway, we had a little left over pastry and managed with a couple of re-rolls, to make 9 jam tarts which were filled with home made gooseberry and blackcurrant jam.

Thursday 26 September 2013

Finally, our autumn and winter preparations are coming together...

Our long awaited and slightly overdue load of logs arrived, 2 cubic metres of hardwood, for £150. For us, that is a good deal as it varies anywhere up to £225 for the same amount. This had no delivery charge so that also helps.

Last year, the bulk of the delivery was of logs cut almost perfectly to fit our small stove. This time, only around a quarter of it was the correct size. DB says he will have to spend many Saturdays (don't know why he has chosen that particular day), cutting them in half or splitting the thicker ones down the middle.

Anyway, 1 hour and 10 minutes after delivery, I had wheel-barrowed them around to him, he had stored them and we had cleared up. We then moved my mini greenhouse away from the window (from which it receives drips during rain and makes a noise) and filled it with kindling.

Hopefully, we have enough newspapers, kindling, pine cones, scrap wood, logs and oil to take us through to next summer. Other than the rain, the weather for the next few days, is not set to be too cold (getting slightly cooler), so we shouldn't need to organise any heating or fires yet.

Our first port of call when cold is more clothing. Then we put on hand warmers. After that, we microwave bean bags. If using all three and we are still cold, the heating might get a half hour blast to take the edge off things. Once the weather turns nasty, the wood burner will be lit mid to late afternoon and we shall stay in the front room where it lives. Cooking the tea takes the edge off the cold in the kitchen and dining room.

Bathing can be a little dicey in the run up to and throughout winter, but generally, we find keeping the door shut whilst the bath is filling (on a timer), fills the room with steam, which keeps us just about warm enough. Once we have finished, the window is opened to vent the room but the door is kept shut. We dive into the front room and dress in the warmth. It's like going back to the 40's and 50's before homes had central heating and all activities took place in the front room - the only place to have had a fire.We have just finished our first year of metered water and used around 62 cubic metres - a huge amount less than before - more saving.

Heating and hot water in winter, is usually on for 45 minutes before 7:30am (when our cheap electricity switches off) and doesn't get used again unless it is very cold. Then it will be on for maybe 15-20 minutes to take away the chill, and so it goes all through the cold weather. Doing this for the first time last year, meant our oil lasted 13 months rather than the normal 6, when the heating used to be on and off all day. That is a huge saving in costs as oil is very expensive and we don't have gas in the village.

Using the heating and hot water less, uses less electricity. Lights are only on in the room we are in and generally our annual bill is around the £330 mark.

Obviously when we have guests, the heating is on for longer but not all day. We like to put it on for them late evening so the bedrooms are warm for undressing. When no guests are around, we undress in the front room then put our clothes on the bedroom radiators, where they are toasty warm come morning.  Luckily for us, the few guests we have are like minded which helps no end.

Tuesday 24 September 2013

In my kitchen Part 2 - making jampurelly

Welcome to my new follower Virginia via Bloglovin.

Having picked my brambles and obtained a full carrier bag of windfall cooking apples, we set about making some jelly. Won't go into details about how to do it as there are plenty of tutorials on-line.

However, what I usually make afterwards is jampurelly© - jam made from the purée leftover from making jelly! It has got to have a name of some sort hasn't it and this is the one I came up with. I'm sure you could find a different name - all sorts of things spring to mind!

Once you have made your jelly, put it into jars and cleaned your pan, you are ready to start. What, you normally throw yours away?

Here it is ready to begin.
If you don't possess a moulin food mill, you will have to do this the hard way. I used a metal sieve and pushed the fruit purée through with a metal spoon. It takes a bit of time but is worth it.
Stop every now and then and use a blunt edged knife or silicone paddle scraper, to scrape off the refined purée from under the sieve into a wide necked jug.
Carry on until you have got as much pushed through as you can, then throw the useless bits into your food/compost bin.

All in all, I managed to get 1 pint of refined purée.To this I added 1 medium grated cooking apple, juice of 1 lemon (or 2 - 3 tablespoons bottled stuff), 1 teaspoon mixed spice and 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon.
After stirring it well, it went into a heavy bottomed pan (rather than my jam pan as it was too large for such a small amount of purée) with 1 lb white sugar. (Equal purée to sugar).

You need to remember that you are not making jam that starts off as a semi-liquid substance. This starts off quite thick and gets thicker very quickly and has a tendency to SPIT AT YOU!
I protected myself using a large frying splatter guard. If you don't have one of those, you need to find something that allows steam to escape but not the contents. The picture below is from another batch hence the difference in colour!

It could be a very large metal/glass lid or old tea towel that partially covers the main part of the pan closest to you. Find what works for you. DO NOT ATTEMPT THIS WITHOUT PROTECTION!

Rather than bringing the contents to a boil, bring them to a simmer and allow it to simmer in a burping kind of fashion, for 20 - 25 minutes until it has thickened by reducing. There are no tests for this unlike jam. It is very reminiscent of making chutney. You need it to reduce it but not let it stick!

This stage is a little bit of trial and error but the timing was about right for me for this amount. I then carefully placed it into hot jars and sealed immediately. Once cooled, I could turn it on its side without any signs of movement.

This seems to last as long as jam. However, due to the grated apple which has not dissolved as much as I had hoped, we will use it sooner rather than later. You can leave out the apple if you wish.

Herewith some finished photographs. The top one has bramble and apple jelly on the left and apple and rose hip on the right.
I also made some apple, rose hip, orange jampurelly©  

The rose hips (which had been chopped up and tied in a double thickness of muslin) were squeezed into a jug and the apple purée treated as above. To this mixture I added the zest of one orange plus its juice and 2 tablespoons of lemon juice.
I only managed to get 3/4 pint of purée so only added 3/4 lb sugar and cooked it as above. Here they are. The smell of it cooking was fantastic, very zesty.
Now, who wouldn't want to receive something like that as a gift:

Sunday 22 September 2013

Harvesting in the wild and at home...

We went for a drive and a walk the other day to harvest some more blackberries. We have many areas around us within walking distance to do this but fancied a drive, some picking and lunch out.

We had a nice stroll along the River Hun. It looked like someone had been there before us and the first few bushes were stripped of ripe berries. However, another 100 metres or so and we came to a bend in the path and found a large bush full. We picked blackberries (1lb 10oz) for a while, here they are after being sorted, washed and drying.

Hidden inside the bush were many ripe hips so we picked some of those as well (1lb 2oz),
After washing and cleaning those, I went down the drive to harvest another 1 1/2lbs of Bambino tomatoes. There are probably 3 times that amount left! So far, we have picked 8 1/2lbs - amazing.
I'm hoping to make a small batch of Spicy Blackberry Vinegar. As a child, I remember having Raspberry vinegar on my rice puddings (plus anything else I could have it on). This is very similar in taste and texture but tastes of blackberries. Some will also be used to make Blackberry and Apple Jelly. Any left over will be frozen for pies and crumbles, bramble brownies, puddings etc.

We shall continue to use the tomatoes fresh but I'll also semi-roast, dehydrate and freeze another batch or two for winter.

Friday 20 September 2013

Waste not want not (or before and after!)

Staying at our son and his fiancée's house, whilst they were away, we took the opportunity to go to Ikea. I know a lot of people dislike their stuff but we love the practicality of it. Not so much that we have a houseful, just enough of useful odds and sods.

Anyway on this visit, we were after a unit for the conservatory, to replace the old cane chairs we had in there (they took up too much room, no-one wanted them so they were chopped up and other elements of them kept for future use).

We bought an industrial style TV unit, with a shelf and sliding doors, in a lovely light turquoise.
We are storing newspapers and pine cones in it for lighting the fire, plus a small amount of kindling. Anyway, as we are getting older, we find trying to remain upright whilst putting on and taking off our shoes is becoming a little more difficult.

DB scampered up into the loft to retrieve a piece of chipboard, either left over from a previous project or earmarked for a train/tram set that won't get built now due to his eyesight. It was cut to size and had its corners rounded and smoothed.
A few years ago, we used to have a picnic bench in the garden and had bought 2 long bench cushions, to make the seat part more comfortable. They long ago disappeared but we did keep the padding for future use. One piece was the right size for the board - how amazing - it was obviously meant to be!
On a recent visit to Dunelm, I looked at the PVC tablecloths to try and find something that might work as a covering. For £4.99, cheaper than American oilcloth, the cheapest shape was a medium oblong.
Only half was needed. It was gingerly ironed using lots of brown paper to protect it!! Most of the creases did come out after a long while. It was fixed over everything using a staple gun. The staples were then hammered in to get them as flat as possible. Duct tape was put over the staples and the edges to stop them from scratching the top of the unit.

So, for half the price of a tablecloth and utilizing everything else from our storage area in the loft, a new top was born. Not only can it be sat on (hence the board for reinforcement), we can put our damp shoes on it to take them off, then wipe it clean. Nifty methinks!  Thanks to DB's help and both our ingenuity, here is the top, for the grand price of £2.50 (rounded up!).

Wednesday 18 September 2013

Kitchen Days Part 1

As we are all aware, late summer early autumn days can be either hot or cold in this country. At the moment, the later is true. On these cool (often cold, wet and windy days), the kitchen is the room I love to be in. Preserving, making, baking, all are ways of keeping warm without resorting to central heating or fires. Not only that, the delightful aroma only adds to the sensation of warmth and comfort!

As is often the case, the weather has turned and our outdoor tomatoes are either all ripening at once, or sulking. If it gets much colder at night (and some nights are predicted only 6C in the towns and cities, a lot colder here in the countryside), then they will be adversely affected both in growth, maturity and taste.

My new garden bed down near the garage has been very productive. Only 3lb of mixed beans so far but more to come (hopefully). The tomatillo's are quickly filling their husks but may need harvesting before then due to the cold. The baby bambino tomatoes have done amazingly well, 7lbs so far and loads more to come - again hopefully!

Having such a vast supply filling bowls in the kitchen and fridge, I decided to partially dry and freeze some.

They were cut in half, and had salt and lashings of pepper applied.

They were 'roasted' in a cool oven - 100 - 120C, for 2 hours. Not enough to fully cook them but it helped drive out some of the moisture.You can tell this by the gaps in the tomatoes.
They were allowed to cool on the tray then still on it, were open frozen for 2 hours. After that they were packed into a freezer bag, still remaining individual half tomatoes. I'm hoping this will provide us with a touch of summer in the long cold winter months. I think they will work fine in stews, casseroles or other things served with pasta.

Some bread was also made
The slightly smaller loaf on the left was a thank you to a neighbour who kept an eye on our garden whilst we were away. Also made some granola, this time with marmalade and honey as the sweetening agent.
In amongst the tomatoes picked for roasting, was this cheeky little chappy.

Tuesday 17 September 2013

Chapeau finished...

First of all, welcome to my two new followers, Justine and sandytanyllyn. Also, sorry to see one go!

On one of my previous posts, I showed a hat I was knitting, well it is now finished.

Pulling it down well and turning over the brim, it rather resembles the cup of an acorn (unless I have done something wrong.
From the front, it is nice and snug -  excuse the 'removal' of me, makes me look like one of those faceless hat mannequins!
Then I pulled it back up so there was loose stuff at the top and folded it down.
Neither of us liked that so back to the acorn I went.

In my stash bag, I had some posh wool that the brim should have been knitted in but I dropped a couple of stitches and couldn't find them, so knitted this, my very first hat, in plain wool. I should have cast on using 3.25mm needles but I misread that as 3.75mm. Then I found I was using one 4mm and one 3.75 needle for the first two or three rows so had to change that as well.

Anyway, lovely colour but I felt it needed something, so opted for a tassle.
All in all, for my first hat, I felt pleased with it and would use this pattern again. Thanks Elaine!

Sunday 15 September 2013

Using up bits and bobs...

I have had 2 boned chicken thighs languishing in the freezer so defrost them and worked out a recipe. With hindsight, it was a little too much. We did enjoy it though, so reckon for us, we could get away with just one chicken thigh and only one nest of dried noodles! You may need both depending on your appetite.

Here are the base ingredients: 2 chicken thighs cut into strips, 1/2 an onion, 2 rashers of streaky bacon - chopped, plus a few lettuce leaves for later.
10 baby tomatoes - halved, 6 tomatillo's - halved (you could use extra tomatoes) and 1 medium, thinly sliced carrot - using a vegetable peeler.
Plus either 1/2 a stock cube (we used a dessert-spoon of home made vegetable stock paste from the freezer), in 3/4 a cup of noodle water,  a few good dashes of soya sauce, lots of black pepper.

Everything on the wooden board, except the lettuce, was gently fried to cook and soften. Then the items off the plate were added along with the stock cube, water and soya. 2 nests of fine dried noodles were also simmering in a pan of water and it is this water that we used for the sauce, rather than fresh. As the sauce cooked and slowly evaporated, the lettuce leaves were shredded and scattered into it.

The meat and vegetables in their sauce, were then poured on top of the strained noodles.
We really enjoyed it. If you find it a little bland for your taste, you can add some chilli sauce or Worcestershire sauce before serving. We found the addition of the home made vegetable paste though, gave it a lovely light taste.

Friday 13 September 2013

All around my 'house'

There are lots of little craft projects either on the go, or getting ready to be on the go once winter is here. Nay, don't mention the W. word just yet!

I have two things on the go on knitting needles. The first is a winter hat courtesy of a pattern from Elaine's blog here
I did have some fancy knitting yarn to begin it with, as you can see, but had to give it up as I dropped a couple of stitches and couldn't find them! Also, it uses two different size needles - yep - you guessed it, the first few lines were done using one of each size before I realised. Anyway, I am now beginning to decrease and have an idea on what I can do with the fancy yarn.

The second thing is another dishcloth
I have more cotton in an ice cream tub in the dining room
Along with more wool to soon begin another set of slippers. The ones I made last year have been patched up, but there are now too many holes appearing, so they will be cut up and put on the compost heap. See, no wastage in this house!
Last year, I began a fleece rag rug for beside the bed. It is about half way through and I should finish it this year. It resides in one of the under bed drawers;
In the spare bedroom are 3 new fleece blankets, destined to be knitted (as a trial) into a small rug just inside the front door. If it works, I hope to knit a rug, from discarded material, for my son and future FDiL
I am not the only one being busy in this department. DB is currently doing a small fine point tapestry of one of our grand dogs S. I think it might take him at least another year, as even with head worn magnifying glasses, it is still quite hard to see whilst doing it. No photographs at the moment but the image is based on this lovely photograph, taken by her mum:

We have several of his lovely tapestries in the house. Like his father before him (and many of his aunts and uncles), they could all doing some form of needlework. His mum was a fantastic knitter and could easily knock out a jumper for each of us in less than a month. She knitted all of our son's jumpers amongst other things.

Wednesday 11 September 2013

A bit of crafting

First of all, a big welcome to Lisa and Sharon via Bloglovin.

We have just spent a few days away, staying in our son and his fiancé's house whilst they were on holiday. As this was our 'holiday', we ate out at both lunch and evening - such extravagence! Back home now and ready to get back to the simple life!

I am in full dishcloth making mode at the moment. Some will go for C. presents, others are destined to be used here when we stop using the flannels from last year.

Normally, there is only one shop locally where I can buy craft cotton from and it doesn't come cheap. On-line, most are the same price, until I came to the Fred Aldous site - dishcloth cotton.

From here, I bought a bag of 10 x 100g balls for the price of £13.00 plus £3.75 postage. Tesco offer a similar thing but their charges are £3.95 to pick up from their store (plus of course, petrol to get there).

Compared to what I normally buy, (and yes, I know some of you can get it cheaper), this is far softer, slightly thicker but not quite so tightly wound. Occasions, my needles pierce it but doing so is immediately obvious and I can correct myself. Although it is off white (ecru) rather than white, I always wash my cloths once finished to 'tighten' them up and it becomes almost white then.

Here is a nice pattern I have tried, before being washed.
Here it is after being washed but not ironed. You can see how much closer the weave is and the change in colour. It measures between 7" and 8" square and is now quite thick. I am using 5mm bamboo rather than the stated 4.5mm bamboo as that is what I had..
 The pattern for this and many others, comes from this site Emily Patterns

Sunday 8 September 2013

A little bit of this and that...

First of all, welcome to Joanne via Bloglovin.

You can feel the change in the season, can't you? That glorious nip in the air, damp mornings, wood smoke drifting by, dew on the ground and cobwebs glistening on the hedges and trees. Long before the leaves get into their changing leaf colours, you appreciate (or dread) that autumn (and eventually Winter)  is coming! Our oil tank is as full as necessary and our logs should be delivered next Friday.

The season for jams, chutneys and other delightful preserves is well and truly here and we have been busy scrumping, harvesting and making.

On top of jam we have made our first batch of marmalade. Another batch should see us through until late Spring as well as for giving away for presents.
The 3 jars on the left are orange and ginger and the 2 on the right, straight orange. I don't have any Cointreau or Grand Marnier to make boozy versions but these are fine and usually appreciated by their recipients.

I have also been busy making dishcloths. My old flannel ones desperately need changing and now I have found an easy batch of patterns, I have been busy making some. Here are two I have just finished. When I have made 7, they will start to be used. The advantage of cotton ones is that when finished with, they can be chopped up and added to the compost bin.

A couple of years after decorating, we have finally found and erected some blinds in the kitchen. Our kitchen faces west and the light (and heat) stream in through both the kitchen windows and the dining room patio door. The dining room has always had curtains but the heat in the kitchen through lack of blinds, tends to hang around for quite a few hours.

The photograph below doesn't really do them justice. They are a similar colour to the wall but the inclusion of some fawny gold bits, makes them look a little darker and helps them blend in.
The last couple of warm days, before the temperature dropped, we had the blinds drawn until mid to late morning, it certainly made a huge difference.

The other two reasons for finally putting some up, were privacy and helping to keep the cold out in winter. I don't know about you, but despite our back and sides being private, I still don't like the thought of someone being able to peep in without me knowing - or instead, scaring me half to death if I spot someone!