As we head towards the end of the first summer on our smallholding, the rhythm of my days is changing. Although I am up at around five each morning, I am no longer out in the garden right away because it's still dark. So for the first hour I'm now reading, watching and researching instead of doing that in the midday heat.
I've been gathering as much food as I can, to eat fresh and also to preserve. I have frozen kilos of mirabelles, fat juicy plums, elderberries, blackberries from the hedgerows, sliced runner beans, broad beans, chunky rainbow chard stems and mangetout.
By sheer good fortune, my neighbours have a glut in some crops that either have failed in our kitchen garden or we haven't very much of and we have a glut of crops that haven't done too well in their garden. Being the sensible bunnies that we are, we have started to swap the excesses meaning that both families now have a wider selection of foods to eat now and to store for the winter.
Yesterday evening our neighbour dropped by with a carrier bag filled with plums which were a swap for runner beans that they have been having for the last few weeks.
They've also said that I can help myself to windfall cooking apples which I am delighted about as I have been foraging blackberries from the hedgerows and can now make blackberry and apple pie filling to freeze. If there are enough cooking apples I will also make some blackberry and apple jam or jelly. The apples on our young trees are eating apples and there are not very many of them as yet because the trees are only four or five years old.
The success of some vegetables has inspired me for next year. I will plant many more beetroot (Boltardy) which have been very sweet and flavoursome this year, to make wine from next year. In the area between the perennial flower border and the vegetable garden I had planned to have cut flowers and herbs, but I will now have fruit instead. I will plant some fruit trees, underplanted with currant bushes, fruit canes and strawberry plants together with some complementary herbs. Some mint in a pot buried in the ground to go with the strawberries, some sweet cicely to help take the edge off the rhubarb, some licquorice roots, tarragon to go with the raspberries.
This afternoon I have made some of my favourite mixed fruit jam, which I'm calling 'Fruits of the Forage' Jam.
Fruits of the Forage JamIngredients
3lbs of foraged fruit (I used 1lb cored windfall apples and 2lbs of stoned plums, blackberries and elderberries)
Juice of 1 Lemon
2lbs unrefined granulated sugar
1 glass red wine (optional)
7 fluid oz boiling water
1tblspn ground cinnamon
1tblspn ground ginger
2 dried cloves (ground in pestle and mortar)
1/2 tspn grated nutmeg
Wash jam jars and put in heated oven to sterilise and put lids in a pan of boiling water, boil for 10 minutes to sterilise and leave in water until ready to use.
Wash and prepare the fruit, squeeze lemon juice over the fruit and put in a heavy based large pan with the glass of wine and boiling water.
Cook until the fruit is soft stirring regularly to prevent it sticking to the pan.
Add cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves.
Stir in the sugar until dissolved.
Cook rapidly stirring to prevent sticking until setting point.
Remove jars from oven and leave to cool a little.
Spoon or ladle the jam into the jars (be careful because the jars will be hot).
Wipe the outside of the jars if necessary to remove any spilt jam, but avoid putting your cloth into the jar.
Using tongs, remove the lids one at a time from the pan of water and seal jars.
Once the jam has cooled in the jars, remember to label them to help avoid confusion later.
|Use a deep pan to avoid splashes|
|Ready to put jam into jars|
|Use tongs to remove lids from hot water|
|Don't forget to label your Fruits of the Forage Jam|