Friday, 14 September 2012


So, this is the time of year I start to get excited about jam and chutney. I day dream about making lovely things picked from my own garden.

This is the first year since leaving home, where I wasn't interested in such things, that I have had a garden I have been able to plant things in. Low and behold this summer has been horrific for growning things in my garden. I don't think its just me that has had this issue, but being a novice, not really having a clue what I'm doing, poor soil and bad aspects for growing in the garden, I feel I've done particularly badly.

I planted potatoes, garlic, tomatoes, chillies, carrots, strawberries and beetroot.

I got, a half good harvest of potatoes, they were about half size or less, but taste good. All the garlic I planted turned in to a bulb, but again they were tiny. Haven't tried these yet, so can't comment on the taste. Only 4 of the tomato plants have fruited, again they taste good, but not nearly enough considering I planted an entire packet. I got about 4 strawberries. Yummy, but four?? Really? We planted 6 varieties of chillies, and we have about 10 or so plants that are growing fruit. They aren't mature yet, so we'll see how those go. The carrots and beetroot are just funny, I started to get carrot tops, which the slugs ate pretty quickly. Planted a second lot, and they have sat there doing a lot of not much. Beetroot is a similar story, although without the mitigating factor of having been eaten by the slugs. Slugs have been a serious problem to me here. Every single seed I have planted straight in to the ground has failed to get past a couple of days old due to the slugs. I hate the idea of slug killer, but I gave it a go and my seedlings still got eaten. I know its the weather, but also I have (now very water logged) clay soil which just harbours them I think. Most of my veg has been planted up on a concrete coal house thing I have in the front garden. It's the sunniest part of the garden, and even this didn't discourage the slugs and snails much.

I know another factor is my lack of knowledge. I haven't fertilised anything, and I didn't pot many things on until too late. As I said this is my first year gardening and I will learn from my mistakes!
None of this, though, stops me lusting after making yummy things to put in pots and gloat over having been able to make, not to mention eat! I've been sorting through a lot of the years and years of stuff in my Dad's house, and came across this amazing recipe book on preserving. The complete book of preserving (Marye Cameron-smith, Marshall Cavendish London & New York, 1976) is not only a fantastic resource for every type of preserving that you can think of, it's also a wonderful repository for 1970's food photography in all its brown-toned glory!


There are so many recipes from this book that I want to try. What about greengage jam? Japonica jelly? Fig preserve? Or chow-chow, Norfolk fruit chutney, pickled walnuts ("Walnuts used for pickling must be young and green, and used before the hard outer skin has begun to form on them. Test by pricking with a needle...")?  I thought walnut trees were relatively rare? I've never seen green ones in the shop!

I want to make 5 different jams!

I do want to try and make some fruit liqueurs. The recipes are to flavour the alcohol, not make it all from scratch, but peach brandy appeals. I'd love to try blackberry and apple jam or apple and elderberry jelly.
Wine jelly sounds fun! (Green grapes, white wine, apples, lemon, cardamom, sugar and brandy!) I'd like to give lemon curd a shot. I'd be interested to see what fruit cheese and butters were like too. I can learn to make my own candid peel, which I could then make more mincemeat with (I already have a ton from my first preserving experiments last year) I'd love my breakfast table to look like the one below! Serious aspiration moment!

I love how fantastically 70's the candid fruit pile is. It's just not something that is done these days (at least not in the circles I move in!) The process seems ridiculously long winded for something that will essentially just end up tasting of sugar as far as I can tell. Any goodness would surely be removed!

I'd like to try making ketchup too! I love the little extract they put next to the recipe for the tomato sauce, "Tomato sauce has to be poured liberally over a real hamburger - along with mustard, relish and melted cheese!", I just like the use of the word 'has' as if it's an order and something bad will happen to you of you stint on the mustard.

Back to the food styling. I'm sure Oriental fruit salad with melon, dates, figs and nuts is a delicious feast, but it does not look so hot in this image. I'm not sure that I know anyone but my Dad who would be please to be served it either!

Everything is so brown! But this book is a huge supply of things to try, including sections on smoking and salting, drying, short term preserves (patês and the like), and a huge section on freezer cooking "Russian-style Beef is an adaptation of the classic Russian dish Beef Stroganoff, specifically designed for home freezing. It is easy to prepare after freezing so is an ideal dish for unexpected but important guests." Also many recipes that just use preserved ingredients, like 'Ham baked with Sauerkraut'. I'm excited about getting suck in and giving it all a go!

Updates will happen when I manage to get stuck in in the kitchen! Maybe I'll add a little quote from my cheffy boyfriend when I get him to taste test them for me!

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