Three Things Thursday: 11 May 2017

*three things that make me smile: an exercise in gratitude – feel free to steal this idea with wild abandon and fill your blog [or Twitter account or Facebook page or diary or life in general] with the happy*

Inspired by Emily of Nerd in the Brain here are my Three Things Thursday.

First, tomato futures. The limery provides such great growing conditions that my first tomatoes are appearing already. I see lots of passata in my future!

Heritage tomato: Veepro Paste

Second, potting-up. Every day now I am spending a bit of time potting up plants: lemongrass, peppers, melons and summer purple sprouting broccoli in the past few days. There are also seeds to be planted and surplus plants to be given away.

Third, working from home. Almost all my work these days is done from home. It means there’s no commute and no dress code, but best of all, it means I can intersperse my day with coffee, homemade biscuits and crochet in the limery.

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So, those are three things making me smile and that I am grateful for this week. What is making you happy?

And finally…

The limery has done us proud all year – from seeds sown in the propagator in January to the great abundance of peppers through the summer. Currently there’s a pot of rosemary flowering in there, although we’re a bit short of pollinators, and the passion flower vine is putting on plenty of new growth.

However, the most amazing thing may be that today, 20 December, I harvested these:

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Freshly picked today

 

That’s right – tomatoes still ripening on the plant in the depths of winter. From these I will be able to make winter solstice passata!

Making food

I love this time of year in the kitchen – a time for enjoying the abundance. So today I’ve been chopping and peeling, beating and stirring, boiling and baking…

I harvested the last melons, extracted the seeds so I and others can grow more next year . Now we have a large bowl of juicy melon, which I think we’ll mix with raspberries.

I used some of our tomato harvest along with a big tray of cherry toms from one of our local organic farms to make yet more jars of passata:

I made  granola – this has become a regular make these days as I never buy breakfast cereal:

I used my excess of home-produced ricotta and our abundance of eggs to make baked New York cheesecake including some home grown bilberries and red currants. I made two – one of which will be going to a barbecue with us tomorrow:

And finally I made dog biscuits,

Now that was a productive day!

Sticky Sunday…

… and Saturday as well.

Over the past two days I have mainly spent my time in the kitchen. I started Saturday by making the custard base for some vanilla ice cream*… because we had lots of eggs and some cream that needed using up (well, that’s my excuse anyway). Then I processed the tomatoes I had roasted on Friday and bottled up 25 jars of passata.

I put the roasted tomatoes through the passata mill three times to extract all the pulp and the small amount of skin and seeds left goes on the compost heap. I then reheat the passata and bottle it using the hot water bath method, having checked the pH is below 4.6 and therefore safe to preserve. I’ll do another batch later in the season and then we won’t need to buy tinned tomatoes for a whole year and we will have avoided a whole load of cans that would have had to be recycled (the jars are reusable).

Then I set the now cool custard to churn to turn into ice cream and then returned it to the freezer before starting to make nectarine nectar (just a fancy way of describing purée), which I bottled this morning (Sunday), and which I have just realised will be perfect for Nectarine Bellinis:

And finally, I bottled peaches and nectarines in light syrup combined with the left-over nectar (just one picture because of the stickiness):

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bottled summer

And then I noticed that Mr Snail had dressed appropriately:

Now, I just have a lemon cake to make with the egg whites left-over from the ice cream and then I will be having a lie-down!

-oOo-

*I can’t eat ‘normal’ ice cream because of my lactose intolerance, but if I pre-treat the milk and cream with lactase enzyme, I can make my own that I can eat.

Hot, hot, hot

Well, as the song says “the weather outside is frightful” (rain and wind) but indoors we are revelling in a warm fuzzy feeling brought on by produce from the limery and the generosity of friends.

Part of the chilli harvest

Part of the chilli harvest

Despite the relatively late completion of the limery in the summer, it has still provided us with an abundance of food, not to mention being a lovely place to sit and a great place to be messy with water! We’ve had a decent number of tomatoes, plenty of sweet peppers and some courgettes (still producing slowly), but the biggest success has been the chillies. Admittedly this is because I went mad and sowed far too many seeds, but even so, it bodes well for production next year. The heat in the chillies is variable – currently the Bartlett’s bonnets are the mildest, which has come as rather a surprise – and so making curry or our our much-loved red-hot cauliflower has been a bit hit-and-miss. With this in mind I decided to have a bash at making chilli sauce to use as a condiment with a guaranteed level of heat. I trawled the internet for inspiration, found a recipe I liked the sound of and proceeded to modify it beyond recognition! This is what I ended up with:

Sweet apple chilli sauce

100g chillies, chopped (I used 5 lemon drop, 2 Barlett’s bonnet and 18 pyramid)
200g caster sugar
200g Demerara sugar
3 cloves garlic chopped
15g fresh ginger chopped
200g roast tomato passata
400g stewed apple (unsweetened)
160ml cider vinegar
1tsp salt

Put all the ingredients in a pan and simmer for 30 minutes. Allow to cool and then liquidise.

All in one pot

All in one pot

With my chillies, this produced about 1 litre of very hot , very sweet sauce. It provided a great accompaniment to smoked mackerel fishcakes last night and I think it could easily be used as an ingredient in a curry… you wouldn’t need much!

Ready to eat

Ready to eat

The Preservation Game

Because we have a seasonal climate, we are unable to produce crops steadily throughout the year: sometimes there’s loads and other times there’s very little to harvest from the garden. And so, we preserve… those courgettes that we are sick and tired of in August will be welcome in our hearty soup in December, when the days of glut are a distant memory.

So, this week I have been preparing for winter by stocking the freezer with soup –  carrot and courgette and mulligatawny (see pictures above) – and passata made from oven roasted tomatoes.

Now, I look in the freezer and can savour the prospect of all sorts of goodies through the winter:

And as soon as I can manage to collect a load of apples from Perkin, I will be bottling those like mad too.

Parade of peppers

One of my favourite crops to grow is peppers… partly because they require no garden, so anyone with a windowsill can manage them, and partly because they were my very first growing success.

Pepper plants in the sun

Pepper plants in the sun

After I completed my degree, I stayed on at university to work towards my PhD. I moved into a little flat on the sea front in Aberystwyth (in the 1980s, before it had been ripped apart by storms). It was on the back of the house, so I didn’t get a sea view, but I did look out on my landlady’s tiny garden, which was filled with roses and an enormous ivy growing up one wall. There was no space for me to grow anything outdoors, but I had a hankering to produce some sort of fruit or vegetables and so I settled on peppers. I found a dwarf variety that claimed to be suitable for growing in pots on the windowsill and planted some seeds. The variety I chose was Redskin and it turned out to be a great success. Such a success, in fact, that I didn’t have room for all of them in my flat and I transferred some of them into the bay window in the big storage room in the house, where they flourished. My landlady did not mind a bit – she was a lovely lady.

These days, 25 years down the line, I wouldn’t choose Redskin as it is an F1 hybrid and my preference now is to grow open pollinated and heritage varieties. However, the F1 hybrids are consistent and, whilst success is not guaranteed, there is a good chance that you will get uniform results. As a complete novice, Redskin was probably a good choice and it certainly encouraged me to continue growing peppers… in fact I think I have grown some every year since that first attempt.

A parade of potted peppers

A parade of potted peppers

This year, the varieties I have chosen are more varied: Lipstick (a favourite now from The Real Seed Catalogue) and Nova (also from Real Seeds, but a variety I have not tried before), plus the plants from a mixed pack of Australian Peppers from Kate (Tall Tales from Chiconia). In addition, as I have developed a liking for spicy food, I grow chillies. I’m quite boring with my choice of these and now only grow Lemon Drop and Alberto’s Locoto, but both of these do well in my greenhouse, and sometimes will overwinter.

Despite having given some pepper seedlings to my sister and another friend, when I came to do my potting up yesterday, I discovered I had rather a lot of plants. I haven’t counted them up, but I think that (weather permitting) this year might be a really good year for capsicums. If so, I’m planning to make pepper passata as a way of storing them.

In the greenhouse

In the greenhouse

Boxing clever

Ready for roasting

This is what we want!

Autumn seems to have arrived here in west Wales – it’s not cold, but it’s foggy and raining. The garden is still productive: I picked a couple more courgettes the yesterday and we have fresh peppers for our pizza this evening. However, the change in weather does herald the beginning of the end of the summer vegetables.

This year the tomato plants have produced abundantly, but most of the fruit have not yet ripened up. I know that people will tell me to make green tomato chutney but if I did it would never get eaten… we are not fans of chutney or pickles. What I want is a big heap of ripe tomatoes so that I can make some more passata.

So, once the temperature drops and the days get shorter, I will pick all of my tomatoes, irrespective of colour, and place them gently in a cardboard box with an apple. I will close the lid and I’ll put them somewhere out of the way. The apple will produce ethylene, the chemical that encourages fruit to ripen, and the tomatoes will change colour. I will check them every few days, remove the ripe ones and put those to one side ready for use in the kitchen. It’s magic!

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