Ruby Tuesday

Last autumn my friend @CambridgeGoats (not her real name) introduced me to the joys of steam-juicing and, as a result, I ended up buying a Mehu Liisa. By the time I got it, the only fruits that I had in abundance to juice were apples. We are still enjoying the results, although we’ve now consumed all the apple and ginger juice and there’s only plain apple juice left.

Today I decided to have a go with some of the red currants that have grown so well this year. I didn’t have enough to fill the whole basket, but as it was an experiment, I was happy to try with a small amount and to include the last of the frozen ones left over from last year (it’s always good to rotate your stock).

This method of juicing is single-step – it produces hot liquid, which can be drained straight into hot, sterilized bottles, ready for storage once cool.

The juice is very tasty and a beautiful ruby red colour, as you can see from the first bottle.

Now, I wonder how it mixes with white wine… or fizz…

Relishing a fruity bargain

Every summer I make a trip or two to buy some exotic fruit and hunt for edible bargains. Early on Friday mornings, throughout the year, a fruit and veg supplier sets up his stall in Newcastle Emlyn and, amongst the standard green grocer’s fare, there are many bargains to be had. You can’t guarantee what he will be selling off cheaply and the best bargains need to be cooked or eaten quickly, but it’s always worth a visit. In the past I’ve bought very cheap nectarines, tomatoes, mushrooms, mangoes… and I’ve brought them home for bottling.

So yesterday, rather than my early morning swim, I had an early morning shopping trip. The best bargain I found was organic pineapples – two for £1. The tops were looking somewhat worse for wear, but the fruits themselves seemed generally sound, and I bought four. I also managed to get some peaches, although they didn’t have any big boxes and I will be returning in the hope of finding some more later in the summer.

Earlier in the year we were served pineapple and chilli relish at a restaurant and I had managed to recreate this at home with tinned pineapple (which, until then, I hadn’t bought for years). The fresh ones, along with the current abundance of home-grown chillies meant that it was the perfect time to make a larger batch of this relish. I simply chopped the pineapple, added a little sugar (to help with the preservation) and water, and cooked it up with chillies. First I added a Hungarian black, then a Romanian yellow and finally two lemon drops before I reached the desired heat. The addition of three chopped red chillies that have no heat (a disappointment from 2015 and stored in the freezer) added a little colour and also a visual signal of the contents (lest we should accidentally mistake it for something to eat for dessert). Into hot 0.25l Kilner jars and twenty minutes in a hot water bath, and the relish was ready for storage. Very easy.

This morning I bottled some of the peaches. The flesh is pale, but the syrup is a beautiful pink colour:

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bottled peaches

And finally I’ve making a few jars of peach, lime and red currant jam. We are not big jam-eaters, but it is nice in a Victoria sponge. We’ve got loads of red currants this year and still haven’t used up all last year’s crop, plus I found some lime halves in the freezer with their zests removed (having been used in a lime drizzle cake a while ago),  so I thought I’d do something creative. Peach jam does not set without the addition of pectin, so I am hoping that the currants and lime will be sufficient.

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peach, red currant and lime jam

I love food preservation – opening one of these jars in winter will be like bringing summer into the house.

It’s a jungle out there

The garden has been neglected. Having builders around has meant that not only have I not grown things, but also I have not been doing all the day-to-day maintenance. As a result the fruit cage has turned into a jungle with head-high docks and mint, plus nettles and brambles starting to take over some patches.

However, now I have the garden to myself and a bit of decent weather, I’ve started making in-roads into the chaos. I’m far too ashamed to show a picture of the full horror of it, but there are hidden treasures.

When I eventually hacked my way through to the far corner, I was greeted by shining red jewels:

Red currants

Red currants

Despite being overshadowed by a large comfrey plant, this particular red currant bush had the biggest juiciest fruit you can imagine. I think I might make red currant and  white chocolate muffins for breakfast tomorrow.

And elsewhere, the raspberries are doing well – not quite as pretty as the red currants, but I like the flavour better.

Raspberries

Raspberries

Some of these will be frozen for later use, but most mornings I have a handful on my granola… best when still warm straight out of the garden.

Are you harvesting at the moment?

 

Winter harvest

Sometimes being disorganised has its advantages.

Tayberry newly planted

Tayberry newly planted

On Sunday we planted soft fruit: a red currant, a tayberry (a blackberry/raspberry cross), a boysenberry (a cross between loganberry, raspberry and dewberry) and six strawberry plants. These have gone into our small front garden – the only area currently not producing food. We mulched round them with cardboard and weighted this down with some used compost. I’m not sure how many jobs this compost has done, but it includes homemade garden/kitchen waste compost, the contents of pots in which we grew peppers, some cardboard and grass clippings. Last year it was put into a dumpy bag in the ‘waste of space‘ area and had potatoes planted in it. I know that we harvested some of the potatoes out of this bag, but when we came to transfer the compost to the soft fruit, we discovered some lovely big spuds – untouched by slugs, just waiting for an unplanned January harvest. In total, there were 3kg of them!

Parsnips (planned) and potatoes (unplanned)

Parsnips (planned) and potatoes (unplanned)

In addition, we had a couple more planned additions to the table: lovely parsnips (knobbly but delicious) thanks to some seedlings given to me my Kate the day we went to Wonderwool (I drove and she provided me with vegetable seedlings and eggs to bring home… what a great exchange!) and kale (that ever-welcome addition of greenery in the dark days of winter). We’ve also got some leeks coming along nicely (seedlings also provided by Kate), plus Mr Snail found even more potatoes when he was digging up parsnips (still growing in that bed although it’s a couple of years since they were planted there). We even managed to grow a parsnip in the shape of a snail:

The parsnip of happiness?

The parsnip of happiness?

The cheese continues to be a work in progress… it is now maturing and won’t be ready to be eaten for at least a month. I managed to modify a cheese box that has ventilation in the top so that I could mature the cheese in conditions where the humidity is fairly easy to control (just add or remove the egg cup with water in it) and now, apart from regular turning, we just have to wait:

Maturing cheese

Maturing cheese

So, what are your recent harvests (expected and unexpected)?

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