Saturday, 10 October 2009

Chutney poisoned the lettuce

Currently we have our stored fruit and vegetables in a covered area in our back garden between our conservatory and our neighbours wall. It is sheltered from the rain and warmer than the garden but still open to the weather. We have our potatoes in sacks, our pumpkins, squash, courgettes and cucumbers in boxes, onions, shallots and garlic in trays and apples in a box too. Last weekend when I went to fetch some potatoes for dinner I noticed that two of the potatoes in the bag had nibble marks in them. I concluded this was probably from mice so I moved the bag up to a higher shelf. Unfortunately, the next morning I noticed nibble marks in the apples instead! And there was no more room on the higher shelf. My husband had two more shelves to screw to the wall but I figured it would be quicker to use up the apples instead so I decided that this week would be my use up apples weeks.

I started on Monday by making summer fruit jam - apples with strawberries and raspberries from the freezer. This is my youngest daughter's favourite jam and I have to admit that it is delicious! On Tuesday I made apple and blackcurrant jam with a pound of blackcurrants from the freezer. Unfortunately, also on Tuesday I was struck by a cold. Don't you just hate them...? They make you feel lousy but you still feel obliged to carry on as normal.

I had a bad day on Wednesday. It started cold and I was a bit worried that there might have been a frost and I wondered if my tomatoes were OK. But I had no time to go and check. I had to wait in for an important parcel so decided that it would be a good day to make a batch of brown sauce. By now my cold was taking its toll so I wasn't feeling my usual cheery self. Brown sauce isn't too tricky to make but it does need time to evaporate to the correct thickness. That meant I had to start shortly after dropping my girls off at school if it was to be finished before I had to collect them again at the end of school. However, my husband had worked until the early hours of the morning and was still in bed. I don't like to cook chutney when there is anyone else in the house because they tend to moan about the smell. I can imagine it can be unpleasant if you are trying to tuck into your cornflakes in a kitchen filled with vinegar fumes. He appeared in the kitchen for his breakfast shortly after I added the vinegar to the sauce. I had opened the conservatory doors but he complained that it was freezing and closed them again whilst he ate. Eventually he sloped off to work and I opened the doors again.

The sauce bubbled and the day past but the parcel didn't turn up and it was time to pick up the girls but the sauce wasn't thick enough. I bottled it anyway, hoping it would be thick enough when it cooled (it didn't!). Then later that day I noticed that the lettuce, French beans and peas on the conservatory windowsill were looking a bit droopy but when I went to water them they were still damp. It took a couple of hours for me to slowly realise that I had poisoned my plants with the vinegar fumes!

What a day! No parcel, brown sauce that is too thin and poisoned plants!

Still, by this weekend my cold was all but gone and I was feeling my usual level of optimism. But I was still wondering if there had been a frost on Wednesday. Around on the allotment it was clear that there hadn't been a frost. However, we decided it was time to bring in the remaining tomatoes. I cut all the tomato trusses off and composted the plants. Back home, my husband rigged up a "line" using bungees and clips across the conservatory and we strung the tomato trusses up on it. My daughters thought this looked a little strange but we decided they made a lovely harvest festival garland and they liked that idea.

As for the apples, the mouse hasn't been back since and now all that this left is just enough apples to add to a big batch of green tomato chutney. Guess what I'll be making next week!

Summer fruits jam

1 lb (454g) strawberries
4 oz (110g) raspberries
1 lemon
2 lb (900g) apples
16 fl oz (450ml) water
3 lb (1350g) sugar

NB: Every pound of apples requires 8 oz (225g) strawberries, 2 oz (55g) raspberries, half a lemon, 8 fl oz (225ml) water and 1 lb 8 oz (680g) sugar.

Cooked the strawberries and raspberries with the lemon juice and about 4 fl oz (100ml) of water for a few minutes until soft. Pour into a jelly bag and allow to drip until cool then squeeze the juice through. Peel, core and chop the apples and cook with the remaining water until soft and pulpy. Add the red fruit puree then the warmed sugar and stir until dissolved. Bring to the boil and boil vigorously until set. Pour into warmed jars and seal immediately.

Apple and Blackcurrant Jam

2 lb (900g) apples
1 lb (454g) blackcurrants
15 fl oz (425ml) water
3 lb (1350g) sugar

Bring the blackcurrants and water to the boil then simmer whilst you prepare the apples. Peel, core and slice the apples then add them to the pan. Cook until the fruit is soft and pulpy (roughly 40 minutes for the blackcurrants and 20 minutes for the apples). Add the warmed sugar and stir thoroughly until dissolved. Bring to the boil and boil rapidly until set. Ladle into warmed jars and seal.

Brown Sauce

4 lb ( 1815g) apples
1 lb (454g) plums
2 large onions
2 pints (1300ml) water
3 pints (2000 ml) malt vinegar
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 oz (55g) salt
2 lb (900g) light brown sugar

Peel and core the apples and cut into pieces. Halve and remove the stones from the plums and cut into pieces. Peel the onion and finely chop. Put the fruit and vegetables into a preserving pan and pour in the water. Bring to the boil then simmer for 10-20 minutes until the fruit is soft and pulpy. Blend in batches until smooth in a blender then return the puree to the preserving pan. Add all the other ingredients and bring back to the boil then simmer until thick. Remove from the heat and transfer into warmed bottles and seal immediately.

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