Friday, 18 June 2010

Reasons to be cheerful!

One of the major drawbacks of having an allotment is the amount of time and effort it takes to do it well. I happen to love every minute of it and would probably dedicate more time to it if I could but life has other obligations. Some people say to me things like, "I don't know how you manage to do so much, where do you find the time." Well, come to my house and I'll tell you, or rather my house will tell you. I do try to keep things clean and tidy but when there is always so much going on it is difficult to keep on top of it. My kitchen, particularly, as the hub of everything I do, is always a little choatic. It would be unusual, for example, to find the draining board clear rather than stacked with the last batch of washing up or a few jars of cooling jam. And in the corner you may find a bowlful of something steeping for a few hours before being transformed into something amazing.

But every now and then I just have to stop, take a deep breath and do a proper tidy up. Not the sort of tidy up that happens the day before visitors arrive where things get put into cupboards out of sight and then forgotten. No, a proper, throwing things out, organising and rearranging sort of tidy up. It is six weeks until the beginning of the summer holidays and this is how long I have given myself to sort the house out. So at the weekend the allotment was given just 2 hours of attention on Saturday afternoon and the rest of the time was spent indoors sorting. Well, actually, I did take off about an hour on Sunday to make a batch of rhubarb and elderflower jam...

Rhubarb & Elder Flower Jam

Makes 1 jar
1lb (454g) rhubarb
1 oz (25g) elder flowers
1 lemon, rind and juice
1lb sugar

NB: Every pound of rhubarb requires 1 lb (454g) sugar, 1 lemon and 1 oz (25g) elder flowers.

Chop the rhubarb into inch long sections. Mix all the ingredients together in an non-metallic bowl, cover and leave to stand overnight. Decant the mixture into a preserving pan and bring to the boil. Simmer for a few minutes, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar, and cook until the rhubarb is pulpy. Bring to a vigorous boil until the setting point is reached. Ladle into warmed jars and seal immediately.

Whilst I was picking elderflowers for the jam I picked a few more and put them in my freezer. For the last two years I have wanted to make gooseberry and elderflower jam but have failed to manage it. The first year I somehow missed the elderflowers and the second year the elderflowers I froze for the job were still in my freezer when I stupidly accidentally turned my freezer off before going on holiday! This year I am determined.

Although there is a certain satisfaction to be gained from cleaning and tidying it generally makes me grumpy. I do like the smell of a freshly cleaned bathroom and there is something pleasing about a dust-free surface but I would rather be doing something else. So come Monday I was feeling a little cheesed off. By Tuesday afternoon I was desperate to get out into the garden again so after school I took the girls round to the allotment with me. There is something special about this time of year - the strawberry and mangetout season I call it. As the girls raced around looking for ripe strawberries I picked a bagful of mangetout. When the girls had had their fill there were still enough strawberries to bring a handful home to start a collection in the freezer. Eventually I'll gather enough in this way to make some jam. We had half the mangetout with dinner. I just love being able to cook a large portion of mangetout without forking out £1 on them and knowing that there will be the same amount ready to pick again in 3 days.

As always when we came in from the allotment I checked my answering phone for messages and was more than somewhat surprised to hear a message from a lady from the British Writers Awards 2010 telling me I needed to ring her urgently. That got my heart fluttering as I had only read the day before that this was to be the day they announced the finalists in the non-fiction category, to which I had entered 4 of my books. You can imagine my excitement when later that evening I read an email telling me that I was indeed one of the 6 finalists for the non-fiction award for my "Preserves" book. It was one of those emails you read over and over again just to check there hasn't been some sort of mistake. So now I have been invited to attend the gala black-tie awards evening at the O2 in London on 15th July! How exciting is that? But how pleasing too to have a book that is considered so good that it should be short-listed for such a thing!

So I started the week feeling a little grumpy and ended it feeling elated and to top it all the cherries are ripening too!

No comments:

Post a Comment