After some lovely weather this week, this weekend is predictably dreary! So today was an ideal day for some baking and jam making.
As you can see, the cake isn’t lasting long! My excuse is that it’ll be much better fresh!
During the week, I pulled some fairly sizeable stalks of rhubarb and have been wanting to try some rhubarb and ginger jam from a preserves book I got for my birthday last year. It seems to have set, but I think I may have burnt it a little. We haven’t tried it yet, so I’m just hoping it doesn’t taste too bad!
I’m so pleased that I managed to get to the allotment during the week when the sun was shining. I managed to weed most of the beds – the ‘crop’ of fat hen that self seeds all across our plot have sprung up in the warmer weather.
As you can see, there was a fair covering of weeds before I started. I planted some runner beans and sweet peas, cleared the kale and cabbage that hadn’t done very well and had gone to seed, and removed the netting that was protecting the kale etc from the pigeons and used it to cover the frame over the raspberries. I also sowed some carrot, beetroot, pak choi and fennel seeds. Ashley and I tried bulb fennel for the first time last year and really liked it so I’m pretty keen to try and grow it myself. I was enormously happy to see the potatoes, onions and garlic finally showing.
There’s still plenty of weeding, clearing, planting and covering to do. At home, the cauliflower seedlings are doing well and some of the sunflowers are really coming on. Unfortunately, most of my tomato seedlings have died off (I have no idea why!) and a lot of other things seem to really be struggling. It’s quite depressing seeing all my seedlings suffer and die when I’ve spent so many weeks tending to them daily. I’m really hoping to start seeing some good progress soon! And I mustn’t give up – I’m terrible for giving up when I’m not seeing the results that I want.
Thanks for reading, see you soon!
September is when I generally
start thinking about admit that I’m thinking about Christmas! Sorry, I said the C – word. Some people can wait until December 1st to even consider it, but for me (and I’m sure many other crafty types), late September is the ideal time to start working on those handmade gifts and planning others.
I usually try to make a bag of homemade food items for friends and family to add to their (often) shop bought gift. This year I hope to make many more presents than usual, alongside the usual food ‘hamper’ – wish me luck!
I’ve started with a couple of jams and jellies that have Christmas spice flavours, such as an apple jelly with cinnamon and cloves and a plum and mulled wine jam. The former has worked well and looks great in the little jars, but the jam hasn’t set properly and I think I may have burned it a little. ? I’ll have to try again I think. I’d like to find another recipe for something similar with Christmas flavours to make a trio of little jars to give. I’ve also started a gin flavoured with blackberries and apple. That was very simple to put together in a jar and needs to be left for about 4 weeks to infuse the flavours before bottling.
I’ve recently taught myself the basics of knitting and have a tutorial for a basic fingerless glove that I have tried so that’s probably going to be a gift for a sister in law or two (or three)! I learnt to crochet a couple of years ago, although never really made it past making blankets or other very simple projects. There are some great ideas out there on the Internet for crocheted gifts so I’ll probably look at those again.
I think I’ll be getting my little sewing machine out before Christmas too!
Cards are something else on the handmade Christmas to-do list. I started making my own greetings cards a few years ago and for a couple of years made all birthday, anniversary, Christmas and other celebration cards. For the last year or so, I’ve found it far too time consuming to make all of my own Christmas cards and have just made a few for immediate family members. These days I seem to really struggle for inspiration and motivation to make cards and have used a lot of shop bought birthday cards this year. But I will make the effort this year to make as many Christmas cards as I can; a few more elaborate cards for immediate family and I think I’ll try to come up with a fairly simple design that’s easy for me to replicate over and over for more distant family and friends.
I think my biggest challenge this year is going to be actually finishing all the projects that I start. I have a terrible habit of getting distracted by a new project halfway through the last, and ending up with five half finished things!
Do you have any ideas for handmade gifts? What would you like to receive as a handmade present?
Earlier in the year, we enjoyed our best yet blackcurrant crop and so of course I made jam! I love blackcurrant jam made into a hot drink or simply spread on toast. As the blackberries were ripening at different rates, I picked them as they were ready and froze them until I had enough. Freezing them in a single layer on a baking tray before bagging or boxing them prevents them from all sticking together – not sure it’s really needed for jam making, but that’s the way I like to do it! I found a simple recipe on the BBC food website which was easy to follow for a newbie jam maker such as myself. I made the jam in 2 batches, just in case I made a mistake – I didn’t want to ruin it all! As it happened, I overcooked the first batch. It’s still perfectly useable and doesn’t taste burnt, but is rather solid in the jar! The second batch seems just about perfect. The smaller jars quickly found their way into my Mum and Grandma’s cupboards! I’m now looking forward to the blackberry jams and jellies and other hedgerow delights available at this time of year!
Whilst reading though posts on the wonderful Lavender and Leeks blog, I saw this recipe and couldn’t wait to give it a go! Unfortunately, I didn’t have enough home grown strawberries so had to use shopbought. I was excited to have another use for my home made Elderflower cordial! As the recipe calls for half an apple, and there was no mention of removing the apple at any point, I thought the texture would be better if I peeled it – a mistake as those of you that are experienced jam makers will know! Apparently the most of the pectin found in apples (pectin helps the jam to set – the whole reason for adding the apple) is in the core and skin. My first attempt at the jam resulted in a very runny (but tasty!) jam that wouldn’t set. Good job I only made a small batch! So after a chat with my Uncle who has starting making jams in the last couple of years, I tried his suggestion of putting the chopped apple in a muslin cloth (tied up) to make for easy removal at the end of the process. The second batch set perfectly and is destined for Grandparents and the lovely couple who allow us to use their field as our allotment. I can see several more batches of this being made over the summer!
This should be our best year ever for blackcurrants! We’ve never had so many, I can’t wait for hem to ripen! I’m out in the garden every day checking on them and picking any that are ripe, popping them straight in the freezer to use later. When we moved into our little house 6 years ago, there was an overgrown bush half covering the front door and dropping these little berries all over the floor. Whilst we were moving furniture and boxes into the house, many got trampled into the carpet and I vowed that this bush was going to be dug out and disposed of as soon as I had the chance! After realising that they were actually blackcurrants, I had a change of heart and decided to keep it. Tried to cut it back and train it into a suitable shape but it still dropped berries by the front door and the berries were few and far between and very small. I decided that it needed a new home with more sunshine. My Grandma told me that moving it was as simple as cutting off the stems and pushing them into the ground so that’s exactly what I did. All but 1 stem took and turned into a little bush of its own and I learnt to prune them properly. The first year after they were moved we didn’t get much but that was to be expected. Last year we had quite a few berries but not masses. This year, however, every bush has gone mad! My grandparents used to grow all sorts of fruit and veg in their garden, including blackcurrants and homemade blackcurrant jam was a staple. My Grandma and Mum used to make hot blackcurrant drinks using a spoonful of the jam and mixing it with slightly cooled boiled water, then strained through a tea strainer. I can’t wait to make my own jam (hopefully!) this year. If we have enough blackcurrants, I’d like to try some sort of cordial or sauce too. Now to find some recipes…