Wednesday, 26 July 2017

More jam!

July is the month when all the hard workcomes to fruition, literally and we end up with masses of produce.
With not much effort at all I have managed to produce 10 lbs of raspberries this year after the local bird population had eaten about 5lbs.

We have made a few summer puddings but the bulk of the berries have gone into raspberry jam. I use the Good Housekeeping Cookbook recipe with one modification - reduced sugar.

  1. Wash 12 jars, rinse thoroughly and place in the oven at 100oC
  2. Put 7.5 lbs of washed raspberries in a large jampan and bring to boil.
  3. Simmer in it's own juice gently for 20 minutes until the fruit is really soft.
  4. Add 5lbs of granulated sugar, stirring constantly until the sugar has dissolved.
  5. Bring to the boil and boil for 5-10 minutes until the jam has reached setting point.
  6. To determine the setting point place a teaspoon of jam on a cold saucer. When the jam is cold push your finger across it. If the jam wrinkles then the setting point has been attained.
  7. Fill the hot jars with jam and seal, leaving a half inch gap at the top.
  8. As the jam cools the seal will become secure and the jars are ready for labelling.
  9. Jam produced in this way is good for at least 6 months and usually for a lot longer.

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Cold nights!

We are coming to the end of a fairly cool dry month of April and winter has re-appeared. This week the temperature has dipped below freezing on consecutive nights. Time to panic as I have tender plants in 2 separate greenhouses plus the polytunnel.

I found an old paraffin lamp in the shed which I used in my greenhouse. My neighbour lent me a heater to keep my plants in his greenhouse warm which just left the polytunnel on the allotment.

My neighbour Richard suggested 180 hour candles! Simple says he. Fill a container with liquid lard and then just before it solidifies pop in a wax candle. The lard feeds the candle and makes it last ...180 hours. This can then be placed under an upturned earthenware plant pot as a frost deterrent.

It's time for corn - sweet!

Growing in the Yorkshire Dales can be tricky with most veg so it was quite an adventure to try sweetcorn this season. Twelve plants outdoors and eighteen in the polytunnel.

Last time I tried it in the tunnel the plants were pushing at the roof before the cobs had formed. This year I tried an earlier cropping variety and the indoor plants had cobs on them by the middle of July. I waited until this week, the last one of the month and the results so far have been really heartening.

The big advantage of home grown is being able to eat them within hours of harvesting. After five minutes in boiling water the cobs are sweet and tender.

Saturday, 4 February 2017


February is still deep mid-winter here in the Yorkshire Dales. Overwintering vegetables in the polytunnel are fairly static at this time of year. However now that January is out of the way I can start to think about starting vegetables for maincropping this coming season. This involves the use of my heated propagator.

The first seeds into the propagator are Musselburgh leeks. I put them in deep pots or yoghurt cartons so that there is plenty of room for the roots to develop. No more than approx 25 seeds per pot. The seeds will germinate in 3-4 days and will be peeping through after a week. At that point I take them out of the propagator and put them on a windowsill at approx 16oC. In 3 or 4 weeks the pots can go out into the unheated greenhouse.

Next up are the onion sets. I normally use Sturon as my main crop. They tend to make good sized onions and store very well. This year I have also started Stuttgart sets so I wiil be able to compare the 2 ( providing that I remember which is which)
I purchased both types at Twin Locks Garden Centre, Gargrave. The come in bags of approx 50 at £1 per bag. They have been potted into individual plantpots in the cold greenhouse using general purpose compost.
Each set is then covered with compost. Once the sets have started to grow they will be transferred to the polytunnel on the allotment ( probably in 2-3 weeks)  and then hardened off for planting out in mid-March. Last year, once they were planted out, they were attacked by rabbits which ate the new growth. Once the onions were protected by a mesh fence they grew back and went on to be an excellent crop (for which I give the rabbits no credit.)

Monday, 16 January 2017

Surplus produce

During the busy summer and autumn I spend a lot of time saving fruit and veg for the leaner winter months. The summer of 2016 has been particularly bountiful resulting in a freezer full of  fruit and veg. This included 4lbs of blackberries! Fortunately I found a great recipe for jam which meant I could use up some apples as well.

Bramble and Apple Jam

4lbs blackberries
1.5lbs apples (prepared)
4lbs granulated sugar
2 tbs lime juice (lemon will do)
0.5 pt water.

Add all ingredients to a jampan and bring to the boil, stirring frequently and ensuring that all gran. sugar dissolves.
When jam is boiling reduce heat and simmer for approx 45 minutes. Apply the wrinkle test to the jam. Put a teaspoon of jam on a cold plate and move it with your finger. If the jam wrinkles it is ready for bottling. If not, continue the simmer and then retest. When the  jam is ready for bottling scoop it into hot jars and apply the lid whilst still warm.
If you do not want your jam too sweet reduce the sugar to 3.5lbs. This ensures that the predominant taste is of brambles. This jam will keep for up to a year ( in our house it will be gone in 6 months.) Enjoy.

Monday, 9 January 2017


This is a nice warming winter dish with a taste of North Africa. Felt like we were on holiday when we were eating it!
1 butternut squash, peeled and cubed
1 large onion, diced
2 tbsp. veg oil
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
450 ml veg stock
12 dried apricots, chopped
2 red peppers chopped
200g tinned chickpeas
1 tsp honey
3 tbsp. chopped coriander
2 tbsp. chopped mint
Fry the onion in the oil until softened.(5 minutes)  Add the squash and spices and fry for 5 minutes. Add the stock and honey, season well, cover and simmer for 8 minutes.
Add the peppers and cook  until tender. Stir in the coriander and mint.
We served it with couscous:
Pour 450 ml of boiling water over 250g of couscous. Add 1 tsp of harissa paste and 1/2 tsp salt plus 200g tinned chickpeas. mix, cover and leave for 5 munutes. Sprinkle with toasted flaked almonds and serve.

You can vary the recipe to suite your taste. Prunes or sultanas can be used instead of  apricots. If you prefer your Tagine a bit hotter then add half a deseeded jalapeno pepper with the onion at stage one.

Saturday, 31 December 2016

Spicy Xmas chutney

Chutney is a great way of using up surplus veg from the plot. In the summer I make tomato and courgette chutney when they are in season. At this time of year carrots onions, beetroot and apples are aplenty so this recipe (with variations) is ideal and the resulting jars of product can be either eaten, stored or given as festive presents.


3 carrots, grated.
3 beetroot diced
3 onions diced
3 apples, peeled and grated
3 oranges - zest and fruit, chopped.
2 tbsp mustard seeds
2 tbsp coriander seeds
1 tbsp ground cloves
700ml red wine vinegar
600g sugar
100g sultanas
1 tbsp cinnamon
1 jalapeno pepper, diced.

Add all the ingredients to a large pan.
Bring to boil stirring frequently.
Once the mixture is boiling reduce heat and boil gently for approximately one hour. Stir occasionally and check spice levels. If chutney requires more heat add a teaspoon of ground ginger.
After an hour remove from heat. Check beetroot is tender. Bottle chutney whilst hot into warm sterile jars and close lids tightly.
Do not use chutney until it is at least one month old. This recipe will improve with age and will keep for at least twelve months. Enjoy!