a busy domestic blog of knitting, sewing and all kinds of needlecrafts, cooking my garden produce and preserving it

Monday, 28 October 2019

Decisions, decisions

Back in the January sales I bought some wool. I had a definite plan of what I’d make but life got in the way and I never started it. 

Now I can’t remember what I was going to knit, so I’ve spent most of the weekend with my head in pattern books but still haven't made a decision!

Friday, 11 October 2019

Raspberry Vodka

After a fortnight of soaking raspberries and sugar in vodka, it's time for straining and decanting back into the original bottle.

There was just a little too much to fit, so I had to sample some - and very nice it was. The colour's gorgeous too. It's definitely more of a success than my rhubarb gin which smells strangely of olive oil.

I just wish I'd thought to steam off the original labels!

Sunday, 22 September 2019

When life gives you raspberries ...

 They say 'when life gives you lemons, make gin and tonic'. Well, life (or the allotment) is right now giving me raspberries - far too many of them.

Some have gone into the freezer to turn into jam at a later date but this autumn's crop has been so bounteous that I'd thought I'd experiment with some of it.

So, raspberry vodka.

4 ounces raspberries, the same of sugar and not quite the whole of a 35cl bottle of vodka - letting it sit, shake frequently, and wait for two weeks.
I've made blackberry vodka before, which was lovely, and rhubarb gin which was less so and needed interesting mixers. Hopefully this will fall into the 'lovely' category.
Fingers crossed for two weeks

Wednesday, 18 September 2019

Clearing the freezer and coping with gluts

My huge chest freezer has reached crisis point. The ice has built up and up, and unless the baskets are replaced in exactly the correct position the lid won't close. Like much of my house it's due for a declutter.

There are two main problems - all the allotment surplus that I freeze before it goes 'off' (and then forget about), and half-used bags of shop-bought things lurking right at the bottom.

So ... I decided that last month, I would make a real effort to buy no more frozen food. We'd eat the broad beans that have been sitting in there for years. Finish up the fish in sauce that we aren't really fond of. Put together all the half-used packs of bacon, prawns, and peas - and discover there actually IS enough for a meal.

I took out tomatoes and made passata, gooseberries for chutney, plums for jam, lemons to add to marrow and rhubarb marmalade.

Things were going well but then, just as the freezer looked clear enough to defrost, the allotment went into 'glut' mode. A few days of rain, followed by a few days holiday, meant it wasn't checked for a while, and the courgettes had grown into marrows. The greenhouse tomatoes started to ripen; the outdoor ones developed blight and had to be cleared.

Blackberries and autumn raspberries were ready to pick; as were the runner and French beans. Rhubarb decided to grow again, and apples started to fall from the trees. It's time to lift onions and potatoes, and possibly think about early pumpkins.

If only allotment produce would come along at a reasonable rate, as and when needed!

It's been time for a lot of inventive recipes - fruit with every breakfast, lazy trifle made from cold custard, blackberries, and yogurt, and cranachan made with yogurt (not cream).

And with this huge pile of marrows/courgettes to use more invention was called for. Marrow seems like an odd ingredient for jam but actually works well. Combined with an equal weight of rhubarb, and lots of frozen lemon skins it makes a tasty preserve somewhere between a marmalade and a jam.

In more traditional ways of using it we've had it roasted in lemon,  added to curry, pasta sauce, omelettes, goulash, and, last and definitely worst, stuffed. I still want to try a battered, fried recipe I was given, and the courgettes keep cropping so I may get the chance.

Beans, tomatoes (even the green ones) and surplus fruit have ended up in the freezer - it's completely full again but at least it's with this year's fruit and veg. Onions are hanging from the garage ceiling; potatoes are in bags in the cupboard under the stairs. People keep talking about stocking up for Brexit - I don't need to :)

Monday, 8 April 2019

Baby-sized cardigans, and clearing my yarn stash

I decided at almost the last minute to knit my
grandson a jacket for Christmas - a sort of baseball jacket. It took me a little over a week, and helped use up some bits of yarn I had stashed away, but was FAR too big!
It will probably still fit him next Christmas.

I was so taken with this way of using up my oddments of yarn, though, that sometime in January, filled with new year's resolutions to clear out my yarn stash, I thought I'd make another - similar but different, and smaller this time. I'd have plenty of time to make it before moving on to my newly-purchased wool intended for myself.
Or so I thought.

There must have been a huge amount of wishful thinking going on there, because with one thing and another I didn't complete the project till March!
Originally I'd intended to make the sleeves in blue, but there wasn't enough of that yarn.
I think the tan colour works well though, and the various coloured stripes will match with a variety of brown and blue jogging bottoms and denim baby jeans.

On now to my own cardigan before summer arrives ...

Wednesday, 27 March 2019

Cushion covers

I've become dreadfully lax about finishing projects. I bought these cushions years ago, intending then to double as pillows for overnight guests.
Well, they've seen a lot of use as pillows but it's taken a massive clear-out of the spare room to actually get covers made and them eventually taking their place on the sofa!
The material was originally surplus cut from a pair of far too long IKEA curtains, and like the cushions has been sitting waiting to be used for years!

Thursday, 31 January 2019

Bringing summer back to the kitchen

It's January so you can't expect the weather to be warm and sunny, but I always find it a good time, especially on a miserable rainy day, to raid the freezer and bring back the scents of summer to the kitchen.

First, my lazy version of passata. Frozen tomatoes are much easier to peel than fresh - drop them in boiling water and the skin falls off - then I just simmer them for a while till they're cooked and the consistency looks right. At this point, a more enthusiastic person might sieve the pips out. I don't mind them in soup or pasta sauces, so I don't bother with the fuss. I just pour the gloop into jars and boil to seal. The last bit always used to worry me - boiling a glass jar seems such a wrong thing to do - but, so far, I haven't had any accidents.

Then, a few days later, spurred on by the sight of stored apples rotting in their boxes, I decided to make jam. It's probably possible to use just apples but that doesn't seem a very exciting spread for toast or whatever, so I'd normally add some blackberries out of the freezer - this time, for a bit of variety, I used raspberries. I use roughly 2lbs apples to 1lb of other fruit, which I find works well. The jam tastes of the berries, but doesn't contain anything like the amount of seeds as jam made solely from them. It's more culinary laziness really.

We still have quite a few home-grown apples remaining, so I need to find some way of using them  - not cakes or puddings but maybe in casseroles with pork or sausages.