Saturday, 19 August 2017

Planning for Christmas 2017 Part 2 - Gathering things together

The crux of organising anything good is in the planning  - its the boring part but to make things run smoothly and be time effective its best to get this off to a fine tee.  Why because there is nothing more frustrating than starting to make something and then having to stop half way through because you haven't got what you need. It interrupts the creative flow and wastes time. Its the same with anything you do.  The more time you take to plan the better.  So if you cannot afford to buy several items or bits and bobs in bulk break it down piecemeal and work one project at a time.  Use the cheapie book shops or places like B & M and Wilkos and the Works (cheapie book store that also has an extensive range of craft items quite reasonably in the shops but they are on the Internet).  My personal opinion.

I am a bit gung ho on the preserving side at the moment mainly down to the short time period some foods are available and I like to make the most of what comes my way.  So the sooner I get something on the pantry shelf the better.  I can tick that off the list and move on to the next project.  Oh yes I do keep a notebook; all my scribbled notes and ideas go onto this WIP list.  The finalised contents then get transferred into a book so that when it comes to the following year I know what I have made and where the recipe came from and what I gave to who so half your organisation is sorted.

Tomorrow I have a busy day planned on the preserving front.  I have another two boxes of plums coming as well so its going to be an early start.

Chutneys need at least six weeks to mature so if you want to have a go at making home made chutney do so but make sure you leave a minimum of 6 weeks before use there is no way round this as your chutney basically matures in the jar.  So if you want your chutney for use at Christmas  really your last cut off point is beginning of November for use for Christmas.  So really now is the time to get cracking if you can.  Things like cranberry chutney do not take as long to cure as traditional chutneys but the earlier you can get this done the better.

I also start clearing out the old dried fruit at this time of year and make mincemeat and chutneys out of these.  Don't waste them they are perfectly more than okay to turn into mincemeat and chutney.  I equally also start buying in the fresh dried fruit for use in the Christmas Cake, the Christmas Plum loaf and the Dundee cake.

I recycle jars and bottles and use replacement lids; I save ribbon and cards from previous presents and decent pieces of wrapping paper.  I make my own labels for my preserves and wine - I also buy some and handwrite the labels depends how the creative streak hits me at that particular time.  I use string, brown paper and pen.  I make my own packaging labels put them in a safe place and forget where I have put them.  Its an age thing.

The brown wrapping paper can be picked up quite cheaply from the Pound shop or at least the one I have access to.  I buy this on the roll.  You can use this plain to wrap your presents up and then wrap with string or pretty decorative ribbon or you can decorate it yourself using stamps and a little ink or paint. There is always something that you can do to put your own twist/spin on things.  I also buy rolls of plain lining paper and you can use this to create your own wrapping paper with paint, stamps inks the same way or you can use it for the children to draw on, on the floor whilst you get on with something else.

Start buying a few postage stamps every week for Christmas cards to go to family and friends.  It is easier on the pocket this way round.

Another thing I do is if you have family that live near each other I send the cards to them and ask them to pop them onto the relevant family member.  Or we visit one particular member and then ask them to pass on.  You have to do what you can to keep costs down and no doubt that family member will be taking cards etc in their own name so it really does kill one bird with one stone.

If you do not have an address book make one up.  I then work through my address book year on year dealing with cards, and typing up address labels and getting everything organised and sorted.  I also write a Christmas letter to those of my nearest and dearest to enclose with the card(s).  Christmas is about family and it is  a way of keeping in touch.

I am also collecting fir cones, mini larch cones, teasel heads, twigs etc. for use in home made Christmas decorations and wreaths.  I have plenty of cinnamon sticks in hand as I bought some last year and did not use them.  However I am this year after five spice seed heads (from the local Asian or Chinese shop) and I intend to get some styroform balls and wreaths painting the base in gold and then decorating with the five spice seed heads using a glue gun.  These decorations can be hung or used free style to decorate tables etc.  With the Cinnamon sticks I already have I intend to have a go at making a garland with fir cones in as well.  One of the most stunning displays I saw for a Christmas window was a shop in Spalding a few years ago.  They had decorated the window very simply and naturally.  Someone had sourced blackthorn twigs/branches and decorated the window as though you were looking into a picture frame and then put those pretty cheap battery operated lights in with the twigs it really looked stunning and probably did not cost the shop owner as much as some of the other shops for the window design apart from a bit of planning and ingenuity.

I also intend to start playing with the salt dough again and make some little wreaths and plaques as well as candle holders paint them up and varnish them and then if they come out alright pass them on as pressies.  

So at this time of year there is always something to do and gather about you.  Go pick brambles and make bramble jelly or bramble and apple jam, or if you are lucky to find damsons or bullace make wild damson gin or jams from either the damsons or the bullace.

Its about gathering things together in readiness for having a go and giving a part of yourself to someone else.  Sometimes the things given freely mean the most - well in my book they do.  Going to the time and effort of doing something is a lot more personal and filled with love and good intent.  How can you not appreciate something that is from the heart.

Oh and don't forget to snap up little baskets or tins as you can always make "mini hampers" to put a pot of jam in or some home made sweeties in a tin.  Charity shops or pound shops are good for these.

So just a few ideas as they have come to hand.  There are loads more which I shall be airing in due course.

Happy planning



Friday, 18 August 2017

Long Day and Family Research

Extremely glad to be home.  Although now the second job starts.  OH is fishing and I have housework to do tonight.  Don't feel like it but it must be done as I have too many things in the pipeline to do which would be affected if I did not do what I have to do tonight.  Its a chain reaction.

Last night I gave in and did a little family history research.  We don't know too much about my mum's dad's family as apparently they did not talk about relations or who was where not like we do today.  Mum's Dad left home when she was about 10 years old which compounded matters.  Not only was my Grandmother abandoned with ten children during the war years his family did not have much to do with them either.  So I grew up knowing my Dad's parents and my mum's mum died when I was 17 months old.  Even though I was so young I still remember her presence even though I don't have a visual of her apart from photographs. Apparently it was my Gran who got me into the habit of dipping my finger in the sugar!

That was not the end of the saga though.  My grandparents never divorced and would have got back together  as my Granddad asked if she would move to another town.  She checked with the children and they did not want to move so as a result being the mum she was sacrificed her own happiness for that of her children.  They never did divorce and my granddad actually attended her funeral.  After her death he eventually remarried and ended up losing his second wife to cancer as well.  Mum went to see them and then lost contact with them.  I think she felt in a difficult position as if she was betraying her mum even though she loved her Dad.  This is the simplistic run of events obviously matters were much more complicated than that.  

I got divorced and started to spend time with my closest cousin visiting on a regular basis and I got it into my head that I wanted to meet my Granddad.  That visit was to bring a chain of events into play.  My cousin was refusing to take me even though I did not know the area where Granddad was living and in the end I told her she didn't have to come in.  I duly attended and he was pleased I had made the effort to go and see him.  My cousin's curiousity got the better of her and she also came in.  I liked what I saw he had a generous chuckle and wicked sense of humour.  We had a photo taken which I treasure even though I did not really know him I sensed an affinity with him.  I could not help but like him.  I only met him the once but that visit got my mum going to see him again on a regular basis.  Then Granddad started having circulation problems with his legs and ended up having one of them amputated due to gangrene.  Not long after he passed.

We went to the funeral and my mum was really cross that his new family were pulling the shots and dictating what should and should not be done and I had to keep her quiet but that was the upset coming out.  Losing her Dad like that hit her particularly hard.

A couple of years moved on.  OH started taking part in fishing matches and made a new friend locally who came from my home town.  It came to pass that not only did he know my Dad's Dad because he had trained him to be an Engineer, but he also used to play darts regularly with my Mum's Dad.  He was able to provide me with some photos of my Granddad.  Now how small a world is that.

Mum eventually received a box of photographs I think via one of her brothers that had been Granddads.  It also has his Army Service record book in it.  He was with the Royal Artillery (the same Regiment that my brother went into).  Mum gave it to me and had started to mark on the names of the people she knew on the back of the photos which has been a partial help.  One of those photos was of my Great Granddad my Granddad's dad.  We had no idea of names only that he had a large family. 

Last night I went on Ancestry and I found my Granddad and my Great Granddad and extended relatives that I knew nothing at all about.   Mostly by his sister's names, and that is how I located the information I was looking for.  Mum bless her had told me stories or at least the ones she knew and passed them on to me.It was a bit mind blowing  because after all these years I was getting the information which I had been seeking for so long.  Its like joining all the dots together.  What is even more amazing to me is that I was actually born in the area where my Granddad and his Father were born and lived.  I am probably the only grandchild to be so born so close to the family's roots.  Completely proper Lincolnshire unspoilt countryside and farmland with pretty little villages not far from the Wolds.  My Great Grandfather was a farm Labourer and could write and my Grandfather worked in the flax Mill near Sleaford after he came out of the Forces.  I have always had a great love for the land and growing things which has been prevalent on my Dad's side but I knew it went deeper than that.  From the face of things It would seem that its a family thing  working the land from all sides.  I had not heard of some of the place names some I had through my mum but what I tend to do is get the map out and try and find out where these places are and that can be very revealing and interesting in itself and also explain so much.  It would also appear that we have had brave members of the family lost to the war but I need to do further research on that.  I am not sure but believe it was my Granddad's brother but that will need further research.   And at the moment I am just so pleased that I have found missing members of the family.  However it has opened up a lot more names to research so it may be that during the winter months I will start regularly going back on Ancestry again to do further reasearch.    I have the majority of the names on my Dad's Dad's side but not mum's and I have not really been looking at her side.  I am just pleased that at least now I am able to put flesh on the bones as it were to these missing relatives and that they have been found.

Right I am off to get a wriggle on.

Catch you soon.



Thursday, 17 August 2017

I Blame Tracey!

I was busy reading my Internet friend Tracey's latest offering late last night where she mentioned that it had come over all dark and looked as though it was going to rain.  I think she sent it this way!  I think that was earlier on the evening. Here's the link to her blog:

Come 12:45am last night here in Peterborough I went down to get his lordship in (Demetri) who was not co-operating at all.  He could not even be tempted with a piece of  chicken.  I came back in and went out again and all of sudden rain out of nowhere and I got drenched/  The cold type of drenching where it makes your inner core go cold.  I had to wait until it stopped before I could lure his highness anywhere near the gate and then as it started to rain again he thought better of it and shot in,  So for getting wet I blame Tracey - only kidding.

Joking aside it was still wet this morning when I eventually managed to get up.  Unfortunately I ended up falling back to sleep and ended up getting up in a bit of a hurry which always leaves me wrong-footed.   However it has brightened up now and is a lot muggier than it was.  However, Autumn is very slowly putting in an appearance.  I think I am going to go blackberrying over the weekend,  OH is fishing and I might well trek down to the river and collect some berries both elderberry and blackberries.  I definitely want to make jam and jelly and some more wild berry vodka.  I also want to make elderberry jelly and some canned hedgepick pie filling which consists of apples, elderberries blackberries and plums oh and I nearly forgot elderberry wine!  So that is an outline plan for Saturday as long as the weather is good.  It also means that I will be able to do a little bit of hubble bubble toil and trouble preserving in my own little world and able to get on as I please. I also have blackberry and elderberry cordial to make.

Tomorrow night I have the plum wine to continue with and to pop it into the demijohn.  I also have the peach to do I have not managed to get to it so far and as OH is fishing it may well be the optimum time to get stuck in on the wine front.  Means I can play a little and get the wine store a little more filled than it actually is.  That means at some point I am going to have to sort out the understair cupboard where my wine racks are.

Tomorrow night will also be the plum and greengage jam session. So it looks as though I am going to be missing and busy in action again.

Today has been a really long day and I am glad to be home but cannot wait to break up for the weekend tomorrow.

Right better get on.

Catch you soon Pattypanxx

Pickling Onions and Pickles

I was told this morning that apparently the pickling onions are  on their way with a bit of luck I will be able to buy some this weekend.  Shallots will be coming soon as well. I had specifically asked for both the same as I had asked for Greengages and Victoria Plums.  Its good to know that my supplier is listening to me.

I always make a lot of pickled onions and shallots as they are good in stews or with a ploughmans or just as a snack.  By preference I prefer the shallots but then again that is what my Nan used to do and they were the first kind of pickled onion of any type I had eaten.  I think they have a bit more punch than ordinary pickled onions.  Well mine do!

For the pickled onions or shallots I prefer the Sarsons Vinegar jars for storing them in with my own home spiced vinegar with the addition of bay leaves, home dried chilli and peppercorns.  If you are not keen on chilli take it out after a couple of weeks or so and the spiced vinegar in the pickle will not get any hotter.

I cry bitterly when preparing onions of any kind.  However I have found that if I soak the onions I am going to prepare for about an hour in hot boiling water it softens the outer skin and you don't get the harshness so much of the onion.  You leave the onion soaking and prepare them one by one.  I then brine the onions by popping them in a bowl of salt water putting a plate over them to make the onions stay under the water and then leave for 24 hours or so.  Then wash them and drain and dry them.  I then prepare the vinegar by boiling it and then letting it cool a little.  Stuff the jars with the onions or shallots making sure that the onions are equally spaced out in the jar and then adding the vinegar to the top. I then go round the jar with a knife to release any vinegar bubbles.  To keep the onions submerged I use some greaseproof paper that has been folded into a little square and pop that between the lid and the onions and once the lid is on it helps keep the onions down.  Label and place in a cool pantry.  Enjoy.

I was only thinking the other day about preparing two large jars of pickled eggs and thinking about getting the trays of eggs in to do the same.  One is kept for Christmas and the other one OH can have in-between now and Christmas - I am not keen!

I also have bread and butter pickled cucumbers to prepare as well and some spiced oranges.

So the pickle pot will also come out starting with the onions.

I also have the remnants of a net of onions that need using up so I may well make some onion relish/marmalade as well in the spirit of waste not want not.  Right had better get a wriggle on.

Catch you soon.



The forager's/pulling hook

What's one of them you say.  Something my grandfather cobbled together out of a long metal rod with hooks either end.  The idea behind it being that you could pull down branches on trees nearer to you so that you could harvest whatever was on the tree or in his case the apples.  Makes life a lot easier.  However if you are going wild fruit picking as well it is useful to take with you as well.  I am only 5ft 3 inches these days having shrunk by some two inches and I really struggle so along goes the hook with us when we go out searching.  Well its a lot less suspicious than dragging a step ladder along.

I am keen to locate some damsons but so far no luck. Think we need to be out of town for these, but we will see.  I have never found bullace yet either. Cherry plums of different colours and yellow Mirabelle plums yes and sloes and blackberries.  Some lucky foragers also have access to Medlars which I have never tried and quince.  I am keeping my eyes on the crab apples as I love plain crab apple jelly especially served as apple sauce with a lovely piece of pork or equally the spiced version which is also a favourite.  Roast Pork is a firm favourite here.

Well if the worst comes to the worst when you go out picking and take your hook with you, you can always say that you have pulled out in the middle of nowhere.  However I think the interpretation of "pulled" might mean different things to different people.

Happy foraging.



Wednesday, 16 August 2017

A funny thing happened on the way to work this morning!

I have been going to work by taxi since my foot operation and I needed change to give to the driver so I nipped round to the local shop to get some change.  On my way back I was accosted by the veg shop owners who called out did I still want any Victoria Plums!  I ended up buying the box and a box of greengage as well so it looks as though jam making is well and truly on the cards this week as well. 

I love Victoria plums, probably because they are the variety that my grandparents used to grow and we used to pick or scrump them off the tree when we visited.  The Victorias and the Black Diamonds.  We were taught to be wary of the wasps as well and to survey the fruit all the way round before picking it.  Nan always used to stick some jars with water in and a blob of jam to keep the wasps off the fruit hanging them off the lower branches and we used to help make those up when we went as well.

OH has had a few of the Victorias to eat as they are also one of his favourite fruits.  He is partial to a plum or two.

I also have the greengages which I like as well so greengage jam is definitely on the cards.  Looks as though I am going to be busier than I envisaged.  Oh well it will keep me out of mischief or get me into it one way or another.

I most definitely want to bottle some of the Victorias as I want to use them to make sugar plums for Christmas.

Something else for the pantry shelf.  I did plum wine the other day and I have peach wine to make later on this evening.

Its all good stuff with no nasties in.  Its good to be independent and not overly rely on others to supply everything to you.

I need to do some work over these winter months to sort out some semblance of a kitchen garden for next year as you really cannot beat home grown veg in the bigger scheme of things.  However I am a big believer in making use and taking advantage of anything that comes your way.

Right had better get a wriggle on if I am to get a sit down before going to bed this evening.  I am tired so I do not want to be too late.

Catch you shortly.



Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Planning For Christmas 2017 Part 1

Oh no not that C word some of you groan.  Yes it is early, however I am working on the basis that time is short  and for what I want to do time is tight and of the essence.  Commiserations to you who are groaning but there is very much a method in my madness.  Carry on reading and you will find out more below.

Come the end of August beginning of September every year I start buying those extra bits and bobs or fresh ingredients and filling the pantry with an array of different produce.  I  turn raw ingredients prepared by my own fair hands into long keeping  chutneys, jams, pickles, dried goods, canned goods  and fill the pantry shelves or boughten prepared items.  Lets be realistic here I aim high but if I run out of time then I do of course buy things rather than make them.  I am not perfect although my overall aim is to do as much as I personally can it just isn't always possible.  So the whole process is not one to make you feel guilty that you have not made your own fruit cake (when you have bought a perfectly good one from M & S) but more along the lines of doing what you can with the time  and resources you have and what works for your family as a whole. 

One of the reasons I go through this process year by year is that we as a family celebrate Christmas; I am following on in a family tradition and doing it a bit at a time helps on the budget especially in the month of December.  This is what my Nan did all her life; especially during and after the War when food stuffs were very scarce. My mother did the same. It was and is a way of paying forward for tomorrow really so that we can have those little treats and have a celebration and a good time and have something to look forward to especially on grey winter days.  Everyone needs something to look forward to.

I and many of my extended family members particularly my cousins just love Christmas.  Not everyone is into Christmas but we are.  We like to give everyone a good time and good food without being totally OTT on how much we spend on Christmas presents and if we do not have much money in the first place then we set to and make our own. However we do like the whole process of giving and sharing with our friends and our nearest and dearest and doing what we can with what is available to us.  We love the whole process whether that be collecting pine cones and storing them in baskets and then turning them into fire lighters by either drizzling scrap ends from candles over them and letting them set or setting them into little night lights when the wax is melted and using them as fire starters minus the metal case or whether we have hand sewn a Christmas stocking for a young nephew or niece. 

A big part of Christmas is setting the scene making things look lovely,  making things smell nice, think scented candles or a burning wood fire with fir cones piled on, mulled wine, making your own garlands and the smell of spruce and cinnamon used in home made garlands and a Kissing bough. Or scented orange pomanders piled in a bowl on the dresser.

I have a chandelier wrought iron effect lamp in my dining room and I always tie a bunch of greenery off the base of the lamp with ribbon so it hangs down and if spruce is used it smells wonderful. Making those Christmas decorations yourself, getting the children involved with the traditional customs of Christmas or in crafting and having a go gives a lot of satisfaction.  Children learn to do things at our coat tails so letting them have a go  and explore how to do things in a safe environment actually encourages them to do more.  It lets their creativity free as well as yours.

Decorating the house, playing that Christmas music, getting all nostalgic and remembering Christmas from times past and remembering those who have passed before us.  It is allowed how you celebrate Christmas your customs and traditions is really down to you. Something when you work full time you are not always able to do to the extent that you want to do it.  Despite all the ramifications and despite all the hard work I want to get back to a simpler way of celebrating Christmas.  I am planning on having the week off before Christmas this year so that I can get stuck in and get everything ready for  Christmas.  

This Christmas, I am aiming to make a lot of the presents myself whether that be hand crafted items or a little mini hamper of preserves etc.  The Christmas cakes will have to be made in September this year and it will give the cakes which are fruit cakes time to mature properly.  I say cakes as I always make a couple; one for me and one for my brother and his family.  I will probably do the Christmas puddings as well to get them out of the way and also to let them mature properly in the pantry well wrapped and perfectly safe.  However I do prefer to do them on the allotted day i.e. Stir Up Sunday but we shall see how things go in the long run.  I also want to make a couple of Dundee Cakes.  Fruit cake has always been a big thing in our family.  The ladies who have gone before me really could make a good cake.  I get by and my brother soon eats his way through it so I think that speaks volumes.  Especially if it is covered by Royal Icing.  However both of us hated Christmas cake as kids but we loved the marzipan and the icing.  These days we like both.

I have been quite active on the flavoured vodkas, gins and wines this year.  I have a Newcastle Brown Beer kit to try and I also have plans to do a Bitter and  Lager from kits and  country cider from fresh apples as well as a variety of different fruit home made country wines. I also want to get back to the family tradition of having Sunday dinner with a glass of home made wine.  Something that my Nan always did. However although I get by with the winemaking I will never be as good as what Nan and my mum were.

My preparation encompasses a number of different storage methods i.e. the cold pantry, the pantry shelf, the freezer, bottling, chutneys, pickling, drying, clamping, the wine chiller/wine cellar (shed) meat and charcuterie, cake making, Royal Icing and Marzipan (Marchepane), crafts, sewing, patchwork, crochet, knitting, embroidery etc. etc. and a variety of different skills.  Don't say you can't do something.  That's something I used to say but you never know unless you have had a go and actually tried.  You get better the more you practice.  Yes you will make mistakes we all do its all part and process of learning but each time you do something you get that bit better each time and learn from your mistakes.  Something is only as complicated as you actually make it.  I know from my own experience that I am or have been a chief offender in this regard.  However please do have a go at something  - you don't have to do as much as me but you can do a little and the satisfaction gained from actually doing something yourself actually gives you a boost and makes you feel good about things in general.

One thing I am abysmal at is drawing and painting no matter how hard I have tried I just have not got to grips with this.  But if you can turn out a decent piece of work with the few strokes of a brush you could make your own hand painted Christmas cards.  I have a friend who either crafts her own cards or embroiders them and those lucky recipients keep those little gems and bring them out year after year.  They are worked with love and are little heirlooms.  So go on have a go.  We all have something to bring to the table at the end of the day.  If there are several members of the same family join together and all do something then share it around between you.  You are not only re-affirming  and strengthening your bonds of friendship but working to do something for your families as well. Share the skill sets you have.

The other reason I do so much is that I actually enjoy doing it.  It gives me a lot of pleasure, keeps me occupied and certainly not bored.

There is lots to do and I am getting very excited about things.  I am hoping to get blackberries and elderberries this week for turning into useful things for the pantry shelf, including, jellies, jams and wines.  However I am also looking at collecting fir cones, small larch cones, teasel heads to make decorations and twigs to make little Christmas star decorations or to be used in garlands.  

I am looking forward to making candles, I have sourced some moulds and also soap making which I have not done before. So lots to do and so little time to do it as usual.

On the meat front I also want to do Gravlax again for Christmas and maybe a spiced beef or "bombed beef" as I have also heard it referred to (has Saltpetre  in hence the term "bombed"!).  I also want to get some Salami made and Pork Pies.  But we will see how things go.

Just plans which are not set in stone and could well be changed as things go on but an outline of what I would like to achieve.

Have you thought about Christmas yet or is it still far to early to formulate your plans in your mind's eye.

Would love to hear from you.

Catch you soon.



Adding to the Rumptopf and other bits and bobs

I have been adding to the Rumptopfs since starting them off a little while back.  So far both have a deep layer of Strawberries, Raspberries, Blueberries, Cherries and Redcurrants (not necessarily in that order)  The jars are not far off being full.  I have used one of the old Roses Jars for one of the Rumptopfs and one in an original Rumptopf pot.  Both are coming on very nicely.  I am looking forward to opening them up at Christmas and serving them either with fresh whipped double cream, vanilla Ice cream or Cinnamon ice cream.  Dillylicious. Or just the liqueur served in little shot glasses.  Waste not want not.

Currently I have three proper Rumptopf pots which are replacements for the ones I had originally and which the cats demolished including the one my brother had brought home from Germany for me.  I also have one glass one found at a car boot.  Needless to say the cats are being kept out of the way of these as I do not only use them for Rumptopf I use them for making mincemeat as well.

The Black Cherry Brandy is also coming on very nicely as is the wild blackberry Gin.
I also have in mind to do some mulled pears - I really do like these they make a nice change.  I am a fan of proper mulled wine in any event.  Then of course there are spiced pears, pear and chocolate jam and bottled pears.

I got the plum wine started before going to bed last night; it was a spur of the moment decision but at least these three gallons are started.  I now have to sort the Peach out.  I think I will be looking out for more reductions on the plum front as I have quite a bit I would like to achieve.

I also have wine kits 3 gallons of Black Cherry, 3 gallons of Elderflower, and a beer kit as well.  A Newcastle Brown Ale. I have plans to make more orange wine which along with lemon and grapefruit form the core base of our house wine. I also want to make Rhubarb wine.  If I get Elderberries some Elderberr wine will also be started Plus ginger wine and Cider.  Proper Cider.  So a lot to do as usual.

Even though I have the demijohns I have had to stock up on the airlocks buying new ones I have three packets of two i.e. 6.  It looks as though it is going to be a different kind of hubble bubble when the wine gets decanted into the demijohn and the airlocks start to bubble.  I get mine from Wilkinsons 

Preserving of a different kind for the wine section of the pantry.

Catch you soon.



Making Plum Wine

Wouldn't you know it.  I come to locate my wine making book and I cannot locate it.  So a quick foray on the Internet as I do not want the plums to go all yuck and I found this site with a recipe similar to the one that I was seeking in that it is a proper country wine and more natural limiting the sulphites as much as possible.  Plum wine often goes into a second fermentation but this gives the wine lots of flavour and more pzazz and to watch the lovely pink wine with bubbles going up in the glass is being given a real treat.  My Nan used to make Plum Wine and it was a regular on her table.  But then she had the plum trees; most of us have to look for reduced plums if we do not have access to the trees.  If only; one day.

There are lots more recipes here on the same site as well.  A very good site if you a beginner and want to get into winemaking as well as gardening.

Me I have just dabbled for years in making wine.  I have never got rid of the equipment because I have phases depending on time and space a lot of the time

1.  Preparing the plums.
2.  Putting into sterilised bucket.
3.  3 gallons of wine made 24 pts of water added.  8 pints per gallon of wine.
4.  Leaving for 4 days to soak fruit and release juices.

Next stage will be added once four days are up.

Catch u soon.

Looking to carry on with the wine on Friday evening once the four days are up.


Pattypan xxl

Monday, 14 August 2017

Monday Round Up

Today did not start non too well I was up for 6:30 as I usually am to get OH sorted and then because I was tired I went back to bed after I had had my meds.  I promptly fell into a dead deep sleep accompanied by Missy and she did not move either. and was only awoken by the phone ringing.  I had slept through two alarms.  Fortunately OH rang to make sure I was up he remembered today he normally does not which woke me from my slumber.  As I was out of cinque and not firing on all pistons Its been a difficult day and an exceptionally busy one.  Fortunately I met a friend for dinner and then back to work in the afternoon.  I have not stopped since I got home either as have been slowly sorting the kitchen.  Have a little way to go yet.  Have just stopped for a break to catch my breath and a little more to do today and I will continue on tomorrow night. Rome was not built in a day and the older I am getting the longer it seems to take to do things,  We have had very light drizzle this evening since getting in.

Right upwards and onwards.

Catch you later.



A visit to the Veg Shop

As many of you regular followers will know Saturday is usually the day I manage to get to the vegetable shop and to stock up generally with veggies for the week or lots of fruit to stock up my pantry with by turning them into jams, dried goods, pickles, chutneys, wines and hopefully this Saturday to actually do some canning for the first time with my pressure canner.  This Saturday's visit has ended up with the following together with ideas of what I am going to do with them.  Trouble is I cannot resist a bargain, but there is a lot to do as usual.

This week I have plums for plum wine.  13  punnets for 50p a punnet.  About one lb of plums per punnet - so that will be a good 2 gallon of wine at least. I still have apple and plum jam to make but that will be another week. If I can get hold of Victoria plums for this and for jelly.  And then I want to do more bottled plums as they are ideal for preparing pudding.

Tomatoes for more passatta.

Oranges for Orange and Tarragon and Orange jellies.  Orange and tarragon can be served with Pork and Duck and the like.  Orange jelly can be used in home made Jaffa cakes.

More beetroot for pickling. Can never have enough beetroot.  It soon disappears round here.

Peaches for Peach wine

Peaches for jam - I need to get some for bottling.

Cooking Apples to turn into Chutney and more Apple sauce.  Can never have too much apple sauce.

Runner Beans, cauliflower, courgettes, carrot red pepper, marrow for turning into Piccallili.

Garlic and Apple Jelly.

Onion for Onion Marmalade.

Pink/Red Grapefruit for Grapefruit Curd and for Grapefruit Cordial.

I seem to have a lot to do again.   I will probably do both lots of wine tomorrow evening once I have more space in the kitchen.

Catch you later on.



Sunday Night Catch Up - Posted Monday Morning

A busy day on Sunday and one where I was not firing on all pistons.  After the family incident yesterday which needed sorted out I am a little drained to say the least and not terribly happy that my play date was thwarted!.  But it was a case of if I did not sort things out things would have kept repeating themselves so needs must and all that.  Oh well if I look at it in a positive frame of mind at least it will give me more time to get things prepped which will be better in the long run on the organisational front.  I intend to get everything to machining point and then just work my way through the projects so as to make the most of the time available to me.

I have written a couple of posts today as well.  I tend to pre-prep on different subjects and then when the timing is right it gets posted.  Working full time its the only way I can do it - when the words come I let them run across the page.  I do not handwrite  - I am a secretary so it is second nature for me to type everything straight onto the blank page.  Sometimes the words just flow and on others I struggle like billy oh.  If I leave it and then go back to it the words flow better.

I have been attending to housewifely duties and also done a little flower arranging - see the Wellingore Hall post.  the post started off about flower arranging and I kind of got side tracked remembering things that are important to me and remembering those no longer with us.  I was very fortunate that I was from a very loving family - some of the branches of the family did not have much financially but they gave a lot of love and it did not matter what you did.  You were still theirs.  They had their hands and their skills and were not afraid of hard work or of having a go.  Sometimes I think I was loved too much if you know what I mean.  I was extremely close with my Dad we could finish each other's sentences off and could communicate without uttering  a word; and I think of everyone I was the closest to him.  However there were other family members who I did get close to as well people who were really important to me. Unfortunately they have now all gone and are missed greatly by me. However I don't let people in easily probably due to the way I have been treated over the years.  I share some of  the inner me here but not everything.  Probably the more creative side which other people do not see.

For instance the other day a younger member of staff had thought that I was a spinster and was quite surprised that I had been previously married and that I have been with OH for 30 years.  What is it with some of the youngsters they assume so much and get it dreadfully wrong.  Its as though they write you off and that you have not had an interesting life.  I think its really down to some people are so fickle they don't consider that you have really lived and done various things with your life.  They are not prepared to scratch the surface.  These sorts of people come into the associate range rather than friends.  Proper warts and all friends stick with you through thick and thin and love you for yourself no matter what you do.

Anyway after doing the housewifely bit  (i.e. the washing the ironing etc) I then set to and cooked roast chicken with sage and onion stuffing, bread sauce, chipolata sausages, roast potatoes, peas, kale, cabbage and carrot and swede crush with lashings of gravy.  It was delicious and has gone down very nicely and has set us both up very well for the rest of the week.  I do not know what it is about fishing but one little Jack Russell comes back with her master and she is absolutely shattered she has crashed out again now.  It will take her a couple of days to recover; apparently she is on constant alert when in the bivvy.

By the way I ordered the new Kilner Recipe book thinking it might be a good buy.  Personally I am a little disappointed with it the recipes are far better on the web site, although it does cover all the other things they have dipped their toes into like making butter, spiralising, meals in jars that sort of thing but not enough on the preserving recipe front or recipes of interest. Might be okay for a beginner.  Well it was a gamble.  No doubt I will find the odd recipe I can use.

I have also bought two shower curtains cheapies from Wilkos for £3 apiece.  I thought that I might make a shower curtain for the bathroom at some point out of white lace/net and use the cheapie linings to keep the net clean.  However I then decided that they are going into the stash as I think they will come in very useful for making make up bags and lining them to give away as Crimbo presents.  I also have a pattern for a shower cap that I would quite like to have a go at and it will be ideal for lining it.  As I have said before I want to try and make all my own Christmas presents this year if I can.  So perhaps its a good thing in the long run of preparing and then sewing items so that they are split into different zones of production.

On the elderberry and blackberry front I did not get any today and hope to go one night in the week after work.  I need space to process the elderberries and the blackberries into their respective products so I need to do some clearing before I go and harvest them.  On the Rosehip front they are just starting to colour up and there looks as if there is going to be quite a few so I shall also take advantage of them when they have a bit more colour.

Hopefully will catch up with everyone later on.

Take care.



Sunday, 13 August 2017

Wellingore Hall

Flowers and flower arranging have been part of my life since I was knee high to a gnat.  My Nan always had flowers in the house even in the winter months.  She also did the flowers at the local church you know the big display sprays that used to be set on pedestals.  She also had a cutting garden of sorts although not to the same extent as my Aunt did.  Its just something I grew up with. 

My Aunt's kitchen garden was an enclosed Victorian Garden which was part of Wellingore Hall where she lived.  My Great Aunt  (Aunt Kit - my Aunt's mother amd also my Grandmother's older sister) bought the Hall - it was about to be demolished but she saved it and turned it into residential flats for professional people and in later years accommodation was often taken up by personnel from RAF Waddington.

Every year from the date of my brother's birth I used to go and spend a week with them where I had free run of the grounds as long as I did not go to the woods and the lake.  That was forbidden.  Here is the Hall but in the centre panel on the ground floor it had a very large Victorian Green House.  This backed onto what was my Aunt Kit's apartment.  Where the raised banks were was all corralled in for the horses. To the left of the picture are trees and this is where by cousin's bungalow is.  to the right of the picture there is at least half the Hall again as there is what was the kitchen wing and then additional homes like the Studio tacked on the end which backed onto the Victorian Kitchen Garden where my aunt grew flowers and also had a massive fruit and veg plot as well as the cutting garden.

The Hall became a prisoner of war camp during the war years.  Which I know about as I was told this as a littley and indeed the concrete base to the bathroom was still there when I was small.  More information can be gleaned here which I have only recently become aware of.

The Hall as I knew it.  It also had a large library and ball room with extremely beautiful ornate ceilings edged in gilt and lots of mirrors.  Just before my Great Uncle died the Hall was sold and bought by a seed company based in Sleaford I believe which has since gone out of business.  However my Uncle Jim was a Master Cabinet Maker and he was commissioned to restore the ball room as an events room.  So a part of him still lingers on at the Hall where he worked and lived for so long.

To the right of the photo there were a set of ponds that cascaded down the hill to my Uncles Aviaries.  When it was hot I was allowed to paddle in the little ponds.  However I think these have long gone as the Hall is now under private ownership again and they have made quite a lot of changes to the Hall some of which I am not too keen on.

Here is the Hall today perched on the brow of the Hill looking down into the park.

Looking from the Park up the Hill towards the Hall.  Where the big tree is to the left is my cousin#s home.  The Park originally belonged to my Great Aunt as well.  And there is the Church to the left of the picture also.  The Park ends up in a central valley and the ponies used to live in the field there was a central shelter for them.  Later after the ponies had gone and come harvest time the whole of the park would be set alight to burn the stubble.

The church also perched on the brow of the Hill and where my aunt is buried.

The Private Chapel.  The old kitchens which were converted into my aunt's flat are behind the chapel.  The road on the left of the picture leads straight through to the Stables.  Proper Stables that had the Haylofts up top and just holes in the floor - I was kept away from them unless I was with an adult and then under close supervision.

The Original Gateway to the Hall that I always knew straight up ahead to my Aunt's flat and to the left of the picture the gateway to the stables.  A large Victorian Square Block Stables with a big white mounting block.

The wall along the road to the Hall was always solid when I was at the Hall but the new owners have changed it and it is that I am not sure of.

Which is a carriage gateway.  It is possible that this is how it was built originally but I new knew it like this.

The Hall offices as they are today.  When I was a child this was the Tack Room.

These are not my photos but are on the Internet.  I spent many happy hours here as a child.  I was very privileged.

Anyway I seem to have gone off track.  I was writing about flower arranging.

Last night I managed to get flowers reduced and as I had bought a flower bowl for 50p I decided to do a flower arrangement in it.  As there was no grid I made this out of sellotape making a gridwork and then slotting the flowers in.  I think it looks quite pretty and not too bad an effort for a non-flower arranger.

The dream house will have to have a flower garden.  I love flowers especially in the house.  They seem to add a charm and magic all of their own.

Do you have a cutting garden and if so what do you grow there.

Catch you soon.



Return of an old favourite

When I first started out blogging many years ago I belonged to a very good forum where a lot of good recipes and information were held and which sadly is no longer with us which really helped me a lot.  It was thanks to the encouragement of the ladies on this blog that I started to bottle never having done it before.

But one of the sites that I used to follow regularly was The Cottage Smallholder run by Fiona Neville.  Sadly although the forum has been ongoing Fiona has not posted for a few years but I am glad to say that she has now popped her head up again and feels that the time is right to start blogging again which I am really pleased about.

For those of you who are just starting out on your journey  (or you older hands)for preserving or putting food by or other life issues Fiona's  forum and blog is absolutely lovely and contains an awful lot of recipes which are super and her experiments with different things like meat preserving and smoking.

The link to the blog is here:

The link to the forum is here

Lovely to see you back Fiona.




The blog I originally followed when I started out was called Creative Living and I learnt all sorts from that blog.  It was run by Mrs L (Sarah) and as a result of me posting above she has been back in touch again.  She has a new blog

Sarah always has been interested in growing and producing her own food and preserving etc in fact dare I say downright passionate.  The new blog is in its early throes but if it is anything like the Creative Living Forum and from what I have seen so far you will learn a lot - probably a different stance to everyone else but It is worth a look.

Catch you soon.

Pattypan xx

Flavourings and Seasonings and Vitamin C

 Tiger shop is brilliant for spices food mixes, sold by the bag and normally £1 a time.  They do have some unusual mixes and it varies from time to time what they actually have in at the particular time you are there.

Today  (Saturday)I have managed to obtain the following:

I also have Herbes de Provence, Marjoram and a Greek Salt mix (which I have not photographed yet) as additions to my spice cupboard/Pantry

I have also got fresh thyme, fresh tarragon, fresh chives, garlic and chillies to do something with.  All these things add a little bit more flavour to everyday cooking. The garlic is pungent and strong and came from M & S and very large bulb.  I have four of these bulbs I may get some more and put them for the winter months as they are lovely and pungent.  I may also make aioli to use as a salad dressing during the week (It can also be used to dress soups).  I use garlic a lot.  This garlic is that full of flavour in that I am going to make my own garlic butter.

We have herbed chicken for tea which I am looking forward to and some of these cloves will go in with the chicken and then we have separate stuffing and chippolatas and home made bread sauce together with roasties, and fresh veggies.  Hopefully I will get at least two or three servings out of the chicken and then of course there is the carcass with which to make soup stock and freeze.

The fresh chives have been snipped into ice cube trays and popped into the freezer for a little touch of summer in the middle of winter.

I managed to get some more ground cloves the other day which together with a couple of whole cloves I use when I make the bread sauce together with white and black pepper, a little thyme, bay leaf, onion and milk and of course bread crumbs.  Either fresh or home dried.  Then there will be veggies but I always aim to give maximum flavour with the meat itself and/or the gravy/sauces.  The right ones often bring out the best in the meat.

The chillies are going to be used in sweet n sour chilli sauce. 

I already have plenty of Tarragon vinegar which is the secret ingredient in my home made prawn cocktail sauce along with a little cayenne.  I have a large jar of this macerating. Basically it is two to three bottles of good white wine vinegar popped into a large sterilised preserving jar.  The fresh tarragon is then stuffed in and then if still above the vinegar line more tarragon is added.  I use the French Tarragon as it has a far superior flavour.  You will probably note that I have covered the top of the jar with cling film.  Vinegar can attract flies and so as I always wipe everything down I do pop the cling film on the top as a safety precaution.  More so as I have wines in the house and I do not want contamination from the little perishers.  Now I have the shed I think the vinegars will be going into the shed as I am also keen on experimenting on making my own vinegar as well.

The thyme is drying as we speak whole on the stem.  I am trying to dry this whole naturally so that I can combine into a home made bouquet garni.  A bouquet really does add a lot of flavour to a soup or a stew  and they are relatively easy to prepare oneself.

I also have some onions to use up and I am going to make some jars of burnt onions for gravy which together with the souper paste of River Cottage/Pam Corbin fame which both help to give a lot of dishes with a gravy where you want a layered depth of flavour.

See here for the link to the burnt onions:

See  here for the Souper Paste link and recipe  for those of you who do not have the River Cottage Preserves book by Pam Corbin:

The ground rosehip powder will go in with muesli or porridge of a morning in the colder months to try and keep colds at bay.  I was when the rosehips are ready going to do this in any event myself.  I still intend to do this but it is nice to see this product available.

I have posted previously about Rosehips and this is how I process them.  It is fiddly but it is well worth it.

However now I have the dehydrator on the go I am going to use this to dry the hips.  However unusually although the hips are forming locally they are not coloured as yet.  I shall have to keep my eyes open.  I tend to pick early in the season but also try and make sure that plenty are left for the birds.  You can dry them whole in the oven on its lowest heat and store the hips in a clean jar to make wine out of over the winter months as well.  Something that my Nan taught me to do.

I also have bouquet-garni to make from little squares of fine muslin and dried herbs.  tied with a cotton thread that is looped and can be slipped over a wooden stirring spoon so that you do not lose the posy in the stew or soup and have to fish it out.  If you pop it over the spoon it should be easily retrieved. 

I am hoping to snaffle some elderberries later on today when we walk the dog as I want to get some Elderberry Pontack Sauce on the go for addition to soups and stews also.

There are lots of things you can do to pep up your cooking the above are just a few.  I just wish I had more time to play than I have as it is so rewarding growing stuff or taking advantage of the wild hedegrow (I grow a lot of my own herbs) and then turning them into something useful for the pantry shelf.

Catch you soon.



Meet the Moggies

  • Merlin (approx 18 months)
  • Squeak (approx 2 years)
  • Poppy (approx 16 years)
  • Tyson (approx 17 years)
  • Tinky (official name Clover approx 18 years)