Saturday, 19 September 2009

Making chorizzo

I made these yesterday, albeit with the original intention of making salami! LOL They are easy to make, and not too expensive for the ingredients. My version is loosely based on the one in the River Cottage Meat Book.

500g of lean pork, minced
150g of back fat, cut small
good sloosh of red wine
lots of ground black pepper
finely chopped garlic to taste
1 1/4 tablespoons of smoked paprika

Mix it all together very well, I use my hands, then fill sausage skins with it. Using ox runners will give bigger chorizzos, but I just used the ordinary sausage skins as that's what I had. I got 4 good sized ones out of that amount, and they're now hanging in the store room with all the wine etc to cure for a few weeks, although you can eat them after a week if you use them in a cooked dish, eg a bean and tomato stew or similar, but I'll hang these until they're cured.
I hope to get back on teh salami making tomorrow or Monday...........

Cheesy Saturday

There was a little story in this week's Blackmore Vale magazine about this yesterday; a local reclamation company had gone in to clear an old farmhouse at Middlemarsh, just up the road from here. They found a whole room of dairying and cheesemaking equipment, untouched for about 30 years, they reckon. The equipment was manufactured by local companies, sadly no longer in existence, from Blandford, Yeovil, Shepton Mallet and Shaftesbury. The portrait of the woman is believed to be that of the great grandmother of the current owner of the farm, and thought responsible for setting up the cheese business. There are lots of prize certificates which have been framed and hung by the display, adding to the interest, all won at local agricultural shows, etc. Even the racks it is all standing on were carefully removed and reassembled.
It's a fascinating piece of local history, and although most of the pieces of equipment have seen better days, I think it's important that it is saved for the future - a vital part of local industry and hisotry, and I feel priveleged to have been able to go over and actually see the items displayed.
Before we went there this morning, we went to the tip, where on of my purchases was a book of West Country recipes; this covers Dorset as well, and near the back is a recipe for Blue Vinney cheese; I've tried it a few times before and it was OK, but not authentic, as it used a Rocquefort culture to aid the bluing of it. This one uses nothing like that, so I need to get hold of some skimmed milk and give this recipe a go. My cheese press is an antique Scottish one, not a local one to Dorset, but there you go. One day I might own something more lcoal, but my little purchase back in 1988 has stood me in very good cheesemaking stead and is in regular use - my own little piece of cheesemaking history.

Friday, 18 September 2009

August giveaway - and the winner is.............

Alison Young! Well done to Alison - if you e-mail me your name and adress I'll get the blanket off to you as soon as I can.

Thanks for entering everyone, and for reading, it's appreciated!

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Early morning autumn

It's a beautiful day here in the Vale, so I took the dog out a bit earlier than usual, and hoyed off down the lanes. Was a bit fresher than I expected, having gone out in a sleevless t-shirt, but the fresh, chill air of an autumn morning was very welcome. The autumn light on mornings like this is beautiful, you just want to get out among it!
The vale was waking up to the new day:

Up the lane:

Looking out across the land:

Glimpses of the work on the land turning with the season:

This is my little bit of autumn colour in one of the front beds - I can see it from the window here; very beautiful when the sunlight plays on the flowers.

The light has changed already - even in the hour since I got back home; it will change perceptibly by the hour for the rest of the day. I go outside and just stand in the garden drinking it all in - early autumn is probably my very favourite time of the year.
Still lots of autumnal jobs to be getting on with, I'll post about them later. For now, there are things to do with wild plums in the kitchen and more preserving jars to wash and get ready for filling.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

A tomato of great beauty.................

I picked this one yesterday, and I think it really is a tomato of great beauty. Tomatoes don't have to be round, or pointy or have to be anything other than their tomato-ey selves - the taste is what counts, and the taste of this is almost indescribable - soft, ripe, juicy, sweet, tangy, full of flavour, really tastes like it's doing you good LOL The variety is Costeluto Fiorentino - there are a few more to come, and I'll definitely be growing them again next year. You wouldn't get many in a Kilner jar, though.................LOL

The Mayflower

On 16th September in 1620 the Mayflower set sail from Plymouth in south west England, bound for North America. Its 102 passengers were the Pilgrim Fathers, a group of Puritans who had broken away from the Church of England and had suffered persecution under James 1. Nine weeks, later, they landed at Cape Cod, where they established the first settlement , that was to become known as New England.
America, and the world, would have become a very different place if this event hadn't taken place, wouldn't it?

Nothing as exciting as oceanic voyaging for me here today - I'm back in the kitchen processing more of the autumn bounty - bottling and brewing on the cards today, along with some more of the autumnal big push in the tidying and cleaning departments!

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

How to bottle tomatoes

Tomatoes are the only vegetable it is safe to bottle (or "can") without the use of a pressure canner; this is because they are quite an acidic vegetable (or fruit if you like), and it's the acidity that guards against botulism in the processed produce. I've been at this for over 20 years, so thought I'd share my method, and in response to a request from Shropshire Girl.
Gather together what you will need: tomatoes, water, salt, lemons, clean jars with lids, seals, etc.
Set a big pan of hot water on the stove to simmer just under boiling; place a folded tea towel or thick dishcloth in the bottom for the glass jars to stand on so they don't get too close to the heat source which may crack the jars.
I bottled 2 x 1 pint jars this morning, so made up approx 1 pint of brine - 1 pint of cold water with 1 oz of table salt dissolved in it. To this, I added the juice of half a big lemon. Stir well to dissolve the salt, and set aside. The amount of brine needed is variable, according to size of fruit etc being bottled, but is quick and easy to make up if more is required. Sort over the tomatoes, removing any blemished or overly soft ones; take off any stalks. Small ones can be left whole, or halved as liked; bigger ones can be halved or quartered. Make sure they are clean, wiping over if necessary, and pack into the jars without pressing them down too much - the aim is to get the tomatoes to keep as much of their shape as possible. Pour over the brine, so that it just covers the top tomatoes. Put on lids and seals according to type of jar. If using screw tops, don't screw too tight, but don't leave them loose either; just tightened is about right.
Place jars in pan of water, on the cloth, get the water to just on the shoulder of the jars, bring to just a bubbling simmer, then on with the lid and process for 40 minutes. After this time, remove from the pan carefully and place on a wooden board to cool. When cool, test for a seal by removing the ring or clip, and checking that a vacuum has formed - the sealing ring and the lid should be fast together. Replace ring or clip, wipe over jars, label and store in a cool, dry, dark place until needed. If there is a problem and the seal isn't made, just put this jar in the fridge and use it up sooner. Use the hot water from the pan for washing up :)

Bottling is the way to go - easy, safe, cheap (once the initial investment in jars and rings etc is made, which will last for eyars if care is taken), and no energy used in the storage. The flavour of fruit particulalry is much superior to frozen fruit, which I have almost stopped doing now, in favour of the bottled fruit. A big bonus is that you don't have to remember to defrost it either! Invest in the proper jars; not all those made for storage, even though they have rubber rings, are suitable for processing in heat, with thin glass that will probably shatter. secondhand ones are stillf airlye asy to come by. Two names I trust are Kilner and Le Parfait.
Bottling is a great string to add to your bow, and you won't be left with piles of rotting food when the lgihts go out and the freezers go off.

Further discussion here on my forum:

If you have any further questions, just shout and I'll try and help.

Monday, 14 September 2009

I think I'd rather be in the kitchen..........

I made the decision yesterday to have a *big* push this week and get the house well in order before the winter, so I've started. The landing is now clear, decluttered, dusted, window panes and surrounds cleaned, ready for redecorating before the end of the month, and new curtains made too I hope; I've yet to choose a colour scheme, but that's generally a bit more pleasant than the actual hard work bit LOL
However, I should be in the kitchen, dealing with today's produce from the garden:

The tomatoes, after a slow start are producing well, but steadily, which is a good thing in a "dealing with them all" capacity; there were two lots of these this morning, waiting to be made into sauce I should think, for bottling for later in the year. The autumn raspberries are the same, obligingly regular, which makes life a bit easier - these ones will be for a pudding tomorrow I think. The nuts came off one of the hazels in the garden; the small crop on the top trees seems to have been nobbled now, but I'm grateful for all of these - they're really good this year, and should last a while - some are destined for a pudding with the raspberries - more on that later, with a recipe, when it's done.

Sunday, 13 September 2009

Peaceful - yes. Quiet - no.

The countryside, that is. Last week's ongoing debate on Radio 4's Farming Today programme was about noise in the countryside. To me the countryside is a peaceful place, but is sure as hell is not quiet - and neither should it be. It is a place of livelihood and work, living and people, noise and mess associated with it, and that's the way it should be. It must never be seen as static in any way shape or form. People live and work here, and there is constant change, movement, and all the noises associated with it. The one bit that really wound me up on the programme was one man who was complaining about the noise of the gas guns - the automated bird scarers the farmers use in their crops to keep avian pests at bay. He was complaining that they were disturbing the peacd and quiet of those who wanted to walk about the countryside for leisure purposes, and were fed up being disturbed by the noise of them. I think they would be more disturbed if there was no wheat left for the farmer to harvest and provide them with the food they expect to see on the shop shelves, no? Where is their sense of priorty? All the usual suspects were wheeled out - cockerels, wild animal noises,chain saws, church bells, plus the current bete noir - wind turbines. The chap from the energy association (sorry, I can't recall which one it was) made a very good, concise and eloquent case for the turbines, which got it in a nutshell.
Very little noise is constant, and it tends to come in fits and starts. We live opposite a pub. The pub has been there for hundreds of years, so we certainly knew it was there when we moved in; yes, it can get a bit noisy, and on still evenings, even the sound of normal conversation carries - but this is a local amenity, it provides employment, entertainment, a hub for the village, a meeting place, all sorts of things. The noise , such as it is, is short-lived, but proves that the pub is being *used* - vitally imnportant for a very small village like mine. I recall a few years back that someone actually complained about the church bells on a Sunday morning when he was out in his garden, shortly after moving here. If you don't like church bells, then don't move near a church - it really is that easy. Again, the church is a vital part of small and large communities, and a church without ringing bells, is like, know........
The countryside is *not* a playground, to be walked through at will, among livestock, through hedges, across private property without permission, and silence cannot and should not be expected. People live and work here - it is not a museum piece where there is no change or evolution, nature is in constant turmoil and change, and part of that is the associated noise, both natural and mandmade. People keep livestock, have noisy children , power tools, music; there are vixens, owls, crows, deer, seagulls in the countryside - none of them quiet and why should they be? - it's all part of life - there is noise wherever you live, the countryside is no exception.
If it was quiet it would be dead - then where would be be?