Summer Rituals

What a scorcher this summer is turning out to be. (Ha! It will probably start raining tomorrow and not stop for weeks.)

We’ve become almost continental, eating nearly every meal outside, leaving cushions out on chairs overnight instead of the usual routine of packing everything away in case it rains and closing the shutters each afternoon to keep the rooms cool.

The countryside around here is looking bleached as we haven’t had any rain since May and the dry spell combined with the hot sunny weather has dried up much of the vegetation.  Even the trees are beginning to look stressed.  There’s barely a blade of grass in the paddock above and around the farm it’s tinder dry so we’re vigilant for fires in the standing crops of wheat and barley as we wait for the crops to be ready to cut.

As summer progresses, so do the summer rituals of sweeping out the grain stores before harvest to make sure that no grain destroying weevil or beetle still lurks in the deepest recess, berries are picked for Slamseys Gin and there’s enough growing in the shared vegetable garden that we can sit down to an almost homegrown supper. Unfortunately, the summer ritual of marauding foxes in broad daylight has wiped out my hens and guineafowl and left only two ducks. I regularly holler and shout at foxes that I meet when I’m walking across the farm, but obviously not enough to frighten them away from the lure of a sitting duck.

Getting meals on the table at the moment is a bit of a pain as I have little enthusiasm for spending time in the kitchen at this time of year, though I can be persuaded to make a batch of Lemon Squash, which disappears at alarming speed.

Home-made lemonade (or lemon squash) is deliciously refreshing and so simple to make that at the start of summer, I rush off to buy some citric acid (hopeful that the pharmacy has restocked after the elderflower cordial rush) and set to work. A little bit of peeling, squeezing and stirring isn’t too taxing.

Should you want to make your own Lemon Squash, here’s the recipe.

Making lemon squash drawing

HOME-MADE LEMON SQUASH

A refreshing cordial or squash, to dilute with still or sparkling water.

  • 4 lemons – peel and juice
  • 600 g granulated sugar
  • 25 g citric acid
  • 1 litre boiling water
  1. Remove the rind of the lemons with a vegetable peeler and put into a large bowl or jug with the sugar and citric acid. Add the boiling water, stir to dissolve the sugar and then add the lemon juice.
  2. Cover and leave somewhere cool overnight. Next day, strain out the peel and pour the lemon squash into sterilised bottles.
  3. Keep in the fridge for up to a month and dilute with water, soda water.

If you’d like pink lemonade, add a handful of deep red rose petals with the lemon peel.

Now I just have to pour myself a long drink of lemon squash and relax in the evening sunshine.


rose hips

Hip, Hip, Hoorah

The rosehips in the hedgerows and garden are ready to pick.

autumn rosehips on Generous Gardener rose

There are deep red round rosehips on the Rosa Rugosa and large round, orange rosehips on The Generous Gardener bush in the garden.

 

rosehips growing in farm hedgerow

Brightly coloured oval rosehips grow in various hedges around the farm.

It seems a shame not to use them somehow. Here’s a few ideas to use these pretty autumnal fruits.

rosehips

AUTUMNAL DECORATIONS

string of rosehips hanging from door handle

Thread a needle with cotton and push it through each rosehip. Use a tiny piece of twig at the bottom to stop the hips falling off and use it as a hanging decoration or make a mini garland to string across a small window.

 

AUTUMN WREATH

autumn wreath with rosehips and crab apples

Twist a few branches of willow into a circle and add rosehips, crab apples and acorns to make an autumn wreath. Use these instructions for making a wreath or buy a ready made wreath if you don’t have any suitable whippy branches.

COOKING WITH ROSEHIPS

If you look up recipes for using rosehips, they mostly instruct you to boil them up and strain them through a jelly bag to extract their juice to make syrups, jellies and soups (being acidic, you can use them instead of tomatoes). Alternatively, you can slit open every rosehip, extract the seeds and hairs and use the flesh for making teas, jams or tarts.

ROSEHIP PUREE

glasses of rosehip fool surrounded by autumnal acorns and berries

However, the easiest way to use rosehips is to make rosehip puree.

Give the freshly picked rosehips a good wash and then simmer them in an equal quantity of water for an hour until they’re soft and squidgy. Allow them to cool a little and then put them through a food mill to puree the flesh and sieve out the seeds in one go. Pushing the puree through a fine sieve afterwards makes sure that all the seeds and hairs are removed. If you don’t have a food mill, just sieve them. You can use the rosehip puree to make soup or use them as you would any other fruit puree. I find that 500g of rosehips simmered with 500g of water gives me about 400g of puree.

AUTUMNAL ROSEHIP FOOL

The best pairing for the rosehip puree is a little sugar and cream so the ideal simple and delicious thing to make is an autumnal Rosehip Fool. Vary the quantities according to numbers; the recipe below will make six generous helpings.

ROSEHIP FOOL

Deliciously creamy dessert for autumn

  • 240 g rosehip puree (see the method above)
  • 3 tablespoons caster sugar
  • 300 ml double cream
  1. Whip the cream until it’s soft and floppy. Add the sugar and puree and briefly whip to ensure it’s evenly incorporated. Spoon into six serving dishes.

You can eat this straight away or leave it to settle for a couple of hours in the fridge.

 


Summer Fruit Loaf Cake

Summer has well and truly arrived and it’s good to be out in the sunshine picking fruit in the fruit field at Slamseys. It’s very meditative working your way along a row of raspberries on a sunny day; there may be a little searching under leaves and the odd wasp to avoid but there’s no bending over or vicious thorns to avoid so it’s easy picking.

Most of the fruit picked from the fruit field at Slamseys is carried just a few metres across to Beth’s unit where she makes Slamseys Fruit Gin, but I divert some into my kitchen to supplement the few that I pick from the garden. We’re a bit depleted this year as most of our raspberry canes were flattened when a fuel tank was moved, though we still have blackcurrants and loganberries.

Soft fruit and cream are a winning combination, perhaps too winning for our waistlines considering the amount of soft fruit we eat each summer – fruit fools, ice-cream sundaes, pavlova, cranachan … One of my favourites is raspberry ripple ice cream made by whipping 600ml of cream, whisking in a tin of condensed milk and rippling in pureed raspberries. It can just be poured into a container and frozen, with no churning or extra whisking. Very simple. Very delicious.

Summer Fruit Loaf Cake is a good way to use the last few berries from jam making or left sitting in the bowl because everyone has eaten enough. It’s a reasonably solid cake. By that I don’t mean you could use it as a door stop, but it’s not as light and airy as an easily squashed Victoria sponge, which makes it ideal to pack for picnics or lunch boxes. I quite often serve it with a blob of cream or yoghurt and call it pudding.

Use any soft fruit, alone or in combination – raspberries, loganberries, blueberries, blackberries and blackcurrants work well. You’ll notice from the photo that if you use a large loganberry, then you get a bit of a hole and a squidge of fruit. If you don’t want this, use small fruit or break large fruits into smaller pieces. Blackcurrants hold their shape particularly well and give a burst of juice when you bite into the cake.

SUMMER FRUITS LOAF CAKE

  • 185 g butter
  • 185 g caster sugar
  • 2 lemons (finely grated zest & juice )
  • 1 teaspoon raspberry vinegar
  • 2 eggs (beaten)
  • 185 g Plain flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 40 g ground almonds
  • 125 g mixed berries
  • Icing Sugar
  1. Line a loaf tin with a baking case or parchment (mine is 22 x 11 cm) and preheat the oven to 180C.
  2. Gently heat the butter and sugar in a saucepan until the butter has melted.
  3. Stir in the grated zest of the lemons with 60ml juice and then the eggs and raspberry vinegar.
  4. Put the flour and ground almonds into a large bowl and pour in the contents of the saucepan, beating until you have a smooth, runny batter.
  5. Pour half the batter into the loaf tin and scatter two thirds of the fruit over the surface. Scrape in the remaining batter and drop the rest of the berries evenly over the top without pressing them in.
  6. Bake for about an hour until browned, covering the top with foil if it seems to be browning too much. When it’s cooked, a skewer poked into the cake should come out clean.
  7. Leave to cool and then sift over a dusting of icing sugar.