raspberries

Desire, Fulfilment and Surfeit

When you grow and eat your own fruit and vegetables, the natural progression through nurture, harvest and glut in the garden is matched by desire, fulfilment and surfeit in the kitchen.

raspberries ripening

Take our autumn-fruiting raspberries. The canes are cut back to ground level in winter and then we watch as they grow tall and leafy though spring and summer. White flowers appear and the tiny fruits swell and slowly change colour until, at last, in the heat of a summer day we spot a flash of crimson amongst the green foliage and triumphantly pick the first raspberry of the season.

For the first few days, we barely pick enough to fill a small dish but soon there’s raspberries galore. We eat them every day for pudding, sprinkle them on our breakfast and drop them into cocktails. Then one day I hear a sigh around the table as I plonk down another bowl of raspberries, so I scour my recipes for different ways to use them. Raspberries are added to cakes with gay abandon and we eat Lemon Surprise Pudding (the surprise being it’s Raspberry Pudding not Lemon). Visitors are pressed to take a container filled with raspberries home with them.

With raspberries still ripening thick and fast outside, it’s time to start preserving. A few raspberries are frozen, a couple of bottles of Raspberry Cordial are stored away and I make raspberry jam, though not in vast quantities as we barely eat a jar of jam a month.

raspberry vinegar

Last of all, I make a few bottles of Raspberry Vinegar. The original recipe I followed was sweet, perhaps because they suggested serving it over ice cream or diluting it with lemonade or soda water. But, guess what. I never drizzle it over vanilla ice cream and I don’t enjoy it diluted with lemonade, so over the years, I’ve reduced the sugar.

Raspberry Vinegar is supremely easy to make. Roughly crush about 500g of raspberries in a glass jar (I use my spurtle to crush), tip in 500ml of white wine vinegar, give it a stir and leave for two or three days. Sieve out the raspberry grunge and put the bright red vinegar into a saucepan with 100g of granulated sugar. Bring to the boil, simmer for ten minutes, skim off any scum and leave to cool a little. Pour into sterilised bottles and store somewhere cool and dark.

bacon salad recipe

Raspberry Vinegar seems such a throwback to the 1980s that I often feel the need to partner it with a suitably retro recipe like bacon salad. Otherwise, use it for dressings and marinades or to add a bit of oomph to casseroles. Dilute it with a little hot water to ease a sore throat; it’s eye watering but at least you momentarily forget how sore your throat was before. Drizzle over ice cream, if that’s your thing.

But, I digress. When we cannot face another bowl of raspberries and I’ve preserved all that I need, I pick the remaining raspberries in the garden and hand them over to Beth so that she can make them into Raspberry Gin, which is the very best way of preserving raspberries.

As the raspberries near the end of fruiting, do I miss them? No, of course not. I’ve been watching the greengages ripen and for the past few days, every time I’ve walked past the tree I’ve snatched a handful of those yellow green orbs of ambrosial deliciousness. Surely I could never tire of such a treat …

 

 


raspberry ripple ice cream

Snippets of Happiness

Every year August passes in a blur, remembered as a series of moments snapped and seared in the memory. Images of children running around the garden or the family sitting around the table in the sunshine, the smell of harvest dust or the scratch of wheat stubble on bare legs. Each one a snippet of happiness.

Snippets of happines this August, so far …

hollyhock seedhead

Marvelling at nature. The garden is a mass of seed heads and their intricacy amazes me. This hollyhock seed head reminds me of the carousel that fed the slides into an old fashioned slide projector. Inevitably there would be at least one slide placed upside down and at some time during the slideshow the carousel would jam and there would be muttered cursing in the darkness.

raspberry loaf cake

Raspberry Loaf Cake is the cake we eat all summer using the early ripening rapsberries through to the autumn fruiting raspberries. With the sunny days we’ve had recently, I swear the raspberries ripen behind me as I pick them. This cake is easy to make and is robust enough to pack into lunch boxes or slice up for tea in the garden.

post box

Posting letters into this old letter box set in the wall of a nearby Post Office, I wonder what stories have been held by the envelopes slipped in here over the decades. I hope this letter box doesn’t get replaced or removed.

meadow

Watching a lawn artist at work as he mowed a giant picture into the grass in one of our fields. Watch this video to see him in action in the field.

whisk

A snippet of happiness when I’m the only person in the kitchen and get the chance to lick the whisk after whipping up a batch of raspberry ripple ice cream.

Who can resist licking the spoon or whisk?

 

 

 

 

 

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Last of the Summer Roses

The roses in the garden are reaching the end of flowering with more dead heads than flowers and green rosehips forming. They’ve lasted well this year, but along with most of the flowers in the garden, they’re past their best for this summer.

rose petals

Each year there’s a bit of a battle between Beth and I to see who can pick the roses first.

I use a few petals to make Rose Petal Jam, flavour milk jellies and syllabubs or to make a pink hued lemon squash . This year, my favourite use for rose petals has been in a Turkish Delight Posset, so called only because I associate rose flavour with Turkish Delight. Possets are incredibly easy to make and delicious to eat though being little more than cream and sugar aren’t an everyday pudding. Unfortunately.Slamseys Rose Gin

Meanwhile, Beth picks buckets of rose petals for her Rose Gin. If you follow Slamseys on Instagram, you may have noticed we have regular gin tastings when we try cocktails, taste new flavours or re-evaluate the existing range. Last week, we sampled the first 2016 batches of Rose Gin and Elderflower Gin, concluding  that while equal measures of Rose Gin and Elderflower Gin, shaken with ice and a good squeeze of lime juice makes a delightfully floral drink, Elderflower Delight is hard to beat on a sunny evening.

skyfall wheat

As the garden tips from midsummer abundance to straggly plants and seedheads, we wait for the wheat and barley to ripen on the farm. Every day, the weather forecast is listened to on the radio, watched on television and then checked on the internet in the hope that one of them will predict dry sunny days. Ears of wheat are rubbed between hands, the chaff blown away from cupped palms and the grains bitten to see if they’ve hardened. The harvest contractors are consulted to check where we are on their schedule and anticipation builds that harvest might soon start. Maybe just a few days to wait. Then a night of rain sets everything back and the routine starts again.

Yesterday, Bill took the moisture meter down from the shelf, which is always a sign that harvest is very imminent and after testing some barley, declared it should be ready at the beginning of next week. However, the only way into these fields is through an old farmyard that the owner has developed into a range of smart offices and negotiating first an enormous combine through the tightly packed car park and then a succession of tractors and trailers is rather tricky. As a consequence, these fields are only harvested at the weekend, when the car park is deserted, and so Bill has to decide whether to harvest on Sunday when the barley may not be quite ready or wait until the following weekend, when yield and quality may have fallen or the contractor may not be available or it might rain.

Decisions, decisions.

Elderflower Delight

Oh, sod it. Pass the gin.

 

Turkish Delight Posset

This is a rich dessert that will serve four, though I often put it into shot glasses accompanied by a shortbread type biscuit, in which case it will easily stretch to six.

300 ml double cream
50g caster sugar
Rose petals
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons Elderflower Gin*

Snip the rose petals from the flowers leaving behind the tough base of each petal. I use one or two roses depending on their size and how scented they are, so use your own judgement on how subtle you want the taste to be.

Put the cream, sugar and rose petals into a pan, stirring to dissolve the sugar and bring slowly to the boil. Boil for 3 minutes and then remove from the heat. Whisk in the lemon juice and elderflower gin, strain into a jug and leave to cool for 10 minutes.

Pour into small glasses or dishes and chill for at least four hours.

 

*Replace with Elderflower Cordial for a non-alcoholic version

 

 

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gulls following cultivator

Summer Alert!

The sun is shining, the thermometer is hovering in the high 20s and Met Office has declared a level three heatwave alert *. While MPs debate whether employers should be legally forced to provide air conditioning to combat high temperatures and commuters face delays as rail companies reduce train speeds for fear of hot rails buckling, we just get on with life.

In the fields …

 

 

cultivating with Discordon

The oilseed rape crop has been harvested and today the field has been cultivated, drawing in hundreds of gulls that follow the tractor and cultivator down the field. They swoop down behind the cultivator forming a long white row and then, when the tractor turns at the end of the field and comes back towards them, they lift into the air in a white mass and repeat the whole procedure.

eating …

blackcurrants

We’re eating so many blackcurrants that our vitamin C levels must be at maximum. In an effort to prove to my sons that making meals is simple, I forced encouraged one of them to make ice cream. Not complicated egg custard ice cream, but the ‘whip up a pint of cream and add a tin of condensed milk’ variety. We swirled in a few tablespoons of blackcurrant compote and hey presto, Blackcurrant Ripple Ice Cream that has been very welcome this week.

baking …

Adelaide cakes

I baked Adelaide Cakes for a visiting Wheaton relative from Kangaroo Island, which seemed appropriate.  I also discovered that replacing the raspberries in this easy loaf cake with blackcurrants makes a deliciously sharp and fruit cake, which is perfect with a cup of tea.

Printing …

jelly printing on fabric

Ruth runs Print Club sessions in the Barley Barn and while others crank delicate drypoint prints through the press or make detailed screen prints, I ink up a slab of jelly and randomly throw bits of foliage on top. I enjoy the simplicity of this sort of printing and the way it reflects the seasons.

In early spring I print with primrose flowers and leaves in spring colours of pale yellow and zingy greens and later, the lacy umbrella shaped flowers and fern-like leaves of cow parsley make delicate prints alongside young dead nettle leaves. At this time of year,  I use leaves from the herb garden (marjoram is particularly good) and from the ash tree and hornbeam hedge for their different shapes.

After much experimentation, I’ve finally worked out a technique for jelly printing on fabric and now just need to find some sewing projects to use it all.

Playing …

jelly print repeat

I’ve been jelly printing onto fabric strips about 22 centimetres wide, which is fine for the children’s sunhats that I’ve been making, but not so good for larger projects. With the vague thought that I might want a long length of fairly uniform fabric, which will be a bit tricky with this slightly unpredictable printing method, I’ve been playing around with some digital manipulation.

I think this could become a little addictive.

 

 

*Please don’t mock if you come from a hot climate! It’s hot for us, even if our Australian visitor described our heat as like a warm spring day.


wish you were here

Postcards from this week …

above Amberley on South Downs Way

We caught an early train to London, wedged with our rucksacks in a moving mass of grey as commuters made their way to work and we sat smug in the knowledge that we were off to walk in the sunshine. Picking up the South Downs Way at Amberley, we headed up to the hills and away.

museum Singleton

By early afternoon we reached the Weald and Downland Open Air Museum where buildings have been rescued from decay and destruction by dismantling them and reconstructing them on this large site.

seeded leeks-

The museum wasn’t too busy and at times it felt as though we had stumbled upon an almost deserted village as we followed paths through gardens and in through the back doors of houses where fires smouldered in the hearth. It gave me more of a feeling of how people lived than I’ve ever experienced in a normal museum room set and I couldn’t help thinking that the introduction of glazed windows must have made an enormous difference to people.

South Downs Way Beauworth

Over the next two days, we saw villages and farms nestled into the valleys below us and crops at different stages of ripening formed a coloured patchwork that reached into the distance. We ate lunch in the shade of trees as we gazed up at the blue sky and finally walked into Winchester, at the end of the South Downs Way.

Slamseys raspberry gin

Home again, home again, jiggety jig. My favourite drink this summer is a  Raspberry Gin Slush.

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