Preparing for Winter..during a summer heatwave..oh yes!

Yes we are currently enjoying scorching temperatures here in the UK. ..and how lovely it is too!  But that doesn’t mean we can forget that Winter creeps up on us silently and before we know it we are wearing our woolly jumpers  and lugging firewood inside again.

So today I have been preparing for Autumn and Winter by harvesting garlic and onions to store for later in the year and by drying even MORE herbs to put by for the colder months.

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Two types of mint and oregano go into the dehydrator today.

I shall be drying blackcurrants, peas, sliced onion, more nettle tops, clover flowers, elderberries, tomatoes, sage ..and lots more. Having just been gifted 30 large sweet jars from our local sweet shop, I now have plenty of dry storage space for them all.

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Preparing my homegrown garlic for plaiting and storing

Garlic will be dried off in the sun and then plaited and hung up . I have strung some onions already.. They are hanging in the cottage lean-to. All the small loose ones will get used first or sliced and dehydrated,  to add to soups and stews in Winter. This year my onion harvest was poor compared to last year, so I may end up having to buy some in! I use a lot of onions.

Although I do still have perennial onions in the ground so all is not lost.

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The cottage kitchen smells divine..mint and oregano scent the rooms!

I shall be lifting some of the wild horseradish that grows on the riverbank here and making horseradish sauce too. I love the hot spiciness of horseradish. Surplus can be frozen, dehydrated or stored in boxes of dry sand over winter. Here are a few more ways to use and store this pungent root.

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Wild horseradish

So still lots to do…and although I am enjoying the sunshine, my mind is always thinking about the leaner months ahead  x

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What’s for dinner Mum?

Today saw the first of our courgettes harvested..Yay!…along with more early peas, various salad leaves, chard, tree spinach, rocket, mizuna, red orach, various herbs and other edible goodies.. and as always we have eggs from our quail and hens and milk, cheese and yogurt etc from our wonderful dairy goats.  ….and maybe we’ll have butter soon too, if I can get my hands on a cheap or free cream separator!

So today’s dinner was this delight for the eyes and palate.  As you can see my daughter was quite happy with what I served up! . “What’s for dinner Mum?”  ..A rainbow.. xxx

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Fresh laid eggs used in an omelette with courgette, peas, chives, onions and garlic ..all from the garden..a few dots of  home-made kefir cheese melted into it under the grill..Served with a medley of salad leaves: including tree spinach, red orach, nasturtium leaves, various frilly / oak leaf lettuces, both red and green varieties, mizuna, pea shoots, raw peas, borage flowers, chive flowers, chives, cos lettuce, rocket and shredded spring onions. .and a home-baked bread roll. … all washed down with home-made elderflower cordial.

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Nom..nom..nom..Image

Pretty and tastes great too!

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Homemade vanilla extract

I was very kindly sent some premium quality vanilla beans ( Here in the UK we call them vanilla pods) by my lovely Facebook friends Rick and Terri Hawkins, over in The States.

I was also kindly sent directions on how to make my very own top quality vanilla extract.

I have now made 3 litres of this wonderful ingredient!

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For anyone, that does a lot of baking/cooking, it is well worthwhile making your own extract, as not only will you have a larger quantity of this useful flavouring, far greater than the tiny shop bought version in those mini plastic bottles, but it will also be of vastly superior flavour and you can adapt the flavour by using different varieties of beans and different alcohol.

There are several varieties of vanilla beans, Tahitensis & Planifolia Blend, Indonesia, India, Tahiti, Papua New Guinea, Tonga, Mexico, Bourbon and Madagascar vanilla beans. These all have their own unique flavours and will give you different results, so feel free to experiment!

The version I have made so far is based on regular vanilla beans and cheap non brand vodka.

You simply split the beans lengthwise to open up the seed filled middles.

I used 12  good-sized beans per litre of vodka and then you submerge the beans totally in the alcohol and allow it all to steep for 8 weeks.

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You can store the resulting liquid with the beans still in (as long as the beans remain totally submerged in the alcohol) and it will develop an even deeper richer flavour and colour or you can strain the liquid and then put the previously soaked beans in a glass jar full of caster sugar to make a wonderfully scented and flavoured vanilla sugar ……or simply use them in another batch of extract!

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Store the bottle in a dark cupboard to use in your own recipes or decant the extract into little decorative bottles, to give as gifts!

ImageI am thinking of experimenting with the pre-used vodka soaked beans and making a vanilla and coffee bean liqueur with them!

I aim to put the used beans into fresh vodka and then add coffee beans and sugar. Shaking regularly to dissolve the sugar ( as you would with sloe gin) .

I will leave it to mature for 3 months, strain and then test!  I will let you know how it tastes !

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Goat’s milk fudge.

It is my beautiful daughter’s 11th  birthday tomorrow and as a special treat I decided to make her some of her favourite sweet. Fudge!

I used my home produced goat’s milk, from this morning’s milking, but you could use shop bought goat’s or cow’s milk.

I used the recipe on the website below but I used cow’s butter rather than goat’s butter and raw cane sugar rather than regular granulated sugar.

http://www.freshjuice.ca/goat-s-milk-fudge/r/12230

The most important part of fudge making is timing the boiling period and making sure that the temperature is high enough without scorching the mix. ( You can use a jam or confectioners thermometer to help)

Be aware that boiling fudge is risky. It bubbles furiously and can spit and pop hot mix out of the pan onto you and the surrounding area and the hot molten candy sticks easily to skin, so please be careful to keep young children and pets out of the kitchen whilst making it and be aware of this when making it

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The boiling stage

Once it has boiled for the required time, you can test the fudge for setting by dropping a blob  of the hot mix into a glass of icy water..if it forms a solid ball it is ready.

Now remove the pan from the heat and set the base of the pan into a bowl of cold water,in order to stop it cooking.

Whilst it cools beat it well with a wooden spoon, this makes the resulting fudge smoother.

Before it has cooled totally into a solid lump in the pan, scrape it into a shallow tray lined with baking parchment. Smooth out to the edges. (You can now lick the spatula) haha

Cool totally and then cut into cubes, ready to serve.

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If you want choc chips or nuts etc in the final product then add them at the almost cool beating stage.

I have ‘tested’ a couple of squares..just to be sure it is OK for my daughter of course..and it is deliciously creamy!

Enjoy!