Monday Night Preserves – Christmas Mincemeat

I make no apology that Christmas preserving is going to be top of the list for the next few posts.  It’s so exciting and with it only being our second Christmas here, we’re still developing new ways and traditions.

Yesterday was Stir Up Sunday and we made our Christmas Pudding which I posted about but I also made the sweet mincemeat, again something that I haven’t made before.  It smelt amazing!  I can’t believe how easy it was to make.  Thank you to Lou for spurring me on to do it, just by being her.

Last year I treat myself to Mary B’s Christmas recipe book, worth every penny I have to say and this is the recipe I followed. 

I used dark rum as I had it in the pantry and wouldn’t use it for anything else, so in it went.


I used fresh cranberries opposed to dry as stated in the recipe, which after a couple of frantic messages with Lou, I decided to follow the recipe regardless and just leave it in the simmering oven for a bit longer, to cook them through. 

I’m very pleased with the outcome, 4 good sized jars.  We’ll be making mince pies with this soon, so I hope it tastes nice.

Christmas is coming and I intend to enjoy every minute! 

A weekend in pictures 











We have had the best weekend. We’re starting with the Christmas decorations which we love! This is our 2nd Christmas on the smallholding and we’re making more of our own decorations as well as the ones we already have. The kids have been busy stuffing orange slices with cloves and helping me with the Christmas pudding on Stir up Sunday, which many people already do each year, and I hope is going to be a tradition for us too.
Stir up Sunday is an old tradition which I think is lovely. It’s the last Sunday before Advent Sunday apparently. We’re not overly religious but I do like this. We all took a turn at stirring the mixture of which we had a good giggle to when I insisted we took photos for the blog.

Tomorrow I’m going to share the mincemeat recipe with you as part of Monday night preserves. I still owe a recipe for stock powder but that can follow at any point. I hope you’ve all had a fabulous weekend.

Monday night preserves – Christmas spiced red cabbage and home grown chicken

When I think of preserving, my thoughts don’t always lend themselves straight to the freezer which is crazy really as it’s one of today’s modern options for preserving our harvests.  This week we have switched on the new (to us) chest freezer that we were given, as we will shortly have the pigs to fill it.  It seems to be working fine thankfully, got to love a freebie.
So that got me thinking and when I wandered round the veg plot the other morning I noticed every single red cabbage was doing great and they would need harvesting very soon.
So for my Monday preserve, I decided to trial a Christmas cabbage recipe as those of you who were hear last year know I love red cabbage at Christmas!  It freezes amazingly and tastes even better afterward in my opinion.
This new recipe from BBC Good Food which is Spiced red cabbage.

I’ve used 2 heads of cabbage for this recipe as mine came in short of the kilo that it recommended, but not far off.  I also used 2 red onions of my own, very satisfying feeling.  Don’t the cabbages look pretty?

Method taken from BBC Good Food.
Sweat 2 onions and add the zest of an orange and a cinnamon stick after 5 mins.  Give them a minute to fuse and then add the cabbage (shredded and washed), 150ml port and a dash of red wine vinegar.  Bring to the boil and then simmer for up to an hour.  It looked delicious!
 
We also dispatched our first Ross Cobb chicken at the weekend which was to see how big it was based on it’s current age (9 weeks).  We’re wanting to slow grow them but trial and error as to when they would be ready.  Well it surprised both of us, already weighing in as a table ready bird of 1.8kg.  I’m really pleased as this is a milestone for us, meaning we will never have to buy shop bought chicken again! 
For those who are interested we also did a cockerel, but he will be as tough as old boots I think (weighed in at 3kg, a Rhode Island Red) and we did them using our new area set up specifically for working on the poultry.  As this is a preserving post and to avoid upsetting people just looking for preserving info, I’ll post about that in another post later this week.
So our freezers are now starting to fill up nicely for the leaner growing months ahead.  We’re one step further onto the path of self sufficiency (long it may be!).

Monday night preserving – currant cordial, toffee vodka, redcurrant jelly

What a week of harvest! It’s a full time job when things get going isn’t it? We harvested everything in the below photo on Sunday.
Buster is just making sure things are in order.
Now technically I don’t think toffee vodka is a preserve? Regardless it is going on my Monday night slot as the quickest, simplest vodka recipe we have done so far.  Ste’s Mam mentioned that she had some toffee vodka last Christmas and she really liked it.  We popped a packet of Werthers in a litre of vodka and hey presto, job done. We are shaking it twice a day until the toffees dissolve completely.
The colour isn’t that attractive but we’re told it’s a lovely warming drink on the cold winter nights.  What I didn’t realise is the kilner jar is a 3 litre one!  Not to worry, it’ll be freed up soon for the next item and this won’t take long to dissolve.
Next up was another alcoholic Christmssy drink.
Earlier this year I read on Tricia’s, Tarragon and Thyme blog about cherry brandy and thought we have to give that a go.  We’ve just harvested cherries from a couple of our trees before the birds got to them so the perfect opportunity to give it a go.
Again, it is very simple to do.  We added pierced cherrys to a bottle of brandy and 300g sugar. For extra Christmas feel I popped a cinnamon stick in too. In a couple of months we will strain it all and keep the cherries for something else, no doubt also Christmassy.
Next up on the harvest was the currant bushes. Goodness me they take a while to harvest but it was enjoyable as we all sat around the currant bush and just chatted on together.
We harvested 1.6kg black currants (this time) and 2.5kg red currants. It was our second harvest of black currants, the first lot are in the freezer.
The black currants were made into a super quick cordial and some of the red were too. Recipe as follows:
Put 1kg berries and 300ml water on low heat and simmer for 10 mins. Mash with potato masher to speed things up. Don’t do this is you prefer a clearer juice (you’ll get less cordial for your money if you do that though). Strain through a muslin cloth and the resulting juice should be added to granulated sugar:  for every 500ml liquid add 300g sugar. Stir over low heat until the sugar has dissolved. Add 1tsp citric acid and stir. Bottle into sterilised bottles. It is delicious. These will be used quickly so we didn’t water bath but if they were for Christmas then we’d water bath.
 
You will see I also made more strawberry jam which I’ve blogged about before. I’m sticking with that recipe as it’s divine and I have received so many compliments for my first batch that I don’t want to change a thing. On potting up, I filled these jars even more than last time, so they were virtually over flowing. Fingers crossed it is as nice and for no mould!
I’ve also started some redcurrant jelly tonight which I’ll finish telling you about tomorrow as when I’ve gone to make the recipe tonight, I need to let it drip overnight.
Here’s what I’ve done for now.
I’ve added 400ml to 1kg currants and simmered for 45 minutes. I’m draining this through a jelly bag tonight ready to finish tomorrow night.
 

Monday night preserving – elderflower cordial

After a crazy week of work, we had a fabulous weekend with friends and family letting our hair down. More about that during the week as tonight is all about preserving for me.
June is the month of the elderflower here. We’ve been patiently waiting for the flowers to open and be fresh and healthy, before they go over and we wait patiently again for the elderberries that follow. The weather of the last few days has been perfect for picking elder flowers. We are lucky to have loads of elder trees around here which we found last year.
So as usual, off my little family trooped and gathered enough heads to loosely fill 2 carrier bags. Classy or what?

No one else ever comes here for any foraging, not a soul in sight.
Back home we shook off any bugs and put them in a large saucepan with the zest of 2 oranges and 4 lemons then poured just boiled water over them until covered.

I left the saucepan overnight with a fly cover on to keep it clean whilst it cooled. Then I strained it whilst I sterilised the bottles in the usual way of washing in hot soapy water and drying in the slow cooker.

For every 500ml of liquid we added 350g sugar, a teaspoon citric acid and 50ml of lemon juice. I simmered it at 90c before cooling and straining it again once cool enough. We made enough for 4 litres of cordial.
Now interestingly, the cordial colour was nothing like last years. It looked almost black in the pan and I think that’s because I used a pan and not a bucket. However if you make it and it looks dark and awful, stick with it as it came good in the end.
I water bathed those which I will keep to Christmas gifts.

They turned out great and it tastes delicious!

The rhubarb wine is now in Demi johns bubbling away so once I decant it into bottles I will do the post about it.