Brining the leg of pork and winter fun 

When the pigs went to slaughter early August, we filled the freezers to the brim. We made bacon which was nice, just not very big on the medallion (pigs were lean from their breed and free ranging).  I brined the topsides and thick flanks which we then cooked and used as ham. I also froze a leg ready to brine for Christmas. We had so much meat that I decided to hang fire and do it now for mid January when we can have it as a centre piece for a get together or just turn into slices.  We scored the skin and prepared the brine. We used the river cottage brine last time which was lovely. I added slightly less sugar this time, purely as I didn’t have enough.

Once ready I put it all into the wine bucket and put it outside on the step as we have cold enough weather at the moment. In fact, I’ll have to bring it in tonight as it’ll freeze!  This will stay in here for a couple of weeks, after which it’ll be ready to cook (or smoke?).

It’s snowed here today and this is the first proper snow we’ve had that has stuck around. The kids loved it and had a good time playing out before they got too cold and came to warm up in front of the Aga.

As we’re in the thick of winter, we’re having to find alternate methods to exercise the horses. Sometimes it is simply too slippy to ride out safely. Our parking area is all stones which doesn’t get slippy, so we put the horses in there to let them have a roam around whilst the fields are out of action.

Annie got to meet the sheep yesterday before the snow came. I got the impression she was telling them a story!

No time in the potting shed today. I have onions and cauliflower that I want to get in. I’m also putting the project list together for 2018. We’ve some big ideas! More about that soon tho.

Baking for my family – chocolate courgette cake and new machines!

I’ve decided to start doing a weekly baking session to as one thing I always used to dream of before we moved here is cooking and baking for the family. I started off well but it dwindled the busier we got. I always cook from scratch and I’m trying to fill the freezer with good, honest food but that doesn’t seem to be baking these days. Unlike me, the kids can eat sweet stuff still without it affecting them on the waistline within 0.02 seconds of eating it. So last night saw me making the seasonal cake Courgette Chocolate Cake.
Ingredients.
120g softened butter
120ml sunflower oil
100g caster sugar
200g soft brown sugar
3 eggs
130ml milk
350g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
4tbsp cocoa powder
450g courgettes, grated
1tsp vanilla extract
Method
Line a baking tin, mine is apx 20x20cm. Ovens to be heated to Gas 5/190c.
Grate your courgettes, peeling first.
Beat butter, oil and sugars until fluffy.
Beat in the pre beaten eggs and milk.
Sift the fry ingredients and fold in. Stir in the courgettes and vanilla.
Tip into tin and bake for 30/40 mins. I have a 2 oven AGA so I put it on the bottom shelf with the cold shelf above it and it took about 45 mins for mine.
It came out lovely and is very moist (I hate that word!).  The kids have eaten it and have no idea there’s courgettes in there. Ste likes it too but his work friend wasn’t too keen (not sweet enough but he’s a sweet toothed guy!).
All in all this is a lovey easy cake using ingredients I had in the house and veg plot. Perfect for a family as it produces a large amount however you’d be able to freeze too. Definitely one I will be doing again. 
We’ve also been getting in some new gadgets, the first one we’ve tried is a vac pack machine. Tonight we cooked a ham and tried out the meat slicer we bought some time ago. It worked a treat and the vac pack machine did too. I’m really pleased with them both. The only thing is the vac pack sucks all the juice out of the item and can affect a seal if there’s too much. I guess things need to be partially froze to avoid that?