Monday night preserving – my nemesis strawberry jam

Those of you who have been with me since the beginning will remember my devastation last year when I lost a lot of my jams to mould. Some people may roll their eyes at the thought of being devastated over something like that. However when you look at the time spent growing, nurturing and tending to fruit, the cost involved for the recipe and the time taken to make it, it becomes more understandable I think!
So you can imagine what was in the back of my mind when I collected these beauties. Yes it is strawberry season again and I love it! Daily pickings from now on?

I harvested just over 1kg with some of them not making it inside as you’ve got to eat the first few stood there on the veg plot, right? Yummy they were too.
I followed Pam Corbin’s (River Cottage Pam the Jam for those who don’t know) recipe in her preserves book.
She suggested mashing 200g of strawberries with 200g of granulated sugar and warming through then adding the remaining 800g of strawberries and heating slowly until soft. So off I went.

I then added another 300g of granulated sugar and 450g of jam sugar plus 150ml lemon juice which I was surprised at but maybe that’s needed because it wasn’t all jam sugar?
The colour was changing to that amazing deep red you get from the strawberries cooking.

I brought it to a rolling boil and waited for it to get to temperature which was around 7 or 8 minutes.
In the mean time I sterilised the jam jars in the Aga and the lids on the top in a pan of boiling water.

I am really pleased with the results and will be keeping a close eye on these jars for any sign of mould. These little ones are testers for the Christmas hampers I am going to be doing.
Thanks for reading my Monday night preserves rambles. Next week is rhubarb relish and rhubarb wine.

Christmas preparations and home raised meat for the table

I’m still chasing my tail but my head is just above water and I’m happy as Larry.  Whoever he is.

So this weekend started off with a frost on Saturday morning.  It always makes me want to stop and get a photo as frost makes everything look so pretty.

The frost mean the sheep had a bucket of hay between them which they happily munched on. 

My Mum came over and had some of my homemade jam (the few that didn’t turn mouldy!) with a wholemeal breadbun.  She sadly has a, let’s say condition for ease, where she is restricted on what she can eat.  So homemade jam is one she can have, which makes us both happy.  It is her 67th birthday today (20th), Happy Birthday Mum xxx. (I am a day late with actually publishing this post!)

I noticed my garlic and onions are starting to come through, you can just spy them in this bed poking through the soil.  The Purple Sprouting Broccoli is also in the same bed which I planted as an experiment to tell me if it’s worth doing on a bigger scale for this year.

I finally got round to making some fudge.  I’ve never made it before and followed a recipe from bbcgoodfood for white chocolate fudge.  Now I don’t like fudge myself, but Jack loves this one.  I am going to try and get another flavour made and hand them out as Christmas gifts to people when they visit or as they leave after Christmas dinner.

Yesterday I put a ham in the slow cooker and we had some for tea with pasta and a garlic sauce.  It was really nice and different to what we’ve been having, so a refreshing change.  Now I confess, I always say to myself I must do something with the stock that’s left.  Then I don’t and I wash it away, so last night, I sent Dawn a message and she told me to freeze it on ice cube trays for use another time, so I have done just that.  Why I haven’t done that before, I don’t know.  Thanks Dawn.  We got loads of lovely shredded ham off it.

I’ve been wrapping gifts as often as I can.  I’m using brown paper and decorating with my own items.  I love this look.

Here is a rare photo of me and the 2 girls.  I don’t often post about the horses specifically but they offer the smallholding bountiful amounts of super manure (I was going to use a double S there but I restrained) which in turn feeds the land, which feeds us.  So they have earned the right to a photo 😉  They can be my sanity at times when I feel like I could scream.

Finally to the Christmas meat, please do not scroll down if you’re offended by the sight of birds being prepared for the table.  As you will know by now, this is our lifestyle that we’re aiming towards, so I make no apologies for it, but will always give you fair warning if there are photos as I understand that we’re not all the same.
On Sunday we dispatched a goose and a duck ready for Christmas Day.  We did 2 chickens in the summer and they were a pain to pluck, so we hung them up after dispatch, covered their heads to keep things tidy and plucked them hanging from the small barn roof.  It made the job a lot easier, though it still took a long time.  I can totally understand why hand plucked birds cost so much and doing it makes you realise even more about respecting the process and the end result.  We’re doing both birds for Christmas lunch.  The goose will be done in the Aga as per Mary Berry’s instructions and I need to look up how long to cook the duck for – I have an alternate oven which I may use for that, as I will need space in the roasting over for the veggies.

Both kids helped with plucking of the goose, they soon got bored to be fair, but I am pleased they were involved.  I do try my hardest to ensure they respect the animals and are not squeamish about being able to provide for themselves. I am really pleased with the end result.

It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas!  How about for you?

Wild plum jam

I’m still on holiday which is why I am MIA and we’re having a lovely time. I wanted to quickly share with you that the wild plums we found have made the most delicious jam. This is a large kilner jar which lasts our family of 4 a few weeks before its empty and I’ll fill it back up with more yummy preserves. This one’s going straight in the fridge and the other 2 that I made (I didn’t want to make a lot as I have a bad experience with plum jam before, many moons ago) are going into stores for winter.
It’s still very warm here though we’ve had a few days of torrential rain. Assuming we get some sun now, the rain was welcome as the fields were so dry.
Yesterday was Steven and my 11 year wedding anniversary. He took me out for a lovely meal at a pub called the george and dragon at Heighington which I would happily recommend. My parents looked after the kids and my uncle and aunty came over to see us all too. It was lovely to catch up and look what my parents bought for ‘us’ for our anniversary. The Aga baking and roasting trays I have been eying up. Spoilt rotten we were as they bought us some stag cushions too and a bottle of wine! It was like Christmas. We’re very lucky.
Normal blog service will be resumed later this week, I hope everyone who reads this is well. 😊

Visiting friends and last of the rhubarb

This morning we drove to see a good friend at her livery yard where she keeps her horse. She’s moved there since we moved into our smallholding and we’ve not got round to going to see them, so today was the day for that.
It was lovely to catch up and the kids made some new animals friends too!

When we got home the rain started, which is a relief. I think I’m the only person  pleased by the rain! The fields are gasping for it and the mineral dressing I’ve just put on the smallest paddock won’t be worth it until it rains in. It’s due to rain most of today and tomorrow then be sunny again next week, which is just perfect.
The kids and I walked the puppies out as usual and took our food for free book which we recently ordered. I was surprised that I couldn’t find damsons in there but maybe I missed them. Here are ours in the orchard.
 
When we got back, Rodney was tired and wet so he decided to dry off and have a snooze next to the Aga.  There were some other berries that I couldn’t identify either, so will Google when I get chance.  I didn’t get a photo this time round but they are red berries with a yellow base, small and the leaves have 3 points larger but similar in style to the hawthorn (which has 5 points I think).
Given the wet weather, I decided to use up the last of the rhubarb that I picked and made rhubarb and vanilla jam. It is a huge success despite the expense of the vanilla. I will definitely make that each year.

Today is Ste’s last day at work for the week. I bet he can’t wait to finish. We’re going to collect the wild plums tomorrow, assuming they’re ready and a few windfall apples if any are there. They’re not ready to twist off the tree just yet so I’ll not remove them directly. We’re off to a party tonight, a great way to start the holidays as a family of 4. I’ve loved my week off with the kids so far. I might even put a lottery ticket on to see if we can extend it permanently!
 
Kids ready to walk out and see what goodies we can identify
My rescue hens are producing extremely well.  This one looked more painful!

Fences, cooking and veg box delivery

This morning I was pleasantly pleased when I got up to do the animals as the ponies were still in the paddock I had left them in.  Sounds normal right?  Well one of the ponies jumped out of the paddock the other week and I worried he would get caught up in the stock fencing, so it’s on my mind every time they use the small paddock.  I set about letting the ducks, geese and hens out.  Everything was fine so I headed in the house and got on with my morning jobs.  At 7:25 just before we were due to leave for work, I dashed out to put a pile of hay in the paddock so they had something to keep them occupied whilst I was at work.  The field is sparse.  Anyway, I noticed a pony poo in a place where ponies shouldn’t be.  Turns out Jake had snapped the electric fence (this one isn’t on and they’ve never been interested before, plus we don’t have another battery for it) and gone for a wander round before retuning himself ‘present and correct’ in the paddock!  Dashing around I brought the 2 ponies in so they are now sulking in the stables until I get chance to fix it.  They won’t be going out any more in that paddock when I am not there.  We have plans to put a new fence up but finances and timing is against us.  Steven is working double shifts effectively for the next 2 weeks and being a butcher, this is physically draining, so he has nothing left in his when he gets home and it’s not fair to ask him to start putting fences up when he’s in pain after work.  He’s taking a few days off at the end of July so hopefully it’ll get done then.  I’m going to use the time in between now and then to overseed the paddock and get the grass up so I don’t have to supplement it with hay.  We managed to leave the house at 7:40, which given what happened, wasn’t bad going!      

I’ve still been working on my grocery / menu plans.  Steven’s asked if we can put a loaf of bread on every night, or every other night, as what we don’t eat, the hens will.  So last night I put a wholemeal loaf on and we had fresh bread toasted this morning with the strawberry jam that I made.  It was lovely.  I made a couple of mistakes with the jam which I will remember for next time and avoid.  It only made 2 family size jars though and that was 1kg of strawberries.  I will pick more this weekend and see what else I can make.  We have family over on Saturday night so I plan on making strawberry shortbread with extra thick cream – a recipe from Caroline on The House Hoarder.  It went down well with her builders so I think it’ll go down well here too!

Tonight I am making rhubarb and gooseberry jam, something we haven’t tried before.  I also desperately need to harvest the cauliflowers and turn some into cauliflower and cheese soup and blanch the rest and freeze. 

We are due our first veg box delivery today which I am ridiculously excited over, so I will take some photos and let you know how impressed I was (or wasn’t) with it in tomorrow’s post and will also update more on the grocery shopping thoughts I have been having.

Finished product – strawberry jam, only gets 8/10 from me though!

The toad that pops out to see me when I am locking up on a night.

My 2 Lakendvelder’s and Jake, looking innocent!

Geese playing follow the leader when I let them out this morning.

Last night’s small loaf from the breadmaker.  I don’t make by hand as can’t find the time so this is the next best thing.