Rhubarb Cordial – Recipe

Ridiculously Rhubarby Cordial

One of my favourite seasonal recipes is from Pam Corbin’s preserves book and is for cordial, which during Spring and Summer has to be rhubarb based!  Mine is adapted a little.

Ingredients:
Stage 1 
2kg rhubarb
300ml water
Stage 2
Output from stage 1
Granulated sugar (around 1kg)

Method:
Stage 1
Roughly chop your rhubarb, remember rhubarb leaves are poisonous if ingested so please dispose wisely.  We use ours as ground cover in the veg plot to help stop weeds.
Add your 2kg rhubarb and 300ml water a large pot and simmer until soft.  For me this is around 30 minutes.
Leave to cool slightly and then hang this and allow to drip overnight through a scalded muslin bag.
Stage 2
Next day, I make the residual liquid (usually around 1300ml) up to 1500ml using tap water.
To this I add up to 1kg sugar depending on how sweet we would like it, however work up from 500g to your preferred taste.
Simply warm the liquid and sugar, stirring until the sugar is completely dissolved.
Add to sterilised warm bottles and drink asap, though it will keep for a few months.
I never water bath it as we use it so quickly, however you can water bath immediately after bottling for longer term use.

Enjoy 🙂

Isolation picture update….pigs, ducklings, GYO, Easter – exciting updates!

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Hello everyone! (Firstly sorry the text is so small, it won’t accept changing to larger for some reason).
Well I am busier than ever, I don’t know about everyone else?  I think a lot of people who are at home are struggling for things to do which I sympathise with greatly, I can imagine it driving them insane.  Here things are the opposite as I am working from home and the kids are being home schooled by me as Steven is still at work and will probably continue to be, given that its supplying food.  
I have been thinking about what to cover in this blog and as I’ve been undecided, it’s taking too long to get out there, so I thought I would just show you in pictures and update you with each pic.  Who doesn’t like pics after all!
I have to say, raising our own meat is so rewarding, health wise and financially!  This bird was over 2kg and has made 4 family meals for 4 hungry, chicken loving people.  The roast was Sunday, curry with shredded chicken Monday, chicken, leek and bacon pie tonight and then the carcass made stock which will make an abundance of other meals, so more than 4 really!  I do one chicken a week and every time, I can’t get over it!  I am finding I am missing having raw portions to cook from and we could always joint them but then I find it a bit of a waste, my own enemy!  
I was in the veg plot, beavering away as you do, when I literally turned round and look what was staring back at me!  We don’t normally get asparagus for another month I don’t think, regardless I am thrilled and we had some for tea last night 😀  It was DELICIOUS.

Something else we have started doing with great zest is selling eggs.  We have increased our poultry numbers significantly and now get around 40 eggs a day, which we sell.  The money we get from eggs is used to feed the poultry and the rest goes to our pot which we will use towards the 2020 goal of saving money for the whole paying your mortgage off project which we are kicking off next year.  Hugely exciting times!

Ooooh look, whilst in isolation I’m obviously needing to make 3 meals a day, which I did before really but it feels like I am doing more now.  We used to eat out once a week so maybe it’s that?  Speaking of which, we’ve taken the decision to carry on the lockdown lifestyle once it is all over as we actually enjoy it and it suits our plans and dreams very well.  Silver lining?  Anyway, I was showing you the below picture which is a quiche I made from 4 eggs, 1 cup of milk and 1 cup of cheese, spinach from the greenhouse and tomato.  It was SO nice.  I can’t tell you how much I am enjoying cooking right now.
Below is the area we had pigs a couple of years ago (it’s rested for 2 years since) and guess what?  WE HAVE PIGS again!! There’s a pic futher on but the below pic is to show you the work we have been putting in to part of the area that we have agreed to grow more (yes, more) food in.  As it’s had pigs on it, the ground shoud be great but there is a lot of grass, weeds and stones in it.  Rather than spend months trying to get it perfect, we have covered in thick mulch on the left, just out of this photo and shown below we have used weed suppressant.  Hope it works!  We have fruit bushes and potatoes in there for now.  I am planning on putting brassicas in to the mulch which is rotted horse muck as I researched and found out that anything leafy like cabbage, kale etc will do best in the muck this year.  If something needs to form, like a cauliflower head, that may not be too good.  Will try a couple though just so I know.  Really pleased with this area and now it’s to keep it up and stay on top of it.

 Two of my favourite recent photos, after a hard day’s work, we had a fire to burn through some items, which Ste being a man, loved.  I LOVE to see him stood, surveying his land and taking it all in (hopefully thinking what other jobs he can do).  The photo below that is when Grace came over to see us as by this point we were sat by the fire having a much earned drink.  She has so much love for her Dad and I love to see them having a good time together.  It makes all of the teenage tantrums easier to deal with.

We found this log which Ste has since kept to turn in to something, but look at this natural pattern.  Maybe by woodworm?  Fabulous to look at though.

Something else I have been doing is making scones every Friday or Saturday and leaving them, with a bunch of others things, out for my parents to collect.  Sadly it is no contact collection and along with a veg box from Ste’s shop, is their only source of food right now, so it is essential to them.  We do miss them hugely.  Anyway, here’s last week’s scones, done in a muffin tray.  They were bacon, cheese and chive and were so nice.  They froze great and Ste had one for breakfast this morning.  I heated it up a little in the Aga and served with butter – yum!

Ooooh the veg box, look at this.  We stopped the veg box deliveries a while back, along with the milk.  A few reasons which I am not going to delve in to now but I just wanted to share how excited I was when I got this delivery on Saturday – it is amazing and we have used everything except a few parsnips.  I will maybe do them for tea tomorrow, or freeze?

I mentioned my parents collecting things with no contact.  It is their Wedding Anniversary today, 42 years, and this picture shows the card and gift we left outside for them to collect.  

Just because I can’t do a post without showing the dogs, here’s Rodney showing off his balancing skills and how he now likes to sit.  Annie and he have had a few disagreements lately and he tends to hang around higher up these days!  He also likes to sit and watch the pigs, how cute is that?

Ducklings!!! We have ducklings!  Am I allowed to be excited about something else!  We hatched our own and have more hatching now.  These are for eggs, meat, sales but regardless are my favourite animals!  Look at the one in the middle.

Here’s the cake my Mam made for us for Easter – how lovely and thoughtful, left on our doorstep!

More cooking – just cheese and chive scones now but I love making these!

Whoop whoop, we managed to acquire some flour!!! I am making ALL of our own bread now and will continue to, so flour is key to us.  Also we came across a large bag of mince for £12 so this is now either eaten, cooked and in the freezer or in portions.

Finally a picture of what we’re having in abundance and are selling too.  Rhubarb and eggs!  I’d love to hear your rhubarb recipes if you have any to share and I will link and share on one of my next posts.

That’s it for now everyone, take good care of yourselves and stay home if you can.  

Reflections

**I couldn’t get away with wordpress so came back to blogger (apparently a lot of people don’t like blogger but better the devil you know for me).  I only did a few blogs on wordpress to be fair, which you can find here should you be interested.** 

Regardless, and despite its name, this post is about looking forward with learnings we have from the past, mulling things over, planning for 2020 and so on.

I don’t know about you but January is a time for reflection and planning for me, in that order I think.  We are just starting a new decade, we have been on the smallholding for 4 years coming up and we are thrilled to be planning our biggest year yet!  I have said that before, and do you know what, it always has been.  For one reason or another we’ve done more, learnt more or overcome more each year.  The list goes on.  This post is going to be very wordy, so I am going to throw some random cute old pics in just to break it up 🙂



The pups when we got them in 2015
Buddy 
Back in December 2015 after selling our family home, we were in limbo, literally homeless. We were  generously offered to use my Uncle’s house whilst he worked away which was a blessing.  During our time there, I gave some thought to what supermarkets to use once we moved to the smallholding as we had been an avid Aldi shopper for 5 years + by then.  Over the last 4 years we have been up and down with shopping, trialling Tesco, Aldi, home delivery, local grocers etc.  What’s interesting is that the grocery budget in 2016 is exactly what we are setting for 2020 – £300 a month and for 2020 that is a MAX each month, starting with January’s pay at the end of the month.  What I do know is that, for this year at least, with the lifestyle we are aiming for, shopping at Aldi once a week is the answer for us.
Our first hay delivery with a rather chuffed Steven
2020 for us is all about minimising our outgoings and maximising our income.  Now that doesn’t necessarily just mean financially, it could be about reducing waste all round or using what we have more appropriately, both financially, within the household and even health wise (mentl health included).  It can be applied to a multitude of areas such as spending less, earning more, not wasting food, growing AND USING your own food, using less plastic, not wasting time on things that don’t matter…. but let’s not run before we can walk.  
Over the next few blog posts I will share some thoughts on what I mean by this and how we can apply it through 2020.
Birds eye view of the house, barn and veg plot
In many ways we are so much further on than when we started in January 2016.  Our knowledge on growing our own food and raising our own meat has come on leaps and bounds.  Saying that, no matter how much you know, there’s always more to be learnt.  Steven has produced some magnificant woodwork items, been painter and decorator, handy man and maintenance man, learning things we would have only dreamt about previously.  I have taken on so many more skills in the veg plots, kitchen and research which against Steven’s list looks minimal but there’s a lot to be said for those skills.
Something I definitely want to (need to) improve on now we have growing skills is ensuring we harvest everything timely and not only that, but using it!  I am terrible for letting the courgettes grow huge and then letting them go to waste.  Not only courgettes too.  Generally, growing your own goes from a snail’s pace, impatiently waiting for the first shoot or fruit flower, to being over run with produce and not having enough tubs, jars,  freezer or shelf space to preserve it all!

Beautiful crocus flowers showing colour at the end of winter
I have mostly cooked from scratch over the 4 years, although we went through a spell of eating and drinking out far too much.  There was a bit of “we work full time so can enjoy it” conversations combined with the excitement of new neighbours who eat and drink out alot!  We’ve now all settled in to our little routines, seeing each other for events or in passing on a summer day at the pub, so that has worked out very well indeed.
Having said minimising outgoings could be other things, it obviously does gravitat around finances for this year.  Part of the reason we want to cut the spending is to try and get 6 (then 12 etc) month’s wages saved in the bank.  As noones job is as safe as houses and given we still have a (large) mortgage to pay, we need a decent income and we don’t want to be caught short if life throws a curveball.  

So throughout the year, when we feel a splurge coming on or the week leaves us feeling weak and can’t be bothered to make the effort, I/we will remind ourselves of why we are doing this.  To protect our future as well as live a healthier, more fulfilling life.  It’s all or nothing for these 12 months and after that, we will reassess where we are and how we want to continue, but for now, it’s full steam ahead and lock down!  That does not mean no fun, no time out, and living on bread and beans.  Far from it.  I think this year will actually being more fruitful than ever in those areas.  We shall see.
Aww jack when he was 5
Anyway, you get the drift.  We are going at this all out and I can’t wait.

  Outside is going to be the biggest income of all, fruit and veg, so we need to treat it kindly and look after it.  So where do we start:

What should we be doing outside in January to allow for the best crops?
According to RHS website:  January is the coldest month.  In January, your garden could need protecting from frosts, gale-force winds and heavy rain. Check stakes, ties, fleeces and other supports for damage and consider moving plants to sunnier positions to maximize light. Don’t forget to keep feeding the birds, food is scarce for them over winter. You can also start planning next year’s vegetable plot.

I did feed the birds some bacon fat at the weekend but this has reminded me that we need to look after them.  We have a beautiful little robin that visits the veg plot and I’d hate to think s/he went hungry!  It is on the jobs list for Saturday now.



Frosty, winter morning on the smallholding.
Since moving to the smallholding, we have added more raised veg beds, a “mini” orchard & started work on a paddock area which we are still undecided what to do with.  Last year it had pumpkins, corn and chard in.  There’s one solitary chard plant left and the rest has been turned in by the sheep.  
One thing we have an issue with here is weeds.  We are going to get on top of them before they start this year.  Don’t get me started on the nettles, they don’t seem to have died off since Autumn 2019!  One method we have adopted previously is the lasagne method which is described in much better detail that I could do here.  We use horse muck which we have in abundance and we mulch during the year with grass and leaf clippings.  As long as the weeds are suppressed, we can work with the rest.  Luckily most of our raised beds are in great condition and we grew in them straight away, it’s just the new areas or those we neglected originally (priorities & time constraints) which we struggle with soil condition and weeds on.  So minimising weeds to give us back some time is a big outside priority this year.  As Steven always says, 30 minutes a night will stay on top, we can’t leave everything to the weekend.
Asparagus bed
The asparagus bed has pretty much died back ready to be cut and mulched for the really cold weather.  It would survive without mulching, however covering it to protect it from winter, looking after the soil and give nutrients back after such a good harvest is the least we can do.  Asparagus, along with rhubarb is one of earliest crops and comes any time from May and has been prolific every year.  I can’t wait for it, not only because I was gifted an asparagus knife for my December birthday from Steven – it’s the little things!  We popped a black dustbin over a rhubarb plant that hasn’t been forced in the last 4 years to see how that works out.  Last year we forced an early variety and it was prolific.  Rhubarb is one of my favourite plants, not least because it tastes amazing in gin 😉

We can also start with repairs in the veg plot as we have recently sourced some free wood.  A few beds have dropped to bits through rot and others could do with raising a little, though we haven’t talked that through yet, so it might not be an option.  Therefore this weekend, we don’t have anywhere to be or anything to do (ie Christmas has seen us inside more than out) which can only mean one thing!  A day spent in the veg plot with a mug of hot soup to keep you warm and a full English to see you through.  Bliss! 


I shall be posting at least once a week through 2020 and I hope you continue to join us on our next chapter in this fantastic journey.  Please, if you get time, drop a comment so I know this is getting out there still.
Take care everyone and speak soon 🙂

Monday night preserving – Rhubarb wine, rhubarb vodka, chamomile tea and drying herbs!

What feels like a long time ago now….On May Day, I harvested lots of rhubarb with Grace.  We needed 3kg to make some wine with.  We got a lot more than 3kg! 

The leaves went in the compost bin, which some people worry about as they’re poisonous (Oxalic Acid), but fear not, the leaves are broken down rendered fine to use as compost.  People have done it and survived and that’s scientific enough for me.

After washing the rhubarb we chopped 3kg up and put it into a sterilised fermenting bucket with 2.6kg granulated sugar.  I sterilised the bucket using a powder from “The Range” which you make a solution from.  It’s £1 a pack and I hope it works as we have struggled with sterilising (or sanitising) in the past.

 

The bucket was sealed and left for 3 whole days. The recipe I used was John Wright’s.

We added cool boiled water to make it to 4.5 litres and added the other bits and pieces which you can find in the link. We left it for a week and it nearly blew the lid off the fermenting bucket so we moved it to the demi John after about 5 days and fit a bubble trap.

Tonight we decanted it into sanitised wine bottles. I knew we were going to need wine bottles so I sacrificed a few Friday nights and managed to drink enough rose wine to free up enough bottles for the rhubarb wine! The things I do for preserving!! It looks really good and I am pleased with the outcome. We need to get the labels off still!

For the rhubarb vodka we added 600g chopped rhubarb to a litre of vodka, 200g sugar and some orange zest. It was left for 9 weeks then we strained it through a muslin and back into the bottle it came from! You don’t need to use expensive vodka, we just got a lot on offer. It tastes nice and we are going to make some more so we’re stocked up for Christmas gifts and visitors plus the odd tipple night of our own!

For the chamomile tea I harvested a pint size amount of chamomile flower heads and dried them out overnight in the dehydrator.

It turned out fab. I stored the dried heads in a clip top jar and tested some out. Pouring boiling water over a few heads, left it to steep for 2 minutes then poured back through a sieve into a mug. It tastes really nice and is very good for you. I’ll be keeping this one.

I did the same for the herbs I harvested, mint, lemon thyme, rosemary and lemon balm then ground them up using the food processor and mortar and pestle. The rosemary had to go back on as it just won’t dry! 

The rosemary went back on with some tomatoes from the greenhouse and mushrooms (from Aldi!).

I also managed to stew some rhubarb for the freezer for later in the year to make a nice crumble as we have not had one yet this year!!

All in all a good preserving night and a base for me to work on for next years ideas.

Monday night preserves – rhubarb pickle, dehydrated Swiss chard, strawberry cordial and strawberry vodka 

I’m really enjoying using my Monday nights to do preserving. It’s a really satisfying feeling preserving seasonal produce that we’ve grown right here!
I harvested some more rhubarb tonight and hardly touched what was in the plot. The plants are doing amazingly. Using Pam Corbin’s book still, I make the spring (I know, it’s summer) rhubarb relish. It’s the first time I’ve made a spice bag up and as I don’t have any special bags, I used my imagination. A muslin cloth with a knot tied in it. After all, that’s all it needs to be right? This one contained 2 snapped cinnamon sticks, 6 cloves and a piece of bruised ginger.

The bag was placed with 500g sugar, 100ml of both cider vinegar and water and placed over a gentle heat to dissolve the sugar. Then taken off the heat for 20 mins to allow it to diffuse.
Then the chopped rhubarb and raisins go in and it was simmered for 30 mins.

Then piled into sterilised jars. Again, I’ve used some of the smaller jars that are for Christmas hampers. The other 2 full jars will be kept into the depth of winter when we need a bit of summer happiness.

I also put some blanched Swiss chard (1 minute) in the dehydrator as I want to make some green powder. Basically vitamins and minerals in a jar which I can sneak in to food that the kids won’t notice but it’ll also add flavour.


We’ve also popped some of the millions of strawberries we have into some vodka with a bit of sugar (200g per litre of vodka for my reference). There’s a bit for us to test and again, some for Christmas hampers.

Finally, earlier this week, we made some strawberry cordial. I brought the strawberries and water to the boil, crushed them a bit then added to sugar to the cooking remix, left them overnight (500g strawberries to 400g sugar and 500ml water). The sugar needed a little heating through again to dissolve and the strawberries were crushed a bit more with a masher. We strained it overnight again and poured into sterilised bottles. So easy! It’s delicious. Ste prefers this one however the elderflower still has the edge for me.

I am going to get my thinking cap on for next week as so many things are ready to harvest and I don’t want to miss capturing any! I hope someone finds these preserving nights helpful, even if it is just to provoke thoughts about seasonal eating and knowing where our food comes from.