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 🙂

March’s veg plot and seed plan

It feels like it’s time for an update on what’s happening in the veg plot and growing areas, with all the talk of The Food Challenge and the general ventures we are working on…so before it’s too late, we best get on and grow some for when we’re up and running!

I do love March, Spring is on it’s way.  It kind of just pounces on your unexpectedly, even though you may have spent much of February feeling like it would never arrive.  There’s so much more daylight and time to get out and get things done.  


Personally, my time starts to transition from spending lots of time in the house cooking and preparing to being outside, preparing and growing.  It’s still a reasonably quiet time of year for gardeners (not so much smallholders as chicks and lambs start arriving!).  I start to notice that a coat, hat and scarf are too much when working outside, you can feel the sun on your clothes through the glass in the greenhouse, and if you are really lucky, when walking outside feeding the animals.


Yes there’s still frosts and sometimes even snow, but both are very pretty and give you a (very!) fresh start for the day. 


Gone by mid morning, these mornings give way to blue skies and the need for sunglasses to drive safely on the reflective roads!  Come 6pm, there’s still a short amount of daylight to be snatched before giving in to the evening. 


Before you know it, it’s 8:30pm and you’re thinking about the bed time routine before you get up and do it all again.  I love to see the shift in seasons and it’s clear we are bang smack in the middle of the Winter to Spring shift right now.

In March, the temperatures can vary dramatically, so don’t get caught out thinking there won’t be a frost, which we have done before.  In fact, only last year were the fruit trees killed off when a very late May frost killed the blossom.  I really hope that doesn’t happen this year.  With that in mind, I still am still sowing seeds with a view to keeping them protected in various forms until they can move on to their final spot.  I’m not just sowing the hardier seeds either, at the end of the day if we lose some, then we will have more to sow.  It’s all trial and error every year.

At the moment we have stagger-sown the following since 14th February:

Red and white spring onions 
Leeks
Broad beans
Peas
Kale – different varieties
Beetroot
Salad leaves
Tomatoes (a couple of testers)
Cauliflower
Red and Green cabbage
Aubergine
Different beans
Courgettes
Turnips
Sprouts
Potatoes (currently chitting)

We are seeing these seeds come through nicely.

Radish, multi sown
 Salad leaves, tomatoes
Swiss chard, beetroot, salad leaves
Turnip, radish, sunflower, Swiss chard, beetroot, salad leaves
I will continue to stagger the seeds I am sowing to have plants at different ages, to hopefully mature at different stages.  They do sometimes tend to catch up which is nature for you and can be frustrating when you get a glut despite planning not to. This year we are hoping to not only supply ourselves with ALL of our own vegetable needs, but also to do a couple of veg boxes to sell with the eggs we are selling weekly.  Another exciting challenge!
Nothing should go to waste to be fair, even if the veg boxes don’t take off, we will preserve and the chickens and pigs will have what goes over as inevitably things do.

So the seeds are in and being kept warm as needed.  The veg plot is manured/mulched and covered up to warm the soil ready for planting out.  We had the shock of our lives the other day when one of the horses managed to get through the garden gate and made her way in to the veg plot.  We fixed up the damage she did but only time will tell as to whether she has killed anything off!

In the veg garden, which is different to the veg plot, we have our polytunnel that’s 4 years old now.  Highly recommended if you’re looking for a cheaper one, this is 6x3m.  Over the last few weeks it has taken a bashing from the various storms and is starting to need some TLC so we have made some adjustments to it.  Where the zip is starting to come apart we have zipped it closed and adjusted the clips to be longer so we don’t have to keep undoing it beyond the zip.  As you can tell, that was a Ste idea!  Saved us time and money on costly repairs.  Bonus.

The polytunnel will soon be planted up with a couple of kale, radish and salad leaves to get the crops moving on quickly.  I’ll grab some photos when I do that.

Sowings over the next week or so will include tomatoes and peppers, more salad and turnips and second sowings of what’s already in.  We are getting pigs in 3 months which we also are going to grow as much food for as we can, so marrows, turnips, swede, leafy greens and so on.  It’s going to be a very busy growing season, so outside we go!! More pics to follow 🙂

Spring time jobs

It’s that time of year when we need to be preparing for the coming seasons.  That doesn’t just mean for the animals, but for our garden too.  We like to eat and work outside as much as possible and this includes having family and friends over for BBQ’s and even the odd day off enjoying a long, lazy summer day, with a glass of something alcoholic and good food to share, usually sat round some sort of outdoor fire.
It’s been sunny this week, but still cold.  So now was the perfect time to clean the block pavings which are at the back of our house.  They have gone fairly yukky over the winter and came up a treat.  It took Ste 3 hours to pressure wash the whole area, but it won’t need doing again until next year, so it’s time well spent.

 
Before
During
After

There’s lots of other jobs to do, not all for Spring as such.  We’ve pig fencing to sort, hedges to trim, fields to fertilise, field gates to put in…oh and did I mention the new mini orchard?  More on that soon 🙂

First hatch of 2017

We started the incubator with 15 duck eggs in a few weeks ago.  The ducklings are due tomorrow and we were worried if any would arrive due to the power cut last week.  I am pleased to report these little ones were not put off by any power cut and so far we have 7 ducklings all out and looking fine.  These will all be table birds unless their weight and sex tells us otherwise.  We have a runner duck who produces a lot of eggs and she is crossed with an Aylesbury and Appleyard (they all live together) so I’m not sure what size bird they will make.  If they are female and too light, we’ll keep them for eggs only.  It will all be part of the experiment.  We’re after some heavier female ducks at some point this year.

On their way to the brooder in the barn.  Thse guys are dry and fluffy, so it’s time to go.
Soft and cute 😉

On Friday we’re going to set the incubator away again with goose eggs.  They are supposed to be harder to incubate and we’ll only fit a few in.  Again, these will be raised for the table.
Once they’re out, I plan on incubating the rare breeds we have if there’s any demand for them…I also like to see them round the place – they won’t be table birds.
We’ve gone from wishing Spring would hurry up, to full steam ahead in a blink of an eye.  It’s light enough to do jobs before 6am here now and light until after 6pm.  It makes smallholding life so much easier, especially when we work too. 
I have the early rhubarb that is ready to be picked which is a very special occasion, I love rhubarb!  The asparagus follows that and then broad beans and peas.  Hopefully lots of salad items in between too.  How lovely.
The piglets are doing fabulously, one is growing slightly quicker than the other so we’re supervising feeds.  They’re 5 weeks old today.

Slightly blurry as they wouldn’t pose for me!

To those who are on Facebook and commented (in my defense I feel 😉 ) that they will become boisterous quickly….1 week on and they are already charging around bashing in to me at feeding time.  LOL.  Super adorable still though.

Recipe books and geese

First on the list is using my abundance of recipe books. I love them. However I am terrible for finding something online, normally BBC good food and just having the recipe on my phone. What a waste of books and the money that went into buying them. So I am going to combine both methods. Tonight I had chicken out of the freezer and an abundance of leeks in the veg plot to get through which I feel hugely pleased about. So Mary Berry’s chicken with leek, potatoes and thyme seemed perfect. I had left over green veg from the other night. I was sceptical tasting it during cooking but it turned out lovely. A very nice recipe that can be cooked ahead. Please msg me if you would like the recipe.
 
 

 Remember Ryan the goose? Well turns out he should be called Rhianna or whatever the female equivalent of Ryan would be. Our male goose confirmed it yesterday.

One of our other female geese has been acting strange again which means she is either poorly or laying eggs again. Turns out she had stashed 3 eggs in the shed.
This mild winter is playing havoc with things. The geese think it’s Spring and there buds on the trees which normally wouldn’t be up yet. We’re due to go below freezing again tonight having said that.  Stay warm 🙂