Monday, 31 July 2017
In January we experimented with making bitter from a commercial homebrew kit. We thought it had not fermented but later realised that leaving the barrel in the garage meant it was simply too cold for the yeast to get to work. As the weather warmed up, the bitter began to brew. We've been sampling it recently.
This kit was just an experiment. We now have plans for making beer from local wild ingredients that have been forgotten about as suitable for brewing. So watch this space as we turn our hand to making beers from nettles and rowan berries.
We are still trying to reduce the stocks of food in our freezers and a search through of one of them last week produced a bag each of last year's gooseberries and redcurrants. I also had some apples that needed using up so I combined all three to make eleven jars of jam. It's got quite a tang to it!
We had a successful day at the Whinnies Community Garden on Saturday when we were selling our preserves and eggs. We were cleared out of hen eggs but didn't quite manage to sell our remaining lemon curd. Alas, we will have to eat it ourselves!
During the quieter times I was able to chop some of the logs in the ever increasing stockpile of branches left over from feeding them to the goats. There are still lots more to do.
We now have 3 hens in the fruit cage (we call it the maternity ward) with a total of 11 chicks. There were supposed to be 4 hens but one died. Her 4 chicks simply adopted one of the other hens as a new mother. We will soon move out the hens and chicks into the allotment proper. As of tonight, however, another hen has gone broody. If she continues, we will get her a batch of eggs to sit on.
Thursday, 27 July 2017
We will have a stall selling our preserves and eggs at the Whinnies Community Garden in Sunniside on Saturday 29th July, 12pm – 3pm. If you have any surplus produce, fish or game, feel free to pop in a do some bartering. If you have nothing to swap, but want to buy lemon curd, jams, jellies, chutneys and hen and quail eggs, we are always happy to exchange them for cash!
We keep our goats at the Whinnies so feel free to visit Pinkie, Georgina and Spot and our goat kids Snow, Coal and Sunny.
Cherries and gooseberries are a good combination for jam making. Gooseberries provide the pectin and a tartness that balances the sweet juice of the cherries. Start by boiling up the cherries. Then press the pulp through a sieve to make a puree. This avoids having to stone each cherry individually (life is just too short for that!)
Measure the puree (it's more like a liquid at this stage). Weigh and add the gooseberries to the preserving pan and add the puree. Bring to the boil and keep simmering until the gooseberries have broken down. Add sugar. You will need one kg for each litre of puree and each kg of gooseberries. Bring back to the boil and keep on a rolling boil until the setting point is reached.
The pulp left over from making redcurrant jelly needed to be put to good use. Time to make redcurrant and rhubarb jam. Despite straining off the liquid, there was still plenty of pectin in the pulp. The rhubarb helped bulk up the jam. A small amount of water was added to stop rhubarb and redcurrants catching on the bottom of the preserving pan.
We have a large amount of rhubarb at the moment so it is making an appearance in various jams we are producing. One of them was rhubarb and gooseberry. Approximately equal quantities of gooseberries and chopped rhubarb were used. The gooseberries provide the pectin, making sure the jam sets.
Put both into the preserving pan with a small amount of water (enough to cover the bottom of the pan). Bring to the boil and simmer until all the gooseberries and rhubarb have turned to pulp. Add sugar (same weight as total of gooseberries and rhubarb), bring back to the boil and keep on a rolling boil until the setting point is reached.
Tuesday, 25 July 2017
We have had yet more pigeons given to us. Instead of freezing the breasts whole, we have been putting them through the mincer as a first step towards making pigeon sausagemeat. The minced breasts are frozen in 500g bags. In the near future I will be making them into burgers and sausages.
I spent the morning picking wild raspberries. There was not much left of our raspberry canes on our main allotment after the goats managed to get to them so the wild crop is filling the gap. This afternoon, I also picked a bucket of cherries from trees planted at a local woodland decades ago by Gateshead Council. It is very late for cherries which are normally ripened in June and eaten by wood pigeons. This year the cherries are late. And there are still plenty more to pick.
It took less than an hour to pick this lot.
Monday, 24 July 2017
When I was at the Blaydon Burn Food Festival, I swapped two jars of jam for a stack of gooseberries. This was a very useful trade as our gooseberry bushes were badly damaged by the goats over the winter. We have moved them out of the allotment where we keep the animals and transplanted them on our Farside plot but there was no fruit on them this year.
Jam-making in which gooseberries were a key ingredient has been underway. Reports to follow shortly.
Friday, 21 July 2017
The Mayor of Gateshead, Cllr Pauline Dillon, officially opened the Whinnies Community Garden summer fair on Sunday. Two of our allotments are on the site and we help look after the garden. As our goats live there, they too were starring guests at the fair. Pinkie got to meet Cllr Dillon. I'm pleased to report that the two got on well!
We also had a table selling preserves. Yet again, there was a run on lemon curd. It was also an opportunity to show off 5 chicks that had hatched in the incubator a couple of days before.
On Saturday I was at the food festival run by Transition Towns West Gateshead at Blaydon Burn Farm where I had a table selling my preserves and eggs (see photo above). It was a successful day. I was cleared out of eggs, lemon curd, chutney and various jams. It meant I have been occupied this week making more preserves!
We have a fruitcage on our livestock allotment and in it we have a large number of redcurrant shrubs. Alas, the goats broke into it earlier this week. We caught them in time so there wasn't too much damage. We did, however, pick all the redcurrants, even though they were not all ripe. It was a good move. A day later, the goats broke in again and stripped bare the shrubs in the fruitcage. The shrubs will be dug up and transplanted to our Farside allotment where we already have a large number of soft fruit shrubs.
The redcurrants were spread on trays at home and left on window sills to ripen before being used to make jelly and jam.
Monday, 17 July 2017
Last week we had three days of preserves making. We had two fairs over the weekend to supply and another one this coming Saturday.
Above: orange marmalade waiting to reach setting point.
Orange marmalade after reaching the setting point.
Rhubarb used to make orange and rhubarb jam.
Making lemon marmalade and blackcurrant jam.
Testing blackcurrant jam for the setting point.
The full results of the hard work.
Thursday, 13 July 2017
Tuesday, 11 July 2017
On Thursday morning we took delivery of our new bees. To my amazement, when I returned in the afternoon, I found a swarm on the hedge.
I was able to capture the swarm in a swarm box and then rehouse it in a spare hive.
When we first agreed to buy the bees, one hive and one nuc were on offer. Ian and Sue, from whom we were buying the bees, decided to split the hive as it was rather large. The expectation therefore was that we were getting three colonies for the price of two. We have ended up with four instead. Not bad!
Friday, 7 July 2017
We have a good rhubarb crop on our Farside allotment, ready for picking. Much of it will be made into rhubarb chutney but soft fruits are beginning to ripen and it looks like there will be lots of redcurrants so watch out for rhubarb and redcurrant jam. We've got 3 fairs in the next 10 days so there will be lots of preserve making in the coming week.
After the embarrassing loss of our bees over winter, yesterday we took delivery of our new colonies: one nuc and two smaller colonies made by splitting a hive that have queen cells (one colony therefore had an existing queen and one had queen cells). The hives were installed in the morning on the bee stand next to the greenhouse.
Wednesday, 5 July 2017
Whinnie, the little billy goat we have been raising by hand, seems to be integrating well with the other goats in our little herd. I found him snugged up this evening with the two other billy kids in one of the sheds. We currently lock him into a shed on his own through the night to protect him from foxes and from the initial bullying he got from Pinkie (who now seems much less concerned about him). We will shortly let him wander free on the allotment with the other goats, now that he is able to fend for himself and has befriended the others.