Posts filed under ‘A-Z challenge’
With little time for blogging these days there’s even less time for reading other people’s blogs. Plot 52 though is a split second read and one of my favourites. Spotting 5 unread posts in my reader this morning, and finding the above ”allotment recipe suggestion’‘ which made me laugh out loud, I thought it was high time I shared the delights of Greg’s illustrated allotment diary. Greg describes his blog as ”a visual record of the triumphs and trials of a vegetable gardener. Detailing the ongoing struggles with pests, the weather, low flying golf balls, and a fear of deep digging”.
Last Summer when I took part in Suzy’s A-Z alphabet Greg also rose to the challenge producing a wonderful, humourous illustrated allotment alphabet, which has now been compiled into this lovely book. (click on link for details of how to get hold of a copy – a great gift for growers old and young!)
Our scrumptious new nephew.
A wee little fella at 5lb 15.5 oz but perfect in every way.
3 more months until Zac officially gets to meet our baby but in years to come we’ll probably show him how blissfully 9 day old Zac slept on top of his cousin when he/she was still inside Aunty Nic’s tummy.
… wine making.
G’s had a bit of a love affair with rhubarb this year and decided to make wine for the first time when it became apparent that a daily dose of rhubarb fool was slowing him down on the badminton court. Fast forward a month or two and we have 5 bottles of rhubarb wine maturing in the cellar (‘racking’ to use the correct technical term), rhubarb and raspberry wine fermenting in the demi-john, damson and raspberries soaking in sugar and several kilos of rhubarb in the freezer waiting for an empty demi-john to occupy (the fruit gives out more juice apparently if it’s been frozen).
G googled how to make wine from various fruits, read through lots of recipes and then in true G fashion made up his own simplified version! Here’s his basic ‘how to make home-made wine‘…
what you need to make rhubarb wine
1.3kg frozen rhubarb
mug of grape juice (we used Nic’s home-made mixed berry cordial)
4 litres of water (approx or enough to make up 1 gallon of liquid)
mug of cold black tea
1 Campden tablet (to kill the yeast at the end of fermentation/prior to bottling)
a large plastic container (to extract the juice from the fruit)
a large pan (to decant the juice into)
a demi-john container with air lock (for fermenting the juice)
5 glass bottles with screw top lids (we use fizzy water bottles cleaned using sterilising tablets )
a funnel (for decanting juice into the demi-john and the new wine into bottles)
a hydrometer (for measuring the gravity of the liquid)
how to turn rhubarb into wine
Chop the rhubarb into 1 to 2 inch pieces. (G’s developed a scary looking ninja-style technique for chopping the rhubarb stalks mid-air into a bowl, without a chopping board, using a large kitchen knife. ‘It sounds dangerous, but it’s a lot easier and safer than using a board – but only if you have good hand eye co-ordination and are careful when you get close to the end you’re holding!)
Place the required weight of rhubarb into a plastic bag and freeze for a day or two. Freezing changes the molecular structure of the rhubarb making it easier to mash up by hand later on.
Remove from the freezer and place rhubarb pieces in a clean, lidded plastic container. You can get special food grade fermenting buckets for this, but G’s use of a spare composting bin has served him just as well.
Add the sugar to the fruit in the container. Close the lid and leave for a couple of days until all the juice has been released.
After 2-3 days mix it all up with a spoon and use a potato masher to mash up the pieces of rhubarb. Transfer the mixture to a large pan using a fine sieve or strainer to separate the rhubarb pieces from the juice. Squeeze all the juice out of the strained fruit. When adding the water you can pour about a litre through the mashed up rhubarb to get the last remaining sugary juice out of it or simply discard the rhubarb and add enough cold water to make up a gallon of rhubarb juice. Remember to add your mug of grape juice/cordial and mug of cold tea (adds astringency and useful tanins) before making up your gallon total.
Using a funnel decant the juice into a demi john and add 1 teaspoon of wine yeast. Leave for as long as it takes for the hydrometer reading to reach 1.01 or less, indicating a suitable alcohol level for wine or your preferred sweetness/dryness balance is achieved. Then add the crushed up campden tablet to kill off the yeast.
You’re now ready to decant the new wine into your 5 sterilised glass bottles and store in a cool place. Rack for at least 10 months during which time the wine should clear naturally. You’ll have some liquid left after filling your fifth bottle but it’s probably best to discard this as it’ll contain lots of sediment. To avoid this you can siphon the liquid off from the demi-john but G didn’t have any piping for his first attempt so simply made sure he was very careful decanting it.
G’s various batches of wine will all be ready in time for our wedding anniversary next year. We celebrated 13 years of marriage last week and while G prepared fruit for his wine I made an enormous batch of damson chutney.
…uninspired by this letter!
I could say I’m a bit untidy but the last few months I’ve gone de-clutter crazy and become a bit of a neat freak… Unconventional? Perhaps by some people’s standards… I can only think of un- words in a fairly half-hearted ‘not this, not that‘ kind of way so I’ve settled on a U that’s a regular feature of allotment life.
I have mixed feelings about Urtica Dioica, the latin name for the common Nettle.
The growth of nettles on wasteland is said to indicate nutrient rich soil so we tolerate them in swathes round the trees or growing up through our compost areas. If I was gardening in the Middle Ages I’d leave them be too believing they protected against sorcery and marked the dwelling place of elves*!
I have been known to collect the tips to make a herbal brew or use nettles like spinach in lasagne but it’s rather labour intensive. The one place on the plot where nettles are shown no mercy is the strawberry bed where picking fruit has become a bit of an extreme sport and we rarely manage it without much cussing and prickles.
* according to Jekka McVicar’s Complete Herb Book
Jenny, Flossie and I braved a rainy day at the start of April to attend Jekka McVicars first Herb Farm Open Day, near Thornbury. And this weekend is your last chance to attend an open day this year. Jekka will be giving tours of the herb farm at 10.30am and 2.30pm and running a workshop on ‘How to maintain your herbs over winter’. With 650+ varieties of herbs in stock you’re sure to come away with a plant or two … or several as Jekka’s holding a great big end of season plant sale too.
I came away with Chocolate Mint, Lavender Mint and Loveage plants which thrived in the kitchen having had such a nurturing start (Jekka’s nursery plants are all created from cuttings). My herbs soon outgrew their pots in the yard as well and were then re-homed at the allotment. This is the lavender mint just 7 weeks after our vist (planted in black bin sunk in the ground).