Sunday, 26 September 2010

Style Makeover

In case anyone thought I'd disappeared into thin air, I am in fact still here, but have undergone an inadvertent style makeover. I thought I would try one of Blogger's new template designs, just for a bit of a change, and of course, it made my blog almost unreadable. So I had to spend ages messing about trying to make it ok again. Whilst I enjoy blogging, messing about with computers is not my most favourite occupation, in fact it seems like a bit of a waste of time when you're already up to your eyes in apple based  harvesting activities viz

Amazing how those Ikea bags do come in handy isn't it?

So it was easier to put it to one side as one job to do "later on", like say, hoovering under the spare bed. Fortunately I did eventually get round to sorting it, and it didn't turn into one of those many jobs at Carters Barn whose appointed hour never arrives, like ironing underpants and stuffing mushrooms, or you may never have heard from me again. What a lucky escape you almost had!

Not to mention these vast quantities of climbing french beans that I never got round to picking green, and had consequently produced a harvest of these

I've never had home dried beans before, but there were too many to allow them to go to waste, so they're in the kitchen finishing the drying process, and I will see what they taste like in casseroles and so on. Worst case scenario I'll have a home produced supply of chicken feed!

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Ink Caps

Where we've had trees cut down to improve light levels, we get an annual crop of these pretty little Ink Cap type fungi.

They appear almost like magic, overnight, usually after heavy rain has soaked the ground, and on the area where the roots of the felled tree are still in the ground but gradually rotting down. Fungi help this process, and do no harm. Indeed many millions of fungi are found in healthy garden soil and are essential for plant growth.. Although the Inkcaps in my garden aren't edible, some inkcaps, notably the Shaggy Ink Cap, or Lawyers Wig, which you can see everywhere in the autumn, are edible. I've tried Shaggy Ink Caps fried with a bit of bacon, and found them ok but nothing special, and not so good as many other wild fungi, such as Parasols, which are delicious.

Incidentally, Inkcaps are so called because all members of the family soon deliquesce, as it's called, into a black inky mess, soon after they're picked, and the resultant liquid was used as a writing ink.

It goes without saying of course, that you should never consume any fungi you pick unless you are absolutely certain about what it is. Amanita Phalloides or the Death Cap mushroom is said to be the cause of more than 90% of European fatal mushroom poisonings, and to the untrained eye can look remarkably like a tasty supper. So take an expert, do a course, and take great care.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

We're Thinking of Starting A Football Team..

Grandchildren are like buses, you wait ages for one, and then in no time at all you have the makings of a First Eleven. I just had to share this lovely picture. It's our grandson Brown Toby telling his newly arrived brother Alfie George to smile for the camera.  Just too cute!

Last Honey Harvest

This is the contraption I use to extract honey from the frames of honeycomb so that it can run off as liquid honey and be bottled for use. It's a simple centrifuge which holds two frames of honey, and can then be spun round by means of  me turning a handle and the liquid honey is thrown out to the sides of the drum and runs down to the bottom. But before this can happen the frames of honey comb  have to be uncapped, that is, the sealed cells  where the bees have stored the honey have to be broken open, so that the honey can drain out, a job most easily managed by slicing off  the top layer of was with a serrated knife. Here I'm slicing off the top layer of wax with a bread knife.

As you might imagine this is all quite a faff, you have to cover the whole area of the kitchen with newspaper, or you end up with annoying bits of sticky floor which are impossible to clean. Plus the equipment has to be cleaned and stored. One of the main reasons why I'm keen to adopt the natural beekeeping methods and use a top bar hive, with which I will harvest honey on the comb, and not bother so much with the centrifuge.

Anyway I'm happy with my harvest of honey this year, the girls have done really well for me, but they will soon be preparing for winter which will entail expelling all the drones (males) from the hive as  they do no work and are not needed for mating, and the remaining female workers will  settle down to a winter of safeguarding the queen, looking after the hive and waiting for the spring. I will shortly be checking them for evidence of Varroa mite, and treating them appropriately if I need to, before seeing them bedded in for the winter with a plentiful food supply, and a nice warm watertight hive.  

Monday, 6 September 2010

Pheasant And Ham Pie Recipe

I have a few pheasants in the freezer that I needed to use up and the remains of a bacon collar joint in the fridge, not to mention a mountain of plums, and so this recipe is the happy result. It's a hearty pie but I think the plums just lift it out of the ordinary and would probably work ok with chicken though I would use boned thighs for this recipe.

Pheasant and Ham Pie with Victoria Plums
Breasts from 1 pheasant (or 4 boneless chicken thighs)
Some chunks of ham or failing that a few slices of bacon
1 large onion
1 large clove garlic crushed
4 Victoria plums, halved and stoned
1 large carrot
1 tablespoon plain flour
Scant half pint of good stock
A glug or so of red wine
chopped parsley
Half a pack of ready rolled puff pastry.

Chop and fry the onion, garlic and carrot until soft. Add the chunked ham and pheasant. Sprinkle with flour and fry until well browned, stirring from time to time. Season well.  Add a glug of red wine, and enough stock to make a sauce. Add the chopped parsley, turn into a pie dish and press the plum halves into the gravy. Cover with the half sheet of puff pastry, trim, and brush with beaten egg or milk. Bake in the middle of the roasting oven of the Aga for 20 minutes, (gas about mark 6) until well browned, then move to the bottom oven for another half hour or so (gas about 3). Serve with a seasonal green veg.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Glass Of Mud Anyone?

What could be nicer than a glass  of freshly pressed apple juice. Juice from my own apples, pressed by me, grown by me, no chemicals, no additives, no airmiles, no packaging, truly organic, sounds great doesn't it. Well it is great of course, but this being my first foray into the ancient art of apple pressing, the results have been a bit, er, mixed.  As you can see from this picture, the juice looks a bit like muddy water. Not very appetising.

First of all, the press I bought online from Selections, is really too big for the amount of apples I have. I wanted the 12 litre size but they had sold out, but I have loads of apples, I thought, so I might as well get the bigger one.  Not loads enough it seems. Before you can press your apples you have to reduce them to a pulp and this reduces their volume dramatically. So a few bucketfuls of windfalls only half fill the press by the time you've pulped them.Lesson one. It's recommended that you use a Pulpmaster, a tool that you use in conjuction with an electric drill. But I found it quite a faff, and I'm sure I could have done a better and quicker job with the Magimix, despite what I've read about this not being the case. Most of what you can read on the internet about apple pressing and cider making is written by men, and I don't wish to sound sexist or anything chaps, but I can easily pulp apples in my Magimix without reducing them to puree. But then I use a Magimix all the time.

Then you tip your apple pulp into the press and away you go. The press itself works well, although I think I could either do with a smaller one, or a lot more apples. I'm hoping to have access to quite a few more as the season goes on, both from my own garden and elsewhere. Lots of people have apples that go to waste in the autumn so I should be able to find a source.

Now to the results. The apples juice looks like a mixture of mud and water. It's not very apple-y looking at all. I taste. A bit sharp, but fruity and fresh. And nicer than it looks. I need a second opinion. I take a glass of the liquid over to the office for David, a man who has even been known to give an honest answer to the question "Do you like my new hairdo?" so I know he'd say if it was really bad. He tastes and pronouces that it's a bit sharp but after a few sips you get used to it and it's quite nice.

Conclusion. It's a lot of trouble to go to for a few pints of apple juice, but this is my first effort, and now I feel I have an understanding of the process, I'm looking forward to having another bash. I only used a couple of bucketfuls of windfalls of asssorted variety, so next time, with any luck we should get better results. If anyone else offered my a glass of muddy looking liquid to drink I'd probably pass, but like anything else you've produced yourself I'm rather proud of it. If I never make another posting you'll know it's been fatal, but for now, cheers.


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