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Sow The Seed follows the ups and downs of me, Helen and my husband, Simon - a couple trying to live a simpler life in south-west Wales.

I hope this blog will not only be a good reference and diary for us over the coming years, but will give helpful advice and tips for people trying to do the same thing, or dreaming of doing the same thing.

Find out more on how we got here.

What’s Happening Today

Tasks: Sowing; pruning; weeding; pottering

Harvesting: Cucumber, lettuce, radishes, strawberries, broad beans, potatoes

Eggs this year: 394 (hens) 317 (ducks)

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Archive for the ‘Kitchen’ Category

Cider making underway

Well it’s been a while since I posted anything on Sow the Seed, despite lots going on. Summer has been and gone, with all the growing and harvesting that the summer season entails, and we’re now well into autumn and the harvesting continues, with apples taking centre stage. Our fruit trees are now in full production, with most of the trees producing well. One aspect of having plenty of apples is that we can make apple juice and cider, and today was ear marked as cider making day.

This year we have got our first big crop of apples from our cider tree – “Yarlington Mill”. In retrospect we might not have planted this variety, which can only really be used for cider making. Other varieties have multiple uses – the variety “Tom Putt”, which we also planted, can be used for juicing, cider making or cooking. Never mind though, it’s a good excuse to try making some farmhouse cider. You are meant to only use the juice from cider apples for a proportion of the cider, so we juiced Tom Putt and Golden Delicious alongside the Yarlington Mill to give us a cider that will hopefully be tasty, and not too dry.

The whole process is a bit time consuming. The apples have to picked and washed, and then cut up, crushed and pressed. All the demijohns and equipment have to be sterilised, and the kitchen starts to look like a chemistry lab! It’s a good job for a wet weekend, which we seem to be having plenty of.

The cider is now undergoing its initial ferment, and once that has finished there is the process of racking off for a second ferment and then bottling. It’s best to keep it bottled for a few months before consuming, so it’s really not a quick process. The problem then is that if it really tastes awful at the end of it all, you’ve had to wait so long and invest a lot of time before finding out.

Roll on next year when we get to try it!

Blue versus yellow banana!

Blue versus yellow banana!

Blue_Banana_Squash_2

Squash ready for roasting

We’re down to our last squash – a Blue Banana squash. These were grown last year with some seeds from Real Seeds, and grew very prolifically, and very large. The picture shows one against a yellow banana for comparison, weighing around 2.4kg/5 lbs (after the seeds and ends were removed). Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately given their size), only a few managed to keep for any longer than a few months from harvest, and this is the last one. The size of them is a bit overwhelming – it’s not often you need this amount of squash for one recipe. This is one reason I won’t be sowing them again this year. They also are very hard to cut because of the tough skins (so it surprised me they didn’t store well), and the flesh isn’t as tasty and rich as butternut squash – more like a pumpkin. So even though it produced great quantities of squash, they aren’t as good as the butternut varieties, which is what I’ll be sticking to this year.

So what to do with 5lbs of squash? As the skin is so tough, it is hard to remove easily, so I’ve found the best way is to cut it into large chunks and roast it (at around 200 °C for 30 mins or once the flesh is soft). The flesh can then be just scraped out and either frozen as it is for future use, or made into different dishes. A few of recipes I use are below. Read the rest of this entry »

Vigo apple press

Vigo apple press

It’s been a good year for apples, and despite a visit by the bullfinch earlier in the year, our eating apple bore lots of fruit. Last weekend we dusted down the apple-picker and stripped the branches almost bare (leaving a few for the birds to enjoy over the winter). The apples were of varying sizes and quality, and while in previous years a lot would have gone on the compost heap, this year we had the opportunity to turn these unwanted ones into apple juice.

My parents bought an Vigo apple press a number of years ago to make more use of the apples they grew, and  now they live a lot closer to us we’ve been able to make use of this handy resource. So yesterday morning I washed (and in many cases scrubbed) all the apples that we wanted to press, and then turned up on their doorstep in the afternoon with our harvest. Given their reaction, it was clearly a lot more apples than they had envisaged, and would take quite a while to get through. It’s not just a simple case of putting the whole apples in the press and watching the juice stream out, the apples need to be crushed first to enable them to more easily release their juices. You can buy manual and motorised machines to do this part of the job, but they are pretty expensive for something you may only use once or twice a year, so instead it was all hands to the pump. Read the rest of this entry »

Chilli_sauceLast October I put some chillis, garlic and vinegar in a jar in the hope that in a year’s time we would be able to enjoy some home-made chilli sauce. Well time is up, and the contents of the jar have been blended and sieved. The result looks and tastes very much like the brand of chilli sauce we usually buy, so it seems to have worked. This gave us about four bottles worth of sauce – enough for Simon’s requirements for the rest of the year! The receipe said it didn’t need to be heated before going into the bottles and will keep adequately as it is, but just to be on the safe side I heated the sauce through and put into hot sterilised jars to make sure no nasties got in.

So with another glut of chillis upon us, I’ve made up another couple of jars using a mixture of both the Habanero’s and medium-hot Palivec chillis, and they are safely stashed at the back of the store cupboard for processing in 2014.

Innocent looking Habernero chillis

Innocent looking Habernero chillis

It’s taken nearly 8 months from sowing, but at last we have been able to try our first Habanero chilli pepper. The plants took a while to get going, but once they had bushed up they set a lot of fruit, which are now turning a lovely orange. Habanero’s are rated around 100,000-350,000 Scoville heat units, so although not as a hot as some chillis can get, it’s hot enough for me!

We decided to try our first Habanero in a bean chilli (seemed the right dish for its trial). Simon took on the task of cutting the first one, and so not to take any risks, he donned a pair of rubber gloves before slicing. He was brave enough (or stupid enough) to try a small bit first, and his reaction suggested we needed to go easy on the amount we put into the bean chilli. So to err on the side of caution we opted for just half a chilli. Given we would normally put two of the Palivec chillis in (a pepper from the Czech Republic we tried this year), just shows how hot these Habanero’s are.

Palivec chillis from Czech Republic

Palivec chillis from Czech Republic

I was a bit nervous of taking my first mouthful of the bean chilli, and although it was hot it didn’t have that really fiery kick that you would get from using chilli sauce or cayenne pepper in a chilli dish. So, half a Habanero seems about the right amount for adding a good heat without blowing your head off or making the dish inedible. With the plants producing plenty of fruit, it’s going to take us a long time to get through them if we only have to use half a chilli at a time!

Bumper harvest in a jar!

With the first frost of the year forecast, it was time to harvest the rest of the peppers before they turned to mush. Once again, the peppers have done very well in the polytunnel and we had a bumper crop of chilli peppers, and a reasonable amount of sweet peppers. I’ve already frozen more than enough chilli peppers for the year ahead, and given away as many as I could to the neighbours, but we still had plenty to spare. Read the rest of this entry »

A delicate head of elderflower

There hasn’t been much opportunity recently, but in the few days we’ve had some sun and I managed to pick a bag full of elderflower heads to make this year’s batch of elderflower champagne. It’s an easy drink to make, and is very refreshing on a hot summers day – fizzy and dry, with enough flavour of elderflowers to remind you that it’s summer. Read the rest of this entry »

First taste of summer

They took a while to get going but we are now in the middle of our first glut. Despite the lack of sun and warmth recently, the strawberries in the polytunnel are ripening well. However, their flavour is a bit hit-and-miss, so maybe the lack of sun is not bringing out the best in them. We’ve been having a few with a sprinkling of sugar, which does seem to improve the flavour, but as we’ve got so many of them I decided this year to make some strawberry jam. Read the rest of this entry »

Very fine cut marmalade

It seems to come around so quickly, but it’s that time of year again to make the marmalade. The event is triggered by a call from our neighbour to tell us that the greengrocer has got in this year’s consignment of Seville oranges. Spanish Seville oranges are the preferred oranges for marmalade making as they have more pectin in than sweet oranges, so they’re perfect for preserves. You can make marmalade out of normal oranges, but you would have to add a lot more pectin (from lemons) or accept runnier marmalade. Read the rest of this entry »

A bountiful harvest!

The first frost of the autumn has been forecast for this week, so to avoid a repeat of last year we decided to pick all the peppers now. We didn’t realise quite how many we had, as pepper plants have a surprising amount of foliage that disguise all the green peppers. The sweet peppers I’m cutting up and putting straight in the freezer, and they can be used directly in stews and soups. The chilli peppers we freeze whole and then cut them up as we need them. I’m also on the hunt for a recipe for a chilli sauce, as this would probably use up a large quantity at once. Read the rest of this entry »

Modified version of the Summer Polaroid Pics template