Monday, 28 June 2010

Preserved Lemons

Preserved Lemons

8 unwaxed lemons
2-3oz (50-75g) coarse salt
¾ litre preserving jar.

Cut 5 lemons into quarters as far as the blossom end, do not cut through them. Fill the gaps between the quarters with salt. Sprinkle the bottom of the jar with salt, and squash in the cut lemons, sprinkling with the rest of the salt as you go. Juice the remaining 3 lemons and pour into the jar. You can top up with water, or citric acid dissolved in water. The lemons must be covered with liquid. Store for at least 4 weeks.

I tend to keep my jar of lemons in the fridge after the first four weeks. They keep for ages.

To go with our weekend barbeque I briefly cooked some broad beans, podded, and divested of their leather jackets if they are anything but tiny, and mixed while warm with half a preserved lemon, flesh and rind, chopped small and a little olive oil. Served at room temperature, the sort of food we love.

Sunday, 27 June 2010

Felted Bag

Here is my finished felted bag, the third one I have made from this fantastic pattern from  It's called a French Market bag.  I use two strands of 4 ply because that's what I have, (my good friend Joan has a mega stash of knitting yarn which she generously shares)  but you  must use pure wool.


This is the bag in it's pre-felted state.

I felt in my washing machine, and to get a good result I have to put it through 2 cycles, a colourfast cotton wash and then a white cotton wash.  You need to be able to put it on a 'mini load' programme, use a tiny bit of detergent, and put something in the wash to give the knitted fabric a bit of a thump.  I used to use a pair of denim jeans I had grown out of, but our granddaughter is now wearing them, so I use two very old, thinnish bath towels that had been relegated to garage use, tied in a knot, the knot held in place with string.  The knots come undone otherwise. I put the knitting in a laundry bag so it doesn't get out of shape.

This last stripey bag was knitted four inches longer than the pattern, and I extended the handle length by knitting 12 rows instead of 4 at the end of each bag handle.

Friday, 25 June 2010

More on Elderflowers

I made my first ever batch of elderflower cordial last week, and although it tastes very nice I am surprised how 'thin' it is.  Still with quite a small amount of sugar I don't suppose I was going to get a thick syrup to dilute, like the commercial kinds.  Also, reading the label of BottleGreen, the one we usually buy, I see they use citric acid rather than lemons.  I've got quite a nice lemonade recipe which uses both citric acid and lemons so I might try some elderflowers in that.

I made a litre of cordial, half of it's gone already!

The resulting cordial is a very pale straw colour, the elderflowers discoloured as soon as they hit the hot liquid, is this usual, or was it because I had frozen the flower heads?

The season for the flowers seems to be over here, walking in woods today I noticed that all the blossoms are drying up.

Saturday, 19 June 2010

Chilli Jelly

When we were harvesting the red cabbages from the allotment last year we bought a big box of Bramley apples to use in the annual production line of red cabbage with apples’ which we make to use throughout the year.
Because there were quite a few apples over, and we are not great pudding eaters when no one is visiting us, I cooked down a couple of batches and froze it to use in a chilli jelly, and finally last week I got round to making the first batch.

Here is how I made my Chilli Jelly.

Roughly cut up the apples, do not peel or core, wash them well first and cut out any bruised bits, put them in a pan,  adding enough cold water just to cover them. Bring to the boil and them simmer for about 30 mins or until the fruit is very pulpy.

(It was at this stage that I froze mine because I was too busy to carry on just then)

The whole contents of the pan should now be put through a clean jelly bag, or if you are making a tiny amount a couple of layers of butter muslin lining a colander, making sure that the bottom of the colander in well clear of the juice that comes through. Do not prod it or squeeze the bag if you want a clear jelly.

However, when you are making a lot of jelly it can be a long affair, so now I pour the whole panful of fruit and liquid through a normal kitchen sieve over a large bowl or saucepan, don’t force it through in any way. Keep the liquid that runs through the sieve in a cool place. I have a fairly coarse nylon jelly bag, bought in error I thought at the time, but the solid contents from the sieve are hung up in this bag, and because it’s quite coarse the extract will come through more quickly, and you can give it a prod and a squeeze to help it on it’s way and to get out as much extract as possible. Then using a jelly bag made from very closely woven fabric strain through it the liquid that came from the first jelly bag, and the liquid that ran through the sieve. It will run through quite quickly because so much of the solids have gone and will eventually give a crystal clear jelly. This sounds like a real effort as it reads, but believe you me it saves an awful lot of time when you put it into practice.

The next thing to do is to measure the amount of extract you have and put it into your preserving pan, adding 450g sugar,(I use ordinary granulated), to each half litre liquid (1lb to a pint) I added 7 dried red chillies to my 2 litres of extract. Bring it slowly to the boil, stirring to make sure all the sugar has dissolved before it actually does come to the boil. Let it boil for about 30 minutes, but check for a set after 20/25 mins and every few minutes thereafter when you think it’s near setting point. If it takes longer to reach a setting point just keep testing it until it does. My apples made 5 1lb jars and a half jar over.  Because you have added dried chillies after straining the liquid you will get a few chilli seeds and it won't be as clear as using fruit alone.

Fish out the dried chillies and pour the jelly into warmed jars. Well sealed it will keep unopened for at least a couple of years, somewhere out of bright light and fairly cool is best.

For years I have made all my preserves in a very big commercial size pot, not a proper preserving pan. Having bought one last year which has a measuring gauge on the inside I noticed that my 2 litres of liquid rose to 3 litres when I added the sugar, and the level was back at 2 litres when it set. I don’t know whether this is a formula in any way, but believe I did read once that you can weigh the pan to check it’s setting point. Maybe I should have a go with a sugar thermometer which could do away with some of the testing.

The rampant climbing rose Himalayan Musk is in full flower on one of the garden walls at the moment, the scent is wonderful, especially in the evening.

I made a second batch of chilli jelly on the following Saturday morning, using the rest of the frozen apple and this time, having since read a post about redcurrant jelly in the English Kitchen blog I thought I would see what it would be like if I just tipped the whole lot through a seive, no jelly bags.

It's quite a lot lighter in colour, less depth of apple flavour, and a little more cloudy, it did save a bit of time, but because the stewed apple is quite dense the liquid didn't rush through the seive.  The most time was saved by not having to wash the jelly bags.  I will experiment with something like blackcurrants.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Elderflower Cordial

It's been fairly tricky finding full bloomed elderflowers within easy reach of home that are not on the road side, but are in a public area, but we've done it.  In fact taking the car to the garage for a small operation yesterday we spied a beautiful tree on the hedge in their car park and were kindly told to help ourselves.  I am taking Darina Allen (Ballymaloe Cookery Course) at her word when she says the flower heads can be frozen for up to three months.  I need to buy some lemons and sugar, and will then make one batch of each of the following two recipes, both from Darina Allen.  I never tried making it before and am surprised  how few elderflower heads you need.

Elderflower Syrup

6 heads of elderflowers
175g (6oz) caster sugar
600ml (1 pint) cold water
zest and juice of 2 unwaxed lemons

Put the sugar and water into a saucepan over a medium heat. Stir until the sugar dissolves, add the elderflowers, bring to the boil for 5 minutes, remove from the heat and add the zest and juice of the lemons.

Leave aside to cool. Cover and leave to infuse for 24 hours. Strain and bottle. Dilute as desired.

Elderflower Sparkler
This magical recipe transforms perfectly ordinary ingredients into a delicious sparkling drink.

2 heads of elderflowers
600g (1¼lb) sugar
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
4.5 litres (8 pints) cold water
1 lemon
Remove the peel from the lemon with a swivel top peeler and juice the lemon. Put the elderflower heads into a bowl with the lemon peel, lemon juice, sugar, vinegar and water. Leave for 24 hours, then strain into strong screw top bottles.

Lay them on their sides in a cool place.

After 2 weeks elderflower champagne should be sparkling and ready to drink.
Despite the sparkle this drink is non-alcoholic.

I am not sure however how long the finished cordial will keep so I may freeze some of it.  I hope the sparkler won't produce the same results as the ginger beer my sons and I made years ago which blew all over the kitchen ceiling