Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Pickling and Freezing



As we reach the end of the summer, during the season of glut when we are knee deep in some crops, particularly at the moment courgettes, apples, damsons and pears, the focus is on finding ways of preserving it all. I have been freezing some of the smaller courgettes which will be fine for roasting, but not much use for anything else. I tend to find that the taste and texture of courgettes is significantly altered for the worse by freezing, but if you roast them this overcomes this.

I also have some large marrow size courgettes which I did not pick in time. Last weekend I used one of the monster courgettes to make courgette chutney. It took me a little while to find a recipe that I liked the look of. Despite the fact that I have three pickle/chutney recipe books, none of them have a courgette chutney recipe. In the end I settled for this one here. The end result tastes fantastic and hopefully after a few weeks maturing it should taste even better.

Also last weekend I pickled some of my shallots. I don't think I dried them off enough as some of them were starting to go mouldy. So I decided to use them quickly before they all went. It will be a few weeks before I can try them.

The damson tree is simply heaving under the weight of fruit. I have already frozen 14lbs and there are still loads more on the tree. We will never be able to use them all; we will give some away but inevitably some will go to waste. I have found a recipe for picked damsons which I think I will give a go.

This afternoon I have been processing cooking apples for freezing - simply add 2 tablespoons (more or less to taste)of caster sugar to 800g (weight before peeling and de-coring) of apple, add a couple of tablespoons of water and cook over on a low heat for about 20 minutes. Pack in bags or containers when cool and freeze. Or add straight to apple pie or apple crumble, or whatever other apple recipe you choose.

The question now is what I do with all the dessert apples and pears we have. However, we store them inevitably many will go to waste as we simply have so many of them. Then, ironically, in a few months time we will find that we have to buy them again.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

A Quick Update from the Veg Plot

I have been extraordinarily bad at posting here recently - too many things to do and not enough time. I thought it was about time for a quick roundup of how things have been going. I haven't got any pictures as my wife is away at a quilting show for a few days and has taken the camera with her.

I will work my way around the plot and provide an update as I go. Starting with spring onions; these have done very well with a much better crop than previous years. The red onions have been OK, although many are smaller than I would like these have all been harvested now and have been drying off for storage. The shallots have done spectacularly well - I seem to have loads. Again these are all harvested and drying off for storage. In contrast, the garlic has been quite disappointing with most of it rather small. However, I still have some left from last year which still seems to be fine to use.

I have been growing the same variety of sweetcorn as I did last year as it was quite successful. However, this year the plants seem to be rather stunted. I planted them out in good time so I don't know why this is. I suspect that the resulting cobs will be rather small also. Next to the sweetcorn I am growing squash of some sort, but I can't remember what as I lost the label. These plants are looking rather small and sad. However, there are some fruit emerging.

I then have a row of French beans - well I call it a row, most of the plants didn't grow. I don't know what I do wrong with French beans as they never seem to grow for me. Next to these I am growing some sugar snap peas. Not as many of these plants have grown as I would have liked, despite plugging the gaps with new sowings on a regular basis. The plants that have grown are doing well though and producing a decent amount of peas. In this part of the plot I have a problem with bindweed and as these are both climbing plants it is difficult to keep it clear. While we were away on holiday the bindweed has really taken hold so I have pretty much given up trying to keep the peas clear at this point.

At the back of this area of the plot are the potatoes. I have grown two varieties; one was international kidney, but I can't remember what the other was. I still harvesting these and I seem to have produced a large crop of good sized potatoes. I love harvesting potatoes as you never quite know how many you are going to get, so it is always a surprise (usually a good one) when you dig them up. Often when I dig over the plot afterwards I find a few more.

The leeks seem to be doing OK, although perhaps a little on the small size. It is still quite early for these though. I am having another fairly disappointing year with carrots - some are growing, although most are rather on the small size.

This is the first year that I have successfully grown broccoli. I tried last year, but they were completely destroyed by caterpillars. I had good intentions of covering with netting this year, but I didn't manage to find any cheap enough. Fortunately, I seem to have got away without it and quite a large crop. I have had to freeze most of it as much of was ready all at the same time. While we were away some of it went over - I had no idea that broccoli starts producing little yellow flowers if left long enough.

The beetroot and lettuce have done very well. The parsnips are looking good, although I won't really know until I start harvesting later in the year. I used the toilet roll method again this year and this seems to have been very successful.

The courgettes are doing well with usual glut under way, some of which have turned into huge marrows if I have missed them while harvesting. I have frozen the smaller ones. Finally, the pumpkins are looking good, although, it is still a little early to tell.

In the greenhouse, the tomatoes are doing well and are producing good quantities of fruit. The cucumber plants are looking promising. Two of my three aubergine plants have been eaten by slugs and are looking rather sad. It remains to been seen whether the other plant will produce anything. It is too early to tell whether the pepper plants and chili plants will produce anything.

In terms of fruit, the blackcurrants, redcurrants, and gooseberries have all been very successful, although I wonder if I will have a still larger crop if I prune these bushes back a little. The blackberries are looking hopeful, although not ready yet.

In terms of the fruit trees, the apple trees look to be producing a large crop, certainly much better than last year. I have heard that it has been a good year for apples across the country. I have also heard that it is not a good year for pears, however, that does not seem to be case here as our tree is well laden with fruit. Finally, the damson tree is absolutely laden with fruit - so much that the tree seems to struggling under the weight.

So there you go. Pretty good all in all, although a few crops have stayed stubbornly unproductive.