Sugar-free Chutney

Here’s one for all who would like a sugar-free chutney recipe. Suz has dug the recipe out that was used as a basis, it’s from The Cottage Smallholder site and is a recipe from Kate Auty, for a no-cook chutney.

The listed recipe uses soft brown sugar, but instead Suz added very ripe pears and fruit juice, raisins and cinammon to the mix. It was also cooked in the end, after 3 days had passed, before bottling – to get rid of the remaining liquid.

Recipe for Kate Auty’s No-Cook Apple, Date and Onion Chutney

Ingredients:
•    1 lb/454g of cooking apples
•    1 lb/454g of dates (stoned)
•    1 lb/454g of onions
•    1 lb/454g of soft brown sugar
•    1 pt/570 ml of malt vinegar (we use cider vinegar)
Method:
1.    Wash, peel and core the apples and skin the onions.
2.    Mince the apples, dates and onions using the coarse profile.
3.    Put the minced fruit and onions in a large glass or china bowl.
4.    Add the sugar and vinegar.
5.    Stir very well and stir once a day for three days, keeping it covered closely with a clean tea towel against flies.
6.    On the fourth day bottle the chutney in sterilised jars with plastic lined screw top lids and label. (How do I sterilise jars and lids? Why do the lids have to be plastic lined? See Tricks and tips below).
Tips and tricks:
•    Katey says that she tried chopping (instead of mincing) the ingredients one year and the onion didn’t break down as much as the apple and date and remained crunchy which spoilt the chutney.
•    Why do I have to use plastic lined lids for chutney?
The vinegar eats into metal lids that are not lined. If you use cellophane jam pot covers the vinegar evaporates through these and you are left with a dried up mess in your jars.

Green Tomato & Grape Chutney

Green Tomato & Grape Chutney

Whilst our tomatos were hit quite badly this year due to erratic watering, we have managed to get a few green tomatoes that needed using up. This bizarre partnership of green tomtatoes and grapes Suz discovered will be something different to try. I’m all for green tomato soup but after last year’s blight and the gallons of the stuff we ended up eating, I think it’ll make a pleasant change 🙂 The recipe can be found here.

On another plus side, Suz has added a maslin pan to her armoury, and the verdict is ‘fantastic’. Measurements on the inside, a nice thick base to distribute the heat on a ceramic hob, and it’s a whopping 9 litres, so it can double up as a spare jacuzzi. Result!

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Damsons in Syrup & Damson Jam

Okay – so we like damsons, which is fortunate given the amount we have here. Suz has again been boiling up various concoctions in the kitchen and out popped more Damson-ey goodness in the form of these beauties. Damson’s in syrup with vanilla icecream, can’t wait!!

Suz’s Damson Chutney

The damson’s are still going strong and another load arrived today from a generous neighbour in the next village, so Suz set about turning them into scrumptious (and sticky) Damson chutney. The poor old pot we use is actually an old spaghetti pot, so quite tall but it has a thin base which means the chutney is easily burned. A proper jam/chutney pan is looking imminent I think.

Damson Gin

Having been given some offcut Damson branches laiden with damsons in exchange for some eggs, I decided to make a little something to help combat the coming winter nights…damson gin.

Really easy this one:

  1. Wash and stone 500g of damsons.
  2. Add to a washed kilner jar or similar.
  3. Add the equivalent amount of sugar.
  4. Top up with 1 litre of gin.
  5. Shake vigorously until all the ingredients are mixed together.
  6. Repeat 5) every few days for three months.
  7. Decant liquid into a new bottle and drink, small amounts at a time.
  8. Use the fruit pulp in an amazing damson pie, or a very drunk trifle 🙂

Everyone Down the Patch

Penny Helping Suz WeedAs well as rolling and sowing the headland, today there was time to play (for some at least), and the newly mown quarters meant a huge pile of grass to climb to the top of for anyone inclined to play 🙂 Meanwhile, Penny’s insatiable appetite for playing football was catered for, but some just had to get down on bended knee and deal with the pernicious weeds. Ah the joys of being an adult…

Sowing & Rolling the Headland

With rain forecast this coming Tuesday, and the last week or two being fairly dry, today was the perfect day to sow the grass seed on the headland, to ensure a month or so of good growth after the rain, before the winter chill starts to slow things down. This will mean that come next spring, the new shoots of grass and flowers lain down now will be ready to burst into life as soon as the earth begins to warm up, and will stand more chance against the dormant weed seeds.

In the bare piece of ground you can see inside the paddock fence you can just make out whispy growth where seed sown about 4 weeks ago has successfully struck.

Having destroyed all growth beneath the hedge, I’m painfully aware that the food source and cover for many wild animals, insects and birds has also been destroyed. We want to encourage the wildlife back to this area, but in a managed fashion, so we’re sowing a wildflower/grass mix suitable for just such an area. We’ll also place wood piles for cover for certain animals such as toads and hedgehogs, whilst the long grass will provide cover for small mammals (mice, hedgehogs, voles etc) and the seeds of the flowers will encourage smaller animals and birds to feed there, with the nectar encouraging the bees and butterflies. In turn, the birds and insects, toads and mammals will help to keep the slug, snail and various vegetable-unfriendly insects at bay. This year, whilst our beans were attacked by black fly quite badly, the fact we had hundreds of ladybirds and wasps meant we didn’t have to use insecticides and only lost a small proportion of the later set beans before the insects finished the black fly off. It was fantastic to witness, and we went against two gardeners giving advice to see if it worked.

The mix we’ve sown is from Charles Flower Wild Flowers, and is their Mix I, suitable for amenity meadows and field margins. Eventually it will look like the image here, the grasses are slow growing, so after being cut in May they can be left safely to grow until late August, letting the various flowers grow in peace and drop their seeds before being cut down in late August. The various species of grasses and flowers are as follows, along with the relevant percentage in the mix:

% Wild Flowers
5
7
7
12
12
4
10
10
15
5
8
5
Birdsfoot Trefoil
Common Vetch
Field Scabious
Lady’s Bedstraw
Lesser Knapweed
Meadow Buttercup
Musk Mallow
Oxeye Daisy
Self Heal
White Campion
Wild Carrot
Yarrow
%

40
20
30
10

Grasses

Chewings Fescue
Crested Dogstail
Sheep’s Fescue
Smooth Meadow Grass

Preparing the Headland

As part of the challenge of reclaiming the headland from twitch, today was spent using a hired rotovator to turn the soil over, so we could pull as much dead twitch out as possible before sowing  the new wildflower/grass mix. After forking over a 10 feet length of headland in an hour I managed to find a local place to hire a rotovator, and I have to say it’s a fantastic piece of kit! The headland was rotovated, then rolled with a roller borrowed from farmer John next door. The existing hawthorn mix hedge was also trimmed back before rolling, so the dead twitch pulled up and the cut branches could be heaped up ready to set light to. The ashes will then go back on to the patch as potash.

Onions Finished

Just a quick post to show the finished onions, shallots and garlic all strung up or bagged up. We’ve enough onions to sell some out front, to help pay for next year’s seed and sets.