Pickled Shallots

And here are the first batch of pickled shallots – the Picasso and Red Sun, both red varieties. With the roof of the mouth bite we got last year with our pickles, I’ve decided to refine the same recipe as they really were omnipotent onions. This year, same preparation as last, topped, tailed and soaked in a strong sea-salt brine solution for 24 hours. Then drained well, the vinegar boiled, and poured over the onions ready in their jars. Needless to say the jars have been scrubbed clean and left to dry first. The vinegar mix was one third spiced malt and two thirds balsamic. I went for a fruitier balsamic – Aldi did a decent one that wasn’t too tart, which hopefully will make these onions the equivalent of a winter stout beer – strong, rich and not many needed.

The next batch of shallots will be the yellow varieties, and for those I’m going to use one third spiced malt and two thirds cider vinegar, which will hopefully make a lighter, fresher, crisper flavour to accompany this balsamic version. I may even add some fresh tarragon to the next mix – I feel it might work, and you never know until you try! That’s this coming weekend’s job, along with damson gin making 😀

Garden Gate Sales up on Last Year!

It’s a bit of a mashup this one, but this was the first day the Merrybower Growers stuck produce on the front (tongue still firmly in cheek over the name, but not sure the public is aware). With the glut of onions and shallots we knowingly planted, it was time to see if the passers-by were up for some oniony goodness. A stretch of 5 sunny days meant we could get them hanging on the fence at the front so people could see them as they walked by, and hopefully would remember to bring some money the next day. Although we’d grown several varieties of onions and shallots, we only put out for sale the Tris di Cipolla (lovely mix of three Italian onions, red, white and brown), and the Sturons. We kept the Centurions back for ourselves as we had less of them and they store well. The Sturons were monstrous in size – I really should have taken some photos of the stonkers. We also kept the Bedfordshire Champions for ourselves as about half of those had started to flower so they ended up in the freezer, which meant I’d like to keep the remaining strings for us to use fresh.

I’m chuffed to say that in the 5 days they were out, we sold about two thirds of them, about £30 worth, which is about one third of our seed costs per year to feed the family. We could have sold more, but we gave some away to family and the weather turned, which made leaving them out not an option. Next year we really could do with a cart that could be left out, with a small roof on. I’ve learned though, and now we have a sign with ‘Jersusalem Artichokes Coming Soon’ on, to build up expectations. All good fun!

We’re also getting ready for a marathon pickling session – the shallots here are the Picasso red shallots, perfect picklers I’ve been advised. This tray is one of sixteen we’ve pulled up, four each of Picasso, Red Sun, Yellow Moon and Golden Gourmet.

And finally, the ratatouille. Out of desperation of friends coming and what to feed them, I realised we had most of the ingredients for a decent ratatouille – garlic, onions, aubergines and courgettes. Only the tomatoes were thin in the ground so we had to resort to tinned (we need a 10′ x 8′ greenhouse for tomatoes alone I fear, the amount we could get through). This is one batch – the next batch was frozen ready for winter – yay for the new chest freezer!

Onion Harvest!

2011onionday2I vaguely remember talk of a European Butter Mountain when I was a kid. Well, we’ve produced an onion mountain here at Merrybower 😀

All four of us braved the gorgeous sunshine to pull a few hundred onions up, and even more shallots – possibly around 1,500 in total. Smiler bagsied the job of watering the trees (well – he was bagsied). Of course, the gorgeous sunshine is as reliable as a pair of paper pants, so we took refuge under the picnic blanket, eventually making a break for it all huddled in a tonne bag. Yes, the rain was *that* bad! What fun 😀

In the Greenhouse

I know, I know, I’ve popped pics of tomatoes up before, but nothing can detract from the joy it is to not have to worry about blight on your toms. Here are a couple of pics of the Shirley variety (father-in-law says they’re nice, so we grow them), and the aubergines. Their name escapes me, but I do know they’re an Italian variety – not huge but gorgeous in a ratatouille <slurp>

Meet Buffy

7 o’clock in the evening, a knock on the door.

“Have you guys lost a chicken? The ‘lady-with-three-dogs’ just asked us as she’s seen one up the lane on the bridge, but we’ve checked ours and they’re all there!”

“Crikey – hold on…” …swift count of scaley feet out the back… “Nope – they’re all there, maybe it’s Farmer John’s?”

Big worry, apart from a chicken getting squished, is a chicken causing an accident on a blind bend on a narrow lane. A posse of three would-be chicken snatchers scoot off to Farmer John’s. His are all intact.

On the bridge there’s Brett and his dog, being eyed by the chicken, it’s a stand-off. Pants – the chicken is a young cockerel – no use for eggs, but still, it’s an animal and it’ll never survive out here with the foxes around at the moment. Let me tell you, it takes 4 adults, one big black dog and ‘a lot’ of corn to coax, guide, tempt a hungry cockerel into a box. We’re stuck with him – and needless to say when he woke up in his new home, surrounded by 9 unsuspecting hens, he probably thought he’d died and gone to heaven 🙂