Monday, 27 September 2010

Quince Jelly


2 lbs of quinces
1 lemon (just the juice, sieved)
white granulated sugar
water to cover


Wash and roughly chop the quinces

(no need to peel, decore or depip) and place in a heavy bottomed saucepan.
Barely cover with water. Bring to the boil and simmer gently with a lid on until soft. If the quinces are very firm this could take several hours. Check it every now and then and add more water if necessary.
Pour the cooked fruit through sterilised muslin into a large clean bucket or bowl, I hang my jelly bags up in the kitchen above a bowl, some people like to get all fancy with chairs or stalls, I'm limited by space.

Leave the jelly bag to drip overnight (or about 12 hours).

Measure the juice the next day, Pour the juice into a deep heavy bottomed saucepan and add 1lb/454g of white granulated sugar for each 1pt/570ml of juice. Add the lemon juice. Heat everything, gently stirring from time to time,boil for about 10 minutes before testing for a set. Test every 3 to 5 minutes until setting point is reached.
When jelly has reached setting point pour into warm sterilised jars using a funnel and ladle.
Cover immediately with plastic lined screw top lids or waxed disks and cellophane tops secured with a rubber band. If you don’t think that the jelly has set properly, you can reboil it the next day. The boiling reduces the water in the jelly. I have done this in the past. Ideally you should try for the right set the first time.

Label when cold and store in a cool, dark place. Away from damp. Eat with toast!!!

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Fig, honey and mascarpone tart

This year is a fantastic year for figs, we thought it would be terrible, but no. We have two varieties on our land green and black, I'm sure they have proper names, i think the green one is called a drop of honey (pingo do mel), locally anyway.

Just eating them fresh off the tree is pure decadance and really the only way to eat them. I have made some fig and lemon jam/marmalade stuff which is very nice. We found the recipe for this tart in a Nigel Slater book. Decided to make it with some very expensive ingredients. When I asked Rick what he thought of it, his reply was "I'm not sure".

That is not the right reply

Apples and quinces to come and how to make a curtain out of an old mattress!!!

Sunday, 19 September 2010

much ado about milho

When we came to Portugal to attempt to be self sufficient, we knew that ultimately you want to be able to grow your own animal feeds as well as food for your family.
The food for the family bit was easy, I've done that for years and kind of know what I'm doing. Although a bit more water would be handy!!!
There will always be failures when growing food , it's part of the whole thing, but hopefully where you fail you succeed in other areas.

As we are growing our own meat now and wanting to rear it in the best possible way we have decided to try and grow our own animal feeds. It seems to be impossible to buy complete animal feeds here without Genetically Modified maize and soya in them, because of this we have been buying three cereals separately for the pigs; wheat, barley and maize (the white stuff which they tell me is not GM), we feed these grains along with endless peelings from the ladies of the village and various scraps. We have the grains ground up by a friend in the village, who has an old stone mill.

Quite determined to grow more for the animals, to cut down on expense and to be able to control what they eat we decided to grow some maize (milho). I sourced a hybrid F1 which is fine(ish), at least it's not GM, we planted what we thought was a lot. We got told off about how we'd planted it (this is normal procedure). We watered the living hell out if, I weeded it; back-breaking. We ran out of water, we left it, we de-leafed it and then picked it. We pretty much copied the locals.

Picking the mal-formed and patheic cobs was heart wrenching. I bit my bottom lip alot and awaited the humilation at the de-hulling machine. It didn't come, thank god. They, I keep reassuring myself have been growing this stuff for centuries, for me it was a first, I am not spraying anything, they are. We estimate we got about 40kg. We need about 800kg!!!!! that's not to mention the wheat and barley...........

The soya, on the other hand has been spectacular (thanks Andy). I was given about 20 black soya bean seeds which I planted. They have been brilliant and I have harvested 700 grams, which is a hell of a lot of seed. I will plant all these seeds next year and hopefully have such a massive soya harvest it won't matter if I don't have 800kg of maize.

That is the point I was trying to make, the stuff you think is going to be a doddle ends up being a complete failure and then some funky heirloom plant produces so much without any attention at all....genius. II think that you can apply this rule to almost everything in life.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Spicy aubergine chutney

This is hot!!!!

2 lb (1 kg) aubergines
3 tablespoons salt
6 oz (175 g) soft dark brown sugar
12 fl oz (350 ml) white wine vinegar
3 oz (75 g) seedless raisins or sultanas
1 tablespoon tomato puree
5 cloves of garlic
1 lb (500 g) onions
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3 red chillies

Slice the aubergines, put into a colander and sprinkle with the salt. Leave for at least three hours, then rinse and dry.
Meanwhile, put the sugar, vinegar, raisins and tomato puree into a bowl, mix and leave to stand.
Finely chop the onions and red chillies and place with all of the other ingredients into a pan.
Heat gently, stirring until the sugar is dissolved, then simmer until thickened.
Pour into hot sterilized jars and seal
Makes about 3 lb (1.5 kg) of chutney.

Monday, 13 September 2010

changing of the seasons

The end of the summer (even though it's still scorchio) was marked with Rick's birthday and the Grande Arroz Doce, the Guiness Book of World Records was entered and 450 kilos of rice pudding made..Unfortunately it was burnt. Terrible shame for the village and all the visitors who sat at the esplanada all day, salivating, not a shame for my pigs who love it!!!!

We danced alot at the local Festa's and other people danced alot too. We processed alot, at night and in the day

I also had the great honour of meeting a 1956 Olympian athlete who has inspired me to go running every day, I figured that if an 80 year old can do it what the hell am I wingeing about. I now run 25km a week, not bad.

The outdoor cafe has packed up, the Lisboans have gone home. We can now park our truck again!!!

The bunting will remain all winter no doubt, constantly reminding us of the good times we had, it will blow away and block up the drains and get caught up in the trees and in the river, eventually being washed away by the heavy downpours that will govern our lives for the winter months.

Sunday, 12 September 2010

jams and chutneys

I've been meaning to post this for ages and just never got round to it. It's quite a busy period now. Everything in the garden is ready at once. In between making endless rounds of tomato sauces, cooking up peelings from various festa's for the pigs, I've been making loads of jams and chutneys. I wanted to share the recipes with you, so here they are. Let me know how you get on, aubergine chutney to come.

Spicy Peach chutney

1.75kg (4 lb) sliced peeled peaches
175g (6 oz) sultanas
2 cloves garlic, minced
75g (3 oz) chopped onion
150g (5oz) chopped preserved ginger
1 1/2 tablespoons chilli powder
1 tablespoon mustard seed
1 teaspoon curry powder
900g (2 lb) dark brown soft sugar
1L (1 3/4 pints) cider vinegar
4 tablespoons pickling spice

In a large heavy pot, stir together the peaches, sultanas, garlic, onion, preserved ginger, chili powder, mustard seed, curry powder, brown sugar and cider vinegar. Wrap the pickling spice in a spice bag or muslin and place in the pot.
Bring to the boil, and cook over medium heat uncovered until the mixture reaches your desired consistency. It will take about 1 1/2 hours to get a good thick sauce. Stir frequently to prevent scorching on the bottom.
Remove the spice bag, and ladle into hot sterilised jars. Wipe the rims with a clean moist cloth. Seal with lids and rings, and process in a barely simmering water bath for 10 minutes. The water should cover the jars completely.

Peach Jam

2.5kg/5lb just-ripe peaches
The juice and zest of 3 lemons
1/2tsp salt
11/2kg/3lb caster sugar
3 vanilla beans

Wash and cut the peaches, then crack the stones of two and take out the kernels in the middle. Lightly crush the kernels to release their nutty flavour and set aside.
Place the chopped peach and the lemon juice into a saucepan. Add the salt – this will bring out the flavour of the fruit – and simmer very gently for 20 minutes. Add the sugar, stirring to combine.
Once the sugar has dissolved, turn up the heat and boil rapidly until setting point is reached. Once you think it might be ready, do the "wrinkle test". Place a spoonful of jam on a saucer in the fridge for a few minutes to cool. Run a finger through the jam: if the surface wrinkles, it's ready. If not, return to the stove and boil swiftly.
Add the cracked kernels and allow the jam to rest for 20 minutes for even fruit and juice distribution. Spoon into warm, sterilised jars.

Fig Marmalade, or Marmellata di Fichi:

2 1/4 pounds (1 k) figs
1 1/8 pounds (500 g, or 2 1/8 cups) sugar
The grated zest of an organically grown lemon
3 tablespoons whisky or brandy (optional)

Wash the figs, break them open (be on the lookout for bugs), and combine them with the sugar in a bowl. Cover them and let them rest overnight. The next morning transfer them to a pot and heat them over a moderate flame, stirring lest they scorch, until they come to a boil. Add the lemon zest, reduce the heat, and simmer, skimming away the foam occasionally, until a drop on an inclined plate doesn't run. Transfer the marmalade to sterile jars, seal them, sterilize them, and when they have cooled transfer them to your pantry.
Note: As a variation, stir 3 tablespoons of whiskey or brandy in with the lemon zest.

Chilli Jam

For about 6 jars:
500g very ripe tomatoes
4 garlic cloves, peeled
4 large chillies (seeds left in if you want your jam hot)
6-7cm of ginger root, sliced
300g caster sugar
2 tablespoons Thai fish sauce
100ml red wine vinegar

Blitz half the tomatoes with all the garlic, chillies and ginger in a food processor. Pour into a heavy bottomed pan, add the sugar, fish sauce and vinegar and bring to the boil, stir slowly and reduce to a simmer. Dice the remaining tomatoes finely and add them to the pan. Simmer for 30-40 minutes, stirring from time to time. The mixture will turn slightly darker and stick. Store in warm sterilised jars and seal while mixture is still warm. The longer you keep the jam the hotter it gets.

Beetroot Relish

1kg Beetroot
500g onions
750g cooking apples (peeled and cored)
500g raisins
3 tablespoons ground ginger
1kg granulated sugar
1 litre malt vinegar (actually I used all sorts of old vinegars as I had no malt and a friend also told me that if you use malt vinegar things take longer to "be ready")

Peel beetroot and grate, dice onions and cooking apples. Combine all the ingredients in saucepan, stir the mixture and heat gently until sugar is dissolved then raise temperature until boiling. Continue gently boiling with occasional stirring until mixture is thick. (approx. 2 hours) To test when ready create a trench in the surface of boiling mixture with the back of a spoon. When the trench does not immediately fill with liquid, the chutney is ready. pot into sterilsed, hot jars and seal.

go forth followers and make

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

saints preserve us

Some time ago I had a wonderfully misunderstood moment that I wanted to write about, but I wanted a photo to go with it and then the moment went and the potential blog post was lost forever, Today, however it presented itself again, so it seemed rude not to act upon it as am always inclined to think that everything happens for a reason so maybe I am meant to tell my silly little story.

On my way home a few months ago our neighbours stopped me and asked me if I had one of these.

Always on the look out for quaint antiques, I said no, I don't have one of those, ahh they said then you should have this, your neighbour Isabelle will bring it round at eight o'clock. Imagine my delight when she arrived at eight and I opened the box to find saints inside, lovely.

I'm not religious at all but do like a bit of religious icononery (there's a pun in there somewhere, of the french persuasion, me thinks). Oh, where shall I put it, Oh we'll just put it here on the shelves above the TV for now. I sat and looked at my new box of saints and thought, this isn't right at all, I have completely misunderstood something. I asked my young friend what it was all about and she explained that I keep the box for 24 hours, make a donation in the money slot and then pass on to my neighbour. There was me thinking that a) I'd finally got the hang of the language and b)my neighbours had my best interests at heart and were that desperate for me to join them in their catholisicm that they gave me a box of saints......

oh tickled me silly and now the box has come back again and I have to make yet another contribution, I thought about putting some condoms inside, but not sure if the slot is the right shape.......ha ha

piggie update #5 and goodbye again

The last piglet (that we planned to sell) went today. He's gone to live on our friend's farm with loads of other creatures including alpaca's!! I only got a little bit upset as I know he will have a good life and I have just received a text from the new owners telling me they have put Lily the goat with the piglet for the night for company and protection (he's still a little small). I haven't told them that he may take all the goats milk, I'll let them find that out tomorrow!!!

We now have just the sow and boar and the young sow. I think the adult sow is pregnant again and potentially about to drop.....doh. Our livestock management leaves alot to be desired, I hope she has a small litter again.

Church going

Having enjoyed myself so thoroughly this year at the festa's, and seeing how much work goes in to organising them, I decided to offer my help for the last festa in our village.

I've never cleaned a church before so was delighted to be asked to clean this one, here's a pic of me (rare for me to post pics of myself) and my friend's daughter