I love my chickens - and that is something I didn't think I would say. In fact I decided to keep hens instead of a cat as I used to find it tough going away for a few days and leaving a pet. No such problem with chickens - or so I thought. Turns out you get just as attached to them.
I find it really interesting studying their social structure, their individual characters and their voices. Up to 25 different tones of communication and I don't think any of them could be called a cluck!
We are all starting to enjoy a few more Spring-like days now and I hope to be taking a lot more photographs and keeping The Chix own diary but for now we have in this pic - Dolly who is the matriarchal figure and the oldest, the lighter brown, the grey is Belle, second in command, the two youngsters are Amber, the darker brown and Emmie, short for Emerald, the black/green bird.
Pictures here of The Chix - the untidy rabble top right are the rescue chickens we had three summers ago. Dolly is the last remaining hen from that batch and here she is bottom left, looking amazing. They all love life and are bright and funny. And no - I still can't go away for a few days without missing them terribly!
I cannot believe how fast the time goes! I have been making jam this week - Raspberry ( as I found some raspberries in the freezer that I didn't know I Had! ) and Victoria Plum. Feels good to get the shelves filled up a little bit. My excuse to customers that I had been really busy over the Christmas period was wearing a bit thin!
When I freeze the plums in the Autumn, I weigh them out first and then count how many there are in each bag. That way I know how many stones I have to find!
By the way - this is what a rolling boil should look like . . . .
I have also been making some Lemon Curd, which is a lovely thing to have around over Easter for an extra special breakfast spread, the filling for a sponge cake, or stirred through whipped cream for a banana pavlova.
You can see how to make it by looking back at my blog from 2014!
There are step-by-step instructions and plenty of photographs and you can have it all done in under 15 minutes.
We have some new products on Lovejars site - great presents for Easter and we can post direct for you if that helps.
They are designed as starter kits to help someone get, well, started, They'll need ingredients of course but all of the instructions are in the box with jars and other necessary items. Take a look . . .
There's Chutney, Jam, Marmalade and Mustard
So, if you are planning on making a few preserves over Easter get your code and get stocked up.
We will be having the ten-prize competition in my next blog and you could win it! What do they say though? You have to be in it to catch the ball. Not that the prize is a ball.
I had thought that things were becoming milder her in the UK. I had decided that I wouldn't need the woodburner anymore until the Autumn and that my Celtic boots could be put away. Then this week is has been colder than ever, icy, sleety and generally unpleasant. So, the fire has been stoked up in The Old Smithy and I have been looking to hot drinks to keep warmed through and through.
Today I have been making some Ginger Cordial and nothing comes warmer than that. Trev and I spent some time in Dublin last week and m'son Rob was left to look after The Chix. As a thank you, we bought him a bottle of Irish Whisky - Jamesons. Now, I know I have the same name and all, but I am nothing to do with the famous whisky distillery. I haven't researched it - I don't need to - Jameson was the name I chose and changed by Deed Poll when I left a husband a few years ago. ( It is actually quite liberating to choose your own name! )The odd thing is, that when I chose this name I had no thoughts of making jam my career. People often say to me, along the lines of 'jam by name, jam by nature'. Just a happy coincidence though. Anyway, back to the whisky, I suggested to Rob that it would be more than pleasant as a hot toddy, mixed with my Ginger Cordial and some hot water - only I didn't have any cordial. So I have made some and I will show you how here.
Firstly - what type of ginger? Well, I always like to use fresh if I can. Ginger is available absolutely everywhere today so there is no need to use the dry powder - unless you are making gingerbread or something like that. For chutneys - and this cordial - use the fresh. For the cordial, or if you are using in a spice bag in a chutney, i.e. the ginger isn't staying in the end product, then don't peel. Take off any really knarly bits and then chop the rest skin and all. The skin is very thin and you will lose so much ginger trying to remove it. Then all you have to do is chop it up according to the instructions in the recipe. ( See the handy chart above )
Right, for the Ginger Cordial you will need:-
140gms/6 tablespoons finely chopped ginger
1.5 litres/60 fl oz water
1 kg/35 oz muscavado sugar
175ml/7 fl.oz. fresh lemon juice
4 teaspoons citric acid
Start by chopping up the ginger - leaving the skin on. I actually do this in a goblet food processor using the water from the recipe.
Pour the water and ginger mix into a pan and bring to the boil. Turn the heat down and cook gently for around 10-15 minutes.
Strain through a jelly bag, muslin, coffee filter or strong kitchen paper and discard the ginger.
Put the gingery water into a clean pan and add the remaining ingredients.
Stir together to dissolve the sugar and cook gently for a further 5-10 minutes.
Carefully pour the hot cordial into your warmed bottles and seal. I like to use the milk bottle style - this recipe makes around 7-8 250ml bottles.
The cordial keeps quite well but for extra shelf life you can water-bath the bottles to sterilise (you can see the method here, in a previous blog, towards the end )
This cordial is lovely and warming and especially so if you add hot water and sip it slowly, mix in sitting by a log fire and all problems melt away. You can add whisky or brandy if you so choose and make a hot toddy, add a cinnamon stick for stirring.
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More gingery bits to follow in my next blog . . . .