Back to Barnsdale Gardens this weekend to dress as an Edwardian again - as a cook this time - and to demonstrate jam making to the visitors together with historical background from WW1.
I had examples of the jam making kit from 100 years ago at the start of World War 1 - which didn't look very different from what I was using at the show. Here side by side are the brass pan, wooden spoon, vintage Kilner jars with glass lids with rubber ring seals,an old jam jar with paper cover, dear old Mrs Beeton and two books charting the history of the WI. Today I use stainless steel pans - thank goodness, I don't fancy the brass, sturdy Le Parfait preserving jars, modern jars and lids - and a wooden spoon. So hardly any change and very little change in the methods either. Preserving is still an economic start up occupation which goes on adding economy at every stage. The science is simple, as are the methods.
I was making raspberry jam - nothing tricky or problematic, to encourage the visitors to have a go. Honestly, it never fails to amaze me just how little is known about the preservation of food at a domestic - or even a professional level. It wasn't so long ago that every home would have made jams and chutney, marmalades and pickles, and bottled all sorts of fruit as a matter of course. Skills handed down from one generation to the next, just an ordinary part of the rhythm of life. It was simple really - there wasn't an alternative, unless you persuaded someone to sell you their produce. There weren't endless shops, supermarkets, 24/7 shopping on-line, delivered to your door, markets - what would we actually be capable of doing if this came to a catastrophic end? Would we be able to take back responsibility for our own food and well-being? I really fear not.
Someone has stated recently that we are just nine meals from starvation. Just think about it - the freezer and 'store cupboard' would quickly run out - I say store cupboard but it is nothing like the stores that would have been found 100 years ago. Our skills and capabilities are woefully limited and our understanding of the properties of our food, what is good for what, what will sustain us or even medicate us is practically non-existent in comparison to 100 years ago, 3-400 years ago. We are relatively alone in this in Europe, almost every other European country has better skills, knowledge and quality of fresh food than we do here. Is it too late to turn this around? Do we have the interest and desire? At the moment I doubt it.
It was a thought provoking day at Barnsdale, alongside an agricultural historian and a knowledgeable expert from the Heritage Seed Bank. His understanding of plants, their strengths and weaknesses, their lineage and developments was amazing and all packaged in a very calm, friendly, patient desire to pass on this knowledge. There are still people around who are not delivered by app or tablet, passing on what they know to inspire others.
I'll leave you with some pictures of the beautiful gardens created by the late, great Geoff Hamilton and now developed and taken forward by his son Nick.
Photographs taken by Trevor Lorkings - thank you
Busy, busy as usual but last Sunday I spent the day with the lovely Marina making just whatever took our fancy. We started off, as usual, with coffee and biscuits and a 'chat' - well - I talked mostly and poor Marina had to listen!
We started off by prepping the ingredients for Courgette & Mint Relish which had to be left in salt to draw out the water. Then we cooked up some blackcurrants and left them to drip through a jelly bag ready for some cordial after lunch and the-e-e-n boom, boom BOOM - we made some lovely Raspberry Jam. More to go through the principles of jam making than anything else.
By then it was one o'clock and very much time for a welcome lunch break, we tried some Lime Cordial and some Limoncello to fortify us for the afternoon session!
I devised this recipe when Trev and I were married, six years ago. We were having a lamb roast and my WI were providing salads and new potatoes - so the classic mint sauce wouldn't really have been suitable. This was a variation to that and proved so popular it is still one of my best sellers today. It is a great answer to the perennial problem of what to do with all of the courgettes - along with Ratatouille Chutney it is a very tasty preserve to make and keep for some of those Christmas buffet parties, and to be reminded of Summer.
Busy, busy week - I promised the Garden Pickle recipe last weekend and just haven't had a moment to think straight. On Sunday we were invited to a garden party at Barnsdale Gardens to commemorate World War !. We were to dress as Edwardians and croquet would be played and tea would be taken. It was a beautiful day and I have to say the Edwardians knew a thing or two about a relaxed way of life. Barnsdale looked immaculate as ever, and as people strolled amongst the hedges and borders it was easy to think you had been transported back through time.
Croquet is a fascinating game and to be recommended as it can be played by all age groups together and doesn't involve running - always a plus as far as I am concerned. It is very tactical with lots of ways to play almost every shot.
After a very pleasant afternoon, Nick Hamilton presented the cup to members of Stamford Tourist Information Centre who had romped away to a conclusive win.
Monday found us at Tolethorpe again for a performance of 'Alice in Wonderland' It was absolutely fitting as two of our group - twin bothers - had their birthday on that day. So I needed no encouragment to organise a Mad Hatter's Tea Party for the picnic. All of the other friends that came with us joined in with the theme, daughter in law Tania made the decorations for the tea table cake I had made and a great time was had by all - until the thunder storm came! We had to run for cover with cries of 'save the cake' ringing out, but what's a little rain between friends. More like a deluge!
Giardiniere Pickles or Italian Garden Pickles
Firstly, this is a recipe I found in DeliaOnline so I lay no claims to having created it. I wanted to find a recipe that would incorporate an overflow from the veg box that we had delivered that week. We had aubergine, fennel bulb, courgette and cherry tomatoes. So I just had to find a few more ingredients to start the process. So, I will give the ingredients first and then take you through the process with the photographs I took along the way.
You will need 4 x 500ml clip top jars or similar
225g/8oz red onions, peeled
250g/8oz trimmed fennel bulb
2 medium red peppers or 1 red, 1 yellow
110g/4oz button mushrooms ( I didn't have any so they are not in the pictures! )
6 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
110g/4oz cherry tomatoes
7 tablespoons olive oil
725-850ml/11/4 to 11/2 pints white wine vinegar
8 fresh bay leaves
8 small sprigs each fresh rosemary and thyme
16 black peppercorns
175g/6oz sea salt
Making the pickles, as with most pickles, is a 2 day process. It may look a bit of a faff but the process is quite simple.The vegetables all need to be prepped, the onions cut into 8 wedges from the top down through the root end. Cut the courgettes and aubergine into short thick sticks. Cut the fennel into wedges and then de-seed the peppers and cut into 2.5 cm/1 inch squares - ish.
All of these vegetables, but not the garlic and tomatoes , should be layered in a large non-metallic bowl, sprinkling the salt generously as you build up the layers. Pour over 1.75 litres/3 pints of water then place a plate on top to keep the vegetables under the brine. Leave for 24 hours in a cool place.
Next day, sterilise the jars - remove the rubber seals and place in a heatproof bowl. Pour over boiling water and leave until needed. Wash the glass in warm soapy water, rinse and place in a warm oven 50-100 deg C, to dry and sterilise.
Drain the vegetables in a large colander and rinse thoroughly with cold, running water. Drain in the colander, then in a clean tea towel and finally spread onto another clean tea towel for about 3 hours to dry thoroughly.
The pickles need to be stored for a month to mellow before eating - I haven't tried the ones I made yet but if they taste as good as they smell they will be amazing. The Italians traditionally like to eat these pickles with mixed meat anti pasti - salami, prosciutto, mortadella - that kind of thing. Sounds good to me.
Let me know if you get to make them and what you think.
I have been asked to circulate this which I am happy to do
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I am a WI member and very pleased to be so. I would hesitate to say proud because I try not to have pride as an emotion, but it comes very close. Amongst all the talk of 'the youngsters' in Society, which is predominantly negative, it is good to see that lots of young women are forming their own age group WIs. I am often asked by such groups to teach them preserving and regularly go with my hobs and pans and make jam - or mustard - or marmalade. As the more traditional WIs are moving away from their stereotype of jam making in an effort to be taken more seriously, the younger members are wanting to learn the traditional skills like knitting, crochet - and jam making.
So it was I found myself in Market Harborough this week taking a class with their WI making Blackcurrant Jam - and very good they were too. Thank you for inviting me Ladies and I hope I can return at some point and we can share something else.
All set up and ready to go Rosie holds forth!
In other news this week I have made Apricot Muscat Spoon Fruit , which I will be writing about shortly - it looks really yummy and has an interesting history
and Italian Gardiniere Pickles - they smell amazing! Recipe and method shortly
N.B.re the pictures of Tate & Lyle sugar above - I normally use beet sugar if I can - Silverspoon or Whitworths - as I like to support British farmers. I couldn't buy any locally so presume that we are up to our European cap for production. Really annoying and, in my view, completely unnecessary.