Those of you with greenhouses or polytunnels may now be beginning to panic over what to do with all of the cucumbers that are growing thick and fast. Worry not - Rosie has a good wheeze for using at least four of them.
You will need a tall jar - the length of your cucumbers, as it were ( settle down, this isn't a Frankie Howerd sketch).
I found the 3 litre Le Parfait is ideal - let's face it, they have to be ideal for something!
Day 1. Take a V shape out of each cucumber without cutting through to the other side. Run a teaspoon down the cucumber and the cut-out to take away the seeds and the pulp.
Lay on a non-metallic dish and sprinkle liberally with ordinary salt. Cover with kitchen paper or greaseproof and leave overnight.
Next day the cucumbers will be all shrivelled and limp - that is perfect!
The stuffing is made by whizzing together in a processor:-
Small jar of capers, drained well
6 large shallots, peeled and roughly chopped
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
1 red chilli, seeds in or out, just as you like
2 teaspoons yellow mustard seeds
small grating of nutmeg
You will also need some fine string - around 1 metre per cucumber
1-1.5ltrs/3 pints distilled malt vinegar, or cider vinegar
The stuffing will look like something the cat might enjoy but persevere mon braves!
Next, start to fill the cavity of the cucumber with the stuffing, allowing enough room to replace the cut-out.
Replace the V cut-out and reshape the cucumber to look whole again, wiping away any oozing stuffing.
Take one length of your string and tie around one end of the cucumber - fairly firmly - but be careful not to squash the flesh. Continue down the cucumber either winding the string around, or tie it at intervals.
Give them a last wipe and then turn your jar on it's side so that you can slide the cucumbers in without too much collapsing going on.Four cucumbers just fit into the 3 litre Le Parfait beautifully. Once in the jar, turn it the right way up and fill with the vinegar. Seal down and leave to mature for 2-3 weeks before serving. After 2-3 days check the level of the vinegar and top up if necessary.
These would be fantastic with rich charcuterie like salami, pates etc. You can remove one cucumber at a time and leave the rest in the vinegar. Remove the string carefully, then slice thickly to serve.
I have been really lucky this year - a lovely local lady, Mary, has brought me in bags and bags of lovely gooseberries from her garden, so I have been able to indulge myself in some less than mainstream recipes. I am very pleased with the result and maybe they will just make the mainstream list in future years.
First up, of course, I made sure of some good old Gooseberry Jam. Certain to set, this jam is problem free. I just had to top and tail the fruit . . . actually, I don't mind this job. I can vividly remember being given a small pair of scissors, a colander and a big basket of gooseberries from our garden when I was a very little girl. If the term 'hyperactive' had been known when I was young it would have been used to describe me! I was given these sorts of jobs to help satisfy my endless quest to be doing something - I didn't mind what it was as long as it was activity. Those of you who know will say that I am still the same today! I was thinking of these times when snipping the ends from these gooseberries. As I snipped I sorted them into sizes keeping the smallest for jelly making - no need to top and tail them!
Although I like making Gooseberry Chutney I decided to make something a little different with these lovely berries - Spiced Gooseberries. Just put 1.1kg/2.5lbs prepared gooseberries into a large pan with 910g/2lbs demerara sugar and 285ml/0.5 pint malt vinegar. Sprinkle over 1 heaped teaspoon of powdered allspice and powdered cinnamon and stir to mix.
Turn up the heat and then simmer slowly until the fruit is cooked and the mixture has thickened slightly (around 20 minutes ) Pot up into warm, sterilised jars and stash away ready for that Boxing Day feast of cold cuts and cheeses - if you can wait that long.
I made two sorts of jelly this year - Gooseberry and Mint and Gooseberry and Elderflower. For the first I cooked the smallest fruits - sorted from the jam session - down with a little water and a few mint sprigs, dripped through a jelly bag overnight, then measured the liquid the next day. I added an equal amount of sugar, stirred to dissolve then boiled to a set. I had a couple of handfuls of mint leaves, finely chopped, which I threw in once the jelly was ready to be potted. This keeps the colour of the herb and stops it going too dark, it doesn't need cooking as such. Remember to wait a little while before potting - around 15 minutes - to prevent all of the mint rising to the top of the jar. A fantastic flavour with roast meats or oily fish and a doddle to make. Or try using it, warmed to melt it a little, brushed over a fresh tomato tart to glaze a Summer lunch favourite.
The Gooseberry and Elderflower is the same in terms of the gooseberries but I replaced about 20% of the sugar with Elderflower Cordial (made a couple of weeks ago ) It is a delicate flowery flavour but delicious on the first toasted crumpets of the Autumn. You don't need to make much, but well worth bothering with a few small jars.
Finally, if you are making up raffle prizes this Summer for shows and fetes, or just giving someone a marvellous gift of your own preserves take a look at our new hamper boxes. Made of very sturdy card they will have a useful life as storage even after your preserves have become empty jars!
There are two shapes - oblong or round - and I have found that the small 110g/3.5oz jars look great in the round - you can fit nine round the outside - with an extra one popped in the middle.
Great value, great style.
This blog is a bit of a sham - I am going to bring you lots of ideas for preserving with rose petals - but I have never actually done this myself. Why? Well I'll show you why
These are the only roses I have and I have never been able persuade my friends to let me use their blooms for preserving!
If you have a plentiful supply though it is well worth trying out some of these delicate delights. I am not going to be able to provide lots of lovely photographs for the same reason!
It has to be remembered that preserving encompasses more than just jam and chutney making. Anything that has a natural flavour or fragrance can have a myriad of uses and the rose is no exception. Here are a few tips and ideas.
Pick rose petals on a warm sunny day, preferably in the morning. Use them as soon as possible afterwards to maintain the flavour.
Petals from dark red cultivated roses have the strongest flavour - wild roses have a very delicate perfume which tends to get lost in cooking. Always ask permission if the roses aren't yours! Only use roses that haven't been sprayed with pesticides as washing won't fully remove the residue and it is best not to get the petals wet, if at all possible.
Always prepare the petals by removing the white 'heel' from the base with scissors or the flavour will be bitter.
Here are some easy recipes that you can try:-
Strongly scented flowers can be used to produce a range of flavoured sugars for making cakes and delicate puddings - roses are perfect.
You will need
250g/8oz caster sugar
6-12 tablespoons prepared rose petals
Process together until fine and then pour into a jar and seal. Store for one week, shaking occasionally, then sieve to remove any bigger pieces of petals. Pour back into the jar, label and then use for cakes or meringues.
If you make a light sponge cake in the Summer try sandwiching together with this fragrant
Cream 115g/40z butter until pale and fluffy, add 115g/40z sieved icing sugar. When well combined stir in 4 tablespoons of prepared petals, which should be chopped with scissors until quite small.
Ice the sponge with water icing and then decorate the top with Crystallised Roses - easy to prepare ahead and store for several months, if needed.
Dissolve 1 teaspoon gum arabic ( from cake decorating outlets or websites ) in 25ml/1.5 tablespoons vodka or gin. Push florist's wire into the base of each flower and paint the petals of the rose front and back with the mixture. Dip into caster sugar and shake off excess. Bend the wire over to form a hanger and drape over the lip of a heavy glass until dry and crisp. Store in an airtight container until needed. Individual petals can be preserved in this way to scatter over cupcakes or sorbets.
Another very useful addition to the store cupboard is Rose Petal Vinegar.
So pretty, this special vinegar adds the taste of Summer to any salad - scatter fresh petals for extra flavour.
500ml/1 pint dark red rose petals ( packed firmly into a jug)
500ml/1 pint distilled vinegar
50g/2oz caster sugar
Place the prepared petals into a large jar. Heat the vinegar with the sugar until dissolved. Leave to cool and then add to the petals when completely cold. Seal the jar and leave for 3-4 weeks to macerate. Strain through muslin and bottle into pretty, sterilsed bottles.
If you are planning a Summer wedding or party why not serve a fragrant Rose Petal Cordial or Rose Petal and Raspberry Punch?
To make the cordial take the prepared petals from 12 blooms and place in a large jar. Pour over 2 litres/4.5 pints water and add 3 slices lemon. Seal the jar and leave in a dark place to macerate for 48 hours, shaking the jar occasionally.
Remove the lemons and pour the contents of the jar into a preserving pan and add 250g/8oz caster sugar. Stir gently to dissolve the sugar as much as possible then bring quickly to the boil. Turn off the heat and strain the contents of the pan through muslin into a large jug.
Fill warm, sterilised bottles and seal. Refrigerate and serve chilled diluted with sparkling mineral water to taste.
Lots of lovely ideas there - perhaps one day I'll get to make some myself!
Here are some roses I can give you pictures of - my Vintage Rose range of Jarcessories, delicate and timeless, give your preserves that rose appeal.