I am easily distracted. This week I have two Christmas late nights at The Smithy – which is looking lovely with the decorations up – a show on Saturday and a class on Sunday – I have lots to do to prepare for all of these things but I know that it will only take one email today and I’ll go off at a tangent! How do other people achieve so much? I always seem to be adding things to an ever-growing list ha ha.
Last Saturday was The Trip to Chatsworth that I had organised for our WI, Langham & Barleythorpe, and friends. Fifty of us set off on the coach and remarkably I managed to bring the same number back! Not easy amongst the crowds of happy visitors milling about at this wonderful venue. The gardens and house looked magnificent in the watery sunshine when we arrived only surpassed by the extraordinary displays inside the house, which had been dressed for Christmas. Truly astonishing attention to detail in such a vast area and a real credit to the Chatsworth support team that they made it look fresh and exciting – not what they were feeling when they unlocked the bauble store this autumn I bet! They must be planning as soon as the previous year’s are taken down I would think. Do go if you are within striking distance – the Christmas market in the grounds with 120 individual stands of crafts, food, decorations and other products is a sight in itself. Chatsworth have brilliant catering and their own gift shops nwhich are original and affordable.
What I was pleased to see is that, unlike my last visit when no-one could tell me where their Chatsworth brand of jams and preserves were made, now it states on the jar that it is made in Bakewell, nearby. I am still not sure how, I wouldn’t think that it is artisinal but still progress as it is local employment and less shipping.
I feel strongly about this – we are routinely offered ‘Jam’ with hotel and cafe breakfasts and afternoon teas. No choice or information – just ‘Jam’ – why is this? We are often offered a choice of teas, coffees, cheese, bread, rare breed meats – we are told where it is produced, how lovingly it has been looked after, what a struggle the producer has had to succeed – so why not jams and preserves. If I have a cream tea, I don’t want to be told the scone has been made on the premises, the clotted cream is the finest that Cornwall has to offer, and . . . jam. I would like to be offered a choice – personally I am not that fond of strawberry – I might like blackcurrant, or apricot, it just depends. I would like to be told that it had been locally sourced, perfectly possible for almost every establishment these days as there are so many great local producers, I would like some information about them.
Canny B & B’s that make their own preserves and serve them at breakfast, label up jars for guests to take home as presents for friends which are taken out every day and looked at by prospective visitors. Not many business cards you can say that about!
Time to big it up for jam. I started the JAMPAIGN some time ago but it is hard to get these things going on your own. Let’s get some pins in a map for the places you know that are doing it well, let’s give them a pat on the back and if you are out and about and get served ‘plastic’ jam – ask why. You are the customer in that instance but a great many of you are also the artisans – let’s start making a noise!
Busy focusing on Christmas now at Jam on the Hill – what last minute products to offer by order only – Brandy Butter, Lemon Curd, Butterscotch Sauce, Pesto, Tapenade – all those delicious things which don’t have a long shelf life but really make a difference. Will need to concoct an order form today I think. This is the story of my preserving life however – there was a Tweet from Monty Don this morning ‘ The irony of my life is that I spend more time writing and broadcasting about the joys of working outside than I do working outside’ How true – I spend far more time writing about preserving, working on the websites, creating labels and paperwork, labelling and recording batches, emailing and admin for classes, than I do actually cooking!
Today its essential admin first, some photography, ordering ingredients and jars, deliver the invites to the open evenings at Jam on the Hill, work on The Guild of Jam and Preserve Makers, feed Trev then WI tonight – another day goes by in a whirl.
I must make more time to kick back and smell the chutney!
Glad to hear some of you are trying out Pam Corbin’s Plum & Russet Mincemeat – mine looks a lovely colour and smells fantastic – I’m planning a rice pudding at the weekend with a big dollop of mincemeat stirred in – yummy!
A little idea here for you – I saw it somewhere – and I can’t remember where – but I thought it was charming. It would be great to get your children to make for their grandparents for Christmas or an anniversary. Cut some coloured cards and write one question on each card – make at least twenty. Each time you visit the children can draw out one card and ask the question to learn more of their grandparents lives when they were young. You’ll probably learn plenty also! Finish the jar off by either decorating the outside with cutouts, or ribbons – or both!
Some ideas for questions:-
Where did you go to school?
Who was your best friend?
Did you have any pets?
Where did you meet? etc etc
Hmmm – just got back from my first Cranberry hunt of the year – nada. Not foraging you understand, as they come from Canada mostly, but they should be in the shops soon. I am champing at the bit to make my Cranberry & Orange Relish ready for Christmas sales. Ah well, must be patient, its so quick and easy to make I will soon have some done. I used frozen ones for a photo-shoot recently, and they were fine, so maybe I am being a bit picky. I suppose, when you think about it, the frozen ones will be fresher in some respects.
My lovely recipe – see below – has pears in it as well, which smooths out the acidity of the cranberries a bit, which is good because there are still lots of pears around at a very good price.
Missing The Chix like mad – we had three lovely chickens, one died from a chest infection back in all of the wet weather in the Spring, and the other two immediately stopped laying. A second one became ill about three weeks ago, trips to vet, antibiotics and nursing brought her round to a wobbly recovery. Lola, the third one, stayed beside her all the time fussing about – even picking up the mash I made for them in her beak and feeding it to Sal! So touching to watch. Then disaster struck in the form of a big dog fox who killed Sal in broad daylight leaving us with poor Lola, totally distraught. She retired to their run and sat on a straw bale and just cried all day. this awful clucky wailing. What to do.
We didn’t want to rush out and get more and upset Lola even more, the Winter and dark short days are here, can’t leave her on her own. What to do indeed. Luckily my friend Laura came to the rescue, quite literally and took Lola into her small flock of 8 and she has settled down really well scratting about with her new friends. We will spend the Winter rebuilding a bigger house, some higher fencing and make everything lovely for some new feathered friends in the Spring.
CRANBERRY & ORANGE RELISH
Will make approximately 2 7-8oz jars
1 large orange
2 firm pears, peeled, cored and sliced
200ml/ third of a pint red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons salt
Pare the rind from the orange in long strips, the shred finely across the width
Place in a pan with the cranberries, sugar and pears
Squeeze the juice from the orange into a measuring jug and make up to 300ml or half a pint with the vinegar
Add to the pan with the salt
Heat gently, stirring until the sugar is dissolved, then simmer for 10-15 mins until the fruit is just tender
Pour into hot sterilised jars and seal
Keeps for up to six months – makes a great gift!