Monthly Archives: August 2011

Mrs Postgate’s tomato chutney

Well I suspect that the weather is not going to ripen all my tomatoes….and that might well apply to lots of other people I think, so time to find Margaret Costa’s recipe book. Great book full of fab recipes and so if you can get hold of a copy I can recommend it.  My old one is so well thumbed its just about collapsing so its great that I was bought a fresh copy a couple of years ago.   When I got the new one I discovered that I wasn’t the only fan.   I was in great company, so much so that the blessed Dehlia has written the foreward.

Probably shouldn’t repeat her recipe here but I use it all the time when the season ends and I was asked for it so here goes:

2lbs/900g cooking apples

Half a pound/225g onions

1oz/25g garlic

1lb/450g sultanas

4lbs/1.8kg green tomatoes

2oz/50g bruised root ginger

2oz/55g crushed mustard seeds

half an oz/15g shredded chillies

2lb/900g demerera sugar

4oz/115g salt

l.5 pts/850 ml malt vinegar

Put the peeled and quartered apples through a mincer (or grate or use a foodprocessor) with the onions, garlic and sultanas.  Peel the tomatoes and chop roughly.  Tie the spices in a piece of muslin.

Put everything into a large heavy pan and cook gently for 3-4 hrs till soft, thick and well blended (stir frequently especially towards the end when chutney can burn).  There should be no ‘free liquid’ left but do remember that the mixture will thicken a lot when cool so don’t overcook.  Its ready when a spoon drawn through the mixgture cuts a clean channel with no vinegar left in it.

Remove the spices.  Pot in clean hot jars while still warm, cover with greaseproof paper and a plastic disc or a screw top.

So there you are. Enjoy.  Last year at about this time I made a whole load of stuff….chilli jam, crab apple jelly flavoured with all sorts of things like rosemary and ginger, and pots and pots of damson jam.  Stored them all and put them into Christmas hampers for friends with lots of other home made goodies I made nearer the time.

They went down really well – and probably the best of the lot was the home made advocaat…loved that myself!

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I think we’ve turned a corner…..

I’m sitting outside writing this….its been a long time coming but that’s what I had in mind when  I bought this little house with its derelict garden.   I can smell the roses from my garden bench and the air’s warm and the birds are singing.

Almost two years ago I sat out here just after I got the keys.   My plumber and I were eating sandwiches for lunch on the hard stony earth surrounded by the old bathroom fittings which were chucked out here and goodness only knows what else…carpet, radiators, bits of wood, you name it.  Not just that but the garden itself was indescribably awful.  Not a garden at all.  And he said to me what on earth made you move here (I had a perfectly nice garden at my house in Leeds) and I said just listen…. so we sat in silence.   There was practically no sound and sitting here now I can’t see another house.  I can see the tops of the chimneys at Ferrybridge Power Station over the greenery mind you but I can live with that!

When I look at the house pre French windows and pre decking I can’t believe it.  It looks so different.  And well done son….I knew it was a good idea for him to retrain as a joiner!

The view’s changed a bit as well, this is how it looks from the  bench now and last year I’d have been looking at this.

I think the biggest improvement though has to be the lawn.   I seeded it in April of this year and banned the hens from it.   They and the birds were having a fine time eating the seed.   And of course it was so dry.  So much for it being a perfect time to sow grass seed  the driest spring for how many years?   So goodness knows how much water went onto it.   Anyhow eventually it started to grow, and so we said goodbye to the grey earth and welcomed the green growth.  Such a difference.   Its not 100% weed free, but then considering what was here beforehand that’s OK.  Its less than 6 months old so a year of mowing and weeding and it’ll improve.

And the front of house is taking shape too.   I was desperate to get a front porch and some raised beds.   It looked so naked when I moved in.  Not a bit like the cottage that the locals called it.   When I told someone where I lived she said “Oh yes, the old potters cottages”  but this didn’t look a bit like a cottage and there was nowhere to plant a thing.   So I’d been looking here there and everywhere for something to change the look of the front door (which is actually the kitchen door….because the house is back to front, but let’s not go there!) when I came upon a reduced garden arch thingy.  Rang my son who said things like, “Is it tall enough?  Will it be wide enough?”and “OK get it”.

So I did.   Anyway without going into the huffing and puffing about it not being quite right after a good deal of adaptation it was eventually installed complete with raised beds on either side…..yet  to be filled I have to say, but it won’t be long.

There is still much to do.   My veg patch now extends way down behind the greenhouse, but it has further to go and it needs to have the little elder which overshadows it considerably reduced, if not removed.  Not made my mind up on that one yet.  Its producing a good yield as well this year for such a new project.   We’ve had onions, garlic, carrots, courgettes (well who hasn’t?), lettuce and other salad leaves, new potatoes and 2 types of beans and radishes.   Still to come are the maincrop potatoes, spring onions, chard, spinach, purple sprouting broccoli and pak choi.  And of course loads of tomatoes from the greenhouse as well as chillies and cucumbers.

I started on a fruit garden as well but that really hasn’t had the attention it deserves, but I have got some pears that look like they’ll be good to eat this season and I’ve had rhubarb and some strawberries.   The hens got to the last of them though and I think the gooseberries.  Well at least they disappeared.

Now that I’ve got this far I’m thinking about next year.   I’m sure gardeners are the most optimistic of creatures.   Always looking forward.

The focus has got to be on the fruit garden.   I might need a fruit cage to keep the birds off it, and not just the hens.   My garden birds are so well fed I seem to be constantly filling up the feeders but that doesn’t stop them for helping themselves to other things they fancy.

As well as that I’d like to clear a bit of land and turn it into a cutting garden.   English summer flowers are so lovely and although I suspect I shall always have to buy in flowers for my floristry work because I simply don’t have the space to grow commercially,  I’d love to be able to gather bunches from my own garden for the house.

Of course whilst I’ve been writing this I’ve had to move indoors.   Its been trying to rain and its got a bit chilly out there.  Oh English summers hey.  But with a bit of luck it might just brighten up into a lovely evening whilst I’m watering the hanging baskets.

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Filed under Chickens, Flowers, Garden, Uncategorized, vegetables