Sunday, 20 May 2012

Allotment Open Day

We had our annual open day and plant sale at the allotment today and I forgot to take my camera (and worse, my purse) :(  


Saturday, 19 May 2012

This week's update.

The weather has been awful for months and everything is backing up in the greenhouse.  Thankfully next week is looking promising and I will be planting some more stuff into the ground (with fleece on standby).

This week I sowed beetroot, spinach, four rows of various varieties of lettuce, coriander, flat leaf and curly parsley.

I rescued these wee tomato plants from the supermarket, they were in one of those mini cell trays on the right of the photo and looking very sad (one cell had two plants, bonus :).  The nice man in the produce department reduced them to £1 for me, I pinched out the dead leaves and gave them a good drink before potting them on.  They don't look too bad now but only time will tell.
 I potted on the celeriac, some of the seedlings were still very tiny but I think they handled the upheaval well, no broken stems like the brassicas
 I harvested my first crop today, cut a few rocket leaves from the mixed salad box for my sandwiches, it made me realise why I do all this work rather than buy a bag from the supermarket.  The taste was second to none, it's hard to describe.
 I found this wee seed head amongst the pansies and thought I'd have a go at saving them for replanting.
 There were about 30 seeds inside the pod and they are now drying on some paper towel.

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Today at the plot.

 Finally, I've managed to germinate some spring onions.  I had to give in and go buy another packet of seed as the two packets I had in my seed tin just refused to come up.
I'm quite pleased with my project potatoes.  I grew these from True Potato Seed last year  and planted the small tubers this year.  I earthed these up today and the plants look really healthy, can't wait to see what's going on below ground.

Friday, 11 May 2012

Homemade Yogurt and Soft Cheese

As we were rained off today again, I thought I'd spend the day in the kitchen and make some yogurt and cheese.  Unfortunately my thermometer has gone AWOL and I just had to wing it.  Fingers crossed I haven't ruined 4lts of milk.

The yogurt is really easy to make, all you need is milk and a small tub of yogurt.

I was making 2lts so I sterilised four 1pt jars and their lids in a pot of water and boiled for 10mins with the pot lid on.

Heat the milk to 90°C and cool to 50°C.  Add a small tub of natural yogurt (it has to be the kind that has live cultures) and whisk it into the milk.

Pour the mixture into the sterilised jars and put the lids on.

The jars now have to be incubated, there are lots of ways to do this but I use a coolbox with a few inches of warm water, about 50°C, in the bottom.  Stand the jars in the water, put the lid on the coolbox and leave in a draught free place for 3hrs.

When the three hours are up, put the jars into the fridge for 24hrs, that's all there is too it.

The yogurt has now been in the fridge for  24hrs
To make a thicker, Greek style yogurt, put this yogurt into a cheesecloth or similar and let it hang in the fridge over a bowl for a few hours.
I can't take credit for this yogurt recipe, I got it from another blog  The Frugal Girl

The homemade cheese is a wee bit more involved but again, it's not difficult to do.  This recipe is for a basic soft cheese, I add salt, garlic and chives at the end but you can keep it plain or dress it up to suit yourself.

For this you will need 2lts of milk and a culture, in this recipe I am using a buttermilk culture.  I buy a 1lt carton of buttermilk from the Eastern European section of the supermarket and freeze it in ice cube trays, this works out much cheaper than buying the small carton usually found by the milk. 

You will also need Rennet, a digestive enzyme which sets the milk.  It comes in both animal and vegetarian varieties, I'm using the animal based one in this recipe.

Mix four drops of the Rennet into cooled, boiled water and set aside, I've used about half a ramekin of water.

Heat the milk to 20/22°C and add two cubes or about 2tbs of buttermilk and the pre-diluted Rennet and whisk.

 Put a lid on the pot and leave in a warm place, around 20°C for 24hrs.

So, here we are 24hrs later.  It's time to test that the milk has set.  Do this by putting your finger into it and lifting it up to see if it has a clean break, like this.
Now it's time to cut the curds by slicing it into 1cm squares with a knife.
Place a cheesecloth or similar into a large bowl and pour the curds onto it.
Tie the corners of the cloth together and hang it over the bowl for a further 24hrs to drain the whey from the curds.  I use a shoelace and tie it to the handle of one of my kitchen cabinets.

After 24hrs, tip the cheese into a bowl, i've added a grated clove of garlic, a teaspoon of salt and a couple of tablespoons of chopped chives, mix it together and put it in the fridge for a couple of hours.

It's now ready to eat and should keep for 3 or 4 days in the fridge, although I'm not sure, it doesn't usually last that long in our house.

Some allotment photos

It's taking forever to get things done at the plot with all this crazy weather we have going on.  Most of the digging is done, with just the bit at the bottom and top right still to be dug over.

The big greenhouse has one of those plastic, zip up greenhouses inside it with the tomatoes, cucumbers, melons, aubergine, sweet peppers and chilis.  The rest are living on the worktop in the small greenhouse, just waiting to get in the ground.

I did plant out the broadbeans and some dwarf borlotto, I'm sure the broadies will be ok but I think it was a mistake to put the borlotto's out while it is still this cold.  May need to sow some backup seed, just in case.  The other two plants in this pic are parsley that I kept in pots over the winter and planted out last week to let it run to seed for saving this year.

I was having a look at my garlic last week and noticed that one of them has three stems.  Someone on the Grapevine forum did mention that they have some that are doing the same thing, I've never seen this before so I'm looking forward to harvesting it to see what is going on below ground.

And here's a wee pic of some pansies, I love how they look like Yosemite Sam :)

Monday, 7 May 2012

Blackberry Wine

Things at the plot are pretty full on right now, getting the ground ready, sowing seeds and potting on seedlings.  So, when we got rained off today I thought i'd use the time to bottle last years blackberry wine which had been sitting out in the cellar awaiting my attention since christmas.

It took forever to clean and sterilise the bottles.

Before bottling, I thought I'd check the alchohol content using an online conversion tool and it worked out at roughly 14%, a wee bit high but it tasted really good.  Stupidly however, I poured the wine from the DJ into the beaker for testing instead of using the syphon, resulting in the sediment at the bottom mixing though the rest of the wine.

So I only managed to bottle two of the DJs and have left the third to settle again.

I held off labeling them as I was tempted to buy nice ones rather than using the ones from the stationary cupboard.  I'll need to check prices and have a think about it.