Saturday, 23 March 2013

A Bit of a Pickle

Let the magic begin

The weather has us on a go slow in the Holly Cottage camp. Two weeks ago we were breaking our backs getting the good earth ready for planting, clearing the shed of two year's cumulative rubbish and basically clearing the decks to prepare for the sowing season. There was even talk of let's build a patio the sun was shining so well. We'll park that one until we see it again - the sun that is. Since then, we've had at least two days blanketed in pure white snow; another three being blown out of it by northeasterly gales and at least five days being pounded with hailstones the size of frozen peas. Hailstones big  enough to hurt when they ricochet off the corner of your forehead as you endeavour overdue walkovers of your summer field experiments ;)
Holly Cottage hot stuff ;)

Better we get it now says them in the know. Better now than mid June, when you might be glad to sand the rust of the BBQ grill and have an extended evening in the midsummer sun. Despite the inhospitable weather though we've been keeping it hot indoors ;) 

Last weekend was for making more pickledy stuff. Chillies were gathered from the plants in Cappaduff and further investigations to continue the evolution of the Holly Cottage pepper sauce species (there's been a few trial  runs - all good, all extremely hot) were conducted;  a Lime pickle started in January  was retrieved from the darkness to test and taste; and some vanilla pods were put to the test in a creme anglaise. We seem to have experimented a lot in the last year and a quick look in the crowded fridge tells a few tales indeed. The beetroot relish was polished off last week. That was a sad day. The sweet tomato chilli jam  from the start of October never really had enough time to call this place home - it was better than any sweet chilli sauce and streets ahead of anything I've tasted since. The green tomato chutney is still with us - only because we had so many unripened tomatoes in the autumn - the casualty of that cold and wet summer. A few other trials the last few months involved reduced balsamic vinegar flavoured with orange, more tomato relish - this time approaching the Ballymaloe style, and of course the sweet mint sauce that seems to have gotten tastier since its birth last November. 

Let's jam!
And then there's just the plain old jam. Such a small word, that belies sweet comforting and tastebud sensational sticky goodness that brightens up any corner of dry bread on an otherwise ordinary morning in March. I know I've raved about the strawberry bounty last year, and I will until I die! We have just one pot of strawberry-raspberry-rhubarb jam left and that will have to get us to June. Eek ;) Jam has to be the simplest thing in the whole world to make and yet we seem to rely on those dreadful, ultra processed versions that parade around on supermarket shelves as very poor imitiations of the real thing. They don't even have bits of fruit in most of them so it could actually be just flavoured jelly coloured to deceive us of an impostor! OK, I'm being somewhat over-dramatic. But ever since I made my first batch of blackcurrant jam back in the 90s - and somehow won a medal for it at the local harvest fair - I've been a homemade jam champion. A pound of fruit, a pound of sugar - take it to the magical setting point over bubbling heat and you're done. We tend to mix it up around here - whatever's going at the time. The rhubarb and strawberry mix was the biggest hit though. Do it ;)

Now that's a lime pickle...

And so, a bit of pickling and plenty of lounging indoors is keeping us busy these weekends. Some work to be done today though and a nephew's birthday cake to be shared this evening in Cappaduff. We're missing a Mornington extraordinaire birthday lunch for work today, so that's not good. But I know that they'll be having a feast sensation if Anne O'Hara has anything to do with it! 

I hope wherever you are that you are relishing in the drama of the March winds and looking forward to the sunshine of April to come. Happy birthday celebrations to all in Mornington and Cappaduff - let those birthdays just keep on coming!

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