Finally Going!

We have been living in our new home for almost a year now and are about eleven months into living more sustainably. We’ve made a lot of headway here with the garden and food growing in particular. But we haven’t been away anywhere in ages! I am very excited now because my husband and I are heading off tomorrow morning. We are celebrating our tenth wedding anniversary with a trip across the pond – we’re flying out to New York and then taking a camping trip around New England!

I will try to post a few updates as we take our whistle-stop tour.

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Jam Making and Cake Baking

I have been making the most of having access to so many fruits. Last week I made a jar of strawberry, apple and mahonia berry jam and yesterday I made another jam with wild raspberries, adding in some small apples and mahonia berries again. The windfall apples and mahonia berries are not nice on their own but high in pectin and so help other fruit jams to set. I also find that they add a nice complexity to the flavour of the jams that I personally really like. I have a feeling that I will be making more jams over the next month or two.

Here are the ingredients that I collected from the orchard/forest garden area:

The ingredients for the mixed fruit jam.
The ingredients for the mixed fruit jam.

There were also a lot more raspberries from the stash behind the polytunnel.

First I chopped out the apple cores and boiled the apples and mahonia berries down:

Stewed fruit. No sugar added yet.
Stewed fruit. No sugar added yet. As you can see the mahonia berries turn the mix a lovely colour.

Then I strained it to take out the skins etc. which left me with this:

After straining the apples and mahonia berry mush I added a lot of raspberries.
After straining the apples and mahonia berry mush I added a large cup of raspberries and about the same amount of sugar.

After all the ingredients were in I brought the jam to a rolling boil, allowing excess water to boil off and the temperature to rise. I do not use a jam thermometer or anything so I just get a sense when the jam is nearly done. Resist the urge to stir it too much though I find that the right temperature for the jam is reached when the pot reaches a rolling boil that cannot be stirred down. To check the jam, I put a couple of metal spoons into the freezer then dropped jam on them to see if it was ready. When the jam is ready you can make a line through the jam with your finger and it will stay put.

Here is the finished article, in a recycled coffee jar that I popped in the oven to sterilise while I was making the jam.

Finished Jam

As you can tell I am no expert on jam making, but I do enjoy making use of what the garden and surroundings give us and jam is one great way to do so.

Another way to use up some fruit and some of our many eggs is to do a bit of baking. One member of our household had their Birthday on Wednesday so I baked a chocolate and raspberry cake for the occasion. Here is what is left:

Just one or two slices left. Sorry I forgot to take a picture of the whole thing,
Just one or two slices left. Sorry I forgot to take a picture of the whole thing before we all tucked in.

Bonus Raspberries

It is always lovely getting to know a new space and our garden here is still throwing up surprises nine months or so after we moved in. I was just looking at the wildlife pond behind the polytunnel and I noticed a bonus crop in the wild corner behind it – a bumper crop of wild raspberries! I knew that there were some in the estate farmlands round behind our place but I had overlooked this brambly corner area.

Here is the patch, behind the pond and with the back of the polytunnel visible in the right hand side of the picture.
Here is the patch, behind the pond and with the back of the polytunnel visible in the right hand side of the picture.
There were plenty of ripe berries on there but I picked them all before I thought to take a photo.
There were plenty of ripe berries on there but I picked them all before I thought to take a photo.

My home grown raspberries in the orchard/forest garden are not ripe yet so it is good to find we have some raspberries earlier than expected. It is great to forage and I do so every year – but how great is it when you can forage in your own garden! Permaculture design proponents talk about zoning – we are reaping the benefits of the wilder zone to the rear of the garden, but it does go to show that you really do overlook things in zones that are further from the house and which you do not pass every day.