raspberries

Desire, Fulfilment and Surfeit

When you grow and eat your own fruit and vegetables, the natural progression through nurture, harvest and glut in the garden is matched by desire, fulfilment and surfeit in the kitchen.

raspberries ripening

Take our autumn-fruiting raspberries. The canes are cut back to ground level in winter and then we watch as they grow tall and leafy though spring and summer. White flowers appear and the tiny fruits swell and slowly change colour until, at last, in the heat of a summer day we spot a flash of crimson amongst the green foliage and triumphantly pick the first raspberry of the season.

For the first few days, we barely pick enough to fill a small dish but soon there’s raspberries galore. We eat them every day for pudding, sprinkle them on our breakfast and drop them into cocktails. Then one day I hear a sigh around the table as I plonk down another bowl of raspberries, so I scour my recipes for different ways to use them. Raspberries are added to cakes with gay abandon and we eat Lemon Surprise Pudding (the surprise being it’s Raspberry Pudding not Lemon). Visitors are pressed to take a container filled with raspberries home with them.

With raspberries still ripening thick and fast outside, it’s time to start preserving. A few raspberries are frozen, a couple of bottles of Raspberry Cordial are stored away and I make raspberry jam, though not in vast quantities as we barely eat a jar of jam a month.

raspberry vinegar

Last of all, I make a few bottles of Raspberry Vinegar. The original recipe I followed was sweet, perhaps because they suggested serving it over ice cream or diluting it with lemonade or soda water. But, guess what. I never drizzle it over vanilla ice cream and I don’t enjoy it diluted with lemonade, so over the years, I’ve reduced the sugar.

Raspberry Vinegar is supremely easy to make. Roughly crush about 500g of raspberries in a glass jar (I use my spurtle to crush), tip in 500ml of white wine vinegar, give it a stir and leave for two or three days. Sieve out the raspberry grunge and put the bright red vinegar into a saucepan with 100g of granulated sugar. Bring to the boil, simmer for ten minutes, skim off any scum and leave to cool a little. Pour into sterilised bottles and store somewhere cool and dark.

bacon salad recipe

Raspberry Vinegar seems such a throwback to the 1980s that I often feel the need to partner it with a suitably retro recipe like bacon salad. Otherwise, use it for dressings and marinades or to add a bit of oomph to casseroles. Dilute it with a little hot water to ease a sore throat; it’s eye watering but at least you momentarily forget how sore your throat was before. Drizzle over ice cream, if that’s your thing.

But, I digress. When we cannot face another bowl of raspberries and I’ve preserved all that I need, I pick the remaining raspberries in the garden and hand them over to Beth so that she can make them into Raspberry Gin, which is the very best way of preserving raspberries.

As the raspberries near the end of fruiting, do I miss them? No, of course not. I’ve been watching the greengages ripen and for the past few days, every time I’ve walked past the tree I’ve snatched a handful of those yellow green orbs of ambrosial deliciousness. Surely I could never tire of such a treat …

 

 

#Farm24

You may have wondered why your social media newsfeeds yesterday were filled with pictures of tractors, animals and views of the beautiful British countryside. The answer is that UK farmers were using #Farm24 to tell the story behind the food and countryside as part of “24 hours in Farming”.
Here’s a glimpse of yesterday at Slamseys Farm.

farm24 footpath through wheat
A walk through the fields before the combine started work in Gardeners Field where everywhere seemed very quiet. As we walked back to the yard, the pick-up drew into the field with a bowser full of diesel to fill the combine and the noise and busyness of the day fired into action.

farm24 office work
Back home, I had some work to do in the farm office. I trained as a farm secretary so while many people hate paperwork and book-keeping, I rather enjoy it.

farm24 picking raspberries
In the fruit field, there were raspberries to pick with Beth, which she took to her unit to make into Raspberry Gin.

Farm24 huffers for packed lunch
Never underestimate the role of Food Provider, I tell my son when he accuses me of doing nothing all day. Today, there were lunches to pack for meals in fields or in the barn; Huffers and Harvest Butterscotch Bars with tomatoes and plums picked from the garden.

farm24 combining wheat
In Lakes Field, the combine methodically worked up and down the field cutting the wheat, storing the seed in the large tank behind the cab as the wheat stalks and chaff were chopped and spread behind, creating clouds of dust. When the tank is full, the driver swings the spout out to empty the wheat into the trailer driven alongside.

farm24 full load of wheat

After a couple of empties, the trailer is full and the tractor driver headed back to the yard

farm24 wheat in barn

to empty the load onto the floor in the barn. This is the barn where we sell Christmas trees, so you’re more used to seeing it look like this.

farm24 loading wheat
Our wheat goes to a central co-operative within a couple of days of harvesting, so that some days, like yesterday, there are lorries being loaded and tractors tipping trailers at the same time. Things sometimes get a little frantic. I noticed yesterday that while Bill was buzzing around on the telehandler like a blue arsed fly, two waiting lorry drivers lay on the grass with their shirts off, sunning themselves. Had they been more photogenic, I might have taken a surreptitious snap.

Farm24 gateway secured

By late afternoon, the wheat had all been cut and the combine moved out. Barriers were replaced in gateways next to roads and bollards pulled back up to secure the field and (we hope) block access for joy riders, fly tippers and burglars. The joy of farming in Essex.

Farm24 ducks

By early evening, the last lorry had been loaded, the barn floor swept and barn doors locked. The ducks were fed and shut  in for the night and and we settled down after supper to watch the hockey at the Olympics.

Today, the combine has moved to another farm and will return in a couple of weeks to cut the field beans. There are more lorries to load and floors to sweep. Also, there are deliveries to receive because the lawn artist is returning to cut another piece of lawn art. But that’s a story for another day.

If you’d like to see what was happening on farms yesterday, check out #farm24 or look at the 24 Hours in Farming Media Wall

 

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raspberry ripple ice cream

Snippets of Happiness

Every year August passes in a blur, remembered as a series of moments snapped and seared in the memory. Images of children running around the garden or the family sitting around the table in the sunshine, the smell of harvest dust or the scratch of wheat stubble on bare legs. Each one a snippet of happiness.

Snippets of happines this August, so far …

hollyhock seedhead

Marvelling at nature. The garden is a mass of seed heads and their intricacy amazes me. This hollyhock seed head reminds me of the carousel that fed the slides into an old fashioned slide projector. Inevitably there would be at least one slide placed upside down and at some time during the slideshow the carousel would jam and there would be muttered cursing in the darkness.

raspberry loaf cake

Raspberry Loaf Cake is the cake we eat all summer using the early ripening rapsberries through to the autumn fruiting raspberries. With the sunny days we’ve had recently, I swear the raspberries ripen behind me as I pick them. This cake is easy to make and is robust enough to pack into lunch boxes or slice up for tea in the garden.

post box

Posting letters into this old letter box set in the wall of a nearby Post Office, I wonder what stories have been held by the envelopes slipped in here over the decades. I hope this letter box doesn’t get replaced or removed.

meadow

Watching a lawn artist at work as he mowed a giant picture into the grass in one of our fields. Watch this video to see him in action in the field.

whisk

A snippet of happiness when I’m the only person in the kitchen and get the chance to lick the whisk after whipping up a batch of raspberry ripple ice cream.

Who can resist licking the spoon or whisk?

 

 

 

 

 

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