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Mrs Thrifts ‘Twelve Tips Of Christmas’

In a few weeks time things in the ‘Thrift’ household will be changing and I will let you know the details in my next blog post on the 9th January 2015.

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As I said previously, I have decided to have a little bit of a break from my blog until after Christmas.  Unfortunately we have a lot going on at home and I need to take time out for a few weeks to concentrate on my family, though I won’t go into detail about this.

This week I have posted below one of my favourite Christmas blog post which most people reading my blog now, will not have seen.  I also promise to be around to read and answer any comments that you leave on my blog.

So if you have read the post before, I must apologise and ask you to bear with me.

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So until then, I would like to wish all the people that read my blog a very Happy Christmas And A Happy New Year.

Thank you all for your continued support.

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A blog posts published on the 21st December 2012:

I try to think of Christmas dinner as just a posh ‘Sunday Roast’, as this way I don’t get stressed about cooking it.  Below are my ‘Twelve Tips Of Christmas’ to avoid any disasters with your Christmas dinner.

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My Twelve Tips Of Christmas:

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If you have a frozen turkey, don’t forget to check how long it will take to defrost so it is ready to cook on Christmas day.

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Don’t make the classic mistake of finding that your roasting tin is not big enough for your turkey.

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Try and plan a starter that you can make the day before.  Last year on Christmas Eve I made a Spicy Parsnip Soup, as it was easy to reheat quickly the next day.  You can find the recipe here.  

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Prepare your vegetables the day before.  Peel potatoes, squashes, carrots, parsnips and they will be fine kept in water overnight. Washed and prepared vegetables can be kept in plastic food bags overnight e.g. Brussel sprouts, cabbages, swede, cauliflower florets and broccoli, etc.

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Consider using a steamer to cook your vegetables if you have one.  It is more economical as you can cook more than one type of vegetable at a time, which also means you can cook a larger selection of vegetables.

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Before the day, decide what time you want to eat your Christmas dinner and then work out what time you need to put your turkey in the oven.  Work out all your other timings too e.g. plan what time you need to par-boil your roast potatoes, cook your vegetables etc. and write it down, so you have nothing to worry about on Christmas day.  

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Lay the table the night before, so it’s one less thing to do on Christmas day.

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Don’t forget that if you are cooking larger volumes of vegetables than you are used to cooking, then they will take longer to cook.

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If you want to warm your plates up and you have no room left in your oven, fill the sink with hot water and submerge the plates for a few minutes.  Take them out and dry them ready to serve your dinner.

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Your food will stay warm for longer if you put it on your table in serving dishes.  It also looks more festive too on Christmas day.

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To avoid the skin on your turkey shriveling as it cools, baste the turkey as soon as it comes out of the oven.

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If you have a double oven it is easier to cook your turkey for the right time, but if you haven’t then just cover your turkey when it is cooked with foil and a couple of tea towels. Leave it in a warm place while you roast your potatoes.  The turkey will keep lovely and warm and it will help the turkey retain moisture.

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I hope these tips will help.

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Don’t forget I will be back on the 9th January 2015.

Thank you for reading my blog today.

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A Homemade Gift Is From The Heart And Not Just The Bank Account

As I said previously, I have decided to have a little bit of a break from my blog until after Christmas.  Unfortunately we have a lot going on at home and I need to take time out for a few weeks to concentrate on my family, though I won’t go into detail about this.

However as I said before I will still be posting each Friday with a few older posts that I particularly like and most people reading my blog now will not have seen them.  I also promise to be around to read and answer any comments that you leave on my blog.

So if you have read any of the posts before, I must apologise and ask you to bear with me.

In a few weeks time things in the ‘Thrift’ household will be changing and I will let you know the details in the New Year when they have been finalised.

Thank you for your continued support.

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Extracts from two blog posts in December 2012:

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Teachers Biscuits:

When my daughters were both in Primary School, they liked to give their teachers a present at Christmas.

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I didn’t like to give their teachers an ordinary shop bought box of chocolates or a ‘Teacher Mug’ as I didn’t think it was very special.  So instead my daughters made ‘Christmas Biscuits’ (with a little help from me).

We would gift wrap the biscuits nicely and they would look very special.

We have had many times leading up to Christmas when we have made Christmas Biscuits and as a mother, this has given me lots of lovely Christmas memories seeing them make the biscuits and hand them to their teachers with big smiles on their faces.

Just one more thing….it’s a very cheap present to make.

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You can make any kind of biscuits, but I found ginger biscuits and shortbread biscuits easiest for my daughters to make.  You can find the recipes here and here.

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We rolled the dough out and used Christmas pastry cutters that I bought a few years ago.  They were well worth buying as I have used them every single Christmas since.

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My cutters are Angels, Holly and Stars.

After the biscuits are cooked we left them on a cooling tray.

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When they were cold we melted some chocolate and dipped some of the biscuits into it.  We then put them onto a piece of greaseproof paper to set.

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I bought a cheap jar from Wilikinsons (for approximately £2.00) and placed the biscuits in it and wrapped a nice bow around it.

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The teachers all seemed to really like them.

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Christmas gifts are expensive to buy for all of your children’s friends.  One thing, which is a good idea at christmas for smaller children, is to wrap a few of the biscuits up in cellophane and give them out to their friends as a Christmas present.

They look really good and expensive, when really they haven’t cost much at all.

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I also cut a large star biscuit, with a smaller star cut out of it.  I popped a boiled sweet in the centre before I cooked the biscuits and this makes a beautiful star biscuit.  Again I wrapped it in cellophane and it looks great to give out to friends and again it’s cheap to make.

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Homemade Hampers:

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Today, I finished wrapping the hampers that I have made for my family.

I tied a piece of tissue paper on all the jars of pickles, chutneys, jams etc and tied them with some raffia to make them look nice.

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In the hampers I put the homemade preserves, homemade mini christmas cakes and bottles of wine with the bottle covers I made last week.

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I added the handmade luxury dishcloths,

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I then also added one or two ‘surprises’ in each hamper too.

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I wrapped the hampers in cellophane (I bought a big roll, cheap from ebay, that will last me a few years).

I was really pleased with the result.  I’m hoping they will really love them.

I think “A homemade gift is from the heart and not just the bank account”.

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Thank you for reading my blog today.

I will be back next Friday at my usual time.

‘Stir-up Sunday’ And A Christmas Pudding Recipe

I thought I would start today by reminding those that make their own Christmas puddings, that it is ‘Stir-up Sunday’ this weekend.

‘Stir-up Sunday’ is traditionally the day that Christmas puddings are made, approximately five weeks before Christmas.  It is the last Sunday before Advent begins.

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Early Christmas puddings actually contained meat, together with spices, dried fruit and wine, but it was Prince Albert who introduced the traditional Christmas pudding to the Victorians, which we know today.

 Christmas would not be the same without a Christmas pudding to ‘light’ and serve after a hearty Christmas dinner.  I have a lovely memory of my Grandad lighting a pudding one year when I was just a little girl and the memory has always stuck with me.  When our daughters were young we too lit our Christmas pudding and now it’s a family tradition for us.

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Christmas Pudding Traditions:

  • A Christmas pudding is tradionally made with thirteen ingredients, to represent Jesus and his twelve disciples.
  • A Christmas pudding is tradionally stirred from east to west in honour of the three wise men that visited baby Jesus.
  • Each member of the family traditionally stirs the pudding mixture and makes a wish secretly.
  • A silver coin was tradionally placed in the mixture and the person who finds it is supposed to find wealth.  A ring was sometimes also placed in the mixture to foretell a marriage and a thimble for a lucky life.

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The photo above shows the Christmas pudding I made a couple of years ago using my eldest sister’s recipe, which you can find here.  It really tastes lovely and it can be made anytime leading up to Christmas day, so it’s great if you aren’t organised enough to make one on ‘Stir-up-Sunday’ and you can even make it the day before Christmas if you wanted to.

However, last year I decided to have a change and make a pudding that needed time to mature as it contained alcohol and it really was special so I will be making it again on Sunday.  Here is the recipe:

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Xmas Pudding

475g dried mixed fruit with candied peel

1 apple, peeled, cored and chopped small

Grated zest and juice of ½ an orange

Grated zest and juice of ½ a lemon

4 tablespoons of brandy, plus a further tablespoon for soaking at the end

55g self-raising flour

1 level teaspoon ground mixed spice

1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon

110g shredded suet

110g soft dark brown sugar

110g white fresh bread crumbs

25g flaked almonds

2 eggs lightly beaten.

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Put the dried mixed fruit, apple, grated zest and juice of the orange and lemon, into a bowl.

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Add the brandy and mix well.

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Cover and leave to marinate overnight.

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In the morning, lightly grease a 2 ½ pint pudding bowl.

In a separate large bowl, sift the flour, mixed spice and cinnamon together.

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Add the suet, sugar, breadcrumbs and flaked almonds and stir together until they are well combined.

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Add the marinated mixed fruit and stir again.

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Stir the eggs into the mixture.

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Call all your family together and take turns to stir the pudding mixture from East to West, each making a secret wish as you stir.

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Spoon the mixture into your greased pudding bowl and press it down lightly with the back of a metal spoon.

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Cut out two large circles of greaseproof paper, the size of a large dinner plate.

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Cover the pudding with both pieces of the greaseproof paper and top these with foil.  Tie them onto the dish with string.

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Steam the pudding for 7 hours.

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Remove the pudding from the steamer and let it cool completely.

Remove the paper and prick the pudding with a skewer and add a further tablespoon of brandy.

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Cover with a new piece of greaseproof paper and tie it again with string.  Then wrap it in foil to keep it fresh.

Store in a cool place until Christmas day.

My pudding storing in my pantry

On Christmas day, steam again for 1 hour.

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Enjoy!

mrs-claus[1]

Thank you for reading my blog today.

I will be back on Friday at my usual time.

 

A Cucamelon Review & Winter Salads

The mornings have been quite chilly this week, feeling very much like autumn is here.

On Wednesday we had some well needed rain overnight and when the sun came out in the early morning it was a beautiful sight, with rains drops glistening around the allotment.

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This week I have been concentrating on my polytunnel, getting it ready for winter.

The crops in my polytunnel had just about finished, except for a few tomatoes (which I will ripen at home) and some peppers and melons that were ready for picking:

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….and I mustn’t forget  the thousand ‘cucamelons’ dangling at me, ready to pick.

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A Quick Cucamelon Review:

Every year I like to grow something different and this year I chose ‘cucamelons’ .  I had read different reports about them and came to the conclusion that they are a bit like ‘marmite’, you either love them or hate them….so I decided to grow them for myself.

  The fruits are grape sized and they are supposed to taste of cucumber with a hint of lime, but I am yet to taste one that actually had the hint of lime in it.  The cucamelon can be eaten whole or chopped up in salads.  The skin has the texture of a sweet pepper, so it has a bite to it….inside it is like a mini cucumber.

They were easy to grow in my polytunnel and after a slow start they started to take over, smothering my tomato plants that grew next to them, but I’ve got to say there were millions of fruits that just kept coming and coming and coming!

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Unfortunately my family didn’t like them and after forcing them at anyone that came into our house, I found that not many other people liked them either.   I didn’t think they were too bad, until I ate quite a few for tea one day and ended up with bad indigestion all night!

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Needless to say, I won’t be growing these again….but we live and learn.

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Winter Salads:

Last month I sowed some winter salads ready for my polytunnel and they have grown quite well and were ready for planting.   However first I needed to clear the crops that were left in my polytunnel:

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One surprise I did find in my polytunnel when I was clearing it, was some carrots that I had completely forgotten about…and they had grown really well.  Carrots can be stored in compost at home until they are needed, but I know these carrots won’t last long in our house as everyone loves them.

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After I had cleared the crops, I forked the soil over and gave the soil a covering of homemade compost.  I also raked in some blood, fish and bone where I would be planting my salads:

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The winter salads that I chose to grow were mizuna, winter lettuce, corn salad, rocket and perpetual spinach.  I also grew some beetroot as a trial, to see if I could use the small leaves over winter in salads (though I’m not expecting to grow a decent sized root).

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After planting the above crops I gave them a good watering and I must say the polytunnel did look different….another reminder that autumn is here:

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One of the things I have learnt from bitter experience, whether you grow plants in a cloche, a greenhouse or a polytunnel, you need to provide ventilation during the autumn or winter months.  If you don’t then the humid conditions will be a breeding ground for grey mould, which will smother and kill your plants.  So on fine days I open the doors on my polytunnel throughout the winter months.

“Grey mould is caused by a fungus called ‘Botrytis cinerea’ which can infect plants at any time of the year.  It can enter a plant through a wound or infect a weak  plant under stress.  It will also infect healthy plants in humid conditions”.

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At home this week I have continued to use up my ripening tomatoes to make soup and passata…

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 …and I only have a few left to use now, which again shows me that Autumn is here and the wonderful harvest of summer is nearly behind us.

Now it’s the time that the Autumn harvest of pumpkins, butternut squashes, apples etc. begins.  The nights start to draw in and the leaves on the trees begin to fall.

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This is my favourite time of year when I start to reflect on my gardening year and work out what crops have been a success and which haven’t.  It’s the time of the year when things start to slow down slightly at the allotment, giving me time to breathe and admier the late summer flowers on my plot.

When I work my plot on a crisp Autumn morning it makes me feel glad to be alive.

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Thank you for reading my blog today.

I will be back next Friday at my usual time. 

 

Purple Bullace Jelly And Courgette Chutney

This week in my kitchen I have been busy using all the home grown produce that I have picked.  I always have a lovely sense of satisfaction when I use my organic fruit and vegetables, as I  know one hundred percent that no chemicals have been used to grow them and I think this also makes them taste better.

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This week my outdoor tomatoes have started to ripen and I have begun picking them daily.  They are a variety called ‘outdoor girl’ which are usually a little bit earlier than other outdoor varieties, however for some reason they are a little bit later than usual this year.

I am constantly checking for tomato blight as my tomatoes have only escaped once over the years.  You can see photos of tomato blight here, together with lots of information on what to do when you first notice it on your tomatoes, as some of your crop can be saved if you act quickly.

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With my first batch of tomatoes I made a big pot of tomato and basil soup, which we had for lunch with a loaf of warm, crusty homemade bread.  It was far nicer than any soup you can buy in a tin and it only cost me a few pennies to make as nearly all the ingredients were from my allotment.

You can find the recipe here.

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I am also still using all of the courgettes that my plants are producing.  This week I made my favourite courgette chutney….

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Courgette Chutney Recipe:

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2 onions chopped

500g tomatoes chopped

500g courgettes diced

300ml white wine vinegar

2 cooking apples peeled and diced

250g brown sugar

2 teaspoons mixed spice

1 tablespoon of mustard seeds

Thumb sized piece of root ginger grated

4 garlic cloves crushed

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Put all the ingredients in a large pan and bring to the boil slowly, stirring continuously.

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Simmer for 2 hours uncovered, until it is dark and looks like chutney.

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Pour into hot sterilised jars.

( To sterilise jars, pop them in an oven for five minutes, gas 4 / 180C / 350F )

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Leave for 3 weeks before eating.

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This year at my allotment I had a bumber crop of strawberries.

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At this time of year I usually tidy the plants up a bit…. I remove the straw that I lay around the plants in the spring and put it into my compost heap.  I then cut the strawberries back to approximately 3 inches (8 cms) from the crowns.  It always looks harsh but they grow back really well.

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Cutting the strawberries back in this way helps the plant produce more fruit the following year, as the plant then puts all it’s energy into producing a strong root system.

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This is the second year my plants have fruited so I am not keeping any runners, so I cut them all off.

  If I wanted to increase my stock I would just peg down the runners with a large stone or wire, so that the new plantlets are in contact with the soil.  When they have good roots on them at the beginning of September, I cut each runner from their parent and replant it where I want it to grow.  This way they are settled before the winter and produce fruit the following year.

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Incidentally, I found this little fella under the old straw around my strawberries:

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I have been told he is a ‘death head hawk moth’ caterpillar.  He looks quite evil doesn’t he, but I left him alone as moths are hugely important for the food chain and some of them are great plant pollinators.

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This week I have been picking ‘Cucamelons’.  It’s the first time I have grown them and they seem to have taken ages to become established….and now they are taking over my polytunnel!

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When I was researching the cucamelon, I found some people loved them and some people hated them, so I thought I would try them for myself…..I’ve got to say I am somewhere in between.

I think they taste like a cucumber, but with a crunchy skin.  The plants have certainly given me a good crop, but after we all tried them, we decided we like normal cucumbers better….so this is one I won’t bother growing again (sorry James Wong).

However this year they will go to good use in salads, with a drizzle of olive oil, lemon juice and a pinch of salt:

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At this time of year I am thinking about storing my crops ready for the winter.  My potatoes have all been dried and they are now storing in sacks.

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  My french beans are doing well at my allotment this year and I have been busy blanching and freezing them, together with the runnerbeans that I am still picking:

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If you have been reading my blog for a while, you will remember that this time last year I gave the old tree in my woodland area a real good prune as I don’t think it had been pruned for years.  I had been told by a couple of people that I would be better off chopping the tree down as it never has fruit on it….but I decided to give it a chance.

I prunned away approximately a third of all the dead, diseased and crossing branches and I will continue doing this every August until it is back to how it should be.

….And after just one year of pruning it has rewarded me with a bumper crop…..

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The gentleman that rented the plot before me (my dear friend Eric) told me that the tree was not a damson tree, but he didn’t know what it was.  I think the tree is a ‘purple bullace tree’….I may be wrong, but it doesn’t really matter as the fruit makes a great fruit jelly…which I have been making this week, ready for my Christmas hampers:

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A Wild Plum, Damson or Bullace Jelly Recipe:

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First cut your plums in half just to make sure they haven’t been infected by the plum moth (discard any that have).  Don’t bother removing the stones. 

Put the plums into a maslin pan or a large jam making pan.

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Cover the plums half way up with water.

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Slowly bring the plums to the boil and then simmer until they are soft (approx. 15-30 mins).

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Meanwhile, bring a pan of water to the boil and place some muslin or a clean tea towel into it and boil for 3 minutes.  Take it out of the water and wring it out and then leave to cool.

Tip the fruit into the muslin and let it drip overnight or for approximately 8 hours.  I find it easier to put the muslin over a colander that is already over a bowl, as it’s easier to pour the fruit into it.

In the picture below, you can see how I suspend my muslin bag over a bowl.  I have read that an upside down stool can be helpful to do this, but I have never tried it.

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The next day put some side plates or saucers in the freezer to check the setting point of your jelly later on.

Measure the juice.  For every 1 pint of juice, measure 1lb of granulated sugar.   Put the juice and sugar back into a large pan and bring it to the boil slowly, over a low heat, until the sugar has dissolved.

Also, as I don’t use jam sugar I add two tablespoons of lemon juice for every one pint of juice.

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When you can see no sugar crystals on the back of your wooden spoon, turn the heat up and boil hard until the setting point has been reached.  This can take quite some time.

(I always continuously stir my jams and jellies to stop them from burning at the base of the pan, however I have never seen a recipe tell you to do this, so it’s up to you).

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To check the setting point, put a small amount of jelly on a saucer from the freezer and wait for a few moments, push the jelly with your finger and if it wrinkles then the setting point has been reached, if not just continue boiling for a further five minutes and then check again.

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When the setting point has been reached, take the pan off the heat and leave it for fifteen minutes. If there is scum on your jelly, you can skim it off, but I just stir in a small knob of butter which does the same job.

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Sterilise some jam jars (gas mark 4 for 5 minutes)

Pour the jelly into the jars and seal with lids.

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Enjoy it for months to come!

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Thank you for reading my blog today.

I will be back next Friday at my usual time.

What To Do In The Kitchen Garden In July

When I first started to grow vegetables I really needed the information to be in one place, so I could look it up easily. However, I found I had to search for lots of little bits of information, scattered between internet sites and books. It used to take me a long time to find the information I needed.

I thought it would be useful to have this information altogether in one place. So for the benefit of UK gardeners, I write a list of things to be done each month and any useful information I can think of.

It is worth remembering that different parts of the UK have different weather conditions e.g. the last frost is expected earlier in the south than the north.

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July

Traditionally July is often the warmest month of the year and days are long, but it can also be the wettest month of summer, with thunder storms probable in all areas.  As we know, weather patterns are changing and as gardeners we now need to adapt to ‘unexpected’ weather conditions.

There are lots of things to harvest at this time of the year and our hard work preparing the soil, sowing seeds, etc. will have started to pay off.

Please remember that this is a general guide.

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Vegetables and salads to harvest:

Broad beans, spinach beet and chard, peas, globe artichokes, kohl rabi, broccoli, calabrese, onions, shallots, garlic, beetroot, early potatoes, turnips, carrots and florence fennel.  Oriental mustards, spinach, peas, mangetout, beetroot, runner beans, french beans, courgettes, marrows and patty pans. Aubergines, chillies, peppers.  Lettuces, radishes, mixed salad leaves and spring onions, tomatoes, chicory, celery, cucumbers, rocket, watercress and spring onions.

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Fruit to harvest:

Rhubarb (finish picking at the beginning of July), gooseberries, strawberries, blueberries, cherries, red and white currants, early plums, apricots, raspberries, peaches, nectarines and undercover melons.  You may even be able to harvest early blackberries, logan berries and tayberries.

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Vegetables and salads to sow:

Sprouting broccoli and calabrese, beetroot, french beans, turnips, carrots, kale, kohl rabi, peas (at the beginning of the month), perpetual spinach, fennel and swiss chard, spring cabbages, oriental leaves, winter radish.

Lettuces and salad leaves (though they are harder to germinate in hot weather), rocket, spring onions, chicory, endive, radishes, watercress.

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Things to plant:

Brussel sprouts, autumn cauliflowers, winter cabbages, sprouting broccoli, kale, peas, french beans, fennel, endive and leeks.

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Jobs to do in July:

Keep weeding and mulch with compost or even grass cuttings if the ground is damp. Mulching will suppress the weeds and help to keep the soil moist.

Water if it is dry. It is better to give a ‘good’ watering once a week, rather than water a small amount daily, as this will help the plant roots to grow deeper to find water.

When your peas or beans have stopped producing, cut down the foliage leaving the roots in the ground, as these have lots of nitrogen in their modules, which will be good for your next crops.

Feed tomatoes after the first little tomato starts to form. Use a high potash feed, a comfrey feed is perfect for this. See how to make a comfrey feed here.

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Remove new raspberry suckers or shoots that are unwanted. If your canes become too thick and dense it stops the sunlight and air from getting to the inside canes, which can cause disease or under-developed fruit.

Continue pruning the side shoots on grape vines and thin out fruit so the remaining fruit will grow larger.  Remove some of the foliage if necessary to expose the grapes to the sun to help with ripening.

Keep tying in blackberry canes.

Keep pinching off the sideshoots on your tomatoes.

Prune summer raspberries as soon as they have finished fruiting, by cutting down all the canes that have had fruit on, to the ground.  Tie in all this year’s new growth, as these canes will have the fruit on next year.

Thin apples and pears if they are still overcroweded, so the remaining fruit will grow larger.

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Propagate strawberries by pegging down the runners, so they root into the ground.  Alternatively, you can peg them down into pots of compost.

Prune cherry and plum trees.

‘Pinch out’ the top of runner beans when they reach the top of their supports.  This will encourage bushier plants and stops them from becoming top heavy.

Weed regularly so your plants won’t need to compete with the weeds for water and nutrients.

Take up onions, garlic and shallots and lay them in the sun.  Alternatively, lift them and dry them in a greenhouse.  Ensure they are fully dry before storing them.

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Feed peppers after the first little pepper starts to form. Use a high potash feed, the comfrey feed is perfect for this (see above).

If it is dry, water cauliflowers, lettuces, rocket, spinach as these have a tendency to bolt in dry weather.

Earth up trench celery to stop the light getting to the stems.

Take cutting of herbs now.

Bend the leaves of cauliflowers over the curds to stop the sun from turning them yellow.

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July pests and diseases:

(Please don’t be alarmed by all the pests and diseases that you read below, you may never see some of them, but it’s good to be aware).

Slugs and snails are active at night, especially in damp weather.

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Remove any yellow leaves from brassicas to stop pests from hiding in them or diseases from spreading.  Check brassicas for caterpillars and pick them off or squash them.

Watch out for blackfly, they especially love globe artichokes, runner beans, french beans and beetroot.  Wipe the blackfly between your fingers and thumb to squash them.

Watch out for ‘blight’, it will affect your potatoes and tomatoes.  Blight is a fungal disease, spread by wind and rain and it can wipe out your whole crop in just a few days.  There is information regarding blight here.

Look out for leek moth caterpillars which feed on the leaves leaving holes in the foliage.  Pick them off asap.

Protect your brassicas, peas, strawberries and even lettuces from pigeons, by keeping them netted.

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Check for asparagus beetles and pick them off.

Check apple for canker, scab and powdery mildew.

Check pears for pear leaf blister mite, rust, canker and scab.

Check gooseberries and currants for saw flies, greenflies and currant blister aphids.

Check grapes for scale insects.

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Thank you for reading my blog today, I hope this post is useful to you.

I will be back as usual next Friday at 4pm.

Have a good week!

Two ‘Trials’ & An Easy Vanilla Ice cream Recipe

This week at my allotment I decided to trial two different things:

1) Nemaslug Slug Killer:

The first is ‘Nemaslug Slug Killer’, which apparently controls slugs naturally and is harmless to children, pets and wildlife (inc. birds and hedgehogs), even if they eat the infected slugs.

They seemed pretty easy to use from the instructions that I read before I ordered them, so I thought I would give them a go as they are a natural organic way to fight slugs.

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Apparently this pack can treat upto 40 square meters and it gives six weeks of protection.

I particularly wanted to use the slug killer around my potato patch as I seem to suffer regularly each year from slug holes in them.  After researching the best way to use the nematodes, I found it was best to use them six to seven weeks before I plan to harvest my potatoes, which was this week.

As the product only has a shelf life of four weeks, I ordered them a couple of weeks ago and when I received them they had to be stored in the fridge.

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The instructions said that you needed to apply the nemotodes on a dull day or in the evening….so I waited for a dull day.  It also said the ground must be moist before you apply them, so I had to use my hosepipe to wet 40 square meters!

I split the packet into four and poured each quarter into a watering can (with a course spray as advised) filled with clean water.  I then set about watering the area where my potatoes are growing…..I found I almost had to run along to make sure the watering can didn’t empty before I had covered the desired area!

I then read that you need to keep the area moist for the next two weeks, which means using more water from a hosepipe.

My first impressions are that it’s all a lot of messing around and an awful lot of watering (unless you apply them in a wet period which is no good for me at the moment).  However, I will follow the instructions and see if my potatoes have fewer slug holes this year…..The cheapest price I could find was £9.44 (incl postage), so I will let you know at the end of my trial if it is worth spending this money.

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2) The second trial is ‘Tagetes minuta’

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I go to a wonderful garden forum that used to be held at the ‘Eco House’ in Leicester (which sadly closed down last year), but we managed to keep the forum going.  We decided to trial these plants together as according to Sarah Raven:

“Tagetes minuta is an extraordinary plant that isn’t a looker, but its roots kill perennial weeds such a ground elder and couch grass.

Height: 180cm”

I sowed my seeds on the 30th April and they were ready to plant out this week:

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I planted them right at the back of my plot which is covered in all sorts of perennial weeds such as couch grass, dandelions, brambles, buttercups, nettles and even some Ivy:

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To be honest you have to look really hard to see where the plants are in the photo below.

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I did give them some slug pellets to start them off as I know slugs love to eat tagetes and I wanted to give them a chance to work their magic.

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I will let you know the results of both trials.

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This week at the allotment I cleared the poached egg plants away as they had finished flowering and had shed most of it’s seed.  They gave a wonderful display last month and they brought lots of beneficial insects like ladybirds and bees to my plot:

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I then replaced them with some marigolds that I grew from seed in March and hopefully they will look great in a few weeks:

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I also gave my flower patch a good weed and removed the forget-me-nots that also gave such a good display this year.  I cut back my hardy geraniums to encourage a second flush of flowers too:

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  I then planted some dhalias, petunias and antirrhinums that I had also grown from seed.  Hopefully these will give a good display all summer:

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Elsewhere on the allotment I have sown some more radish and I have been watering my celeriac at least twice a week to encourage bigger roots.

I have also been hoeing to keep the weeds down.

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Harvesting:

This week I have been harvesting lots of wonderful salad leaves, radish, spring onions, coriander and also watercress (which incidentally is grown in a large pot of compost that is watered only once a week):

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And also lots of broad beans that I have been blanching and then freezing on trays before putting them into a freezer bag, to stop the beans from sticking together in large lumps:

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And strawberries…what a wonderful crop this year.  In total I have harvested four baskets full so far:

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So we have eaten loads, I also made some more jam and I froze the rest.

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At home my hanging baskets are looking beautiful so far and I have started to feed them with a high potash liquid feed….the same one I use for my tomatoes at home

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And I have my first flowers on my ‘poundshop’ dhalia’s.  These were a bargain as there were three tubers in a pack for £1.00 and I didn’t really think they would be up to much….but all three have grown.

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I love receiving comments on my blog and this week ‘Angela’ asked me for the recipe that I use to make vanilla ice cream.  I don’t bother messing around with vanilla pods, I just use ‘madagascan vanilla extract’ which seems to be a bit thicker than ordinary vanilla extract and can be bought from your local supermarket, however normal vanilla extract should also work.

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A Very Easy Vanilla Ice cream Recipe:

(With or without an ice cream maker)

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165 grams caster sugar

240ml double cream

500ml  milk (I use semi skimmed)

2 teaspoons Madagascan vanilla extract if possible (or normal vanillia extract)

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Put all the above ingredients into a bowl and mix until combined with a hand blender or a spoon:

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Add the mixture to your icecream maker to do the hard work

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(If you haven’t got an ice cream maker, just put the blended ingredients into a container and freeze.  Remove from the freezer every 1-2 hours and mash vigourously with a fork to break up the ice crystals)

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As there are no chemicals in the ice cream, the ice cream will be quite hard when you take it out of the freezer to use, so it is better to take it out for 10-15 minutes before you eat it.

Then enjoy it!

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Altogether it has been a good week in the ‘Thrift’ household and to top it off, my good allotment neighbour gave me some ‘Sweet william’ flowers to take home and they look beautiful.

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Thank you for reading my blog today.

I will be back next Friday at my usual time.  I hope you have a good week.