Our summer fruit harvest has been pretty good this year. We have a few strawberry plants that have produced lots of fruit – and now, dozens of runners between them. We don’t want to just cut them back and waste them. Also, you shouldn’t just keep the same strawberry plants, growing on the same plot (or in the same soil) year after year, as they accumulate viruses – and crops diminish.
About three years is the optimum life for a strawberry plant apparently, so we’re going to propagate a few over the coming weeks. We had a look at what the venerable Monty Don had to say on how to go about it – and it’s incredibly easy. You can never have too many strawberry plants because you can never have too many strawberries!
Here’s a trio of different strawberry pots – from less than a tenner to over £50 – which we’ve found that would be perfect for our allotment and garden…
- Large 45-litre plastic herb / strawberry planter / grow bag: £7.95, Amazon
- Terracotta strawberry pots: £35.00, Etsy
- Terracotta strawberry planter: £64.99, Crocus
This run of sunny weather has seen us spending hours & hours in the garden each day. Pottering amongst the plants, al fresco lunching, reclining in deck chairs with cold drinks… oh, and doing some work of course.
It’s obviously had a big influence on this week’s Price Points post – bright, optimistic and fun.
Check out this cute selection of fruit salad homewares – each one under £30!
- Banana night light: £10.90, Amazon
- Sunnylife watermelon doormat: £29, Paperchase
- Outdoor garden pouffe – kiwi design by Fallen Fruits: £19.99, Selections
A couple of weeks ago I noticed a bunch of saplings for sale outside the entrance to our local supermarket they were all priced up at £5.00 – bargain! I had a look at all the labels and amongst the apple, pear and cherry trees I spotted a single Victoria plum tree. I thought to myself that I’d return a bit later on in the day to buy it.
Needless to say, I popped back mere hours later and it was gone – I lost my chance! Anyway, a couple of days ago, I was back at the supermarket to pick up a couple of things and there were a couple of plum trees back in stock. I picked one out on my way in – I walked all around the shop with it – I wasn’t going to miss out again.
It said on the label that it’s self-pollinating (self-fertile), however, I did a bit of research online and apparently having other compatible plum trees nearby helps improve fruiting. ‘Compatible’ simply means another variety that flowers at the same time.
I’m torn between ‘Black Amber’ and the dual ‘Bleue de Belgique’/’Reine Claude d’Oullins’. The former only gets to 1 metre tall – perfect for a small garden like ours. However, the latter gives you two completely different varieties on a single tree; again, a good option for our limited space.
- Plum ‘Black Amber’ (mini fruit tree): £12.99, Van Meuwen
- Dual plum ‘Bleue de Belgique’ + ‘Reine Claude d’Oullins’: £17.50, Bakker
- Plum ‘Opal’: £24.99, Thompson Morgan
July sees the start of our food harvesting and preserving season. Last week we made a delicious elderflower ice cream with our home-made elderflower cordial.
This week, we’ve made some redcurrant jelly using a recipe from Cordon Bleu Preserving.
We inherited half a dozen or so redcurrant bushes when we took on our allotment last year. On our last trip down there this week, the bushes were heaving with little red jewels.
It took the pair of us about two hours to pick about half of them. When we got home, we gave them a rinse – they barely filled our small colander!
Despite this, we kept back a couple of cupfuls (to go into a pie) before making rest into jelly… it actually made 8 jars.
We know that redcurrant jelly is usually matched with lamb or game and a dollop or two can go into a gravy for extra flavour. We’ll have to look for some other good flavour matches…any ideas?
- 800g granulated or preserving sugar to each litre of juice made
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- Gently rinse the redcurrants in a colander before carefully removing the stems and putting the fruit into Kilner jars
- Firmly cover the jars with lids before putting them in to an oven at 300ºF/Gas mark 2 until the juice has run well
- Remove from the oven carefully remove the lids and turn out the fruit into a jelly bag or muslin overnight
- Measure the juice and take the correct proportion of sugar
- Add the sugar to a large heavy-bottomed saucepan or jam pan and warm on a low heat
- In a separate pan, heat the juice to boiling point (but don't allow to boil)
- Add the juice carefully to the warm sugar stirring all the time until the sugar has dissolved
- Pour jelly at once into sterilised jars
- Allow to cool before screwing the lids on firmly
Adapted from Cordon Bleu Preserving
H is for Home Harbinger http://hisforhomeblog.com/
Without fail, Justin & I start each day with a mug of coffee and a banana each. We both always have to save the final bite for Fudge. He sits there staring and salivating until it’s offered to him.
Bananas are his favourite food… after pork pie… and sausage… and chicken… OK, bananas are his favourite fruit!
They’re probably our favourite fruit too – I love them sliced with peanut butter in a sandwich. We’ve shared quite a few banana-based recipes on here as well. We’re officially bananas for bananas!
Curated by H is for Home
Justin’s parents’ neighbours have a few different fruit trees in their garden. In the past couple of years, we’ve had some of the harvest. Last year we made spiced apple chutney, the year before apple cheese. This year, we picked almost 5 kilos of plums – the sweetest, ripest plums we’d ever tasted!
We both ate half a dozen each in a couple of days but we would never be able to work our way through many before before they began to get over-ripe. I’d already made jars upon jars of fruit jam & jelly this year, so I turned half into spiced plum chutney and half into plum jam.
I used recipes from the good old Cordon Bleu Preserving recipe book for both.
The job of stoning was a monotonous, boring job but the resulting preserves were well worth the toil!
When the chutney was cooking the house was filled with the most delicious smell – I wish I could bottle that alone!
Here’s the spiced plum chutney recipe:
1tbs ground ginger
1tbs ground allspice
2tbs ground mustard seeds
2tbs dried chilli flakes
425ml/¾pt white malt or white wine vinegar
450g/1lb soft brown sugar
- Wash & stone the plums and put them in a pan with the ginger, allspice, mustard seeds and chilli flakes
- Tie the cloves in a muslin bag and add to the pan
- Add the salt and 300ml/½pt of the vinegar
- Simmer gently until the plums are soft (about 3 hours)
- Put the sugar into a large measuring jug/basin with the remaining vinegar and leave to dissolve. Add to the plums when cooked
- Bring to the boil and allow to boil gently until thick (about another 2 hours)
- Pour into warm, sterilised jars and screw down immediately
- Leave for 4-5 weeks before using
And here’s the jam recipe…
3kg/6½lb granulated or preserving sugar
- Wash the plums, cut them in half and remove the stones
- Tie half the stones in muslin
- Place the fruit in a preserving pan with the water and cook gently until tender
- Add the sugar and heat gently until dissolved
- Add the bag of stones
- Boil rapidly for about 25 minutes or until the jam sets when tested
- Remove the bag of stones and pour the jam into warm, dry sterilised jars. Cover and tie down
It’s a deliciously sweet accompaniment to morning croissants.
There were still LOADS of apples left over after making an apple & blackberry pie a few weeks ago. I hate wasting food so had to do something with them. “I’ll make apple chutney!”, I thought.
My Cordon Bleu Preserving book contains recipes for 4 different versions of apple chutney however it was the spiced one that took my fancy (for this read, “It was the one where I already had all the ingredients in the house.”) This recipe makes a humongous amount of chutney, but it’s easily adapted if you don’t have that much fruit to preserve. It’s a steeper, the flavours mellow if the chutney is left a week or so before consuming. So far, we’ve discovered that it makes a delicious accompaniment to a cheeseboard. It really suits a creamy brie and sharp cheddar – not so much blue cheese. I’m vegetarian, but I’ve had it on good advice that it’s also very good with pork pie (Justin) and sausage rolls (Duncan). What do you recommend?
- 36 large apples - peeled, cored & sliced
- 1½lbs/680g sultanas
- 3lbs/1.4kg demerara sugar
- 4oz/115g mustard seeds
- 2 fresh chillies, sliced into rings
- 2 rounded tsps ground turmeric
- 2oz/60g ground ginger
- 1½lbs/680g onions, halved & thinly sliced
- 6 cloves garlic, peeled & crushed with salt
- 2pts/1L vinegar (I used distilled white vinegar, but you can used ordinary malt vinegar)
- Put all the ingredients into a large pan (a jam pan is ideal) and simmer for 1½-2 hours until very soft and pulpy
- Turn into sterilised jars and cover
A few tips for making successful chutneys, relishes & ketchups:
-1- Once opened a jar must be refrigerated and consumed within a week.
-2- Don't allow the vinegar to come into contact with with metal whilst in store.
-3- When preserving with vinegar, don't use copper or brass preserving pans. Use aluminium or stainless steel and only use enamelled iron pans if there are no chips to the enamel.
-4- It's important to cook chutneys and sauces thoroughly otherwise they will not keep.