Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Rhubarb and vanilla jam

...parpa parp parp parp paaaaarp...
(Small fanfare in honour of me having reached my hundredth post please).
As promised in my last post, here is the absolute best ever recipe for rhubarb and vanilla jam (the original recipe can be found here - I doubled the quantities, because I'm a pig.)

2kg rhubarb, cut into 3cm chunks
2kg jam sugar
juice of two lemons
two vanilla pods, split lengthways
1) Put a small plate in the freezer.  Put the rhubarb in a preserving pan with the vanilla pods and sugar.  Heat gently, until all the sugar has all dissolved.  Squeeze in the lemon juice and increase the heat.
2) Boil for about ten minutes, skimming off the scum as it appears on the surface.  Test for the setting point by putting a small blob of jam onto the cooled plate, leave for a few seconds, then push gently with your finger - if it wrinkles, it's ready.
3) Once it's ready, remove the vanilla pods and ladle into warmed, sterilised jars.
This makes about seven standard jars worth of jam.

I humbly recommend two things here:
1) make this with homegrown rhubarb if you possibly can - it tastes a million times better than the stuff you buy in the shops (smug allotment-holder that I am)
2) don't make this if you're dieting - it's highly addictive.  Mr N thinks this is the best jam he's ever tasted - and he doesn't even like rhubarb.  Don't say you haven't been warned. x
PS - Nicki, get your extra-long spoon at the ready...!

Monday, 7 May 2012

Allotment update

What do you think of Lulu?  I think she's just a little bit great - Small is convinced that she's a fairy.  She sits and keeps watch over the big concrete raised beds at the entrance to the allotments and I love the fact that since I last visited the allotment, someone has been in and given her a full makeover.  She's got her summer frock on, clearly.
My allotment partner, Mrs Hen, and I managed to get a rare couple of hours together at the plot on Sunday, which was great.  It had been a while since I'd been able to get down there and not only was I feeling guilty, but I was slightly worried that the entire area may have been over-run by rhubarb (it's a good job I love the stuff - it's positively rampant!)  I have actually found the most amazing recipe for rhubarb and vanilla jam, which I'm planning to share with you in my next (and, coincidentally, my hundredth) post.  Get your jam pans at the ready gals, it's a winner!
I thought I'd share some photos of what's appearing on our patch with you, to prove that, against all the odds, things are indeed growing:
Comfrey, which is an excellent green manure.
Fennel, which is delicious with fish.
Redcurrants - mmmm, puddings...
And peas (ugh, revolting little balls of green) - the best thing about these is that they are grown up twiggy peasticks.  Was there ever a better name for a piece of gardening paraphernalia?
We also have blackcurrants, gooseberries, raspberries and strawberries in the fruit section - and cabbages, broccoli, potatoes, onions, garlic, shallots, beetroot, chard, runner beans and borlotti beans in the veggie section.  Obviously we've had to plant some flowers too, so we've got sweetpeas, marigolds, nasturtiums and calendula.  If any of this actually makes it on to my plate, I will not only be extremely proud, I will be more than a little amazed.  I am a rank amateur when it comes to gardening - my ineptitude is matched only by my enthusiasm (I cling to the thought that Mrs Hen knows what she's doing, or at the very least that she has a book that will tell us what to do).  The man who has the plot at the bottom of ours clearly recognises this as he saunters casually up to us every time he sees us and then proceeds to tell us what we've done wrong since he last saw us.  He then tells us how we should be doing it and how it won't work unless we follow his advice to the letter.  Mrs Hen is cracking, I definitely heard her muttering about the possibility of there being a body under her patio very soon.
And then, in an amazing spurt of outdoorsy eagerness, I actually cycled to the allotment today (pause for proud swelling of chest and slight wince at sore bum).  My 'to do list' went something like this:
drop off tall canes for beans
water cabbages
dig over bean bed ready for planting
spread wee all over shed floor (note to self: check for holes in plastic bag really thoroughly before relieving oneself in said bag and especially don't open shed door to dump bag of wee on ground while your trousers are still round your knees.) x
PS - to those of you who may be thinking that weeing in your shed is odd and wrong, I ask this question: 'why else would there already have been a latch on the inside of the shed door?'  Hey??

Saturday, 5 May 2012