Welcome to our plot!

I'm Hazel, and in Nov 2006 my friend Jane and I took on a half plot at Hill Allotments, Sutton Coldfield - we want the satisfaction of growing and eating our own fruit and veg, and to improve our diet (and fitness!).

This is the story of what happened next...........

Saturday, August 28, 2010

10 Things Learned Whilst Making Runner Bean Pickle

1 Before you start, it's sensible to check that you did actually buy all the ingredients when you went shopping with this recipe in mind - it'll save having to race up to the little Tesco to buy missing items.

2 It's worth listening to your own advice about storing onions, so you don't have to fish through a cardboard box (kept in the mini-greenhouse) of increasing mouldy specimens to find the required amount, leaving half a dozen small relatively sound ones as the remainder of this year's entire crop.

3 If you don't keep an eye on the food processor you run the risk of liquidising, not chopping the onions.

4 Don't assume that just because the salad box in the fridge is full of runner beans, you have enough.

5 Do think about alternative ways to string & slice runner beans - the current gadget cannot cope with beans with are too thin, too fat, or variable in thickness; beans which are too soft, or beans which are too old.

6 When the beans are cooking for 5 mins in salted water, and the onions are softening in the big maslin pan with some vinegar, do check that the correct knobs on the cooker are turned to high for the beans & low for the onions - Delia doesn't say what to do if the onion isn't 'softened' but 'burned to the bottom of the pan', but I took an educated guess and sloshed in a load more vinegar on the basis that you either won't taste crispy onion, or it might add a certain je ne sais quoi to the end product.

7 Do check that you have enough kilner jars before you start.

8 If the pickle looks a bit thick when you put it into jars, don't shrug & slosh some more vinegar in, but check the recipe to make sure that you haven't forgotten a vital ingredient, like, for example, the sugar.

9 Having to return the pickle to the pan with the sugar does give you time to find & sterilise more jars

10 Although a new extractor fan will make light work of transferring vinegar smells from the kitchen to outside, it will not stop you wondering why the chippy is open at this time of night every time you go outside the back door.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Hill Show 2010

The Show crept up on me this year - & I rather ended up entering classes on a reactive rather than proactive basis - i.e. run round the Hill on Friday evening with entry form in hand to tick what I had got ready to enter, as opposed to planning earlier in the year.

As ever, I worked in the spirit of taking part rather than with with any enormous hopes of zillions of 'firsts', which meant that there were one or two less than impressive entries - for instance, I scraped together 7 rather mature peas which had not quite gone brown & crispy yet, but they weren't what you might call a matching set.

Domestic sections are easier, as they can be organised in advance - the fruit cake cooked the weekend before, & jars of jam, jelly & chutney, just plucked off the store shelf in the garage. Why don't they have a wine category? I must ask.

Big sister Helen times a weekend visit 'home' to coincide with the Show - it's firmly set as a diary date - & entered cake, jelly & jam.
Mum entered a sponge cake, inadvertently going head to head with Jane's lad, who is now too old for junior classes, young E had the junior baking sections in her sights, and Jane wasn't to be outdone in the 'special cake' category - this year a lemon drizzle.

Sunday morning, & I spent an hour selecting, washing & trimming various veg then went and 'staged' my entries.

We all spent an idle afternoon wandering the plots & eating hot dogs whilst the judging took place, then the moment of truth when we could go back in to see the results - which revealed a goodly smattering of certificates for us all - then we went back to mum's after the prize giving to have a grand divvy-up of cakes, jams and veg.

A good day!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Rhubarb Wine - Bottling

The last stage for this batch of wine is to bottle it, so it can quietly mature for a few months before being opened & enjoyed next Spring.

All wines seem to have different recommended 'maturing' times but as a rule of thumb, although you can drink your efforts earlier, I reckon that you can properly enjoy wine a year from when it was started.

The wine on scrutiny in the demijohn is clear with no sediment in the bottom appearing since it was stabilised a couple of weeks ago.

It's better to be safe then sorry, though, so it is syphoned again into a bucket to leave any minute particles behind in the demijohn & crystal clear bit-free wine ready to be funnelled into the bottles.

Whilst the bottles are sterilising, it's worthwhile checking the SG reading again - the final strength of the wine is worked out by taking the final SG figure away from the initial SG, & dividing by 7.36, which gives the percentage of alcohol in the wine.

This is 13.5%, so quite robust enough to be going on with.

All that is left to do is funnel the wine into the bottles, cork & label - not forgetting the most important taste test.*

Don't be alarmed if you pull a face at this point - the wine will be a bit 'raw' at the moment, but once it has mellowed for a few months - and rhubarb pulling has commenced next year - I promise that it will be a delight.

*Obviously, this size sample is recommended in order to conduct a very thorough taste test

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


Having run out of family, friends & acquaintances, I have resorted to passing courgettes to total strangers.

This worked pretty well - the basket on the front wall was all but empty after a couple of hours - even the huge courgettes, verging on the marrow size.

At the Hill, the runner beans have finally kicked in & I may actually have got the quantities right this year (about 12 plants, for future ref) - which is giving me a steady, but not overwhelming, quantity.

Unlike the french beans, which have been disappointingly stringy, they melt in your mouth - consequently, I'm leaving the french beans for drying, & scoffing the runners at every opportunity. It's worth waiting for 10 months of the year in order to get this taste!

Monday, August 02, 2010

Chatting & Cropping

I had a wonderful afternoon at the Hill yesterday - although I suspect that I would have had a more productive day if I had done more & chatted less.

The first job was to tidy up the front border - deadheading the calendulas & thinning those which are overwhelming the lavender plants. I was just eyeing up the ripening seed heads on the self seeded poppy plants when John Badger from the bottom came up to say hello.

"Can I pinch some of the seeds heads off those poppies?", he asked.

"Of course - I want to save some for my friend in Cumbria too - do you think that they are ready to pick?" As we rattled one of the pods, it scattered seed like a pepper pot, so we concluded that they are - and of course there is no need for me to sow more for next year now.

Deciding that snapping the heads off to take home would leave a trail of poppy seeds all over the car, I left them for the time being, to be collected next time round.

We exchanged news - he gave me an update on his chickens (five out of six of his ex-battery hens laying each day) & his pond at the bottom (froglets galore), & admired newcomers Carl & Wendy by the gates magnificent floral front of plot, concluding that if they didn't win 'best front of plot', then we were Dutchmen.

Returning allotmenteer Christine came by as I was digging up my second early POTATOES (osprey) & was so impressed with a particularly big one that she told me to enter into the show as 'heaviest potato' & took a photo of me & it to put on her blog.

She was back & forth busy 'dressing her shed as a beach hut for the best dressed shed competition - wonderful photos on her blog. If they run the competition next year, I might have a go, depending on any rare sparks in the creativity department.

I dug up all the onions - they've finished any growing now - and rather disappointing they are too.

Not that big (some of the red onions were no larger than they were when they went in as sets in the autumn - what have they been doing for the last 6 months?) & quite a few split - maybe I should go for spring sown sets next year instead. Or some of both, perhaps. And some shallots too.

I sowed green manure in this bed in rows, hoping that the grazing rye would do better than it did last year - i.e. at least sprout.

Neighbour Jody arrived as I was on picking duties - his onions are brilliant. "Ah," he winked, "secret weapon - they are from Reg-next-plot's seedlings," which goes some way to explaining it.

I had a last scout round the plot to assess what might be there or thereabouts to enter for the show next week then picked more bloody courgettes & came home to make courgette soup - which turned out to be surprisingly good.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...