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michaelmas dumplings

michaelmas daisies
Today is Michaelmas, which marks the end of the harvest time – well not for us yet at the tomatoes and courgettes are still coming in  thick and fast, and we are still picking and podding beans, and the squashes are still on the vine.. but still it feels as though the season is beginning to draw to a close,  and the garden is full of Michaelmas daisies, which appear to be planning on taking over.

I cooked poor man’s goose – which looks a lot like leftover roast pork, sage and onion stuffing, and apple. and for a pudding, made Michaelmas dumplings – following the recipe from Lavender and Lovage, though I did add more blackberries and a bit more sugar too.
michaelmas dumpling

Delicious. My son asked me to cook it again, then asked to be shown how to cook it himself – sure sign of a winner. I think it would work really well with other fruit too, but of course, Michaelmas is the last day to pick blackberries, so it was obligatory.

blackberry vinegar

blackberry vinegar
It has been – still is a bumper year for blackberries this year.

We have had blackberry and apple crumbles, made apple and blackberry jelly, blackberry cordial, made and drank lots of blackberry and raspberry smoothies, started blackberry and apple gin, and have a lot in the freezer.

Freezer space being a bit limited, and still lots of harvest going in, I have looked to other things to make with this bounty – and came across blackberry vinegar:

blackberry vinegar

450g (1lb) blackberries

600ml (1 pint) white or cider vinegar

450g (1lb) white sugar

Mix the blackberries and vinegar together. Cover and leave somewhere cool and not too light, for four days, stirring every day.

Strain and measure the resulting liquid into a pan, and add 450g of sugar for every 600ml of vinegar.

Heat gently to dissolve the sugar then bring to the boil.  Bottle in sterilised bottles with non metal tops.

Use as a dressing, or dipping vinegar, or as a sauce with many sweet and savoury dishes. I am also told that diluted with hot water to make a ‘cold cure’

Turf Locks

Exe

This early autumn has been amazing, with sunshine and warmth – it comes as a surprise with the sun downs so early, as it feels so summery.  And as always the feeling of this window closing and less opportunities to get out and about when winter sets in, pushes us to pack in what we can.  It has been at least a decade since I cycled to Turf Locks – back then the cycle path was a rough track through high nettles dangerously close to the canal – not something you want to do whilst towing a not so small child on a tag-along bike  Now the path is lovely, a fairly easy twelve miles with great scenery and a pub lunch.

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tomato jungle

tomato jungle

I always start the tomato year with the best of intentions, dutifully pinching out side shoots and tying in the  plants.  Always, they get away from me – I get distracted and before I know it.. the side shoots have side shoots…. and by this end of the year, the greenhouses are jungle-like, and picking tomatoes involves threading an arm in to reach the ones at the back, through the mass of greenery.

cherry tomatoesI felt a bit guilty of it.. bad gardener! …But then again.. I am picking about 8 lbs of tomatoes a time – it has been a bumper crop – and I realised that if I had done the ‘right thing’ and stopped the plants at the top, instead of just tying them in along the wires…then letting them dangle down, then roping them back in along with all the sides shoots as best as possible.. well the crop would be a lot smaller.

You can get away with it with cherry tomatoes – the plants tend to be lighter, and the fruit doesn’t take so long to ripen – with bigger fruiting varieties, I think a bit of discipline is required, so the plants can concentrate on getting their few larger fruit to maturity. Cherry tomatoes can survive the jungle style method… just as well!

I’ve roasted many pounds of tomatoes for roast tomato passata, I’ve made soups and cassoulets, ketchup and three batches of tomato chutney.

Eventually either blight or the cold will do for my tomato plants – but with the early good practices, the bases of the plants are clear an have air around them and I leave the doors and windows open day and night and will push out this crop as long as possible. Then when the plants drop… all I have to worry about is processing the green tomatoes!

two tunnels greenway

two tunnels greenway 1
Today we left our son in the care of his grandmother and headed to Bath to cycle the Two Tunnels Greenway circuit.
two tunnels greenway 2
We started in central Bath and took the cycle route, which was quite pleasant in itself going along back streets and over Pulteney bridge, before dropping down to the towpath of the Kennet and Avon Canal. It was beautiful and so quiet, only the sounds of our tires.
two tunnels greenway 3
Including the Dundas aquaduct. After admiring the aquaduct and the traffic on it for a while, we continued on the cycle path away from the canal, onto some minor roads and into Monkton Combe for a pub lunch.
two tunnels greenway 4
After that we joined the disused railway line that goes past Midford castle,
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and then upto the entrance to the Combe Down tunnel, which is the longest traffic free cycle-walking tunnel in Europe at an impressive 1672 metres – just over a mile. As we approached the unassuming entrance, a blast of cold air hit us from the tunnel
two tunnels greenway 6
Inside the tunnel is amazing – just the shear size of it. The picture doesn’t do it justice – about in the middle all you can see are the lights going off to the vanishing point, and it is cold – a blessing for us on a really hot day in September.
Eventually there was a light at the end of the tunnel, we cycled out into the heat, and then back into the next tunnel – another long one, though not as long as the Combe Down.
Woodland gave way to parkland gave way to town, with a high over road bridges, before we came back into town along the river and back to our starting point.
A really lovely couple of hours cycling, the 12.8 miles taking in many changes of scenery. Definitely one to do again.

Exeter quay
A winning combination, no? We headed for Exeter quay and the lovely flat cycle path.

 trike and bike

This time a family outing, with our son trying his new trike, alongside the river and canal.
Double Locks

pub lunch in beautiful setting
cycling family
more cycling
bikes trike and cake
An advantage of having a adult sized trike in the party, is you don’t need a bike rack, if, hypothetically speaking, we were to stop and have cake..

Bertha produce
They say when God gives you lemons, make lemonade.  Personally, I would opt for limoncello, but we live in a cool climate, and don’t have a lemon tree… but when what was left of hurricane Bertha swept through last month, she gave us windfall apples, lots of them.  We picked plums early to take the weight off the branches, and that was highly successful, the pale plums finished ripening indoors, albeit all at once, but the apples were not ready and had to take their chances, and many were blown down and bruised before their time.

I hate waste, but we don’t have pigs at the moment, and the chickens will only eat so many… I made apple jelly, blackberry and apple jelly, apple cheese and started a batch of apple and blackberry gin.

Jelly making is an ideal way to use windfall apples as you can use the bruised fruit, and it is an easier than peeling hard unripe apples.

apple jelly

1.8 Kg/4 lbs apples – no need to peel or core, bruises are fine, but cut off any bad bits and wildlife

1.7L/ 3 pints water

sugar

Chop up the apples and place in the pan with the water, cook gently until the apples are mushy. Strain overnight using a jelly bag (no squeezing!).

Next day, measure the liquid and add the same volume of sugar.  Heat gently to dissolve the sugar, then boil and bring to setting point 104 C on my thermometer – but you can also judge by watching how the mixture drops from the spoon. Pour into sterilised jars and seal.

I use this apple jelly in cooking mostly – although it is nice as a jam, but works well in a steamed sponge pudding, or as a glaze on tarts and everywhere that calls for apricot jam under icing etc.  It can be stirred into casseroles and sauces.

Blackberry and apple jelly is the same recipe, substituting half the apples for blackberries.

Now the apples are ripe and we have picked the remainders – juicing the sweeter ones, and the bramleys are in the cool of the shed waiting to be cooked and eaten.

 

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