Monday, 18 October 2010

Blogging Virginity

Well it's 11pm and the eve of my 43rd Birthday.  In the past 12 months I've got married, had my second child after a thirteen year gap, and now started a much talked about and quite a lot less planned, blog!  My aim is to share 'stuff'...

I've been a fan of the re-use, re-cycle and grow your own for quite an age now, but this year has seen me take it to an all new level with the introduction of foraging.  The utter joy I've discovered in finding a fabulous crop of Damsons, or Cherry Plums or Blackberries, all free and just begging to be picked and taken home and made into jam or something, has far exceeded my expectation.  Some of this hedgerow picking has, credit where credit is due, been inspired by the lovely Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and his River Cottage programmes that have inspired me to think bigger than growing just the odd tomato plant. 

Other foraging credits I feel I must mention have been through two fabulous women I've had the great privilege to get to know through my becoming a mum again.  Both of these women inspire me to grander ways to do things, both in parenting and in life style choices.  With them has come much laughter, chaos and sheer joy.  With three babies, one pre-schooler and three dogs between us it's made for some fabulously mad times.  I've been by a river bank with our three babies on a blanket whilst we metaphorically rolled our sleeves up and picked Damsons with gay abandonment.  A small note to would be foragers, there is a kind of foraging madness that takes over where the delight in finding a bumper crop gets taken over with a zealous kind of 'ooh must just keep picking...soo many and all free..and all Mine!!! have been warned...if you do find yourself having picked 10lbs of sloe's just remember that's an awful lot of gin you're going to have to buy...

Not all of my recent foraging has been a success I have to admit.  I've been watching a particularly fine Pear Tree for several weeks and about two weeks ago decided to go back and check out the bumper looking crop that just needed to ripen a little.  Imagine my joy when I got to the tree and could see lovely red ripe looking pears just hanging there waiting to be picked by ME...on this occasion, as it was a weekend, I had also got my husband and, between us five children ,with me...oh and the dog...not wishing to be perturbed by the fact that there had been several nights of strong wind and rain that had shaken off most of the lower branches of fruit, we set to work. Those too small to climb up into the tree were given bags and tasked with picking up the best of the wind blown fruits whilst the older children were gleefully climbing up in to the tree to pick.  The location of this tree happened to be in the village where one of those two foraging women live.  So feeling morally obliged under my filial foraging duty I pulled out my phone and called her to say..hey crop is ripe and ready and we're busy picking....soo come on which she let out a most definite OH!...yes I was there last week and 'have you tasted any of them yet?...' Well let me tell you a foraging high is nothing to a foraging disappointment...the fruit were awful...biting into one of the pear was a fury pulpy tasteless mess...horrid texture and truly disappointing.  The bags got emptied, some of the pears became a game of who could throw them furthest and who could hit a tree that was in the middle of the field.  I just felt cheated..all that visual promise, all that planning and waiting..for nothing..well at least for no edible delight...the afternoon  however was not completely a waste as walking home the kids and I played catch me if you can...which largely consisted of me trying to sneakily run up to them without them seeing me, I failed of course in the task but how we laughed and laughed at my pathetic attempts...No fruit but good times.

Things I've made from my foraging trips;
Damson jam, or as it's now become fondly known as, Damson was my first attempt at jam making and whilst de-stoning the damsons I let it reduce down too much, resulting in extremely thick sticky jam.
Cherry Plum and Apple Jam, much better consistency but boy are those Cherry Plums a pain to de-stone. Oh and this jam I decided to make on the day of my husbands youngest, 6th Birthday.  I must admit that it took a lot longer than I had imagined it would to get the extremely small and stubborn stones out from the fruit.  So there I was laboriously picking over spoonfuls of jam attempting to fish out the stubborn stones whilst the rest of the family were taking photo's and eating cake and ooh ing and aarhing over present openings...that jam was definitely a labour of love...
Sloe Gin...I'll have to let you know what this tastes like as it's currently doing it's thing in the kitchen cupboard.  Hopefully ready to be consumed for Christmas.  So far I've done two batches of sloes. The first following various Internet suggestions and my fab women friends advice, which included not pricking the skins of the sloes before hand but freezing them and then bashing them with a rolling pin before putting them in the bottle.  The second batch getting my husband to generously prick each one of the sloes before putting them in.  At the moment I have to say, just going on looks, that the second batch is looking like a better mix...needless to say I won't hear the end of it if this proves to be the case.  As I'm fairly sure my husband will remind me that it was through his personal endeavours that led that particular gin to be sooo good.

And finally I have some blackberries in the freezer just waiting to be jammed together with some apples the kids and I picked.  I'd been waiting until I'd collected enough jam jar donations, from lovely friends, to start.  The jars are now gathered and I think at some point tomorrow I might have to make my 43rd Birthday day a jam making day...
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