I adore chutneys and jams, probably due to being brought up on them – my Mother, Diana, is a demon preserver!
Well, it’s certainly been a bumper year for green tomatoes… as they have resolutely refused to ripen in the dismal wet summer we have just endured. So, what better way to use up produce than to make hot and spicy chutneys to see you through the winter months?
Below are two really tasty chutneys for you to try – and they are really straightforward to make. If you’re new to preserving, it can seem a bit daunting, but really, it’s not!
Here are some useful preserving hints and tips to get you started…
- Jars – Make sure you use sterilised Jars and lids, wash in hot soapy water, rinse and put on a baking tray and put in and warm oven (140ºC) and make sure your jars are completely dry before filling. Also make sure there are no chips/cracks in Jars. You can also sterilise all jars and bottles in a dishwasher.
- Vinegar – When making chutney and preserving it is important to use a vinegar with 5% acidity and above. Malt, white, cider, red or white wine vinegars can all be used.
- Equipment – When preserving I like to use different pans and wooden spoons, one for Jams and one for chutneys, this avoids cross contamination of flavours. A slotted spoon is useful for taking the scum off the top while cooking. A thermometer is handy for jams, but not essential. The most useful bit of equipment I have when making jams and chutneys is a funnel to fill the jars – it avoids drips and ending up with worktops covered in jam and chutney!
- Produce – Make sure that when you prepare your fruit or vegetable for preserving you use only the good fruit and veg and ensure that they have been washed.
- Sugar – When making jams you will need preserving or jam sugar – it has extra pectin in it to make it set, you can buy this from any good supermarket.
- Storage – Once jams are made they can be used straight away and can be stored in a dark cupboard for up to 12 months. Once opened, they can be stored in the fridge for about one month. When making chutney it is best to keep it in a dark cupboard for at least a month before opening, to let the flavours develop. Once opened keep in the fridge. Unopened chutney can be kept in a cool, dark cupboard for several years providing they were packed into properly sterilised Jars.
If you’re an ‘old hand’ as this preserving game… why not share some of your own hints and tips?
Spicy Tomato Chutney
This makes about six standard sized jars
- 1kg (2.2lbs) chopped tomatoes (red, green or mixture)
- 2 onions peeled and chopped
- 200g (7oz) raisins
- 200g (7oz) caster sugar
- 6 chillies (red, green, purple or mixture) deseeded and chopped
- 2tsp mustard seeds
- 2tsp cayenne pepper
- 1tsp salt
- 1stp ground ginger
- 500ml malt vinegar
Put all ingredients into a large pan and cook for about 3 hrs.
The amount of chillies can be reduced or increased depending on how hot you like it.
Tomato and Apple Chutney
This makes about six standard sized jars
- 1kg cooking apples
- 1kg tomatoes (red, green or a mixture)
- 500ml (18fl oz) vinegar (malt, cider or white)
- 500g (Ilb) onions peeled and sliced
- 250g (8oz) dried fruit (raisins, apricots etc.)
- 500g (1lb) soft brown sugar
- ½ tsp cayenne pepper
- ½ tsp mustard powder
- ½ tsp ground ginger
- 1tsp salt
Put all the ingredients in a large pan and cook for 2-3hrs, stirring occasionally. Put in to sterilised Jars and keep for about one month in a dark cupboard before opening, keep in fridge once opened.
There are literally millions of books out there to choose from and if, like me, you are constantly on the look for new titles and recommendations, I thought it might be interesting for you all to have a look at some of my favourites from this year. Maybe you could suggest some of yours too?
I have a very wide taste in the types of books I enjoy reading – I am not good at reading horror (baby that I am!) but I have loved some fantasy and magic related themes… my suggestions there would be; ‘The Hollows’ series by Amanda Hocking and ‘The Dresden Files’ series by Jim Butcher. Both are amazing series that kept me enthralled and rank among my all-time favourites.
However if you are thinking “Oh no – hate magic but love romance” well, I read a lot of those too! How about trying ‘Long Time Coming’ by Edie Claire or historical romance like Glenna McReynolds ‘Chalice and the Blade’.
Jojo Moyes is a very powerful writer and it’s worth trying “Me Before You” – a really strong book, and my daughter has just finished ‘The Girl You left behind’ also by Jojo Moyes, so I am hoping there will be a copy winging its way over!
Another author that I have to recommend is Debbie Maccomber. I adore gentle series about people I have ‘met’ in other books and got to know and, although Debbie’s books are based in America which might not be everyone’s choice, I find them wonderfully comfortable and have read every one in the series.
A huge favourite of both Richard’s and mine is the Shardlake series by C.J. Sansom, we listen to the audio version on our long drives to do TV shows and it makes the time fly past! Finally I have to give a mention to one of my main romantic author favourites and that would be Katie Fforde – her best (I think!) is “Going Dutch”.
So – what are your recommendations? Do you read on a Kindle, or prefer the good old traditional book? Or do you, like us, enjoy audio books too?
We feed our birds with very basic lumps of fat and seedballs, and they build nests under the thatch and in the ivy that covers the house. But I can still dream of having pretty bird boxes like these but I’m not sure a very rural Devon bird would choose ‘new’, ‘improved’ housing over the eaves with which they are so familiar and comfortable!
But that aside, this is one of my favourite cards that shows the beautiful Jane Shasky stamps and it demonstrates yet again what beautiful effects you can get when colouring with Promarkers.
The basic scalloped ivory card is layered with some pale blue card and a strip of calligraphy backing paper from the Jane Shasky CD. The main image isn’t layered as it appears, it is edged with the chisel tip of a Promarker, as is the cream layer beneath it. This is a fabulous way of getting the layered effect without the expense of extra card.
The birdbox has been coloured using a Blush Promarker but there are lots of other beige/pale wood colours you could use – caramel for example. When it comes to the flowers, stay really pale or they will overwhelm the entire card – here they are soft and match the blue card really well.
One final note – the whole of the stamped image has been surrounded with a very pale grey – this brings the whole coloured image together and looks really effective I think. Finish off with some self-adhesive pearls and the ‘Thank You’ sentiment has been edged with the blue Promarker too.
… gunpowder, treason and plot! Ah, the smell of bonfires, gunpowder – we had many wonderful family parties on Guy Fawkes night when I was a child.
My parents always had their respective jobs – Father would disappear purposefully down to the bottom of the garden wearing his gardening jacket, “Come along John dear, the nights are drawing in, don’t forget your scarf”. Meanwhile, my Mother would have spent hours in the kitchen cooking up a ‘feast’ that invariably consisted of jacket potatoes, sausages, occasionally baked beans with apple pie and cream for pudding.
We children would all be trying hard not to get over excited (not sure one can ever be over excited – just more excited than usual maybe!) and would restlessly tackle puzzles, or try and read books and keep busy – anything to make the time go faster until it was dark enough for the fun to begin.
I must have been about 12, the year of the disaster. As was tradition, we had all moved to the end of the garden where a small bonfire glowed and the Black & Decker workmate had been turned into a table, where the box of fireworks was laid out in readiness for the ‘grand display’.
We could never afford many fireworks, I think I remember about £2-£3 being the family budget. This would have been spent on carefully chosen favourites – sparklers, Catherine wheels, Roman candles… one called a chrysanthemum I remember and, inevitably, in that selection were the dire and dreaded jumping jacks… how I hated them!
This particular year we were huddled round the small bonfire, eagerly anticipating the first Roman candle… my father struck a match with a flourish – and a spark leapt into the box of waiting fireworks sitting on the trusty workmate. We were treated to an amazing, if somewhat scary display of jumping, shooting, whizzing fiery noisiness for about one minute … and that was that! The whole box was gone in a single flash.
Ah sad memories, the over 40s were inconsolable, the children thought it was hilarious if a bit short lived and we have teased my father with the story ever since. But they were happy and simple times, when a sparkler and a jacket potato were really all you needed – my precious memories of 5th November.
Hair tonics are not something you often see among commercial hair care products. They are a special hair treatment that can be applied as a finishing rinse. These tonics and rinses will help make hair shinier, have more body and generally look healthier. Think of it as an extra dose of help, whether your hair is in good, bad or indifferent condition!
To make up hair tonics, or finishing rinses, simply infuse the herbs for about an hour. To make an infusion, put the herbs in a measuring jug and add the correct amount of boiling water. Leave to infuse and then strain through a sieve and discard the herbs. Then add the essential oil, and any other ingredients included in the recipe, to the cooled infusion.
Use the tonic after you have finished any other treatments on your hair. Stand over a large bowl or hand basin, with the plug in, and pour the mixture over your hair. Recycle as much of the liquid as possible using a cup and pour it over your head again to get as much as possible into your hair. Then gently massage your scalp.
Finally, use a little cool water to lightly rinse off the tonic. Don’t use a power shower to blast all the mixture off as the idea is that the treatment will continue working on your hair until the next time you come to wash it.
Rosemary Herbal Finishing Rinse
For all hair types
- · 2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary leaves (or 1 tablespoon of dried)
- · 300ml boiling water
- · 2 drop rosemary essential oil.
Chamomile and Lemon Tonic
For fair hair
- · 2/3 cup of chamomile flowers
- · 500ml boiling water
- · Juice from 1 lemon
- · 2 drops lemon essential oil