Saturday, September 10, 2011

What Next?

With the comfortable feeling that 'all is now gathered in, am now turning my thoughts to the pickles, preserves, mincemeat and long-keeping fruit cakes to bring a little joy to our lives during the winter months.
Also have discovered today (via the Internet) that there is an organic veggie box scheme that delivers in our area, not just fruit and veg, but also other basic groceries incl. eggs, so might well decide that enough is enough as far as the supermarkets go, and when I need to start buying fresh produce again - will try the scheme.
Sooner or later will be needing to top up the cans of baked beans etc, but if I wait long enough (say three months) then Tesco will be back giving me more 'cash' (redeemable vouchers to spend on food), to tempt me back. Could be a win some, win some situation for a while.

Given that now everyone will probably have stocked up their shelves with 'basics', the stores are now loading their shelves with the next 'search and you will find' delights - this time foods, decoration and gifts for Christmas. They never miss a trick. One of the latest gimmicks (not necessarily confined to supermarkets) is to have a good offer with either "limited supply", or "buy now before stocks run out", and - because we are so afraid of missing something 'good', we fall for it and buy, often if we don't really need it. The thought of Mrs Next Door having something we've missed out on is almost too hard to bear. We can always blame our DNA.

Thankfully, confined to the house as I am most days, am not in contact with such temptations. So live my life in more the 'old fashioned way', my only vice (if you can call it that), is overloading my larder shelves. But as you know, this has proved to reduce my monthly food budget, and at least twice a year we are able to live off the stores for several weeks at a time (and could be for much longer if necessary). So must be doing something right.

Although everyone's food purchases will be different, there might be interest in what was delivered to our door this week. Firstly the promotional savings plus the points vouchers came to nearly £35, which was almost a third off the total charge. This pleased me very much.
The only frozen food bought was oven chips. The eggs I'd ordered (box of 9 mixed weight) were not available, so was sent a substitution of a dozen free range medium eggs for the same price as the original order (Tesco's 'price match') - which pleased me even further.

My main purchases were butter (B's Lurpack being reduced so bought enough to last him at least 6 weeks - as well as other butters also on offer - some will be frozen). Also bought a couple of pots of long-life double cream (use-by date around Christmas) as well as B's fresh cream he loves to have poured over all his desserts.
Bought 2 x 12 pack pork sausages (another of B's favourite brand - also on offer) as these will then be packed in threes or fours and frozen.
Because the price was 'right', bought 4 x 4 pack of baked beans as - believe it or not - had completely run out of baked beans due to this being a favourite of mine at the moment. Am planning to make a batch of Boston Baked Beans using dried beans already in the larder, and will freeze these to eat now and then and save opening a can.

Bought some baking potatoes, small (Scottish) new potatoes, and also a bag of King Edwards. For interest worked out the cost per serving (not cost per spud as they were different sizes) and with each variety it came to 10p per serving. A useful thing to know for then we can compare the cost of a different carbo serving such as rice, couscous, quinoa, bulgar wheat, noodles, pasta, and even pastry.
Incidentally, noticed on Tesco's website those packs of 10p noodles have now risen in price. To 11p!! Depending upon what else is served with them, one pack would probably stretch to feed two.

Two loaves of medium bread were bought (only paid for one as this was Bogof), so one has already been put in the freezer, and possibly half the other (our guests like to take sarnies with them when they go out to explore Morecambe and surrounding countryside).
Bought several cans of red kidney beans (Tesco's Value at 16p working out no dearer than cooking the dried myself), as these help - along with veggies/porridge oats etc to 'stretch' minced meat when making chilli con carne.
Several packs (again on offer) of Casserole mixes bought - and yes, they ARE a 'convenience', but cannot myself replicate the flavours myself, and as I've found there is no need to use a whole pack at any one time just for two servings, usually manage to use each pack for two or even three 'makings'.

Bought a few (good brands) of different curry sauces (on offer) and also two tomato ketchup (also on offer) and together these saved me £4.86p. Normally don't need to use a whole jar of curry sauce for one or two servings, so either make a big pan of curry using the whole jar - then freeze as individual meals, or use only some of the sauce and decant the rest from the jar to freeze in small portions to use as and when. So often we use a whole jar/can of something when it really is too much, and as most 'sauces' can be frozen, it's worth making them go as far as possible. Just remember to label everything as it is so easy to forget what is in the box/tub/bag (as I keep finding out because often I don't. Naughty!).

Other foods bought (not mentioned above) were the usual milk, plus butternut squash, red onions (on offer), cauliflower (on offer), celery, mushrooms, streaky bacon, cheese, grapes, kiwi fruits (offer), and a pack of dried split red lentils.... Treats for B were a pack of liquorice allsorts and a pack of black pudding (once opened the surplus slices will be frozen).
Also bought a pack of cheap ballpoint pens (how every many we buy we always seem to lose them), some Udon noodles (as wanted to try them), various non-foods (such as bleach and other cleaning products), a pack of poppadums (for our Oct. planned curry meal), and also a jar of Lime pickle and Mango chutney (for same).
Bought four packs of blackcurrant jelly (30p each) as like to add blackcurrant cordial when making this up to give extra Vit C (is it C?) to help ward off winter colds. Two refill packs of sugar substitute (cheaper than buying as separate packs). Now you see that probably I buy all the wrong things and could do so much better. But that's me, always hoping to give the right advice and never following it myself.

Because Corrie was on later due to a new prog on ITV was able to watch Gardening World last night, and Monty Don recommended we remove all foliage from our tomatoes to allow the fruit to get all the sun (what sun?). Myself am getting thoroughly fed up with my toms and will now remove all the trusses of fruit and bring them into the conservatory to ripen up as and when they are ready. The 'con' certainly catches all the sun from noon to sunset, especially the heat - far warmer than even the greenhouse (which - being plastic - tends to be quite warm but very, very humid - even if the door is rolled up. Perhaps better suited to growing cucumbers.

To your comments.
Pleased to hear that those of you (Susan G et al) who have started to cook your own ham (from a gammon joint) are finding it very rewarding both in flavour, convenience, and of course the amount of money it saves compared to buying sliced ham in packs.

Have myself always found farmshops to be quite expensive gillibob, but perhaps this depends a lot of area and location. Buying bulk amounts of fresh produce would save money, but unless they have a long 'shelf-life', not worth doing with just the two of us (our freezers already bursting at the seams).

Not quite sure I agree with you Urbanfarmgirl re too early to think about Christmas. There are other things than festive food we could be thinking about - such as making our own Christmas Cards/decorations/crackers, or making gifts that we KNOW will be far more useful than any bought from a shop. Car boot sales can be a good source of 'things to give as gifts'.
We have Hallow'een and Guy Fawkes (aka Bonfire night) to work towards before we need to be thinking about what to make/serve/eat over the Twelve Days of Christmas, but even then - with room in our freezer - we could be 'stocking up' the Brussels sprouts, sausages, bread crumbs (for bread sauce and stuffing), and later some made but un-baked mince pies.

Thanks for letting us know the varieties of tomatoes you recommend Sairy, but have to say that having grown 'Shirley' this year, have found this has not thrown off much fruit and what there is has been pretty tasteless. Am pretty sure that the flavour of tomatoes has a lot to do with the soil/compost they have been planted in, and given plenty of tomato food (such as Tomorite). Did feed them, but diluted from an old bottle found in the garage, so maybe it had lost its power. Grown in large pots, they seemed happy enough, but in Leeds grown in large bottomless pots standing on grow bags they did far much better. Will try to do better next year.

According to some weather 'experts', there are signs we will have an early onset of winter. This is due to birds migrating earlier than usual and the abundance of berries this year. It seems very improbable that a plant knows in the spring what the winter weather will turn out to be, so provides extra berries to feed the resident birds. Anyway, I've known years when there have been LOADS of berries followed by a very mild winter.
One thing that could make a difference this year is that the 'jet stream', normally to the north of us, is now directly overhead and this could lead to worsening weather. So maybe birds and creatures can sense this and have either begun to move early to warmer climes, or begun to make an early start stocking up food reserves for the winter. Maybe we too subconsciously sense this, leading to a strong feeling we should do the same (or already doing it).

Recipes today are mainly 'preserves' as this is the right time of year to be making them (remembering also small jars of assorted preserves make a good Christmas gift in their own right).
The first recipe (from a farmhouse cookbook) caught my eye as it said "this chutney will keep for 2 - 3 years and improves with keeping".
Bengal Chutney:
15 large sour apples
1 lb demerara sugar
1 dessertspoon salt
2 oz mustard seed
2 oz ground ginger
half oz cayenne pepper
8 oz raisins
3 pints vinegar
4 oz garlic
4 oz onions
Bake apples down to a pulp, and boil onions until tender in a little water. Add garlic, bring to the boil, skim then put all the ingredients into a preserving pan and boil for 15 minutes. Pot into hot, sterilized jars, and seal with vinegar-proof lids. Store in a cool dark place and leave as long as possible before eating as the flavour improves as it matures.

Another chutney looks worth making as "a little of this, added to meat stews or hashes before dishing up, is delicious. It also makes welcome Christmas presents if put into small fancy jars".
Indian Chutney
3 lb apples, peeled and quartered
2 large onions, finely chopped
2 pints malt vinegar
2 lbs Barbados sugar
1 lb raisins, chopped
8 oz crystallized ginger, finely chopped
half tsp chilli powder
2 tsp dry mustard powder
1 tsp salt
Put apples and onions in a pan with the vinegar and boil to a pulp. Add the rest of the ingredients, mixing well together, then boil for half an hour, stirring often. Pot up in the usual way.

Not sure whether this counts as a 'preserve', but certainly one way to 'keep' blackberries. An easy way to make wine without yeast and all the guff 'n stuff. Just be careful that you use bottles with corks, or if screw-caps, make sure that these are loose for the first few days. We don't want bottles to explode. I give the recipe exactly as it is written...
Blackberry Wine:
Place alternate layers of ripe blackberries and sugar in wide-mouthed jars; and allow to stand for 3 weeks. Then strain off the liquid and bottle; adding a couple or raisins to each bottle. Cork lightly at first and later more tightly. Nothing could be more inexpensive, and the wine will keep in good condition for a year, having the flavour rather like that of good port.

Another interesting recipe is a 'healthy' one, this time made with elderberries (of which there should be plenty 'free' in the countryside for us to gather). Again the recipe is given as from the old book, and particularly enjoyed reading how to test the syrup is ready.
Elder Syrup:
Elderberries have tonic and health-giving qualities, and this syrup makes the most of them.
Take half a gallon (four pints) of elderberry juice and put in a brass pan over a clear but slow fire, adding to it the white of an egg well beaten to a froth.
When it begins to boil, skim it as long as any froth rises; then put to each pint 1 lb of sugar, and boil the whole slowly till it is a perfect syrup; which may be known by dropping a particle on your nail, and if it congeals, it is done enough.
Let it stand; and when cool, put into bottles covered with paper pricked with holes. It will make elderberry wine in winter, and if taken hot is excellent for colds.

One more recipe that can be cooked on a griddle or frying pan. This being a traditional Northumberland farmhouse griddle cake.
Singing Hinny:
12 oz plain flour
2 oz ground rice
2 oz sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 oz lard
3 oz currants
1 tsp salt
quarter pint half milk half cream
Mix together the flour, ground rice, sugar and baking powder. Rub in the lard. Mix in the currants and then the liquid to make a moderately soft dough. Roll out o a quarter inch thick. Prick all over with a fork and bake on a fairly hot griddle until nicely browned on both sides.
This cake is delicious split and buttered and eaten hot.

That's it for today - definitely today will be spent mainly in the kitchen as B will be watching sport on TV. Next week sees the start of a new Hairy Bikers series called 'Meals on Wheels' where we will be learning a lot more about this voluntary service that provides meals for the elderly (and believe that the general public can become involved in this too if they wish to help with the meals).

Am just loving this time of year, now I've come to terms with my DNA. As has recently been discovered. the eggs in the human ovaries which produce the next generation were placed in a baby girl before she was born - provided by its mother, whose own eggs were provided by the grandmother, and who knows how far back this 'egg-sharing' can go. So not surprising that due to my age, my genes have only hereditary memories of 'how our parents/grandparents used to live', with none of the genetic differences/instincts that may have evolved during the last 50 years of so of 'convenience food shopping'. As my mother provided the eggs that are now in my daughters, then they too seemed to enjoy being self-sufficient. Let us hope it continues, generation after generation.

Please join me tomorrow when I hope the trade mag will be delivered (it didn't arrive today). With the weather forecast being dreadful Monday/Tuesday it might mean the ferry from Ireland will be cancelled/postponed, so have to wait and hope our daughter's trip to visit us will still be on. But whatever, will still be writing my blog tomorrow - so see you then.