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Archive for October, 2015

Mincemeat Mistake

Posted by --- on Friday 30 October, 2015

I posted on one of my favourite forums about having a glut of pears. I don’t have a huge tree full but I did have several kilograms to use up. The suggestions were wine, with a secondary ferment to make it sparkling, jars of mulled pears, mincemeat, muffins, bottled in brandy, pear and pineapple jam, pears added to savoury dishes, poached in orange and spices, and chutney.

At the time, I wasn’t drinking so I dismissed all of the alchol suggestions. I wasn’t going to make the mincemeat either thinking I could pick up cheap mincepies in the supermarkets anyway but the lady who posted told me that homemade pies are much better.

The recipe is

4 x 450g jars

  • 1kg pears , peeled , cored and chopped in to 1cm cubes
  • finely grated zest and juice of 2-3 oranges (you will need 200ml juice)
  • 500g apples, bramley or other that cooks down to a puree.
  • 200g currants
  • 200g raisins
  • 200g sultanas
  • 100g orange marmalade
  • 250g demera sugar
  • 1/2tsp ground cloves
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 nutmeg, grated
  • 50ml ginger wine (optional)
  • 100g chopped walnuts (i tend to leave these out)
  • 50ml brandy or sloe gin (I usually forget about this step  )
  1. Peel and chop the apple and put into a saucepan with the orange juice. Cook gently until tender, about 15mins. Blend to a purée in a liquidiser or push through a sieve. You should end up with about 700g of purée.
  2. Put purée into a large bowl and add all other ingredients except brandy or gin. Mix thoroughly, then cover and leave to stand for 12 hours.
  3. Preheat oven to 130oC/ gas mark 1/2. Put the mincemeat in a large baking dish and bake, uncovered, for 2-2 1/2 hours. Stir in brandy or gin, then spoon into warm, sterilised jars, making sure there are no air pockets. Seal and store in a dry, dark, cool place. Use within 12 months.

Which, on searching for mincemeat recipes, I found was the River Cottage recipe.

She also suggested that you could replace 100g of raisins or sultanas with crystalised ginger for a twist. You can try other variations as long as you aim for 700g puree and 600g dried fruit i.e plum and russet.

I already had apples and pears thanks to the trees we planted on the lotty, I had brandy left over from something I made last year,some demerara sugar in the cupboard, and I had all of the spices in my spice box but had to buy the rest of the ingredients. The currants were pre-mixed and soaked in brandy from Aldi for £2.99 for 800g, the oranges were £1.49 for six and I also bought two jars of marmalade because I bought one from Aldi and another from Asda because I forgot I’d bought the first one! Only myself and DSK like mince pies so I just buy one box so this is working out expensive and I haven’t costed for the pastry yet… But, it’s Christmas and it’s using homegrown produce and of course, anything home grown/made is far better than anything mass produced isnt’ it?!

I ended up making it as a spur of the moment thing. I watched the end of Paul o Grady For the love of Dogs, decided to look him up (no idea why), saw that he had a radio show on BBC2 (I’ve never listened to BBC 2 before) everyone was in bed so I thought, I’d listen to him on my ipad and make the mincemeat. I also decided after a little research to put the mincemeat into the slow cooker overnight. I have no idea what radio 2 is normally like and I normally listen to captial which is more dance stuff but I did enjoy listening to Paul. It was duets night and to be honest I can’t say I enjoyed the music except No More Tears with Barabara Streisand and Donna Summer which I haven’t heard for years.

Anyway I sort of followed the recipe. I swapped the pears for the apples as per the river cottage recipe, I chopped the pears into tiny matchstick pieces so they looked like the suet you see in mincemeat normally. I used 2 tsp mixed spice (which is a mix of all the spices listed) instead of the seperate ones and added 1tsp extra cinnamon. I also changed the walnut for almonds and used up the last of what was in the bag (160g). I ground in too because my fillings have fallen out and I’m too scared to go to the dentist!

I didn’t purée the apples thinking they’d purée themselves when they  cook in the slowcooker. Anyway, it took a while but I really enjoyed it.  It was quiet with everyone in bed and the smell was lovely. I also kept tasting it and it tasted gorgeous! I couldn’t wait for the flavours to develop overnight. I could see me eating it out of the jars! At 11:45 I put the lid on the slow cooker and turned it to low with a final spoonful before bed. The smell of boozy oranges and spices wafted up the stairs so I could still smell it when I went up.

8am the next morning I was expecting the same strong smell but I couldn’t smell it very much.  When I looked in the cooker the mincemeat was a dark brown. I tasted it and it had lost it’s lovely flavour. It didn’t taste burnt but didn’t taste good either. I’m guessing the slow cooker got too hot. Even though it was on low it was bubbling. I was gutted. I wished I’d just left it. I threw the lot in the recycle bin because no one would enjoy eating it.

I have since bought sultanas and currants to make some more. I wont be cooking it in the slow cooker though!

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Posted by --- on Monday 12 October, 2015

It’s been quiet on the lotty this week. I did spend a few hours over there but spent most of it socialising. It was lovely though and I came home with some shetland black potatoes from my very good friend, plus a couple of pounds of pears from Plot holder N and a brandywine tomato from plot 8. I roasted my shetland blacks with a little oil, some home grown garlic (the orignal cloves of which also came from Plot holder N last year) and some onions (bought due to failed crop this year) and I roasted them til the onions went crispy! I also put a Seeded cod fillet in the oven to bake and put the brandywine tomato with it. It was lovely!  To be honest, I dont know if all beefsteak tomatoes taste the same as I’ve never bought or grown one before but I’ll be adding brandywine seeds to my growing list next year.

I have had some gardening bargains this week. Firstly as we were leaving Asda (DH was in a good mood and came shopping!) I spotted a stella cherry tree for £5. The trees only just been put outside and as I put my hand on it I heard a lady tell the person she was with that she was going back for the cherry tree. A quick scan (with the tree in my hand) showed that the one I was holding was the only cherry left with tons of apples and pears (I’ve been back twice and they still haven’t got any more) and DH said he’d buy it for me. I’ve already got a morello cherry that I bought from keepers nursery last year with several other fruit trees but the desert cherries I’ve bought the past three years have all died so this is my last try. I’m going to dig up a non productive apple on the lotty and replace it with this. The apple is a braeburm and I’ve already got one of those on the plot.

Another bargain I had this week was a £1 greenhouse! DH constantly complains about my current big greenhouse which is a 10×8. (I also have a small 6×4 that I bubble wrap and occasionally heat) He doesn’t like that the panes of glass in the big greenhouse are non standard and have to be cut. On our estate our neighbours have smashed several panes of glass. We’ve had cups thrown through it along with beer cans and stones and one year it was shot several times with an air rifle. I could understand it if we were close to the edge and it was very visible but we’re in the middle of an estate with huge gardens with high fences and hedges.

Anyway we have had to have several panes replaces and to be honest I can’t see a problem in getting it cut (it’s a problem having to replace it due to horrible neighbours!) but still… Anyway, the last time we moved it, I had the not-so-good idea of putting it on scaffold boards which was great at the time but a few years later and they’re rotting. It means we’re going to have to take it down and resit it on bricks as I did originally. I’ll do all the brickwork but I’m not tall enough to reach the clips to get the glass out so I’ll have to enlist DH again. As DH doesn’t like the greenhosue I thought I’d have a quick look on ebay and spotted this 8×6 free with most of the glass which would keep DH happy as they are standard 2×2 size. Of course I jumped on it, especially as it was only half an hour away too. The chap we were buying it from asked us to pay the £1 that he’d listed it for which he’d later refund. He didn’t but you can’t complain at paying £1 for a greenhouse!

DH wanted us to sit it on what he calls a proper base, personally I can’t see what’s wrong with bricks but to keep him happy we looked at buying one from ebay. They were selling for £55 plus £5 postage. I looked to see if that was the normal price and found them at B&Q reduced to £50 from £60. As there’s a B&Q pretty much on our doorstep and it was £10 cheaper I suggested we buy it from there. When I got there they were selling their last two green painted bases for £35 each. I managed, on my own, to get one onto a trolly and happily approached the til thinking I’d managed to save £25 over the ebay base and our (my) greenhouse would only cost £26. When the lady who served me said “that’s £15 please” as she did a double take at the base and the til, I handed over my notes and almost ran to the car before they chased after me! £15! That’s a quarter of the cost of the base we were going to buy and I prefer it in green too!
Yesterday we managed to get the greenhouse dismantled and loaded up in the cars and trailer in under and hour and a half. There were a few cracked panes of glass already but we didn’t break one when we dismantled it. While I was standing inside it though, I felt that it was very small compared to my 10×8. I didn’t want to tell DH so waited until he was distracted watching the telly! He was fine about it and suggested we site it over the lotty as either a greenhouse or use the frame as a fruit cage. I promised to measure our existing greenhouse to see if its much bigger and have a think about it. I’m not sure how to use it for the best because I can’t see us using another greenhouse if we manage to get the tunnel done. So I’m going to have to decide whether to downsize my big greenhouse and replace it (I’ve had it for over 20 years!) with a smaller one but first I need to unload the 8×6 from the car….

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