Saturday, 15 August 2009

Preserves day

Up early this morning at the start of my preserves day...I snapped up Pam Corbin's River Cottage Preserves handbook as soon as it was published last year, but failed to make one of the most intriguing recipes - Pontack sauce. It's a mixture of elder berries, vinegar and spices. So I hiked up to Tesco to get cider vinegar and sugar, as I was planning a repeat of last year's fabulous blackberry vinegar too.
There's an elder tree in the garden, so armed with a plastic bowl and secateurs, I grabbed several bunches of berries and gently squidged them off their stalks. Next door neighbour Tom is has other plans for the berries - he's going to make some wine.
The first stage of the Pontack involves a very slow cook of the berries steeped in vinegar, so into the oven they went. Meanwhile I was on to stage 2 of the day - off to the Paddock for blackberries. The Paddock is a lovely little nature reserve tucked off Ferry Bridge Lane, and last year the blackberry crop was superb. It's pretty good this year too, but the first thing I spotted was sloes.
I think sloes are normally more a September crop, but there were quite a few ripe berries which I bagged to put in the freezer. I spotted some by the allotments last Sunday, so I'll gather more tomorrow and make sloe gin during the week. On to today's main harvest...
The berries looked really good. But I'd stupidly forgotten that nettles love growing round brambles and I was wearing sandals. But stung toes and scratched fingers make it feel like you've really worked. I picked for just under an hour, visiting my favourite bushes. And I noticed that my hands smelled faintly of vanilla - not a scent I'd ever associated with blackberries before.
Back home, there was a pleasant vinegary smell coming from the oven. My bramble harvest weighed in at 1.5 kilos - brilliant! Pam's fruit vinegar recipe calls for 1k of fruit which is steeped for 5 days in 600ml cider vinegar. You just press the fruit gently so that the juices mingle with the vinegar. I'll do a later post on what happens next.
The allotment toms are ripening beautifully - they look so pretty. The tastiest are the orange ones - I'm kicking myself for not transferring the labels into the ground. The mini cucumbers are doing well too.
Out in the garden, my oriental lily - an impulse buy from B&Q - is heavenly. Smells divine and the flowers are magnificent.


meemalee said...

Ooh, the Pontack sauce sounds good - what do you eat it with? Dark meats?

Lilies are my favourite flower :)

fran39 said...

Well guessed, meemalee - Pam says it's good with venison and liver. And she advises to add a dollop to stews.