With the festive period well and truly upon us (i.e. it is December), it’s time to
foist lovingly bestow gifts of homemade preserves upon friends and family. After my jam– and chutney-making exploits of the late summer, I had a LOT of jars to shift.
In order to jazz up my random assortment of recycled jars, I made some labels.
I was inspired to do the cute faces by one of my favourite instagram accounts, @parade.made, who did an adorable challenge called #100daysofkawaii I recommend checking it out!
I considered making rubber stamps but thought it would be easier just to hand-draw each label.
I had to check the timestamps on my photos to remember when I made the jam and chutney. They should be nice and mature for consumption in the new year.
These look pretty different to the last jars of jam I bothered to label. Aww, past me.
My gardening for the year has come to an end. I have to say that I struggled to stay interested in it beyond August. My loss of focus was partly due to having a lot of other things to work on (both craft and non-craft), but also because the courgette plants grew unruly, the leaves turned grey and the fruit stopped developing so well. It was hard to be as excited. The tomato vines started to blacken, and the purple sprout seedlings I planted out were immediately consumed by pests. No real loss as I loathe Brussels sprouts.
I captured this time lapse video that shows the progress of my little vegetable patch.
Surprisingly, the courgettes were probably the greatest success of the season. They’re really easy to incorporate into cooking and very healthy. I would definitely grow them again, though probably only one plant next time.
I learnt too late that I should have kept the tomatoes at the front of my house, where there is more sun. This meant that I harvested mostly green tomatoes, which just left me with unnecessary preserving work. However, it was just as well I did preserve them. Many of the fruits I didn’t preserve seemed to have some kind of frostbite that made them rot. If I were to grow these tomatoes again (and I have loads of seeds), one vine would definitely be sufficient.
I decided to try fried green tomatoes following Nigel Slater’s recipe. They were all right.
I ate them with garlic mayo, which meant making mayonnaise for the first time. I was surprised by how easy it was.
Lessons from my gardening attempts this year:
- Don’t buy plants or seeds from the pound shop
- Seriously, don’t!
- Physalis is easy to grow in London, but I’m not hugely fond of the fruit
- Keeping herbs alive in the kitchen is hard if you live alone and like going on holiday
I’m not sure yet whether I’ll plant anything next year. Even though it was definitely worthwhile this year, you need plenty of time to use the vegetables once you have managed to grow them. Spare time really is at a premium for me at present.
When I first started looking for courgette recipes at the beginning of the summer, this one for jam stood out immediately. I cut up and froze any parts of courgettes that I didn’t use in my other recipes, and eventually I had nearly 2kg ready to use. I managed to get eight jars of varying sizes from 2kg of courgette.
I haven’t made jam since I attended a workshop with Anna many years ago- before I’d even started this blog. I must say that making the jam was more labour intensive than I’d imagined/remembered.
The courgette released an enormous amount of water. I’m not sure if this was a side-effect of freezing, but also there was a lot of the watery middle bit of courgettes included in what I used. All the water took a very long time to boil off, and I struggled to be patient with it. I tested whether it was set a few times and found the results a little inconclusive. Because I had seen wrinkles on my saucer once, I decided to go ahead and pot.
According to the recipe, this jam will take a few months to mature in flavour, which should mean that it will be well timed to give away for Xmas.
I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to grow tomatoes given that they’re meant to be tricky, and I have a poor gardening track record. However, this is my harvest from two plants.
I decided to take all of them off the vine even though most are still green. It’s starting to get too cold and the vines are dying, which is affecting the fruit. With the experience I now have, I think I would get a lot more ripe tomatoes if I grew them again.
I decided to make some green tomato chutney with the slightly dodgier tomatoes. I followed Nigel Slater’s recipe, doubled. I didn’t have many jars left after my courgette jam exploits so had to make do with an odd selection. I ended up with seven jars of varying sizes- most of them quite large.
I also made a simple salad inspired by my recent holiday to Greece. The tomato is combined with nectarine and ricotta with a basil dressing. It’s a bit like a twist on a tricolore. I also grew the basil. The plant was a bit of a casualty of the holiday, so I had to use it all up quickly.
Recipe from The Silver Island Cookbook.
I froze some grated courgette because I wanted to have another go at making the chocolate courgette cake that I baked a few years ago. It’s based on a BBC Good Food recipe. I think I made a few errors when I was plagiarising it (slap on the wrist to past me), so maybe go from the original! Here’s a picture of the second attempt.
Something that’s really nice about having this blog is the ability to look back on my previous makes, and my thoughts about them. So interesting to see me describing myself as a ‘lifelong loather of the courgette’ when just over three years later, I am eating it on a daily basis.
I felt that the cake turned out a little bit dry this time- I think I shouldn’t have squeezed the courgette. I also think I over-baked the cake slightly. However, my colleagues seemed to enjoy it and one even asked for the recipe, so it can’t have been that bad.
I finally got something other than courgettes out of my garden since I pulled my carrots and beetroot. It’s weird growing root vegetables as you basically have no idea what’s lurking under the ground.
For some reason only one of my beetroot grew to a decent size. I’m not too upset because I’m not that crazy about beetroot anyway. Turns out that I grew a lot of vegetables that I’m not too fond of. The fact is, I used to eat vegetables because they were good for me and not for pleasure. I have to say, though, growing my own has given me a new appreciation for veg.
Anyway, the small yield scuppered my plan of making chutney so I just roasted the beetroot in the oven. This was my first experience with raw beetroot. I followed Jamie Oliver’s recommendation of eating it warm on toast with horseradish. It was okay, but not sure I would make it again.
I was very pleased with my purple carrots because my dad’s girlfriend, who is a gardener, said that carrots are notoriously difficult to grow. I wanted to enjoy them in their raw form so I made some red pepper hummus with which to eat them. I followed this recipe, which produced by far the best hummus I’ve ever made, rivalling store bought. Hummus is one of the few things that I’ve found very difficult to improve by making from scratch.
I increased all of the amounts by 50% due to the ingredients I had on hand, so I now have an enormous quantity of hummus to consume. Fortunately it’s really good with the carrots.
The courgette glut continues. Here I am having harvested my biggest marrow yet, which weighed in at over two kilos.
Do you see the symbolism?
I’m hoping to get something other than courgettes out of the garden soon. I have a lot of fruit on my tomato plants, but it’s all still green. I think my carrots and beetroot are nearly ready too.
I made another traybake thing, this time based on this recipe from the BBC Food website. I used a whole pack of my favourite caramelised onion sausages for the stuffing and it was awesome. I think this might be my favourite courgette recipe so far.
I feel like this is a pretty flexible recipe. For the filling I used
- 6 caramelised onion sausages
- 2 onions
- 2 cloves garlic
- Breadcrumbs made from two slices of bread
- 50g extra mature cheddar
Doesn’t look too bad once it’s tarted up on a salad, does it?