Pink soup & apples

Ruby chard soup

I’ve made a frugal soup today, with swede and ruby chard from the garden and goose stock from our New Year’s Eve roast goose. So the only bought ingredients (apart from the rather expensive goose, of course) were a bit of local apple juice and some pearled spelt which comes all the way from Somerset.

The new leaves on the over-wintered chard are a very dark purple with bright pink stems. The cooked leaves are green and have leaked their colour into the soup, turning it a vibrant pinky-red.

Still I feel pleased and satisfied, as I always do when I’ve been able to put a meal on the table mainly with things from the garden or leftover from another meal.

After our soup we will have apple and ginger cake, made for a meeting we went to today of a local smallholders’ club. The apples come from a tree in my mother’s garden, are very tasty and have lasted extraordinarily well since they were picked in the autumn, without us storing them particularly carefully.

My mum can’t remember the variety. Bit of a pity that. If she could then I could grow it! I have been poring over apple varieties on the web this past week, since time is running out for getting them to plant by March.

I am having happy dreams of the time when we have enough apples to make juice and dried apples as well as chutney, jelly, bottled apple compote and so on.

Here are the lovely apples with no name.

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Fruits of my labour

So much work, such little jars!

It is gloomy-grey and pouring with rain outside. The conservatory is the only place in the house where there’s enough light to photograph all these jars. It’s a day for conjuring up the sun, in thought if not in fact, as I said in my rose petal post in June:

That’s the magic we make with preserves, we bottle summer, make ourselves a memory and a promise it will come again, for when we are lost in depths of winter.

This is my last preserving post for the time being, just as the rosehip syrup of Monday’s post was the last outing for bottles, jars and jelly bags – until February and marmalade-time come around again. I thought you might like to know what I have been making this year.

Jams: rose & rhubarb, redcurrant & gooseberry, black & redcurrant, plum with cumin, blackberry & plum and fig & plum.

Chutneys (made by self or partner): courgette & apricot, green tomato, damson & apple and spicy mixed vegetable.

Also: cucumber pickle, hawthorn ketchup, rowan jelly, black hedgerow jelly and plum & apple mincemeat for Christmas.

Then there was the membrillo or quince cheese, which kept me up, watching and stirring, until 3 o’clock in the morning. And jars and jars of fruit compotes and sauces, mostly apple, with blackberry, quince or plum. Our one apple tree was laden and we couldn’t bear to throw away such good food, even onto the compost heap.

I love this laying down the bounty of summer and autumn against winter’s scarcity, even though it’s no longer necessary. It connects me to the changing seasons, the turning year, and to centuries of people doing this before me. It gives me a comforting sense of prudence and providing; and feeds my sense of history.

I must remember all this next time I am swearing and sweating in the kitchen over a pan of fruit. Next year perhaps I will remember to invite friends to share the work and bounty both – though not to stay up until the early hours!

Tap the photo for a bigger version if you want to read all those little labels.

Quite a big kitchen garden

As said in the previous post, my mum and I spent a day seeing gardens in Norfolk, of which my favourite parts were, as they always are, the kitchen gardens. Those pictured above were are Houghton Hall where we also saw a collection of paintings which once belonged to Robert Walpole but have been living in Russia since his heirs sold them to Catherine the Great.

The Rembrandts, Van Dycks and the like filled me with wonder; the octagonal fruit cage pictured above aroused instead a childish covetousness. I don’t think we’ll have room for one quite that big…

Jam tomorrow

Greengage tree

Or perhaps that should read, jam in a few years time…

I planted a plum tree and a greengage yesterday. The one in the picture is the plum, a variety called Czar which is early and supposed to be good for cold climates. The gage is called Ingalls Grimoldby Greengage, named after a Lincolnshire village called Grimoldby, near Louth, and William Ingall, who had a market garden there in the nineteenth century. He raised five varieties of apples there, along with the greengage. I had ruled out having greengages before I found this one, thinking that we are too far north. The helpful man at the East of England Apples and Orchards Project, from whom I bought the trees, told me that Lincolnshire was the furthest north they were generally grown, and Cambridgeshire the furthest north that they were grown commercially in the past.

I like the idea of keeping old varieties of fruit that were developed in my newly-adopted county.

I should have waited until the autumn when we’d had time to make a proper plan about fruit trees, but I didn’t. Oh well. Other fruit likely to be grown against fences – perhaps even an apricot one day, on the back, south-facing wall of the garage (see picture in Leeks past and present post).

I have been reading about Norse and Saxon place-names in the county, and England in general (of which more some other time). Grimoldby looks like a good Norse name; Heckington is squarely Saxon. For some reason things being Saxon gives me a sense of age and continuity while Viking names conjure up something wilder, more exotic, with a sea breeze and salty tang in it; a bit irrational, I know.