Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Time of Plenty

Then came the autumne all in yellow clad,
As though he joyed in him plenteous store,
Laden with fruits that made him laugh, full glad
That he had banisht hunger, which to-fore
Had by the belly oft him pinched sore:
Upon his head a wreath, that was enrold
With ears of corne of every sort, he bore;
And in his hand a sickle he did holde,
To reape the ripened fruits the which the earth had yold.
I do love this time of year. I like the sunshine of the days and the crisp chill of the mornings and I like that all the fruits of the hedgerow (bar the sloes) are ready for the picking. This year has been so good for fruit. My strawberries did very well and one or two plants are still fruiting, my apple tree was so well laden that a small branch broke under the weight of the fruit before they were fully ripe, I'll have to jelly them. But my first love has always been the wild fruits of our countryside: the elderberries, now just going over; the blackberries, to be picked before Michaelmas (lest the devil gets in 'em!); crab apples on the canalside* near where we live; and damsons and bullaces, old fashioned fruit so good for jamming and preserving.
Of course you can make a good gin with damsons**, just as you can with sloes. I've done it and the taste is just a tad fruitier that that of sloe gin. You can also make a great, easy setting, jam*** which is my personal favourite as it's nice and sharp and really good on generously buttered toast, preferably eaten whilst watching Sherlock Holmes on the telly on a rainy Saturday tea-time. However, this year we made chutney from our damsons. It was a bit of a family affair, the girls helped by squidging the damsons to remove the stones and stirring the chutney whilst it was simmering and I hope they'll remember that they made it when we sit down to cold cuts and chutney this Boxing Day. You'll find the recipe I used here, it's Delia Smith recipe so you just can't go wrong.
I'll be doing a lot more preserving this month, as a friend of ours from church always gives away free marrows from his allotment, so I'll make this chutney too, also I'll have to jelly my poor, fallen apples, perhaps with the last of the elderberries, and I may even go blackberry picking this weekend with the girls, if we get enough of them I'll jam them and if not I'll just stew them and make a pie on Michaelmas.
Now, I've been doing a lot of knitting over the summer and I think the knitting phase will continue throughout the autumn. I'm just finishing off my final bolero, just like the one above, but in petrol blue, and with a picot edging rather than a cable edge. These boleros have been fun to knit, particularly for my little one as they take on two and a bit balls of Wendy Mode Aran, which is cheap as chips in the shops at the moment and a good yarn for knitting kid's clothes (NOT HAND WASH! Hurrah!). However, the bolero fad has faded and my eldest has requested that I knit her some new gloves, I'm sorely tempted to use a vintage 1950s pattern I have for some fairisle ones, but I think she wants the gloves before summer starts so I may find a less ambitious pattern! I will post on them if they turn out to be exciting.
Well, I must be off now as I have to tidy up Dulcie's room. It's a pig sty (or, as my youngest says, a pig sigh - know this, gentle reader, the state of the room would indeed make a pig sigh) and I'm letting her off tidying it up because it is her first week of secondary school and she's feeling a bit overwhelmed. Oh, but before I go, did you know that the brilliant Tales from the Green Valley is being repeated on BBC4 on Tuesday evenings, 7:30? Well, you do now! Anon goode huswives, anon!
*You find crab apples on the canalside becasue the bargees would throw their apple cores onto the grass verges by the canal.
**If you want to know more about making sloe or damson gin I could post about it in October, but just let me know if it interests you.
***This is a great jam to make for the beginner. If you want the recipe email me.


monix said...

Now I am weighed down with guilt. I decided that I am too busy with knitting, sewing and visiting to do any preserving this year. Perhaps I'll make some apple jelly to salve my conscience a little. Please don't drum me out of the goode huswives.

I had to look up bullace, never having heard of it before. I will have to do some local research to find where they might grow in Devon.

Angela said...

I had my first taste of sloe gin on Christmas Day 2007. It tasted wonderful, so I had a second glass. I do not remember anything more of the day. My family are STILL laughing about my drunken antics.
No wonder it is called Mother's Ruin!
i have never DARED to drink it since!!!

Dulce Domum said...

Hi Monix
Think on young Monix. What would happen if there was a nuclear disaster and you're stuck for three weeks in your understairs cupboard without jam? Arnarchy, I predict.

Bullaces are well worth looking for. They're not very obvious, but once you've got your eye in you'll find them all over the shop.

Hi Angela
Ah, sloe gin. Tastes like Ribena kicks like meths. You must take it by the thinmble full dear, for medicinal purposes only. Perhaps when you have an attack of the vapours?

PS. If you know what "the vapours" are please let me know as I quite fancy some sloe gin.

Left-Handed Housewife said...

I never thought about making my own gin--oh, Dulce, you are an inspiration!

I am knitting lots, preserving nothing--but my sanity, I hope. I will live vicariously through you when it comes to homemade jam.

Thanks for the award! Of course, you have given it to everyone I would have given it to--it's like this little neighborhood we all live in. Can I give it to people who already have it? Or should I bestow it on complete strangers, just to freak them out?

Do let me know.


Gumbo Lily said...

I've been canning peaches and pears with my DIL and DD and just finished some apple sauce with a friend. Today I put up a cannerful of the ripe tomatoes from the garden. It's a busy season to be sure.

Love, love, love that knitted bolero! You knitters impress me.


Dulce Domum said...

Hi Frances
Don't worry about the award if I've nominated all your faves too! This is small town blogging, we all know each other.

I have one or two bottles of sloe gin left over from a batch I made a couple of years ago. After I commented to Angela I thought I'd have a glass. It was very smooth and warming, it gets better with age. I gave a bottle to my mother the last time she visited to help her sleep, she downed a bottle in a week and was zonked out from 9:30pm to 6:30 am every day. She said it was the best cure for insomnia she'd ever tried. I'm like Dr Feelgood. If I make more this year, I'll publish the recipe.

Hi Jodi
I like the busy-ness of autumn though. It feels like I have a connection to all of those other goodewives in their still rooms of yore. I'd like to dry some sage and get some mint jelly made if I have the time, but no peaches to preserve in Warwiickshire more's the pity.

Angela said...

Hi DD - you just won my blog giveaway! please send me your address and I will pop the parcel in the post [probably after the weekend]
blessings x

MrsParkinson1993 said...

Hi Dulce, Please do post the recipe for Sloe gin, I think some would make my husband very happy!! I have copied out the recipe for chutney, so hopefully that will come out OK!

Have a good day!


Dulce Domum said...

Your wish is my comman Mrs P. I'll either do it later on today or tomorrow morning.