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Sunday, 27 November 2011

Lemon and lime cordial

Over the last month or so we have been collecting homemade items to include in our Christmas hampers. One of the things we have made is lemon and lime cordial. It is so easy to make, has no artificial ingredients and tastes so much better than the ones you buy in the shop!

You will need:
1 kg of caster sugar
500 ml of water
10 lemons
5 limes

This makes about 1.5 litres.

1. Using a potato peeler peel the rind of 4 lemons and 2 limes; do this gently so that you include as little of the white pith as you can. (The pith is bitter and will change the taste of your cordial).
2. Put the water in to a large saucepan and bring to the boil.
3. Stir in the sugar.
4. Once the sugar is dissolved add the lemon and lime peel and simmer for about an hour, stirring occasionally.
5. While you wait juice the lemons and limes (a food processor with a juicing attachment will help with this). You need about 1.5 litres of juice.
6. After the hour is up, add this juice to the saucepan and simmer for a further 30 minutes.
7. Remove the peel from the cordial (using a slotted spoon) and lay out on greasproof paper.
8. Bottle up the cordial in pre-cleaned and dried bottles. Store in a cool dry place until opened when it should be put in the fridge. It tastes great with sparkling water, a slice of lemon and some fresh mint!
10. You can preserve the peel by sprinkling it with a little icing sugar. It is delicous as a sweet or sprinkled on ice cream. 

The hamper also includes carrot jam (see earlier post), pineapple chutney, spice grinders and recipe cards.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Handmade baubles

About a month ago we decided it would be really nice to make all of the Christmas presents we were going to give this year including baubles. We have made six different types (which you can see above); some of them are a little challenging and time consuming but some are very easy. We have included instructions below for one of the easier types, but I actually I think it is one of the most effective. This is a great project for a rainy afternoon or to keep the kids occupied (you don't need to use a needle if you don't want to!).  We hope you have as much fun making them as we did!

You will need:
Coloured paper 
Double sided tape or glue
A needle
Some thread
A cardboard tube
Some ribbon for hanging the bauble

Step 1. Cut out 12 strips of paper about 12.5 cm long and 2 cm wide in various colours.

Step 2. Stack the strips of paper one on top of each other and cut the each end so that they are rounded. Push a pin through the centre of one end of the strips (see picture 2).

Step 3. Stick one end (the end without the hole) of each strip of paper so that you create a circle. Alternate colours so that you get a nice stripy effect.

Step 4. Turn the circle of paper over so the white side is facing up. Cut a section of cardboard tube (about 4 cm tall) and place this in the middle of the circle (this won't be seen when the bauble is complete but will help to stop it being squashed). Thread a needle with cotton, pull the cotton through and then tie both ends together several times to make a big knot. Take the strip of paper that is on top of your upside down circle and fold it up so that the free end is directly above the centre of the circle. Thread the first few centimetres of the needle up through the hole you created earlier at the end of the first strip of paper. You don't want to pull the needle all of the way through because you are going to use it to guide all of the strips in to place.

Put a little bit of double sided tape or glue on to the next strip of paper next to the hole you made earlier. Fold the strip up, push the hole on to the needle and stick the strip in to place. This can be a little fiddly at first but means you get a round bauble. If you would rather you can ignore the instructions about the needle and just stick the strips in place.

Step 5. Repeat this for all of the remaining strips so that you create a ball keeping the cardboard tube in the centre. The needle should still be in place and all of your strips should be stuck in place.

Step 6. Pull the needle up through the top of the bauble. Cut the cotton just below the needle and you should have two threads of cotton. You can either use these to make a loop and hang your bauble or you can tie in a loop of ribbon as we have done.

Your bauble is made and is ready for your tree! I hope the instructions make sense, it is worth perservering because the results are really very pretty! Enjoy.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Flowers to last the winter

The days are drawing in and we had our first frost this week so the number of flowers in the garden has massively reduced. One of the only flowers in full bloom is our red Rudbeckia  (photographs I took early in the week can be seen in the borders of our blog atm).

I always miss having bunches of flowers in the house when autumn comes. It seems a shame to buy flowers from the supermarket that have been flown for miles and will only last a week or two. So this year we chose to grow some flowers that we could dry and have in a vase all winter long. Here is the result - a fairly rustic bunch of flowers but beautiful none the less and they will stay fresh all winter long.

We have included Helichrysums, Statice, Alliums, Cornflowers, Lavender and Dill flowers. We dried them in our airing cupboard (but any dark and dry space will do). The cornflowers seemed to bleach sometimes and weren't the most successful but the rest of the flowers seem to have kept their colour amazingly. I think for a more elegant look next year we might do extra vases with only one type of flower in - having said that I quite like the hedgerow look we have ended up with! :-)

Friday, 4 November 2011

Our first post - carrot jam

Last weekend we started to tidy the garden up for the winter and discovered that hiding in the back of one of the borders were some carrots that we hadn't picked yet. It has been a good year for carrots but I thought we only had a few left - oh how wrong I was! The next 5 minutes revealed over a kilo of carrots, in beautiful condition, waiting to be eaten. We already had some supermarket carrots in the fridge, so I dug out a recipe for carrot jam and on Saturday morning we started to grate carrots! 

1 kg carrots
2 lemons
1 orange
900 g granulated white sugar
6 cloves

900 ml water
1 tsp grated nutmeg
2 tsp ground cinnamon

On the night before you want to cook the jam wash the carrots, peel and grate them in a food processer. Grate the rinds of the orange and lemons and then squeeze the juice. Add the carrots, peel, juice and sugar in to a large saucepan. Tie the cloves in to a square of muslin and add to the pan. Stir the carrots up mixing all of the flavours in and leave overnight.   
When you get back to your jam pour over the water and add the nutmeg and cinnamon stirring the mixture through. Heat the jam gently for about 10 minutes and then bring to the boil. It can take anywhere from 30 minutes to about an hour for this to boil down depending on how hot you have it and how much water the carrots released overnight. When it is ready carefully remove the cloves and then allow the jam to cool for a little bit (about 5 - 10 minutes). You can tell if it is ready by spooning some on to a chilled plate and seeing if, after leaving it for a minute, it wrinkles under your finger. When it does pour in to sterilised jars and seal whilst the jars and jam are still hot. 

It took quite a long time for ours to fully cook but the results, as you can see, are 4 jars of beautifully coloured jam. We had a bit left over which we tried on toast and it is very tasty - a bit like marmalade. Our first ever attempt at making jam a success! Definitely a recipe to keep for future carrot gluts.