How To Make Damson Curd

Surprisingly I found recipes for every sort of fruit curd under the sun on the internet and in my cook books but not for this so I have winged it and thought I’d share what I did.

For this recipe I have given the weight of cooked puréed de-stoned damsons. I think you need about 600-650 g fresh fruit to get this quantity.

The damsons I used were (I was told by Neil whose field they were growing in)  a variety known as Zwetschgen in Germany. They are bigger than the bullet like damsons and much smaller than the ones I have seen in the green grocers sometimes called damson plums. I am no expert in the many varieties of damsons. But you can always research more and read all about them on various sites like Wikipedia.

These ones were about 2.5 cms in length, dark, fat and ripe with a bit of give to the flesh. And, though tart, sweet enough to eat raw without making your mouth pucker.

IMG_4185.jpgI picked these ones with a  volunteer friend from the Community Garden at Blaise who lives near the Old Severn Bridge at Aust and happens to have a field lined down one side with glorious damson laden trees and blackberries. Who could resist an invitation to pick damsons? Not me!

The only drawback with damsons is their little stones and there are various ways to deal with them, you need patience!

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damson curd

Joanna’s Damson Curd

per batch

Makes 4  7oz jars

500g of cooked and puréed unsweetened damsons
125g unsalted good butter
300g caster sugar
3 eggs + 1 egg yolk

Wash and gently cook the fruit in as little water as you can get away with. A slow simmer rather than a full boil. I cooked down about 2 kgs of fruit in a couple of cms of water. Don’t add sugar at this point.

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When the skins are soft remove the stones by hand and either put the fruit pulp in the fridge or freeze it for another day if you have as much as I did or carry on as follows:-

If you have a food mill (I have one made by Good Grips which gets a lot of use) then pass the fruit through that as it will also help find any sneaky stones as well as breaking the cooked fruit down into a purée. You can also use a traditional sieve and  back of a wooden spoon to press the fruit through and prepare the purée.

Wash the jars in hot soapy water, rinse, and put on a tray in a warm oven to sterilise. Put the lids in a small pan of boiling water till just before needed.

Crack the eggs into a small bowl and whisk lightly.

In a Bain Marie or a double saucepan put the butter, sugar and fruit purée and stir over a gentle heat till the butter is melted.  If using a bowl over a saucepan remember not to let the bowl touch the water. Keep the heat on low all the way through this process.

Whisk the eggs in and keep whisking and stirring the mixture until it thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon, this can take about ten minutes. Take your time and keep the heat low or you get scrambled fruit egg! Fruit curds continue to thicken up as they cool.

Pot up, screw the lids on, leave to cool, label with a two week use by date and a note to keep in fridge as this has a relatively short fridge shelf life. A good one to share with friends!

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Use the curd to fill cakes, tarts, slather on crumpets and toast, in desserts, eat out of jar very quickly so the photo blurs…

 

Lemon Curd by Zeb Bakes

PS I have totally forgotten I have blogged about making fruit curd before. So if you want a recipe for citrus curds read the old post. I. Have. Totally. Forgotten. So if I repeat myself that is because I am getting old and forgetful.

And I think it is that long  (three years) since I last made it too. And such a pity as I love it so much!

 

Charles Dowding Open Day at Home Acres

Open Day

Open Day

First a confession : in the age of sat nav all sorts of odd things happen. Yesterday Charles Dowding had an Open Day at his home, we had last visited in 2012 at Lower Farm .

Flourishing beds

Flourishing beds

We went with a couple of friends from Blaise Community Garden who were interested in learning more about the no-dig method and it was only after about half an hour, that Brian remarked this isn’t the same garden we went to last time. I was slightly baffled and Brian continued   –  it’s a different house and the garden was on a slope and it was bigger – I looked around and thought, yes, when we arrived it looked a bit different and I remembered there had been a yard and apricot trees up against the house, so we asked Charles who said with a huge beam and trying to keep a straight face that he had moved and he was very glad we hadn’t gone to the old house!

Vegetables to be envious of

Vegetables to be envious of

So how do these things happen?  I am used to gardens changing, to old overgrown places being restored from woodland and decay to open healthy spaces, I have seen a few of those in my lifetime and I have a poor visual memory also; I would make a bad historian and I ignored the name change and the landscape and the house and focussed as always on the plants and the beds and ignored the bits that didn’t fit with my memory. In a way they weren’t important. But it was yet another lesson in how fallible memory can be.

Anyway, Charles has worked his magic and his skill in three years to make a new garden and productive growing space and it is as wonderful and enviable as the photos show here. Lots of information on his methods can be found on his website No dig Gardening – Charles Dowding and in his books.

These are some of Brian’s photos from our visit yesterday which I hope convey a sense and taste of the place.

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Apple Trees in a strip bed

We were particularly interested in his notes about growing fruit trees in strip beds and keeping them carefully pruned so they didn’t get too tall and the fruit remained pickable by hand.

apple trees

apple trees

Polytunnel tomatoes

Polytunnel tomatoes

The tomatoes grow beautifully up strings in the polytunnels, there was a very interesting experiment with a tumbling tomato growing in a mushroom box on a shelf that seemed to be going well.

tumbling tomatoes

tumbling tomatoes

I was very envious of the celeriac and the cabbages were remarkably hole free and quite glorious. Brian wanted his beetroots, I wanted everything!

polytunnel envy

polytunnel envy

There were flat yellow beans that we had for supper; a variety called Golden Gate.  There were borlotti drying on their stems, masses of basil and herbs, oca, salsola, tree spinach, a huge feathery asparagus bed, all sorts of wonderful vegetables in amongst the carrots, parsnips and more.

lettuces being harvested on a regular basis by picking the outside leaves for salad bags

lettuces being harvested on a regular basis by picking the outside leaves for salad bags (and the lower half of Sara Venn)

onions drying

onions drying

Could I do it? maybe not, but I can always dream !

Ham Hock and Kale Soup

IMG_0447.JPGOn Saturday we made soup. It was a joint effort. I stared out into the garden (it was a cold day inside and out as misted window panes were being finally replaced and so it was like living in a barn as the saying goes)  and noticed that there was still a small cluster of dwarf kale plants in the raised bed. Continue reading

50% Einkorn Sourdough Bread

Oh ho a bread post!

EinkornloafEinkorn is one of the older forms of wheat that is cultivated in a domestic form to this day.

Once upon a time I hand ground some einkorn grain that my friend Mandy brought me from Germany and made a loaf with it and wrote a little post about it.   That long ago loaf looked like this

The Einkorn Crumb

An early attempt at making einkorn bread

In French this grain is called petit épautre and in English einkorn or little spelt, and in Italian piccolo farro or so Wikipedia tells us. Wikipedia also claims it is not good for making bread but I am currently making a 50/50 regular wheat/einkorn sourdough which rises well enough for me!  It is more expensive to buy than ordinary bread flour, no doubt because the threshing is more difficult and the yields are lower and it is probably not grown in huge quantities for bread making purposes. From a value point of view it is quite a good idea to mix it with some less expensive bread flour and also you will then get a bit of lift from the gluten in the more modern flour. In the UK the easiest place to get hold of einkorn is from a store that stocks Dove Flours or online. Continue reading

Growing and Eating Salsola Agretti (aka Salsola Soda)

In which a post mysteriously appears on my old blog, slightly obsessive in detail but that’s me!

salsola agretti steamed

Salsola agretti, opposite leaved saltwort, Friars Beard is a joy of a vegetable to discover if you are like me, always looking over the fence – in this case the internet fence  – and seeing what people eat in other countries. I don’t think I could ever fit a rice paddy in my suburban garden and I don’t really have space for growing melons and other ground hungry plants much as I would love to try, but this plant, which kept appearing here and there on my Instagram feed, really took my fancy so I tracked down some seed and read as much as I could and looked for photos and based on what I found I had a go at growing it last year. I have to say I love it. Continue reading

Bits and pieces : kitchen and garden

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This is the noonday sun on the last day in August.  Today is the first of September, the beginning of the new year in my head.

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In my kitchen there is a box of meringue fingers studded with toasted hazelnuts from Normandy – a gift to Brian from my sister, Brian likes them crumbled up on top of fresh fruit with yoghurt as a dessert.

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And there were also some very useful indeed sachets of yoghurt starter enzymes (another thoughtful gift from my sister)  for when your old home made yoghurt has gone a bit beyond being used to seed a new batch. Still wondering why no one in the UK stocks these. Lakeland stock EasiYo, all the way from the Antipodes but not these made in Europe. Funny old world….

asier gurk pickle

Pickled Danish cucumber, the asie gurk, from seed sent me by the lovely Misky,  grown by me outdoors here at home in pots with local manure to help them along, peeled and brined and made according to this recipe  and then lovingly waterbath processed by Brian. I don’t think I would make them without his help as I don’t like handling hot jars, damp with boiling steam from the oven.

I use the pickle juice to thin down our current salad dressing, which is a tsp of dijon mustard mixed in a little home made yoghurt and does a very good impression of a mayonnaise with no oil worked into it. The cucumbers are a joy and a delight and much nicer (variety name : the Langelands Giant) than many of the other varieties I have sampled this year. So many cucumbers are full of seeds and surprisingly bitter, these ones have always been sweet and crisp.

I left a tray of my own home saved angelica seed at the Community Garden at Blaise, where I do a bit of volunteering,  hoping it would germinate and the magic of the place has made it happen already. It is supposed to need a period of cold before coming up and this has taught me that books are not always right.

IMG_6992 I was delighted! I suspect not many people have the patience to grow it, it can take up to three years to get stems large enough to candy, or even that much interest in candying and eating it I got there this year having waited patiently for several years and felt great personal satisfaction and one of these days will make some buns or some icecream and use the angelica I candied at home.

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Angelica archangelica coming into flower earlier this year.

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Candied stems drying, they will keep for ages now.

If you want to know how to do it, you could pop over to my acquaintance Dan at the Apothecary’s Garden as I learnt the basics from him.

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Here is my little old mushrooming basket, given to me by my dear friend Hazel, who passed away many years ago now, I remember her when I pick it up and carry it with me, as I carry her in my heart always. Here it is filled with tomatoes and herbs and some wild blackberries, calendula flowers and cucumbers, and a fairy lights chilli plant coming home from Blaise Community Garden.

 

Apples are falling off the tree before ripening for some reason and the pear tree has long spindly branches and too many pears so I took a whole lot off the other day and bottled them and hope the pear tree won’t break too many more of its branches. I need to get a lesson from someone in pruning.

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A squirrel has had most of the nuts off the red hazel but has left me a symbolic handful

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and here is the eternal game being played out by my hairy friends and companions, another good prompt to get out of the house and breathe fresh air.

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Scaling a Bread Recipe to suit your Needs – BreadStorm comes to the rescue!

WithSesameCrust

Friday 29th August 2014

Hello my friends, hope you are all well and busy. This is one of my quick and slightly amateurish posts to point you to the BreadStorm site where you can play with a couple of dough formulae if you have a spare moment and explore what it can do.

I had hoped that WordPress would let me embed this interactive version of the kefir levain on the blog direct but it looks as if I have to upload it to BreadStorm’s site, which I have done and if you use the links below they will take you to their site and you can see how the magic of their BreadStorm scaling works. 

So no longer is one stuck with pen and pencil or calculator and rusty maths trying to figure out how to make a recipe smaller to make only one loaf, or bigger to feed a house full of guests, or even deal with the sometimes baffling mysteries of bakers percentages, this is an easy way round it.

Now I dare say if you are a wizard with spreadsheets and formulae you can do this all for yourself and I have tried a few spreadsheets over the years that other people have made, but for people like me, with mid-range maths and a habit of making errors who are baffled for the most part by spreadsheets, (ok I admit it, I loathe spreadsheets)  this is a gift.

Kefir Rimacinata Bread

You can do it on the site the links take you to and print it off or write the numbers down once you have used the nifty scaling boxes to suit yourself. I have the  BreadStorm reader app which is free on my iPhone and on my Ipad. You can find these on the App Store. You can download the free readers and download the formula and other formulae that have been published on the web. There are details on the BreadStorm site.  I have the fully fledged paid for version on my desktop and that means I can write and edit my own formulae and read and scale them. The free BreadStorm reader versions don’t give you the ability to write and edit formula but they are perfect for scaling up and down. Here is the Date Kefir Rimacinata formula  in a bun file for you to play with :-

I used it yesterday as I was baking to scale up my formula to make 2.5kgs of dough. It’s a versatile and useful addition to my small baking life, and now I have got the hang of it I suspect I will use it more and more.

everydaysourdough

… and if all that is just too much and a bit too geeky, here is one of Brian’s photos of tamarisk planted along the seafront at Burnham. You can see the wooden lighthouse on stilts in the distance. We walked out and the rain sailed behind us and inland and it warmed up nicely and we had a lovely ball chasing time with the dogs. As you can see it is in full crazy pink bloom right now!

Apparently it is used as a windbreak plant. It was crawling with bees of all shapes and sizes and scented the air with honey.  I recommend a walk on the beach to clear your head and put life in perspective, but to each their own. Have a lovely weekend all!

TamariskatBurnham

Disclosure -( I believe this is what one should write yes?)

(I am not paid by BreadStorm in any shape or form. I beta-tested their iPad app for a couple of months this summer for fun, and I have the paid for version on my desktop, paid for by me and they have not asked me to write anything about their software or promote it. I do this for love of bread and because I like their apps.)

 

NB … Just thought I would add a bit, (told you this was an amateurish post!). …. To see the scaling working on other people’s sites, which are either self-hosted or allow embedding of .bun files unlike this one :  Try visiting MC Farine or Karin’s Brot & Bread for lots of good information and examples of how it works for them.  MC has written extensively about how she uses BreadStorm software and a delightful post about the bakers behind the project  Dado and Jacqueline Colussi in her Meet the Bakers series.