As a child of the seventies, I looked forward to the 5 minute television shows for children on BBC1 each day before the evening news, and when the characters of a favourite show became pop stars it demonstrated that anything was possible! It was The Wombles that first made their TV shows between 1973-1975 and the band sharing their name achieved 8 top 40 hits – not bad for the short, fat, furry creatures of Wimbledon Common that were pioneering sustainability with a sixth sense for green spaces and wildlife…
Making good use of the things that we find…
Things that the everyday folk leave behind. Well, that’s one thing that we’ve got in common, thank you. At this time of year, when the last of the harvest is coming in, it’s great to forage the hedgerows and accept gifts from friends and neighbours of home grown produce that they are unlikely to use.
Over the last few years, or longer, I’ve been given a bag of firm, downy, perfumed quinces. If you’ve never worked with quinces before, they are an orchard fruit, similar to apples and pears, yet have unusually large cores and can’t be eaten raw. Whilst they are good in pies and crumbles, if you manage to peel, core & chop them, the easiest way to utilise this beautifully fragranced fruit is to roughly chop, boil and strain to make a crystal clear amber jelly that has a lovely sharpness to compliment cooked meats. However, the most excellent way to prepare quinces is to make the Spanish traditional block preserve known as Membrillo or Quince Cheese.
‘When the sun doesn’t shine and it’s cloudy and gray
And it’s only the beginning of the wombling day
And you’ve got to do the washing up for Madame Cholet’
Remember you’re a Womble
I have attempted Membrillo many many times, and only last year did I manage to make a preserve that was firm enough to slice and pleasant enough to eat. In previous years I had either lumps of core in the paste before cooking, as I’d given up passing the pulp through a sieve, or had ending up burning the mixture whilst trying to reduce it to the desired consistency. Each year I research new recipes and look to tweak my techniques and am very pleased with this year’s results. We now have two big blocks, maturing nicely, which will be ready to slice and sell at our Micro Bakery at the beginning of December.
Mmm, it’s probably too soon to be talking Christmas, but as our courses are specifically designed to help you in planning and preparing your own, please forgive us!
It has been wonderful to welcome well nearly 200 course guests to Hen Corner so far this year and, as usual, all of our sessions are seasonal; in harmony with the harvests or focussing on the festivals.
Next month sees the launch of our courses that help prepare you for the festive season – do click on the links to see full details. The aim of each course is to encourage, empower and equip you to make wonderful creations that you can share throughout the season of giving!
- Stir Up Sunday: Sunday 20th November
- Make a Hamper Day: Tuesday 22nd November
- Stollen and Mincemeat: Thursday 24th & Wednesday 30th November
- Christmas Wreaths: Saturday 3rd & Tuesday 6th December
If you are interested in any of the sessions above and would like to discuss a private course for your friends or colleagues, do get in touch, as it’s a wonderful opportunity to celebrate together!
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- It was great to join in with the Abundance London Apple Day earlier in the month, we took eight of our hens with us along with preserves and treats from the bakery
- We’ve cleared our raised beds and will soon be dressing them in compost for a winters nap
- The chickens have virtually stopped laying as they are growing new feathers to keep them warm over the winter months
Jobs for the Week:
- Plant some garlic and broad beans so that they can get going before the frosts come
- Spray the orchard trees with nematodes to prevent codling moth (maggots in apples)
- Filter and mould some of our bees wax for the National Honey Show
Do you ever make seasonal gifts for friends and family, if so, what are your specialities?
I came across your website accidentally and I must say I think it is wonderful! This coming from a person whose friend said I just use my oven as extra storage space and didn’t realise the oven had an extractor fan until somebody pointed it out to me (I ad been living in the house for about 8 years at that stage. A person who made gravy (instant – of course) but misread the ‘destructions’ and measured out tablespoons (read dessert spoon – still not sure what a tablespoon is) instead of teaspoons and wondered why it turned out so thick. So thick in fact I could turn the jug up-side-down and nothing moved. I can count the number of roast dinners I have cooked on one hand. Always chicken.
Still, I am a dab hand at making scrambled pancakes.
However, I have promised myself to make a beef wellington – one day ………..
My son is convinced whenever I attempt to cook for him, in reality I am trying to poison him.
Well, off to pop my ready meal in the microwave – even I know where the ‘start’ button is on that.
In all seriousness Sara, I think what you have accomplished is amazing ans since I now only live down the road from you I might even book myself on one of your courses and shock everyone – not least myself.
I hope you, Andy and the children are well.
Geraldine (mother of Jude)
NB: Do you do courses on how to make beans on toast?
Thanks for getting in touch – how lovely to hear from you, we are all good this end!
Do come over for a visit, it would be great to see you again.
Hope you and Jude are both well,