About this blog

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Wales, United Kingdom
In autumn 2010, my husband Ian and I both quit our jobs, sold our house and left the flatlands of the east for the mountains of Wales. Our goal is to create a more self-sufficient lifestyle in a place we actually like living. Whilst Ian will continue to earn some money as a freelancer, my part of the project is to reduce how much we spend by growing and making as much of what we need as possible. The purpose of this blog is to keep friends updated with how the grand project is progressing, but all are welcome here. If you're not a friend already, well perhaps you might become one.

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Harvesting garlic and blackcurrants

My garlic all fell over.

I'm sure garlic leaves shouldn't be horizontal like that

I took this as a bad sign and thought I'd better get it out of the ground ASAP. It could have been worse. A few of the bulbs were kind of squishy in the outer layer, but I was able to remove that and reveal a firm bulb of garlic in the centre. Most of them weren't affected, but none were very big and they don't seem to have done much splitting into cloves, either.

I thought I'd taken a decent picture of these, but I can't find it so you'll have to make do with this terrible one instead.

That's disappointing, but not catastrophic.

The blackurrants, on the other hand...

Here's one of the blackcurrant bushes, between the peas and the potatoes. The other one is behind the gas tank, to the left.

... are doing very well. No need to dig these up to see the crop!

Lovely, plump, juicy blackcurrants

Of course, the birds can see these too (or could if they could get under the leaves), so I had to get in quick and harvest them before someone else did. Picking most of the fruit on the first bush yielded two colander-fulls, or 5 lb 6 oz.

Lots of blackcurrants

Having picked all this fruit, I then had to decide what to do with it. The options that came to mind were jam, cordial and wine - all good options. Whatever I used it for, I'd have to start by stewing the fruit, so I sat down to top and tail the currants, removing both stalk and remains of flower as my mother had taught me to many years ago. I also removed a few spiders, caterpillars, snails and snail poo while I was at it.

As I picked over the fruit I decided that, after my success with rhubarb cordial I'd make another cordial from the blackcurrants. The picking over took a long time. I tried to focus on the process (and it's not an unpleasant task) rather than the outcome, but competing with this was my desire to get the fruit stewed and before bed time, so I could hang it to drip overnight.

I started to wonder, if I was only using the juice anyway, why I needed to remove the flowers. I can understand that maybe the stalks (and snail poo) might impart an unpleasant flavour, but surely not the flowers? After a bit I stopped removing the flowers, which speeded things up a bit, then the checks got more cursory, until by the end it was pretty much, Is this a beetle or a currant?*

When I'd finally picked over all the currants, I put them to stew with a little water, and they turned to slush remarkably quickly. I barely had time to scald the muslin that I was using to hang them in. Then it was the same procedure as with the rhubarb, with much the same difficulty wrapping the muslin round the fruit. At one point a corner broke free and fired scalding hot blackcurrant juice at my belly. Not good.

I did manage to get it strung up in the end, and was rewarded the next morning with a bowl of beautiful dark blackcurrant juice. I didn't bother heating it to dissolve the sugar this time, just stirred some in. There must be quite a lot of sugar in the fruit already, because it didn't take much extra to make it taste nice. Mind you, my bases for comparison are oak leaves and rhubarb, so a lot is distinctly relative here.

I'd been able to use the leftover stewed fruit after making rhubarb cordial and wondered if I could do the same with the blackcurrants. A little searching found these recipes for cordial (I didn't add as much of either water or sugar as that recipe) and fruit cheese, which said, You can use the fruit pulp left over from the previous recipe to make this one. Bingo!

I've had quince cheese before - it's essentially a jelly that's solid enough to slice with a knife, and rather nice with actual cheese. I don't suppose the blackcurrant kind will go with cheese, but could be nice anyway. I duly pushed the pulp through a seive (hard work), added sugar (I think I guessed the quantity - I don't remember weighing the pulp) and boiled it up. The recipe suggested adding a little cinnamon, but I thought I'd go for a fairly spicy version. Someone had mentioned cloves in blackcurrant cordial, so I added those (ground, not whole) as well as cinnamon and a little ginger.

I wasn't sure what would be suitable to use as a mould, and in the end settled on a cake tin lined with oiled greaseproof paper.

Moulding blackcurrant cheese

The smell at this stage was intensely blackcurranty, but also verging on the medicinal. Perhaps I overdid the ground cloves a bit. Oops - I may have accidentally made cough sweets instead. Oh well, I'm sure come winter time, a chunk of that in a mug of hot water will be just the thing.


*I still removed caterpillars if I saw them. And poo. Actually, the beetle thing was a lie. I was still checking carefully right to the end, but quickly.


  1. I'd say you are being pretty self sufficient so far with all that you are making/doing, the blackcurrant cheese sounds interesting - just planted blackcurrant this year but not much on the bushes I think it will take quite a few years before they are anything like the bushes you have growing there. Just read the previous post on socks but you definitely got my interest in turning your sewing machine into a treadle one - I will have to read more into that (of course when will I ever get around to doing it) I have these great ideas/good intentions) good luck with the socks I am teaching myself to knit but get up to the point of placing stitches onto needles or picking up stitches and knitting collars etc. and then get all panicky! socks are a thing of dreams one day I hope to have the conidence to make a pair.

  2. Lol - Beetle or currant? Sounds like me! For a moment there I thought I wasn't alone in my slapdashness, but no then you go and spoil it at the end! :D

  3. Cheers, Rosie :-)
    We planted a couple of blueberry bushes this year, and they're way too small for any fruit yet. We're very lucky to have these well-established blackcurrant bushes in the garden already.
    I tried learning to knit earlier in the year and didn't get on very well with it. Then I discovered knooking, which is much easier. I wrote about it in February, if you're interested.

    Sproutling - I suddently remembered that some of the people reading this blog might come round to my house, and I might offer them a glass of blackcurrant squash, which is assuredly poo-free ;-)


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