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.

Thursday, 4 August 2016

A good year for samphire

It's interesting looking back to see that I wasn't that taken with pickled samphire the first time I tried it. That was before I discovered this combination:

A biscuit* topped with mascarpone cheese and pickled samphire

This is divine! With samphire thus elevated to the status of a delicacy, I consider it well worth the effort of gathering it.

There's also vinegar to consider. Last year I attempted to make vinegar. There's a brief note of the result hidden away in this post. Having looked at the relative prices of decent vinegar and pickling vinegar I bought the cheap stuff. It was pretty dreadful but even with that, pickled samphire was good. This year I have kombucha, which will make vinegar from sugar if left alone for long enough. I fed it some of the too-sweet oak leaf wine and now I have some pretty awesome (and very strong) vinegar.

Last Saturday I was in town around lunch time, so checked the tide times and as luck would have it, low tide was about 1pm, so I went up to the estuary (town is kind-of on the way) to check out the samphire.

I could see it - at least I thought I could, as soon as I parked the car.

That bright green strip across the sand was - I was fairly sure - marsh samphire

Closer inspection confirmed this.

Yep, definitely samphire.

I haven't seen such big plants before - these are fantastic. I think maybe I've been later in the season in previous years, after sheep have been allowed to graze here. I spent an hour and a half foraging, and collected rather more than I usually do in in two or more hours. After that, I walked down to the beach.

That's really not a bad way to spend a Saturday afternoon.

Of course, once I got all that samphire home, I had to process it. That means carefully picking it over, rinsing off the sand and any seaweed and small shellfish that I'd missed when picking, and pinching off only the tenderest pieces for pickling, leaving the parts that have a woody core. It took ages, but it's worth it.

A few notes on pickling: For a crisper result, I now know to use cold vinegar. The tannin from the oak leaves should also help with crispness. However, I did heat the vinegar first to kill it. I want an inert pickle, not one that's going to eat its way through the samphire. I also mixed the vinegar with some beer that had been flavoured with rosebay willowherb tips. The vinegar was so strong that it could do with diluting a bit, and this beer adds a complementary flavour. During the heating phase, I infused some garlic mustard seeds, too. Then while I was making a cup of tea and looking at a pan of hot pickling liquid, I poured milk into the pan. Don't do that.

The best thing to do at that point was, I decided, to leave the kitchen and drink my tea. By the time I came back, the milk had separated somewhat, so I strained out the curds, left it to settle, carefully poured off the clearer liquid... repeated. There's a slight cloudiness in the bottom of my jar of samphire, and no doubt there's some whey in the pickling liquid. In that much vinegar I doubt it'll have any impact, but I repeat, I don't recommend doing that. Even so, pickled samphire is still worth it.


*It's a digestive biscuit, just for Cat ;-)


  1. Completely off the topic Rachel, but I've been wondering whether you've been happy with your purple shoes. Love your blog BTW.

    1. Thanks :-)
      Yes, I've been very happy with my purple shoes - they continue to be the most comfortable shoes I have ever worn. The only downside is that other shoes feel tight and constrictive by comparison.

      The original soles were a little thin, which made them a bit cold in winter. When I got them resoled I got thicker, spongy stuff which was nice but being soft, wore smooth rather quickly and has been treacherously slippery since then. I need to get them resoled again, and I plan to get two layers this time, the spongy stuff and then the car tyre rubber on the bottom for better wear.


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