The trials and tribulations of a life of leisure...


Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Middle Age

According to Paul's financial plan for the rest of our lives I became middle-aged today.
Strange, but I don't feel any different to yesterday.

For once Paul picked up on a hint. Maybe hint is not strong enough a description. "Ooooh. A Matter Of Life and Death is now available on DVD" seemed to do the trick.

I haven't been blogging lately for several reasons.
1) Weather has been quite good so I have been clearing the long bank again ready for bulb planting. Still got a couple of metres at the house end to complete, but it is looking quite good again. Got a lot of very cheap bulbs from Aldi last week, and am also expecting the ones I sent away for from Avon bulbs to arrive today or tomorrow.
2) New anagram quiz program download, anahack, from
3) Still jam making - went brambling again yesterday. Probably last chance this year as they are starting to go over now - saw a good quote on a recipe site "The devil pisses on them at the end of September" . Managed to get about 4 pounds.
4) Been addicted to stumbling:
5) From stumbling discovered
I know I am probably years behind the rest of you, but hey, I never had the time before...

Gonna go now and enjoy the rest of my birthday, eating cookies, chocolate and going out for a meal tonight :)

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Elderberry and Bramble jam

Spurred on by my earlier success I decided to experiment further. My neighbours have rallied to my request for jars, and I have now built up quite a stock.

There was an elder tree just the other side of the bridge dripping with ripe berries. I decided this must belong to Iona and Hedley who live in the house on the other side of the river to us and went to ask if they wanted the berries. On arriving there I was greeted by Iona's mother - Iona had been taken to hospital and she was expecting news of imminient third grandchild. She thought it would be fine to pick the berries as they would have other things to worry about.

On our 4 p.m. walk Hedley was driving back and stopped to let us know that Iona had had another boy, Wilfred, at lunch time and both were doing fine. I could pick as many berries as I liked...

After the walk I wandered over and picked about half a carrier bag full. I spent the evening removing the berries from their stalks with a fork, and ended up with about two and a half pounds.

I went brambling the next morning down the path to the field opposite our neighbour Margaret. I got about two pounds in about half an hour - they are so abundant. The recipe I had seen suggested equal amounts of elderberries and blackberries so I got another half a pound from the patch at the bottom of our drive.

I was all set after lunch to go. This was when I realised there was a major problem. I still don't have a jam pan, and was using a large saucepan. However, the saucepan was not large enough for the volume of fruit I had picked! I decided to process the elderberries first, and just extract the juice. I then measured how much I had - a pint and a half. Okay- reduce the recipe by about a third. I used one pint of juice and added a pound and three quarters of blackberries. Quickly calculated I needed about 3 pounds of sugar - recipes vary between three quarters and a pound of sugar per pound of fruit. The pan was still very full, and although I was trying to be very careful it still boiled over at one point. But it eventually reached the setting point, and I was fully prepared this time with jars ready. I got about four and a half pounds of jam this time.

I tried some today - it has a very distinctive strong flavour, presumably from the elderberries, and is a lovely deep red colour. It should last a long time as you don't need to use much to get the taste. The rosehip and apple has a much subtler flavour, and is a lovely orange colour - although Paul described it as vibrant.

I may use the spare juice with crab apples next...

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Rose Hip and Apple Jelly

On our many walks around the neighbourhood with the dogs I couldn't help noticing the great free crops available in the hedgerows - abundances of blackberries, elderberries, crab apples and rose hips.

I have already been brambling - blackberry and apple crumble...

Today I was more adventurous, having found many recipes for rose hip jelly. There was a dog rose covered in them right over the road from my house. Off I trotted, and got the best part of a pound and a half. Completed the 2 pounds from a bush just up the hill from us. Realised I needed lemon juice for the recipe so drove into Duns. Couldn't decide on whether to use fresh lemons or just buy juice so got both. As it was, the juice of one and a half lemons was enough. Already had some cooking apples - a couple left over from the crumble and half a dozen from some kindly soul in Duns who had left a 'help-yourself' boxful outside their gate. Only other ingredient needed was sugar - and I had bought some jam sugar the last time we were in Berwick.

Now for the hard work. It took me over an hour and a half to wash, top/tail and chop up two pounds of rose hips. Added 2 pints of boiling water and simmered until the rose hips very soft. Sieved the whole caboodle to just get the juice/puree.
Chopped up apples - I used about a pound and three quarters before coring/peeling, and cooked in a little water until very soft. Pushed through sieve into rose hip juice.
Added about 3 fluid ounces lemon juice and one and a quarter pounds of sugar.
Boil/stir. Keep boiling/stirring. Tested after about 15 minutes - no sign of setting. Kept boiling/stirring. Turned up heat and boiled/stirred hard. Eventually it began to show signs of setting.

Poured into sterilised jam jars - my cousin Maureen suggested a good way to sterilise jars is to heat them in the oven to 100 degrees C. Cover top of jam with those little waxed discs you can buy. Wait until completely cooled before putting cellophane tops on.

Well, that is the first time I have ever made jam/jelly - about two and a half pounds in the end. I am already planning my next project...

Lessons learnt:
Be more organised.
May be better to mash rose hips with potato masher before sieving to get the most from them.
May be better to soften apples in a little of the rose hip juice rather than more water - should reduce time required to boil.
Boiling means boiling - not simmer/boil but really boil the hell out of it.
It is damned hard work sieving apple puree...

Many thanks go to Paul for assisting in getting the jars out of the oven at the critical moment , placement of little wax discs and cleaning up all the mess I had made.

p.s. We have now tried it on toast and it is very good...

Friday, September 01, 2006

Bangalore here I come and other scrabble stuff

I have booked my flights for the 3rd international iGate tournament in Bangalore 12-14th January next year -

My friend Radhika has said she will help me sort out accommodation for the trip. I am planning to make a short holiday around the tourney to allow me to actually get to see something of Bangalore other than the scrabble venue. I am really looking forward to it already.

My performance at the BMSC rated at 195, keeping my actual rating at 193. This currently gives me the 2nd qualifying place for Scotland.

Allan Simmons (another top player in Scotland) and I started a best of 25 match earlier this year, with a bottle of wine the prize for the winner. We have had quite a large break since starting the match due to Allan's work and family commitments. Match is resuming today with me 5-1 ahead.

Blog Archive