Chutneys etc.

My sister kindly requested a post on Chutneys. She also sent me this picture of Molly… Which as usual is a bit blurry, but at least you can see she’s a cat in this one!


I didn’t think I made that many jams and chutneys, so I dug around in my cupboards to see what I could find that we had made, here are the results:


Some of them don’t look so appetising any more half-eaten, but I can say most of them taste quite nice. I only have two preserving books, so most of the recipes are from these.


So here’s a quick description of the things we’ve made pictured above, and a few things I could remember making in the last few years that aren’t pictured. I’ve noted where I think the recipe came from, though in a few cases I struggled to remember!

Spicy tomato jam – this is really tasty, it’s quite sweet for something made of tomatoes but it has lots of spices in it and it’s really gooey and unctuous. Great as a relish on a burger, or in place of sweet chilli sauce.

Chilli oil – River cottage. I’ve made this twice, once with olive oil and once with rapeseed. It does taste a bit different and I’m not sure which I prefer. We had a couple of bumper years for growing chillis so this is one of the many things we did with them ( the best variety we have found for growing without a greenhouse is Super Chilli F1 which produce hundreds of small but hot red chillis, we still have a bag full in the freezer ) .

Tomato ketchup – River cottage. We’ve also had some success with growing tomatoes, in particular 2013 was a good year. So we tried to make some ketchup which is easy although it tastes a bit different to the shop bought stuff.

Bramble jelly – can’t remember where we got the recipe, but there are lots. We get blackberries for free at the top of our road, and use windfall apples from our neighbour’s bramley apple tree that overhangs our garden. All we need to add is the sugar.

Quince jelly – river cottage. One of Keith’s friends from work gave us a few quinces so we turned them in to quince jelly (membrillo) which is good with cheese – it’s much more solid than a normal jelly. We also use it in place of redcurrant jelly in things like game pie.

Indian spiced vegetable chutney – The Preserving Book, though I just used vegetables that we had a glut of in our garden (courgettes, carrots, French beans). Haven’t tried this yet but we like chutney with curry so hopefully it will be tasty.

Chilli pepper jelly – River cottage. Again this one’s a good use for our home grown chillis. I got lots of positive comments from family who really seem to like this.

Mincemeat – a bit out of season but we make our own mincemeat, not as a method of using up produce since we don’t grow much that goes into this, but because we think it’s so much better than shop-bought mincemeat. It’s also particularly good if you leave it to mature for a year or more.

Sloe gin – River cottage. This is another one where we collect the sloes from hedgerows for free. All you do is steep the sloes in sugar and gin and shake occasionally. Really tasty especially in the winter.

Chilli and apple chutney – think this was from an Australian Women’s weekly preserving book which I borrowed from my Auntie Denise. Another recipe with chillis in and apples from our neighbour’s tree ( don’t worry – they did say we could help ourselves to as many apples as we liked, and even offered for us to go into their garden and pick more if we wanted them ).

Apple, sultana and date chutney – The Preserving Book. Ditto comments about apples, this one has some extra sweetness from dates and sultanas in the chutney.

Picalilli – River cottage. This is one that uses up veg from the garden again. Really tasty with ham.

Elderflower cordial – River cottage. One of our favourite things to make so it doesn’t last long once it’s ready. We often pick the elderflowers from an elder tree on the edge of Keith’s parents’ garden, which is tricky as the flowers are quite high so we use loppers on a pole and a fishing net to catch the flower heads ( probably hilarious to watch ). We haven’t worked out where to get elderflowers closer to us yet.

Rosehip syrup – River cottage. We made this with rose hips from our garden… And still have no idea what to do with it ( our only suggestions have been to add it to rice pudding ). I added it when I made some marshmallows – which was delicious.

Pickled onions – River cottage. We don’t like these but make them for Keith’s dad.

Harissa – River cottage. Another chilli recipe, really good in tagines. We can’t use it fast enough before it goes off so we have small amounts in the freezer.

Apple wine – this was a tricky one, requiring lots of equipment, which we mainly borrowed from other people. We were worried it would taste awful but it turned out like quite a sweet wine, good served very cold. We also tried rhubarb wine but that was awful so we poured it down the sink. We’ve also tried brewing beer but that’s a long story which I will leave for another post (Keith’s currently brewing something in our kitchen!).

Pickled beetroot – The Preserving Book. I hate this but Keith likes it, and beetroots are easy to grow.

Lime pickle – we attempted to make this once but it didn’t turn out better than shop-bought, it was very hot! Not sure where the recipe came from either.


Rag Rug

My finished rag rug

My finished rag rug

I made this rag rug to go in front of our log-burning stove, because sometimes sparks escape and melt our carpet – we decided it’d be better to have a rag rug to get burned instead! It’s taken me over a year to finish this project, not because rag-rugging is difficult – it’s easy! – but because it was a really big rug so a lot of rags to attach.

To make a rag rug, all you need is a piece of hessian to act as a base, a bodger, and something to measure the pieces of rag (we got our kit from here).

Hessian, bodger (top) and a gauge (bottom).

Hessian, bodger (top) and a gauge (bottom)

Other than that, all you need is to get your hands on lots of rags that you can cut up – we used some old clothes from our cupboards, jumble sales and charity shops. Thanks go to Jen who provided us with lots of fabric which we also included – it took a lot more rags than I’d initially thought!

The process is very simple, you just cut up your rags into long strips, which you wrap around the gauge and cut across so that you get lots of small strips of the same length. I imagine you could cut them by eye if you don’t have a suitable gauge. Once you have lots of strips, you use the bodger to thread the rags into the hessian (if you’re interested there are some useful instructions here).

I chose to make stripes of all of the different fabrics that we’d collected which I think turned out quite well. About half way through it became obvious we were going to run out of fabric before the end of the rug, so the colours change a bit from one side to the other, which is a bit annoying but since it’s meant to be a bit scruffy I don’t think it’s too bad.

Hello world!

Hello everyone, and welcome to our new blog!

We spend a lot of our free time making things – cooking, crafts, knitting, sewing, gardening, electronics, woodwork… whatever takes our fancy really. So we thought we’d start a blog to show you what we make, and maybe a few tips on how to do it yourselves. We’d love to hear your thoughts on what we have made, and if you have any ideas for other projects.

To anyone wondering who Molly is – she’s our 5 month old kitten, who sometimes enjoys “helping” us with our projects (particularly if it involves anything that looks like string or smells interesting). We were hoping to have a picture of her as a header but unfortunately she’s a bit camera-shy and almost every photo we have of her is a blur.

Coming up next we’re planning on posting a few projects that we’ve already done, starting with a rag rug which Anna made to go in front of our wood burning stove.

Keith and Anna