The fruits of our labours

I started writing this post in July of last year but then life (and death) happened and it never got finished. Sitting today looking out at our garden springing (literally) into life after the winter, I thought now would be a good time to recap what came out of it last year.

The harvest wasn’t all that we might have hoped for. Insects got to a fair number of our plums and because we were away from home for much of July and August, our local birdlife got to enjoy much more fruit than they would usually have. I’m still particularly bitter (pun intended) about the gooseberries. It wasn’t all bad news though.

We did discover that home-made fruit schnapps diluted with soda water makes for lovely, refreshing drinks for summer evenings. Pictured are apple and elderberry; we also had rose hip which was surprisingly reminiscent of Pimms.

Fruity drinks

Also, even though there was a lot of insect-damaged fruit, we did still get what, by any reasonable definition, would be considered a lot of plums. Last year’s lists of recipes came in handy and we even managed to find some new ways to use plums, including a nice brown sauce recipe from the Ham, pickles & jam recipe book from Thane Prince. The usual batches of jams and chutneys were made and we also bottled and froze some which we’ve been enjoying in crumbles throughout the year.

The big new thing last year though was turning this:

Basket of apples

into this:

Home-made cider

The first picture is of a laundry basket containing 25kg of apples (all from our garden) that became several litres of home-made cider. It turns out that making apple juice is hard work but turning that apple juice into cider is pretty easy. Due to a poor juicing technique when I started, we didn’t get as much cider from the apples as we probably should have* but, now that we have the right equipment and a better idea of what we’re doing, I’m looking forward to a much bigger batch later this year. Watch this space!

* We did get more than the single bottle pictured—this was just all that was left by the time I thought to take a picture.

Season of mist and mellow fruitfulness – part II

In spite of the time and effort involved (and the number of jars and bottles that I’ve ended up buying!) it seems I may have gotten a little carried away with the idea of harvesting and using produce from our garden, since I found myself last weekend picking rosehips and elderberries as well. These are probably of most interest to me because, despite being aware that you could harvest and use them, I’ve never done it before nor did I have any idea what the end result would be like.


The rosehips have been made into rosehip syrup which it appears to be obligatory to mention was highly praised by the Ministry of Food during WWII as a great source of vitamin C. I think that they might have been less keen on my plan to pour it over ice cream or pancakes or use it in cocktails.

Rosehip syrup

Similarly, elderberries are also supposed to be full of vitamin C but I have a feeling that some of the health benefits may be lost by steeping them in vodka for months to create elderberry schnapps, which is exactly what is going to happen to this batch.


When searching for ways to use elderberries, I came across and fell down a rabbit-hole. I had no idea it was possible to make schnapps from so many different things. Since I only have so many jars I’m avoiding the temptation to make them all but I do now have batches of elderberry, apple and rosehip underway.

I think this is probably the last of the harvesting for this season, other than the few remaining apples still to be picked. Now we get to enjoy the fruits of our labours!


Rosehip syrup
Elderberry schnapps
Apple schnapps
Rosehip schnapps

Season of mist and mellow fruitfulness – part I

We moved into a new house at the beginning of August and, as we move further into Autumn, have been gradually learning that the fruitfulness around here is anything but mellow. The house has a wonderful, big garden and we knew before we moved in that there were a number of fruit trees and bushes but we’ve been a little overwhelmed by just how good this year’s harvest is. I’ve spent a lot of time over the past few weeks researching ways to make the most of the bounty so if you’re interested in particular recipes, jump to the bottom of the post where I’ve included a list with links to online versions where available.

Back garden

This post mainly features apple pictures but it was the plums that were the real stars. Despite giving away, literally, kilos of them, we still had enough to make two different types of jam (and several batches of each of these), two kinds of chutney, plum sauce, plum cake, plum crumble and a plum shrub similar to the strawberry shrub in my last post.

Apple tree branch

The apple harvest has been slightly more restrained so we only made one type each of jam and chutney, some apple sauce, apple crumble and an apple pie. (I’m ignoring the large quantities of apples that are sitting in the kitchen that still haven’t been used up yet and the fact that there are two more trees with later ripening varieties that we’ve barely started harvesting yet.)

Apple tree branch

As well as the plums and apples, we’ve also been picking pears, blackberries, and gooseberries. We only got a handful of gooseberries so they got cooked down in some cider as a sauce for pork chops. Similarly, there were only about a dozen pears so those have just been eaten as they ripened. The ½ kilo of blackberries went into a batch of apple and blackberry jam although I’ve since found a recipe for blackberry schnapps that makes me wish I hadn’t used them already.

Bowl of apples

As if the list below wasn’t enough (and we really have made everything on the list below over the past month or so), I’ve also been picking our rosehips and elderberries but more on that in part II!



Plum, cinnamon and orange jam – my recipe is similar to this one but without the cloves and only using the same weight of preserving sugar as you have fruit
Plum jam – a simpler, sweeter jam than the one above
Plum chutney – still mellowing in the cupboard so haven’t had a chance to try this one yet
Indian-style plum chutney – brilliantly tangy and great with poppadums
Plum sauce – I didn’t like the results of the recipe I used so I won’t link to it but let me know if you have a good one
Plum pudding cake – almost gingerbread-like, but with plums
Plum crumble – I used the filling from this recipe but with the topping of the apple crumble recipe below
Plum shrub – the shrub is currently mellowing so I don’t know how this tastes yet but I’m looking forward to trying out their cocktail recipe for it


Spicy apple and tomato chutneywe made this to give to people at Christmas a couple of years ago and wished we’d kept more of it
Apple and blackberry jam – not the exact recipe I used but very similar.
Apple sauce – really easy to make
Apple crumble – a definite favourite around here
Apple pie – again, not the exact recipe but similar.


Pork chops with gooseberries and cider – pretty much made up on the spot: Brown two large pork chops in a pan and then add ½l of dry cider and several handfuls of gooseberries. Cook until chops are cooked through and gooseberries are softened. Mash gooseberries into pan juices to create sauce.

Summer refreshments

It’s been a bit hotter than usual here in Scotland over the past few months which has led to some experimenting with some new-to-me (non-alcoholic) beverages to cool down and stay refreshed.

First up, cold-brewed coffee. The only way to separate me from my morning coffee would be to pry it from my cold, dead hands. However, I struggle to drink hot coffee in hot weather and while I love iced coffee I am horribly fussy about it. I don’t take milk in my coffee so don’t want it in my iced coffee either and hot-brewed, black coffee has a tendency to bitterness when it cools. The solution: cold-brewed coffee (shown below before filtering).

Cold brew coffee

This takes a bit of advance preparation since coffee takes a lot longer to brew in cold water than in hot water but, that aside, is brilliantly simple. Put coffee (I use the same ground coffee that I would usually use in my cafetière) and cold water in a jug in a 1:2 ratio (I use 1.75 American measuring cups of coffee to 3.5 cups of cold water). Cover and leave to stand for 12 hours. Then filter the coffee, which I do using my usual cafetière, re-cover and refrigerate. Once it’s cold, it can be served as-is or with milk or over ice depending on your preference.

Next up, strawberry drinking vinegar, also known as strawberry shrub. Despite the unappealing names, this is a tangy, fruity cordial-like drink which is delicious diluted. I used this recipe but didn’t wait the full week after adding the sugar, just until the sugar had fully dissolved.

Strawberry Shrub Strawberry Shrub

Perfect when diluted with fizzy water. Now all I need is the warm weather to come back!

Christmas 2012

I’m sneaking in a last post of the year to share some Christmas decorating and baking photos.

Our tree:

Christmas Tree 2012

The mantelpiece:

Christmas 2012

The cake:

Christmas Cake 2012

Looking back at last year’s Christmas post, I was complaining about November/December having slipped past in a blur of sickness and craziness at work and, unfortunately, this year has been no different.  Much like last year though, we pulled it out of the hat at the last minute and the cake was decorated, mince pies were baked, and handmade Christmas cards sent. I don’t seem to have remembered to take any pictures of the cards though so I’ll need to rectify that in a future post!

The power of suggestion

It seems that I am easily suggestible. We were invited to a barbecue last night and offered to bring dessert. Steven baked an amazing lemon tart but I wanted to take an alternative option as well. Having just finished reading Janet Evanovitch’s Wicked Appetite, which has a main character who is a baker who may have supernatural powers that enable her to bake perfect cupcakes every time, there was only one possible choice: cupcakes! (It is a very silly book but a good, fun read, particularly if you like Janet Evanovitch’s other series.)

Raspberry cupcakes

Turns out that I don’t have supernatural powers that allow me to bake perfect cupcakes every time but these turned out pretty well regardless. I used the Raspberry cupcake recipe from Cupcakes from The Primrose Bakery, which includes raspberry jam swirled through the batter before baking. The recipe has you add extra jam after baking and before icing by cutting a small hole in the top of the cupcakes and spooning it in but I skipped this due to limited time before we had to leave.

Raspberry cupcakes

The recipe book recommends a white chocolate buttercream icing but, since  I wanted as little dairy in these as possible as an alternative to the vast amounts of cream in Steven’s tart, I used the basic vanilla buttercream icing instead.

Raspberry cupcakes

Topped with a couple of fresh raspberries, these look amazing and taste great as well.

The best bit — we kept some of the cakes that weren’t quite as attractive as the ones in the photographs so we can have cupcakes again today!