Tag Archives: Sloes

The Ripening Hambrook Harvest

From Little Acorns....,Rocking Dog

From Little Acorns….

I escaped the kitchen and ALL that china for a brief while yesterday. I was surely succumbing to cabin fever or should that be soapy sud kitchen fever! Real Live Rocking Dog provides the perfect excuse to drop the tea towel and  get out on the Frome Valley walkways which hug our fortunate doorstep.

How lovely to walk in sunshine and have blue fluffy cloud skies as a gorgeous last day in July canopy. Along the walk there were burgeoning and ripening crops of sloes, bullace, elderberries and blackberries. I spied a particularly luscious crop of blackberries over a pennant stone wall. Alas, they were unattainable with the river a watery barrier. A host of birds and other wildlife will have a veritable feast with no humans able to access and pick this precarious crop. Other bird food is ripening ready for the colder less plentiful days of late autumn and winter. Haws, rosehip and holly will serve them well.

Family folklore suggests that my fathers maternal family may have been Huguenots. Have you ever witnessed how  many French folk behave on a beach, they are not sunbathing, they are not swimming .. they are foraging! They have pails and spades, nets and lines and going in search of lunch or to find bait to catch lunch! Mussels, whelks, coastal plants, shrimp and crab are simply not safe. I see ripening elderberries and think of their addition in a summer pudding, an apple pie or crumble, ice cube or stew. Sloes and bullace again are destined in my mind to immersion in vodka or gin. I love to use the bloated alcohol soaked berries in rocky road and in ice creams, sorbets and warming winter stews. Just maybe, yes maybe I indeed do have French foraging blood flowing in my veins!

I love the way the Italians celebrate and give thanks to every crop they harvest and every animal they hunt. There are ancient walled hilltop towns close to where we live in Umbria which annually celebrate the bread, the oil, the wine, the saffron, the wild boar, the sweet chestnut, and so on! In the spring we were treated to the most wonderful feast at the little village hall in “our” village. The valley was vibrantly yellow with Mimosa trees and so this tree was celebrated along with World Women’s Day. The men (with undoubtedly some help of the female kind in the background!) of the village cooked for the women. We sat down to plates of crostini followed by two pasta courses (one with a pork ragu sauce and the other a tomato sauce). Lamb, steak and locally produced sausages cooked on a wood fired brazier together with a delicious dressed salad came next. Finally a specially baked mimosa coloured iced cake was proudly bought out and served with Grappa. Throughout the meal we had bottles of very quaffable locally produced red wine and then it was time to dance. Bad dancing translates and is understood in whatever language you speak! The Macarena danced for the final time it was time to wearily and bloatedly stumble home. Each woman was presented with a branch of Mimosa as she left together with hugs and hearty “buona notte’s”. It was such a lovely multi generational community event and we couldn’t have been made to feel more welcome. We do not celebrate anything enough in this country and unfortunately unlike the Italians many British would not embrace a party encompassing all generations.

Back to walking along my favourite Hambrook walk (nicknamed “Mr Badger walk” because of an old sett along its route) the earth was littered with crops that hadn’t quite made it. Amongst the carpet of last years autumnal leaf fall there were conkers, beech masts and cobnuts lying like jewels. They had simply dropped before their time or had been slain by squirrels not willing to wait!

At the stile there was a solitary doe eyed cow with Bully the blooming big bull. I couldn’t help thinking “poor cow!” Perhaps she’ll have her very own harvest in the spring.

Very soon it was time to return to THAT china … but I felt so much better after a brief but wonderful nature filled sojourn.

 

Future Harvest,Rocking Dog

Future Harvest

Ditto!,Rocking Dog

Ditto!

Unattainable Harvest,Rocking Dog

Unattainable Harvest

Too Early....,Rocking Dog

Too Early….

...Too Late!,Rocking Dog

…Too Late!

One For The Pan,Rocking Dog

One For The Pan

Late Summer Harvest,Rocking Dog

Late Summer Harvest

Christmas Harvest,Rocking Dog

Christmas Harvest

Spring Harvest? Poor Cow,Rocking Dog

Spring Harvest? Poor Cow

Gosh! We’ve Tipped Into October!

All The Leaves Are Brown, Rocking Dog

All The Leaves Are Brown

Gosh! We’ve tipped into October! Please tell me how this has happened. Amazingly, it is exactly a year since I started my Rocking Dog Blog. This is my 186th post and it has been lovely having your company along the way. I will bare my soul and tell you why I started blogging in the next couple of weeks.

October is a real transition month, especially when we have been blessed with such beautiful weather. People are still in summer garb, meanwhile, the shops are filled with the last floaty dregs of summer clothing and the wools and tweeds of winter. Some retailers are unashamedly putting out Christmas stock whilst others are doggedly resisting until November rears its frosty head!

October last year, I was praising the humble pumpkin. It should be roasted, pureed, souped and not just carved! (I am a Halloween killjoy!) I was also cooking quince and extolling the praises of the fruits wonderful aroma whilst they stewed. It undeniably remains one of my most favourite smells … ever (but ripening tomatoes in a sun parched greenhouse probably is up there too!) Sloes were being picked, and this year i’ll be waiting for that first frost before heading out to pick them again this year. There appears to be a truly bountiful crop. Remember to keep the sloes after they have done their sloe gin magic. They are a fantastic addition to Rocky Road and for an autumnal take on Summer Pudding. They’d also add flavour to sauces and gravies to accompany a Sunday roast.

Last October we went on one last trip to the sea before tucking our beloved Pod up for the winter. Again, this October we hope to do one last toe curlingly cold trip. We will take hot water bottles, hot chocolate supplies, woolly socks and our Real Live Rocking Dog foot warmer! Bracing walks being battered by coastal winds what could be better? Some would say lying on the same beach on a hot summers day would be absolutely preferable. One Man’s Meat Is Another Man’s Poison as they say!

Oct 2014, last minute plans were being made to head off on our Italian holiday (does any other mad soul take their holiday in October/November?) Oct 2015, another trip beckons, – vintage textiles, olives, autumn sunshine, gondola’s, Vin Santo, and gorgeous friends. We are truly fortunate.

Last October Rocking Dog was busy making, wrapping, labelling, and somethings never change… but what I make hopefully does. So there are lots of sewing projects on the Rocking Dog work bench. I HAVE to organise some serious sewing time. Any other makers please give me your tips on how you schedule your day. Do you have a set routine, do you lock the door and turn the key, let the laundry bin overfill, not answer calls etc…. etc..? I think i’d rather like a sewing turret in the clouds!

So very nearly a year on from my very first blog I hope you’ll continue to dip in and out. Some of you I personally know and thank you for your love and support. Others of you I don’t know.. but thank you for reading, liking, commenting. If anyone wants a little personalised trek around Bristol or surrounds give me a shout. We can visit foodie, vintage and historical haunts in a city I quite know and love.

Have a very lovely October.

Dog Bowl. Rocking Dog

Dog Bowl

Comforting Bowl, Rocking Dog

Comforting Bowl

Making Plans, Rocking Dog

Making Plans

Seasonal Makes, Rocking Dog

Seasonal Makes

Quince Magic, Rocking Dog

Quince Magic

Avoiding Halloween, Rocking Dog

Avoiding Halloween

The Bountiful Summer Harvest

Nature's Harvest, Rocking Dog

Nature’s Harvest

Hedgerow fruits are swiftly ripening. Blackberries are being foraged and picked for pies, crumbles, jams and wines. Sloes, Damsons and Bullaces are gaining their characteristic charcoal bloom. A little more ripening will be required before the picking begins, and then, a degree of patience whilst the fruits do their magic in their gin or vodka soak.

Meanwhile, squirrels are busy raiding the hedgerows for hazel and cobnuts. The remnants of their feast lie untidily discarded on the mossy well trodden pathways.

Haws, rose-hips and crab apples are gaining their rosy glow, giving welcome colour whilst we walk.

Sweet Chestnuts need to plumpen in their verdant spiny overcoats. They remind me of my fondness for sweetened chestnut puree. Folded through rum laced cream and sandwiched between hazelnut meringue layers it’s a decadent dinner party dessert.

A great book celebrating Britain’s harvest is Mark Hix’s British Seasonal Food. In particular I love his recipes for Gamekeepers Pie, Piccalilli and his simply delicious little Buttermilk Puddings.

Let’s rejoice the burgeoning summer harvest.

Sorry couldn’t resist the slightly cheesy summer song- almost forgot that it was used as the theme for a certain drinks brand!

Hedgerow Sloes, Rocking Dog

Hedgerow Sloes

Use For Those Sloes!, Rocket Dog

Use For Those Sloes!

Berry Recipes, Rocking Dog

Berry Recipes

Crab Apple Swotting, Rocking Dog

Crab Apple Swotting

Nature Bowl, Rocking Dog

Nature Bowl

Umbrian Apple Harvest, Rocking Dog

Umbrian Apple Harvest