Fruit and vegetables
One of the first things we did when we moved to Pool Cottage was to make a vegetable plot and, in the first couple of years, we grew the standard spuds, carrots, runner beans and onions. At the same time we added a small apple orchard with various varieties, and also planted 3 plum trees to complement the damson trees already in situ. Soft fruit came the same year and included blackcurrants gooseberries as well as a few corns of rhubarb.
Since these early days we have added greengages, for the most wonderful fruit pies and crumbles as well as greengage jam. Around the same time we planted a walnut tree. After 2 years we had just 3 walnuts in our harvest, the following year, having bravely fought off the squirrel invasion, we had 6 walnuts. Our latest harvest gave over over 1500 hundred, yes 1500! In true bartering style, we swapped some for a dozen quinces, which we hadn't seen in years. These were quickly turned into quince jelly. Perfect with pate and our other charcuterie creations.
1997 saw the arrival of our first polytunnel, which grew our initial batch of tomatoes and cucumbers. As the years have passed the range of herbs and vegetables grown has expanded, making us self sufficient for most of the growing season with good use of freezers, the dehydrator and natural storage methods. The addition of 2 further polytunnels, allowed us to produce much more than we needed, though we currently have consolidated to 1 large tunnel.
The fruit side of the smallholding has also evolved to include blackberries, tayberries and blueberries, as well as red and white currants. In terms of vegetables, we growall manner of stuff, ranging from potatoes right through to Chinese radishes.
Jams and relishes
Jam was always produced by my Welsh Grandmother (Nain) in a huge brass pot and, in her memory, we do just the same. At Pool Cottage we use all sorts of fruit from the smallholding. Our jams and jellies include:
Rhubarb (& ginger)
We also make other jams such as strawberry, as well as various marmalades, though this fruit is bought in fresh and locally for these. For jam making we tend to pick the fruit as it ripens and freeze it straight away. This allows us to collect enough fruit for a good session of jamming thoughout the year. The freezing process also helps break down the fruit cell structure allowing the release of more juice and hence more flavour. Once defrosted, the fruit is brought to the boil in the brass pan and allowed to simmer, we then add the correct amount of sugar and, when the setting point is reached, we bottle into re-cycled sterilised jars.
We don’t just use jam in a butty either, a Victoria sponge made using our duck eggs with layers lavishly spread with jam is always well received. Redcurrant jelly and mint from the herb patch rubbed into a leg of lamb, slow roasted until the meat can be carved using a spoon, happens to be another favourite. A good blob of jam in a pot of natural yogurt is a tastier and cheaper option than a commercial yoghurt corner. Yum yum jam, just like Grandmother used to make (proper lush)!
We cater for our savoury tooth as well at Pool Cottage. Any surplus tomatoes are pulped down to make passata for the pizza toppings or we make a good batch of soup that can be frozen for a wonderful broth on a cold winter's day. Any extra fruit such as apricots, plums or rhubarb go into our relishes which compliment the cured meats a real treat. One of Ruth's specialities is red onion marmalade. It's not a marmalade in the jammy sense, but from our red onions softened over a low heat, with the addition of red wine and port, along with other ingredients known only to her, she produces a marmalade that is unbeatable with our pastrami and indeed any cold meat imaginable.