Country Traditions

November 16, 2010

How to make soap | Life and style |

Filed under: decorating, farming, recipes, soap making, Vinegar, wisdom — Tags: — dmacc502 @ 8:19 am
Handmade soaps sold at Hyères, France

Image via Wikipedia

“Never put vinegar in your eyes and remember, the quickest way to kill someone is through the optic nerve straight to the brain,” Sharon Homans warns.

Whoa. I’m glad I’ve come on a soap-making course: I’ve always been interested in the idea of making soap, but nervous about handling the ingredients. But the dangers posed by household vinegar hadn’t even crossed my mind (soapmakers keep a bottle of vinegar handy to neutralise alkaline burns from the lye).

Some of my 25 fellow students have travelled to London from far-flung parts of the UK. The man on the door tells me people have flown in from Japan and Brazil before. The course is led by Melinda Coss, who is something of a grande dame in the soap world. She advises numerous cosmetics companies, and products devised by her are sold in Harrods as well as in the high street chain Lush.

via How to make soap | Life and style |

via How to make soap | Life and style |


November 14, 2010

A Guide to Saving Seeds | Care2 Healthy & Green Living

Filed under: dehydrating, family, farming, gardening, herbs, weather, wisdom — Tags: , , , , — dmacc502 @ 7:19 am
Fennel seed

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A Guide to Saving Seeds | Care2 Healthy & Green Living.

via A Guide to Saving Seeds | Care2 Healthy & Green Living.

How to Save Seeds

There are two main types of seed saving depending on the type of plant: wet processing and dry processing.

Wet Processing

Very simply, when the fruit of the plant is fully ripe, separate the seeds from the flesh of the fruit, wash them, and air-dry them on a non-stick surface. During washing, any seeds that float can be discarded as this is usually a sign of a non-viable seed. Some fruits and vegetables in this category are squash and melons.


Some seeds, like tomato seeds, actually have to be fermented to become viable. For tomatoes, mush up the fruit (with seeds) and add to a quart jar filled 2/3 with water. Let this sit for about a week (it will be fermenting during this time), then rinse, dry, and store the seeds in an air-tight, dry, and sterile-as-possible location, where the temperature will remain cool.

Dry Processing

You might have read in the Bible about threshing and winnowing. Well, when it comes to saving seed, those skills are just as valuable today as they were back then. Threshing is separating a seed from its coating, usually by beating it or whipping the dry plant on the ground. Winnowing is separating the seeds from the chaff, traditionally by enlisting the help of the wind. For some plants, this can all be achieved by hand, as with beans. With beans, simply crack open the dry pod and remove the seeds. Other dry-processed plants include broccoli, cabbage, carrots, most herbs, flowers, and grains. Storage is the same as for wet-processed seeds.

Other Plant Varieties

Of course, some plants are propagated by means other than seed planting. For instance, potatoes can be stored through the winter, then each eye can be cut out and planted. Most fruit trees are propagated through cuttings. The methods listed above are general principles of seed saving. There are excellent books and online resources which will provide further information about specific plants.

4 Reasons to Grow Heirloom Plants
10 Tips for Harvesting Your Kitchen Garden
Grow Your Own Food!

Read more:


November 9, 2010

Composting 101 | Real Simple

Filed under: composting, family, farming, gardening, rain water, weather — Tags: , , , , , , — dmacc502 @ 7:03 pm
better compost

Image by normanack via Flickr

Composting 101 | Real Simple.

via Composting 101 | Real Simple.

It’s not just for people in the sticks anymore: Composting is great for all gardeners because it improves soil, which in turn prevents plant diseases. And it can even reduce harmful greenhouse gases. “Organics that break down in a landfill produce methane gas, which is about 120 times more harmful than carbon dioxide,” says Cary Oshins, assistant director for programs at the United States Composting Council, in Ronkonkoma, New York. So why not help the planet and your yard by piling it on?

How to Get Started

Choose a container that’s made of wood (or some other sturdy material) and no smaller than three by three feet. Place it in your yard in a shady spot with good drainage. Start adding waste in a ratio of three “browns” to one “green.” Browns are carbon-rich materials and include wood chips, straw, branches, and leaves. Greens provide nitrogen and include grass clippings and kitchen scraps, like eggshells and carrot tops. When you’re adding new material, Oshins suggests, dig a hole in the pile and stir the new stuff in so it gets coated with the old mixture.

November 8, 2010

Gardening week ahead: Sowing sweet peas – Telegraph

Filed under: family, farming, gardening — Tags: , , , — dmacc502 @ 4:30 pm
Sweet pea

Image via Wikipedia sweet pea

Gardening week ahead: Sowing sweet peas – Telegraph.

via Gardening week ahead: Sowing sweet peas – Telegraph.

Remove the shoot tips when plants reach 4in to encourage branching Photo: MARTIN POPE

Help them by nicking the seed coat, avoiding the eye-like attachment scar. Do not soak seeds as this can encourage rotting. Brown or white seeds do not need pre-treatment.

Sow individually, half an inch deep, into sweet-pea tubes, 3in pots, deep modular trays or root-trainer modules filled with seed compost. They can remain in these until put in their final positions.

Cover pots with clear plastic or glass and keep at 60F.

Remove the cover once seedlings show above the compost and move pots to an unheated greenhouse, conservatory or cold frame. Good light and ventilation are crucial for sturdy plants, but close the vents if heavy frost is forecast.

Keep the compost just moist – don’t overwater and don’t feed. Remove the shoot tips when plants reach 4in to encourage branching.

Plant out in containers or in the garden next spring, after the final frosts.

November 2, 2010

Sauces, Salad Dressings: Herb Vinegar Recipe

Filed under: decorating, family, farming, gardening, herbs, recipes, Vinegar — Tags: , , , , , — dmacc502 @ 1:13 pm
Vinegar is commonly infused with spices or her...

Image via Wikipedia

One of the simplest recipes for using herbs is this 19th-century hint for making flavored vinegar: Pour plain vinegar over herbs in a bottle and let it sit for a month in the sun. What could be easier?

See more about homemade vinegars in our “Great Gifts from the Kitchen” article.

1 cup fresh herbs (basil, tarragon or thyme, for example)

1 quart vinegar

Place herbs in a clean quart jar. Heat vinegar just to the boiling point and pour it over the herbs, filling the jar to the top. Seal and store in a cool, dark place for at least three weeks for the fullest flavor. Strain the vinegar into 2 pint bottles and add a fresh sprig of the herb. (Use decorative bottles if you’re planning to give these as gifts.)

You can use a single herb in plain white vinegar, or try a medley of herbs in other vinegars. Here are a few suggestions to get you started, but feel free to experiment and invent your own blends:

–white vinegar with tarragon leaves, basil leaves, and peeled shallots

–sherry vinegar with fresh rosemary leaves, minced horseradish, or chopped dried chilies

red wine vinegar with sage, parsley, and shallots

via Sauces, Salad Dressings: Herb Vinegar Recipe.

via Sauces, Salad Dressings: Herb Vinegar Recipe.

How to make your own haggis | Life and style |

Filed under: family, farming, herbs, recipes, wisdom — Tags: , , , , , , , — dmacc502 @ 8:07 am

Image via Wikipedia

How to make your own haggis | Life and style |

via How to make your own haggis | Life and style | step by step slideshow.

Wash the pluck and simmer it gently in unsalted water until it’s tender – usually about and hour and a half. Let it cool overnight in its own cooking liquid. Chop the heart and lungs finely – I used a mezzaluna but a food processor will do the job if pulsed gently. Remember that you’re looking for a gravelly texture, not pate. Grate the liver – a weird and strangely satisfying sensation.

Toast the oatmeal for a few minutes in a medium oven while chopping the onions. Season the meat with salt, coarse ground white pepper, sage, thyme, rosemary and savory. There’s no need to go overboard here – particularly with the pepper. This isn’t, after all, an English sausage. Add the onions, the oatmeal, the suet and a pint or so of the liquid in which the pluck was poached. The mix should be moist but not enough to hold together as a single mass.

The ox bung will have been thoroughly cleaned and salted so rinse it inside and out with clear water and pat it dry with a kitchen towel. Spooning the stuffing into the bung until it’s half full; I wanted to make two so I stopped early and cut off the bung short. Expel any air left in the casing, tie the opening tightly with several turns of butcher’s string and work the filling back out into the full length of the casing. The stuffing will expand in cooking as the oatmeal absorbs the fat and meat juices. The most important trick is to allow space for this expansion whilst preventing any air bubbles which might turn the entire thing into a meat-based Hindenberg disaster.

Lower the haggis into gently simmering water. The casing will contract and the stuffing will swell. Use a skewer to pierce and release any trapped air. Remember that cooking time is based on thickness not mass; the long sausage shape of the bung means that this one took just over an hour and a half to cook. Lift out onto a plate and pat dry.

What’s the best British sausage?

After an upsetting childhood experience, Jeremy Lee of theBlueprint Café could never find unalloyed joy in British bangers. Is there a sausage which might restore his faith?

• Jeremy Lee’s favourite sausages

5 types of sausageFive types of British sausage. Photograph: Alamy

Ah, the British banger. Growing up with sausages that gave my brother and me severe headaches means I still struggle to enjoy the things today. On occasion my parents cooked that shame of convenience, mini skinless sausages. My brother and I, in a rare moment of bonding, wept at the prospect of eating these abominations, both craving a proper sausage. We were ignored until a radio programme exposed the hideous reality that some cheap sausages were pumped so full of unsavoury preservatives and additives they were likely to upset your stomach and give you a headache. Our parents saw the light; we never saw the dreadful wee things again.

My father restored our faith in the banger now and again by making a fine sausage stew accompanied by a great heap of mashed potato and a healthy dollop of Dijon mustard. It was delicious and there was no suspicion of a little white polystyrene tray stuffed in the bin. But the earlier memories, made at a formative time, have never really left me.

I know it is unfair to damn an entire business on one little episode in a generally very happily nurtured childhood but my feelings on the subject are strong enough to have got me into trouble once or twice. I was once asked to sit on a judging panel for sausages. Within minutes I was teetering on the verge of banishment for being disruptive and, well, downright rude. Eminent fellow panellists shuffled their feet as I poured vitriol on the defenceless sausages, but so many of the offerings masquerading as the very best of this mythical food, the British Banger, are just terrible. It upsets me. It is a sadness that when craving a sausage or two nowadays, I rarely set off in search because I have found most of what is on offer fairly duff, annoyingly cheap, and tasting so.

The singular addition of glamour such as exotic or surprising ingredients to jazz up a sausage is only makes for more unpleasant eating. Why is there such a dazzling array of new flavours of sausage? Bad enough the chicken tikka masala pizza, but in a sausage? Likewise, ham and pineapple, beef and sweet chilli, Jamaican jerk and chicken and sun-dried tomato – abominations all. Who among us eats these?

The recipe for a great sausage could not be more simple. Coarsely ground pork, salt and pepper and scrupulously cleaned intestine. Perhaps a few little pieces of chopped back fat for the trencherman. A sausage as God intended will cook beautifully, eating well unaccompanied; will braise beautifully in a pan of lentils; will happily tackle a great pot of borlotti or haricot beans enlivened with a pinch of chilli; it will revel in a good roll with a smear of mustard. Should the use of herbs be required, a small and judicious pinch of thyme could well be a benefit to a dish lacking that last little something. But the holus bolus piling in of cheap dried herbs into the sausage itself which repeat on you for days afterwards leaves me bewildered. Keep it simple. The dread introduction of inventive jolly and cheer is most unwelcome. Dour is the order of the day.

So I still remain bothered and unconvinced by the banger to this day. I can think of no more appealing sight than a butcher behind a great tray of sausages in proper casings made from pigs raised by a farmer he knows well, but these need seeking out. Richard Vaughan of Pedigree Meats makes a pleasant chipolata. I am fortunate indeed to have The Ginger Pig, who sell a Toulouse sausage, just round the corner in Victoria Park, and there are other sausages worth tracking down. But where to find the British banger to equal? You need Sherlock Holmes for that game.


November 1, 2010

In pictures: How to press apples | Life and style |

Filed under: family, farming, gardening, recipes, wisdom — Tags: , , , , , — dmacc502 @ 8:32 am
American-style apple cider, left; Apple juice,...

Image via Wikipedia

In pictures: How to press apples | Life and style |

via In pictures: How to press apples | Life and style | your apples. I like a fairly tart juice. Here I’m using almost all Bramleys. That’s fine at the end of October, when the sugars have built up. But pure Bramley juice made in mid-September would be too sour, and you’d need to blend them with dessert apples. Unless you have a sweet tooth, you’ll probably want at least a few cookers in the mix, or a perhaps a handful of the less acidic cider apple varieties. Experiment with different varieties and proportions until you find the blend that suits you best. Wash them.

Cut them up. You’ll need to do this only if you’re using a drill-bit scratter (or pulper) like mine or a kitchen juicer. If you’re lucky enough to have a hand-cranked scratter you can feed them in whole. But in any case, cut out all rotten or wormy flesh: if this goes into the press, it will make the juice taste musty. Recent bruising won’t hurt, however: in fact it tends to make the juice sweeter. You don’t need to remove the cores.

Here I’m using the cheap scratter I don’t like very much. It’s a drill bit, threaded through a tough plastic lid, with which you cover a bucket containing the chopped apples. The first time I used it, it wasn’t properly secured and the bit went straight through the side of the bucket. To prevent that from happening, you need someone else to put their foot on the other side of the lid (in this photo it’s just my foot, so you can see it more clearly. But don’t do this alone). If you’ve got a variable-speed drill, turn it down (to about 3/10). Once the lid is on securely, pull the trigger and raise and lower the drill for around 20 seconds

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