Sunday, 13 September 2015

Figs and honey

Figs and honey. Doesn't that conjure up wonderful images? The warmth of Tuscany or Greek islands where fig trees are everywhere and the streets are often sticky underfoot with over ripe fruit. I don't suppose Norfolk is top of your list. Well this week it was on ours.

Our bees only got settled from mid-June so they've just been making honey for a couple of months but they have been very busy so we decided to take a single frame of honey and left the rest for their winter stores. Because it was just a small amount we decided to extract manually (not using a spinner). I got Andrew involved in this because he is much steadier with a sharp knife than me!

First you have to take the wax cappings off.

It was quite a warm day so the honey ran out quite nicely.

You then get a spatula and gently, but firmly, push the rest of the honey out.

You now have a mixture of honey and wax which need separating. I had bought a double sieve which has two grades of mesh so we just popped the mix on top and let it slowly filter through.

From this we got two jars of honey. Andrew worked out that so far each jar has cost approximately £190 - I'm sure it will be better next year!

When we bought Nelson House it had a fig tree which was in completely the wrong place and so two summers ago we moved it. At the end of autumn last year I removed all the figs that were bigger than my thumb nail and was rewarded by quite a good crop this year.

The trouble with figs is that they go from unripe to overipe in the blink of an eye so we gathered them up and I made fig jam.

The smell while cooking is just gorgeous...

and it tastes like a warm hug!

Breakfast yesterday was quite special.

Fig jam recipe

1 kg figs - washed and diced
700g sugar
Juice of 2 lemons
Vanilla bean - halved and split

Mix all the ingredients and marinade overnight.

Bring to the boil and then simmer for about 40 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. Watch carefully in the last five minutes as this jam sets really easily.
Take off the heat, remove the vanilla and pour intowarm, sterilised jars.

Thursday, 3 September 2015

What happened to August?

This blog is fast becoming a monthly event, honestly I have no idea where the last few weeks have gone. And now they've started the apple harvest so I know the end of summer is in sight.

First a canine update. Many of you know that on a Sunday morning we meet up with a few dog owners, little walking is done as we stand about lollygagging and the dogs charge around a lot. There have been times when we've been down to just a couple of dogs but we've been on a recruiting mission. Andrew and I were out with Mortimer one evening and we met a charming lady with her puppy Milton. As soon as I saw him I started kidnapping plans! Sadly these came to nothing but they was persuaded to come along on a Sunday and luckily she and her partner keep coming back. Milton is a Sproodle (Spaniel x poodle) and I have to say I started scouring the internet for breeders.

Milton the sproodle

Andrew with Milton, Toby and Dexter
Our next recruit was Blue so we peaked at seven dogs, plus the casuals who pass by. Sadly this week we lose Hoby who, along with Toby, is a trainee guide dog and is off to his next level of training.
Blue flanked by Hoby and Toby
Hoby just won't let go of the apple
As always in August we welcomed guests and went out and about. A favourite National Trust property is Blickling Hall where I coveted the range

I'd need a 'tweeny' to keep it clean
and the orangery

Blickling Hall orangery
Last time we visited there were bigger trees but they didn't look very healthy so I suspect they've swapped them in.

Sandringham Park has become a favourite walk with guests. There are marked trails, a nice restaurant, cafe and a sculpture walk. I'm not big on chainsaw art but some of these are quite good and work well in their settimg.

At home our summer project was to knock down the workshop which is attached to the garage and landscape the space for an outdoor dining area. Sadly this never got off the ground so we've shelved it until spring and are concentrating on the two remaining, and as yet untouched, bedrooms. As you can see from this photograph not before time! I admit it is looking particularly bad as my ironing pile was huge (I blame our guests!) and my clothes rail had collapsed for the third time in 45 minutes...


and all on my birthday. I just had to console myself with the chocolate cake Andrew had baked for me :-)

I'm not even thinking about the calories!