Pickle, preserve and the produce show

The runner bean chutney has been made. I went to the garden and picked the bigger beans from half of the runner bean rows. Once inside, I used half of what I’d picked, and this made a double quantity of chutney. Nine jars. Of chutney I don’t really like. Surely there’s more to life? The second half of the runner beans went on the compost heap.

Runner beans

This event represents a small but significant shift in my attitude to the garden. I’ve been moaning at my husband for the sheer quantity of vegetables that I’ve been trying process, feeling that everything we’ve grown should be used productively. He, being a cautious garden and knowing of the failures of previous seasons, has overplanted most things. The cupboards and freezer are full, we’re eating well every meal, I’m taking bags full of vegetables with me whenever I go to visit a friend and nobody visiting the house is permitted to leave without a veg box. We just can’t get through any more vegetables or fruit. I need to learn to pick what we need and to ignore the rest – and to give the chickens any titbits they would enjoy.

The same day, I’d already made two batches of jam from a fruit that we can’t quite put a name to. The tree started out as a Victoria plum but that died and a blackthorn grew out of the rootstock. The resulting tree has flourished, and now produces mostly small plums with a few full-sized plums. A quick search on Google suggests the name of the fruit is ‘cherry plum’, a family friend who’s good on this sort of thing suggested ‘damsonine’. Whatever it is, it’s very tasty, and it has set so well that you need a pickaxe to get the jam out of the jar.

Cherry plums

I also made some St Clement’s curd in preparation for the produce show on Saturday. Last year I entered the ‘Curd – any variety’ category and noticed: 1) There were about fifteen jars of lemon curd 2) A jar of passion fruit curd won. So I decided my strategy this year was to make something a little more interesting. I don’t think my St Clement’s curd is a show winner because the orange has taken the edge of the lemons without contributing much to the flavour. But, heck, the entrance fee for the category is only 20p. I had points deducted last year for not putting a greaseproof paper seal in the jar; I won’t be repeating that mistake anyway. There’s nothing like a rural produce show for having obscure and random rules that you only know about when you break them.

I’m entering two other categories, the knitted items (just off the needles but not yet finished) and the chocolate and Guinness cake. The recipe for the latter has been given in the show leaflet, and it’s a luxurious mixture. I’ve been practicing and my husband has, to his great delight, been forced to eat his way through two cakes already. The burning question is whether you should eat items that have been displayed in a show like this? My gut feeling is yes – so long as there are no visible finger marks on it. And then I’d probably cut out the offending bit and eat the rest. WoollyDaze Too is coming to visit this weekend in order to witness my victory in the knitting competition (better get on with my item, then) and for a bit of a flutter on the earwig racing. Wish me luck. I’d hate to disappoint.

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