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So many people have no time for gooseberries. They remind me of carefree times. Of summers, off-school and earning a few bob with pals at the local fruit farm. We spent many hours huddled around gooseberry, blackcurrant and strawberry plants, giggling and gossiping, pegging fruit at the boys on the next row. We came away with scratched arms, berry-stained clothes and not a whole lot of pocket money. It was fun.

GOOSEBERRY_JAMIs it the battling with treacherous thorny branches to retrieve the berries that puts folk off? It could it be the bristly texture of the fruit but I suspect it’s the lip-puckering sourness that people most object to. Gooseberries need a lot of sugar to make them palatable which makes them just perfect for jam making.

A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to receive a bowl of gooseberries. Some of them were used for a crumble and the rest were popped in the freezer for a later date. When my tiny, single, solitary blackcurrant bush started to produce ripe fruit I immediately thought of my frozen loot. I’d come across the gooseberry / bay leaf combination before and was keen to give it a go. As well as adding an interesting flavour bay leaves can help in the relief of respiratory infections, joint pain and indigestion. The berrries were topped and tailed- another lovely childhood memory evoked of around the kitchen table with my mum- washed and placed in a saucepan. To make the jam I brought all the above ingredients to a rolling boil stirring occasionally for about 20 minutes. It’s always best to do a “is-it-set-yet” test. Letting it cool down to a handling temperature I then poured the jam into sterilised jars and screwed the lids on while still warm. I look forward to cracking open a jar and being transported back to the carefree summer days of my misspent youth!

 

Jumper_BEFOREMy husband has had this jumper for eons. No, he is not a former ski instructor, ex raindeer-herder or one-time arctic fisherman. I like to think it is his keen sense of irony and appreciation for Nordic design that led him to this particular winter warmer. Or perhaps just the recklessness of youth…..Anyhoo, it was recently re-discovered at the bottom of a wardrobe whiffing faintly of moth balls but looking as good as new. It no longer fitted Z ‘s waistline or fashion sensibility and needed to find a new home. Because of it’s fine pedigree- pure Scandinavian wool if you don’t mind- I decided to give it to my sister who has a penchant for all things woolly. I thought she might unravel it it and re-knit it into something useful for my nieces. She’s good like that. Turns out she had an altogether craftier scheme up her sleeve.

Jumper_BEFORE2

A delightfully squishy birthday parcel arrived for me last week. Imagine my delight to find Z’s swanky sweater reincarnated as an amazing felted bag. I love it- thanks sis. Such clever and creative re-purposing- but that’s my sis. Did I mention that she’s good like that?

Jumper_recycled_bag

The jumper was felted in a warm machine wash followed by a stint in the dryer. It can be a bit of a trial and error technique but usually reliable with 100% pure wool. After felting it was cut up and sewn together. Have you got a felting project you’d like to share?

*For non-Irish readers this is a nod to brilliant song by 90’s Cork Band The Sultans of Ping

 

 

 

Saurkraut_Homemade_LRFor a long time I’d been itching to try my hand at making sauerkraut. The commercial stuff on the supermarket shelves tastes fine but to obtain maximum health-giving probiotics, vitamins and minerals it should be fresh and unpasturised. After scrutinizing many a Youtube tutorial and reading lots on the art of fermenting vegetables I still had niggling doubts about my success rate without the proper equipment. So when we discovered an unusual-shaped jar during the big move it all started to look more feasible.

The lovely grey earthenware crock had originally been used by my Mutter-in-law’s family to preserve autumn fruit in rum to produce a potent, winter-warming tipple. Ingeniously, the lid houses an airlock “moat” that when filled with water allows air to be slowly released from the jar but at the same time preventing any air from entering it. I’d been scouring shops and markets for a saurkraut crock for years. Of course you can buy them online but delivery is precarious not to mention expensive. For me this was a gem of a find and I had every intention of giving my newly acquired friend a new lease of life.

Saurkraut_CrockMaking Saurkraut

  • Having sat unused for several decades in a dark corner our jar warranted a good scrub. Good hygiene practice is paramount anyhow to ensure that only the good bacterias are allowed to prosper.
  • Three robust heads of cabbage were retrieved from the veg patch, finely shredded and packed tightly into the jar. No need to wash the cabbage as this is where our good bacteria will come from.
  • I vigorously pounded a layer of cabbage with the end of a wooden rolling pin, added a copious sprinkling of sea salt, followed by a spattering of dried juniper berries and continued with these three steps until the jar was almost full.
  • To apply more pressure to the compacted leaves I filled a food-grade plastic bag with water and pastry weights and placed it on top of the final layer. The moat surrounding the opening of the jar was filled with water. On went the ceramic lid. The whole lot was left sitting in corner of the kitchen for a week or so until there was enough liquid extracted from the cabbage to cover the leaves entirely.
  • At this stage I removed the bag altogether and replaced the lid. We kept an eye on the water level in the lid making sure it was not allowed to evaporate completely. It gurgled and popped sporadically as air was released – perfectly natural.
  • Six weeks later, after a taste test confirmed it was time, we decanted the cabbage into sterilised jars. I filled four large screw-top glass jars, placing cling film between the metal lid and the jar to prevent and any corrosion from the lactic acid produced during fermentation. They were stored in the fridge. Though not for long as we are already down to our last jar.

The taste is sublime. Slight crunch still in the leaves with a beautiful sour taste, unlike anything I’ve previously tasted. Without a doubt it is worth the effort. Now, I’m off to plant some cabbage seeds for next years batch!

 

You don’t need a specific airlock type ceramic pot to make saurkraut at home. You can use a normal crock or a mason jar.

Regular readers of Green Jam Jar will know how much I look forward to wild garlic season. For me it kicks off the start of spring and gets the first foraging of the year underway. It’s so versatile in the kitchen there is really no excuse not to use it in some shape or form. I covered it in oil, made several jars of pesto and chucked handfuls into almost every dish.  Then, feeling a little creative I tried my hand at a hearty soup with wild garlic as it’s star performer. Not only was it delicious I’m hoping it cranked our immune systems up a notch. You’ll find the leaves growing wild in shady or forested areas. Be sure to gather them before they flower and enjoy them in their prime. Remove as much of the white stalks as you can- they are a little bitter. Everyone has their own version of wild garlic soup. What’s yours?

Potato, Kale and Wild garlic soup

SeedSaversChqLast Saturday afternoon I nervously awaited the arrival of my first visitors. Afternoon Tea had been laid out to raise funds for Irish Seedsavers. What if nobody shows? We’lDavedaly_trevorsargentl be eating cake for months. Cake that I had spent two days assembling in various shapes and guises. It wasn’t long before the welcome sound of wheels on gravel put my fears to rest.

Friends and supporters came, thirsty for tea and eager to help. It was a lovely few hours spent catching up with pals and making new ones. With their generosity and inventiveness we raised €500 (winging its way to Irish Seedsavers HQ in Co Clare as I type). Wildlife artist Dave Daly came baring beautiful watercolour kingfishers and Trevor Sargent donated a copy of his fabulous book Trevor’s Kitchen Garden. Both were sold and the monies added to the seed saver kitty along with visitors’ contributions. All in all a great success thanks to the support of friends old and new!

Following my last rabble-rousing post I am putting my money where my mouth is and holding an afternoon tea fundraiser. I’ve borrowed a water boiler. Mutter-in-law has kindly jumped on board-  industriously churning out her delectable chocolate chip cookies. I’ve rallied a few pals to spread the word and even illustrated an invite to circulate. Now all I need is a moderate flow of generous people through our home in Wexford* on the afternoon of Saturday 15th February. Hot beverages and a variety of sweet treats will be handed round in exchange for a small donation. All proceeds will go to the Irish Seed Savers Association.

KarenNolan_seedsavers_invite

Come on along – it’ll be fun and you’ll be doing your bit for a worthy cause. Or maybe you could host your own afternoon tea fundraising event? Let me know if you have anything planned.

*Leave a message if you need directions.

The Irish Seed Savers Association was founded in 1991 by Anita Hayes to preserve the seeds of rare heritage agricultural plants. More than two decades later their funding has been cut leaving their vital work, and potentially our future, now under threat.

In Wildermess is the preservation of our world

There was a time, not so long ago, when farmers and gardeners only grew fruit, vegetables and grains from seeds that they saved from a previous crop. These particular seed varieties, referred to as open-pollinated varieties, self-pollinate to produce plants that are true-to-type; as in exhibiting the same characteristics as the parent. Some plants species are also open to cross-pollination with similar varieties which means care must be taken to isolate them from their first cousins in order to obtain genetically pure seed.

Up to 50 years ago in communities throughout Ireland seeds were selected from the hardiest and most vigorous plants, swapped with neighbors and, in some cases, creatively cross-pollinated to produce a diverse selection of localized plant varieties. This is no longer how most of us operate. We now trundle down to our nearest garden centre to buy a packet of F1 hybrid vegetable seeds or choose a fruit tree from the limited selection of varieties. F1 hybrid seeds are the result of genetically different parents and are either sterile or produce unstable offspring. This means we all, gardeners and commercial growers alike, unhinkingly buy our hybrid seeds annually. And so, largely down to profit before sustainability, public demand for uniformity and our detachment from the land, over the course of the last century more than 70 percent of our native fruit and vegetable varieties have disappeared. Forever.

The global control exerted by a certain multinational on our food supply through the patenting of “hybrid vigor”, disease-resistant seedstock is shocking enough but loss of agricultural diversity is further cause for concern. We need to have a wide variety of plants at our disposal to ensure genetic diversity. This means we are better equipped to respond to any environmental challenges that may come our way. We as a country should have independent resources to adapt and evolve our food supply to suit the changing weather conditions.

This is where The Irish Seed Savers Association comes in. While we were fondling seed packets down the garden centre Irish Seedsavers were tirelessly gathering and preserving for our future and now they need our help. The Department of Agriculture has drastically reduced their funding. Pobal payments have been pared back and there is a fall in numbers attending on-site courses. As a result the association’s annual budget is down by €250,000. If they fail to raise this amount they will struggle to survive. We do need them to survive, so please go to here to support their crowd-funding campaign. It is a very real and sound investment for our childrens’ futures. On February 1 people are encouraged to host a fundraising coffee morning for the association. The first day of spring – I can think of a no better omen.

More info: Great article here by Sylvia Thompson

Wild Food Mary

Foraging, preserving, recipes, resources

Mel Healy

Irish foodie crime fiction

Pat's Blog

Pat's thoughts on living comfortably

visitwexford

Looking forward to seeing you!

Whispering Earth

Nature patiently waits and we have only to turn back to her to find relief from our suffering - Dr Bach

biabeag (small food)

Exploring the world of small scale, ethical & local food producers

Re-enchanting the Earth

Writer and storyteller Sharon Blackie

Steven L Campbell

Artist/Author

Trevor's Kitchen Garden

How I grow my own food and how you can too.

Threadborne

Fibre Art, Eco Printing, Artists' Books, Vintage Textiles

Domeara

A dribble of knowledge

Roisin Markham

Release 4.4, update 4.5 due 2014. Evolving portfolio career.

Little Miss Cruciferous

Downshifting on the outskirts of Beantown

Natural Reactions

Exploring the latest research in environmental science

Writing and Illustrating

Sharing Information About Writing and Illustrating for Children

My Food Odyssey

Food. Country Life. Travel. Photography.

busy mockingbird

a messy collection of art projects, crafts, and various random things...

wildsherkin

Once upon an island...the musings and makings of a part-time islander

Wild Food Mary

Foraging, preserving, recipes, resources

Mel Healy

Irish foodie crime fiction

Pat's Blog

Pat's thoughts on living comfortably

visitwexford

Looking forward to seeing you!

Whispering Earth

Nature patiently waits and we have only to turn back to her to find relief from our suffering - Dr Bach

biabeag (small food)

Exploring the world of small scale, ethical & local food producers

Re-enchanting the Earth

Writer and storyteller Sharon Blackie

Steven L Campbell

Artist/Author

Trevor's Kitchen Garden

How I grow my own food and how you can too.

Threadborne

Fibre Art, Eco Printing, Artists' Books, Vintage Textiles

Domeara

A dribble of knowledge

Roisin Markham

Release 4.4, update 4.5 due 2014. Evolving portfolio career.

Little Miss Cruciferous

Downshifting on the outskirts of Beantown

Natural Reactions

Exploring the latest research in environmental science

Writing and Illustrating

Sharing Information About Writing and Illustrating for Children

My Food Odyssey

Food. Country Life. Travel. Photography.

busy mockingbird

a messy collection of art projects, crafts, and various random things...

wildsherkin

Once upon an island...the musings and makings of a part-time islander

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