Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Sloe Gin Recipe



Sloe Gin Recipe from the HenSafe Smallholding

With preparations for Christmas, thoughts are turning to those lovely bottles of sloe-gin-to-be that are maturing in our store cupboard. Although some recipes dictate waiting for 6 months to a year before decanting, we always do ours before Christmas – and it’s so delicious I thought I would share how we make it.

Sloes are the fruit of the blackthorn, which is the thorny shrubby bush you find next to fields and footpaths. Some say it’s best to pick fruit after the first frost as this breaks down the skin and pulp ready for the sugar and alcohol to act, but we usually pick ours in September provided the fruits are large and plump enough.

Start with a few bottles of the basic cheap gin you can get in most supermarkets and have a couple of large empty preserving jars to hand.

Fill a jar 2/3rds full of washed sloes (don’t bother to prick them it’s a waste of time) then fill with sugar till it covers the sloes. You’ll need about half the weight of sugar to sloes but it’s best to have it sweeter if in doubt. Then fill with gin to the top and put the lid on tight. Invert the jar a couple of times to get rid of any air bubbles and top up with gin again. Carry on with this ratio of sloes/sugar/gin until you run out.

Then all you need to do is stand the jars/bottles in a cool, dark place and invert them a couple of times each day in the first couple of weeks to help the sugar dissolve. You can leave it for 3 to 12 months; it’s entirely up to you. We’ve been slack and left ours on the sloes for a year and it hasn’t made any perceptible difference.

Anyway, when it tastes sweet and syrupy, strain it through muslin into a fresh bottle. If you get an odd bottle which is not as sweet then just mix it all together in a large pan and then decant it into bottles.Then you’re ready to try sloe sherry: put the ginny sloes into half a bottle of medium sherry and leave it for 6 months! Or try Vodka…

Merry Christmas!



Learnings:

  • Keep an eye out for your potential sloe crop and make sure you get there before anybody else does.
  • Decanting is a sticky process so have everything to hand and wear a wipeable apron if possible.
  • Don’t drink it all at once…

Monday, 16 November 2015

Chicken Health in Winter

At this time of year older chickens are starting to moult and it's a good time to give them some extra nutrition to maintain their condition and appetite. I use a liquid feed supplement which contains iron and phosphorous in a syrup base which is diluted with water. I prefer to use a small drinker and refill it each day - I think this one was sold for use with a parrot cage! They really do love it and I have a job to get into the enclosure without getting mobbed. You can also use liquid feeds in the chickens' main water source but as my girls have an open trough it can be wasteful when it comes to refilling because of soiling. Younger birds in their first year tend not to moult until Spring and will likely carry on laying through the winter months. On the HenSafe smallholding we have a mix of older and younger chickens so we are looking forward to scrambled eggs for breakfast on Christmas Day! #enjoyyourchickens
HenSafe chickens enjoying their winter tonic drink
Chickens enjoying their winter tonic drink
 

Friday, 14 August 2015

Spicy Tomato Soup



Try my delicious recipe for #tomatosoup. It’s quite spicy but you can choose how much chilli or cayenne to add.

Fill a large pan with tomatoes and just cover them with water - I use a 7 litre pan for my soup. I always cut the tops and bottoms off the tomatoes and then score the remaining skin top to bottom. You’ll see why later!

Cook the tomatoes until when stirred the skins have become detached and start to separate from the flesh, then you can just fish out the skins with tongs and discard them. Let the pan cool a bit and then put the whole lot through a sieve to get rid of the pips (taking the skins out first makes this part a whole lot easier!).

While this cooking is going on you can set off another pan with your flavourings:
3 or 4 onions
1 to 4 chillies chopped finely (depending on size and the heat you want)
5 or so garlic cloves crushed
1 or 2 small/medium carrots chopped finely
Cook all these through with a glug of olive oil till they are soft, then whiz them up in a blender with a couple of ladles of the soup base.

Now put everything back to the pan, warm it through and add some seasoning:
3 or 4 stock cubes/bouillon equivalent
2 teaspoons of brown sugar if things taste a bit sharp
2 or 3 tablespoons of oregano

Perfect for a warming lunch or supper with chunks of crusty bread!

Learnings:
* Wise words from Mother-in-Law “a soup boiled is a soup spoiled” – don’t boil out all the taste and goodness!
* Make sure you have enough freezer boxes before you start

Saturday, 4 July 2015

Punky Swallow Chicks


Caught this photo of our 4 punky swallow chicks the other day, growing fast and craning their necks to be first in the queue for bugs from mum and dad. Note the nest, expertly built and strategically balanced on a nail!
#SwallowChicks on the HenSafe smallholding image
#SwallowChicks
 

Sunday, 21 June 2015

Swallow Chicks



It’s a fabulous time of the year for watching all the wildlife. I was in the barn the other day and looked down to see the tiniest broken eggshell from the swallows’ nest above. They’ve built it on top of a nail – in fact where the birdcam used to hang, so no live pictures this year then! I’ll have to get out there with my camera as they grow…
Swallow chicks on the HenSafe smallholding



Learnings:
*Get the birdcam in place before the swallows start nest building!