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Curious and Creative: A Fresh Start for 2018

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Three jars of rowanberry jellyAs we edge further into 2018, the question of what to do with Curiously Creatively becomes a matter of urgency. Well, OK, not exactly urgent, it’s not a matter of life and death (or even football come to that). However, the fact remains that our blog has been in the doldrums for a while and we haven’t been able to decide what to do with it. To push on with it, or to pull the plug? After much thought our decision has been that we should keep it going. We have enjoyed blogging about our crafting, gardening, baking etc and it seems a shame to delete all of those posts that we have put effort into writing and illustrating.

Both of us have been distracted by other activities, but in the short term Verity will be taking a break from CC to concentrate on her studies. That means that it will be my craft and gardening efforts enlivening these pages for the foreseeable future. I am hoping to arrange the occasional guest appearance to provide a change of voice. I also want to feature a few more ‘out and about’ posts as well to add a little variety. The last post, when I had a go at tackling the ‘Beat the Street’ initiative was one such expedition.

Hawker Hurricane model

To start as I mean to go on, I have added in a couple of photos from recent activities that never made it into proper blog posts. I have made lemon curd, Rowanberry jelly and we have decorated our Christmas cake. During the summer Verity finished her wooden Hawker Hurricane model from a craft kit, which is now proudly displayed and also tested out a candle making kit. In addition, we had a good year in the garden, particularly with our runner beans and courgettes. We had  a first this year in trying out making stuffed courgette flowers. This was something we were particularly pleased to have tried, having been meaning to make them for a while. They were rather tasty too! I hope to make more next season if the courgette crop does well again.

Six stuffed courgette flowers

A culinary First!

I shall be turning my attention to the garden again soon and I have (as usual) several recipes that I would like to try out. The autumn foraging has filled the top drawer of our freezer with wild fruit, so at some point I will be preserving gain. And that’s without all of those walks and activities that I aim to do, so there’s no shortage of things to do and to write up. I just need to get my fingers twinkling on the keyboard.

So, watch this space and I hope to see you again soon with another curious or creative activity to share with you!

 

Rowan jelly from foraged berries

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Yet again, you find us in fruit preserving mode, this time with rowan berries, the proceeds of some of Verity’s foraging activities. We do have a rowan tree at home but as it is still too young to produce many berries, we’ve been looking out for a suitable tree from which to forage. The reason for our interest in rowan berries is that we have been reading up on some of the more unusual preserves that can be made and we were keen to try the recipe for rowan jelly. The colour in the picture accompanying the recipe looked so beautiful that we really had to try it. And anyway, the idea of eating rowan berries was intriguing. A real step into the culinary past of using what was around you as food.Rowan trees

In the end, we scaled down the quantities in Thane Prince’s recipe book (check out some of recipes on the BBC Food site) as the weight of berries after washing and discarding the duds was just under 500g. This meant that we were only making about a quarter of the amount of jelly that the author did, but it was enough to get us started on something new. The jelly also contains cooking apples, which provides the bulk, but as in the previous carrot and cardamom recipe, it also ensures a good set, as apples are rich in pectin.

One minor digression: on the subject of suitable jars to use for preserves. We try to keep a stash of various sized jars in the kitchen cupboard, salvaging jars from anything from coffee to mayonnaise (and even jam!) Recently our cupboard has become full of small yoghurt jars. Both of us are yoghurt fiends so it doesn’t take much encouragement to buy, eat and thus acquire more jars. The appeal of these jars is not for their practicality as they don’t contain much, but what they are brilliant for is making jars of preserves into handy gifts. The shape of the Dunnes jars works particularly well, though I could wish that the labels were easier to soak and remove.

rowans and apples

In the pan…

The recipe in our book (I haven’t researched any others yet) is quite straightforward to follow. Apart from the water, there are only three ingredients. The main thing you have to remember in jelly making is that you will need a muslin cloth or a jelly bag to strain the fruit pulp before adding the sugar. We have a cloth, though after often struggling to get it suspended over a bowl, I feel the time has come to splash out on a decent jelly bag with a frame to make the task easier. Here I also need to confess to a dreadful sin against jelly making: I have squeezed the bag containing the pulp on more than one occasion. Recipes always tell you not to as you risk making the jelly cloudy. The problem I have is that I tend to look at the fruit pulp and think what a waste it is not to squeeze a little more juice.Rowan Jelly

Therefore, in making our rowan jelly, I did squeeze the bag but in fact, I can’t say I noticed much difference in the end product. It might have been slightly less clear than it should be, but it still looked glowing with colour. I found I needed to skim the surface of the jelly after adding the sugar, but that wasn’t too much of a problem. Rowan jelly is supposed to be versatile enough to use as a preserve on toast and to accompany roast lamb or venison. Thane Prince recommends it with toasted goat’s cheese and I think that maybe it would work well with camembert or brie too. After taste testing the fruits of our labours (pun intended), we were very pleased with the results. The fruit jelly has a lovely tang, a welcome change from the sweetness of some jams. I don’t want to start sounding like a wine expert detecting all sorts of notes, but I think the rowan has a sort of spicy tang that counteracts the overall sweetness of the jam. In other words, and to put it simply, it was very yummy on our morning toast!

Do let us know about any unusual jams that you’ve tried to make. Any new ideas are more than welcome…

Picture credits: the rowan tree was taken from: http://www.treecouncil.ie/index.html and Verity took our kitchen pictures.

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