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preserving

Food & Drink

5 Cucumber Recipes (and a Slug Deterrent)

October 6, 2014

5 cucumber recipes

How many recipes can you come up with that use cucumber as the main ingredient (not counting cucumber sandwiches and salad)?

As a result of an almost overwhelming glut of cucumbers in Callan community garden (we’ve been averaging around six to ten for the past few weeks), I set the group the challenge of coming up with some different cucumber recipes. After a bit of homework, here’s what they arrived with on our Monday morning session.

5 Cucumber Soup Recipes1. Cucumber Soup

Maureen arrived with a tub of freshly made soup. We were a bit skeptical at the thought of eating cucumber flavoured soup as it’s something we tend to associate with cool dishes. Having tried the recipe that Maureen found in a Myrtle Allan cookbook, we all agreed, we’d think again. This was a surprisingly tasty vegetable soup! It basically contained some potato, carrot, stock, seasoning and cucumber and I’m looking forward to surprising my family and seeing if they can guess what the flavour is.

2. Sweet Cucumber Pickle

If sweet chutney is your thing then you’d love this recipe. Joan brought along a very tasty sample of a sweet cucumber pickle she made which we all enjoyed with some crackers. I didn’t manage to get the recipe from Joan on this occasion but Margaret from A Year in Redwood shares one over on her blog.

5 Cucumber Recipes3. Cucumber and Apple Chutney

Siobhan turned up with a little jar of cucumber and apple chutney that went down a treat and we decided to add it to our chutney range during our joint preserving session with Freshford group. We’ll be showcasing several chutney and jams at Savour Kilkenny Food Festival on the 25th /26th October on The Parade. If you can’t make it to Kilkenny to sample the chutney, Siobhan has generously shared the recipe:

Siobhan’s Cucumber & Apply Chutney Recipe

1 kg cucumber, remove skin, seeds & finely chop
1 kg cooking apples, peeled, cored & finely chopped
650g onions, finely chopped
700mls cider vinegar
500g light brown sugar
125g raisins
1 tsp allspice
1 tsp cayenne pepper
Salt & Pepper to taste

Method

Cut the cucumber in half lengthways, scoop out the seeds (if a ridge variety, peel the skin off first), cut into small, bite sized pieces and place in a large saucepan with the finely diced apples, onions and vinegar. Bring to the boil then simmer until soft. Add the sugar, raisins, allspice, cayenne and season to taste. Simmer until the mixture is thick. Pour into hot, sterilised jars and seal. Chutney is best after it’s been left unopened for a month or so to allow the flavours to develop.

5 cucumber recipes4. Cucumber Paté

Cucumber strips filled with a mackerel paté was the contribution I offered to the table having spotted a recipe online that came up with a similar combination. If you’d like to try this, peel the cucumber lengthways with a potato peeler and pat the strips dry on a clean tea towel. The bigger and straighter the cucumber the better. Drain the oil from a tin of mackerel fillets, then combine the fish with a small tub of soft cheese. It would be more usual to add a squeeze of lemon to the mixture but as I didn’t have any, added some freshly squeezed orange. Everyone seemed to enjoy it and it would be a really good recipe for anyone on a low-calorie diet looking for a different snack to try.

5. Cucumber Raita

This recipe didn’t turn up on the community garden table but is one I’ve made on several occasions to accompany the curries that Mr G likes to dish up. Just mix a large tub of organic yogurt with half a finely grated cucumber, some chopped fresh mint leaves and chopped chilli pepper to taste. It’s a good idea to grate the cucumber into a clean tea towel and squeeze out the excess water before adding it to the yogurt.

Cucumber Slug Deterrent

Lastly, when I was doing my own research I found this cucumber slug deterrent on the Real Pharmacy website that lists 13 uses for cucumbers. It seemed too good a tip not to share:

Cut up a few slices of cucumber and pop them into small, aluminium pie dishes and leave them scattered around the garden (I’m guessing when it’s dry weather). Apparently the chemicals in the cucumber will react with the tin and give off a scent that will deter slugs from our gardens. Has anyone tried this? Certainly seems worth a go.

What do you think, would you try any of these dishes out or can share any of your own?

Community Gardens

Community education – how measurable is it?

September 20, 2014
Community education – how measurable is it?

This is what happens when you take a couple of weeks off in the summer

We spent a quiet couple of months in the Callan and Freshford community gardens during the summer months with the long, lazy days ensuring we all managed to spend some down time. Now the children are back in school we’re firmly back in action in the gardens and have some exciting plans ahead. Having announced at the end of the 2013 Savour Kilkenny Food Festival that they never wanted to make, preserve and sell home-grown produce ever again, like the memories of childbirth, Callan gardeners seem to have forgotten all the painful bits and have not only announced they want to give Savour another go, they’ve invited the new Freshford gardeners over to the kitchen to help them make this year’s batch of preserves and get involved with the selling of them.

I’ve mentioned before how unique community gardens are with no two alike and the gardens in these two rural Kilkenny villages are no exception. Continue Reading…

Food & Drink

Drying Herbs? Here’s how to air, oven & freeze them

November 1, 2013


Drying Herbs? Here's how to air, oven & freeze them
Drying herbs, freezing or even using the ones we grow has been a topic of conversation with a few community garden groups recently and one I was reminded of again during a recent chat with Orla Rapple when we were discussing the benefits of blogging and horticulture.

Many of us grow herbs in pots outside the door or in herb beds or gardens, but how often do we harvest and store them for use over the winter months?

With food waste very much on the agenda after the revelation that Tesco sent 28,500 tonnes into landfill from their UK stores (not composted) in the first six months of this year, now might be a great time to think about preserving our own herbs.

There’s been many a year that I’ve regretted not collecting the leaves from my coriander (cilantro) before it went to seed or not drying the basil plants before they withered and died, yet preserving, drying or freezing herbs is a very simple exercise that will only take a short time to do.

Drying Herbs? Here's how to air, oven & freeze them

Basil ‘gone to seed’

How to dry herbs

The best time to pick herbs for drying is early to mid summer when shoots are young and fresh. If they’re left until later in the year they may become tough and flower, which can alter their flavour. However, if you’ve left it late (as we had in Callan this year with the basil), taste a leaf or two and see if you’re happy with the flavour. If you are, better to dry it than waste it!

Drying Herbs? Here's how to air, oven & freeze them

Goresbridge Community Gardeners Collecting Herbs

Here’s a few tips to help get the best flavours from preserved herbs:

  • Harvest on a warm, sunny day, preferably in the morning after the dew has evaporated but before the sun has scorched them.
  • To prevent flavours and aromas mingling, only pick one variety at a time.
  • Check the herbs carefully, removing any damaged or diseased leaves or stems and shake them to remove any small insects.
  • Tie small bunches of herbs together, ensuring that stems are preferably no more than pencil thickness. This will prevent mildew forming and allow an airflow.
  • To help to keep their colour, small-leaved herbs such as thyme can be tied and dipped into boiling water briefly then shaken and allowed to dry on kitchen towel. This will also make sure any tiny insects that you might have missed on inspection are dealt with.
  • Tie bunches of herbs together ensuring that stems are preferably no more than a pencil thickness which will prevent mildew forming and allow an airflow.
  • Hang the bunches upside down with paper bags or muslin tied around the leaves to protect them from flies and dust.
  • The best place to dry herbs is in a cool, dry shed or hot press (airing/warming cupboard). This method should take around seven to ten days.

Storing the dried herbs

Once your herbs are dry, simply crumble the dried leaves with your fingertips, discarding any stalks or spiky bits and preferably store them in small, dark, glass jars to keep their flavour.

Drying Herbs? Here's how to air, oven & freeze themHow to dry herbs in the oven

Air drying herbs is preferable for concentration of flavour however, speed is sometimes desired! If so herbs can be dried in the oven in about an hour.

Pick and clean the herbs as in the air drying method above but instead of tying sprigs into bunches, remove the leaves from the stems and lay out on a baking tray on top of a piece of muslin. Place the tray in an oven set at the coolest setting and leave the door slightly ajar. Turn the leaves over after about half an hour.

Freezing Herbs

Freezing is a handy method of preserving herbs but they tend to go limp when they’re defrosted so are not suitable for garnishing. They can however, be added to stews etc., straight from frozen.

Simply chop up the leaves, add them to ice-cube trays, top up with cold water and pop the trays into the freezer. When the cubes are frozen, empty them into a bag or container and add them to your soups or stews as your recipe requires. This is an ideal method for saving supermarket fresh herb bags or containers that may have been added to the shopping trolley for one or two recipes and are now left withering in the bottom of the fridge or on the windowsill.

Alternatively, divide sprigs of herbs into bags and freeze them whole. The method for picking and washing herbs is the same as those in the drying instructions above.

Drying Herbs? Here's how to air, oven & freeze them

Given that food waste is such an issue, I’m going to make an effort to dry and preserve more of my own herbs. Do you preserve yours?

Community Gardens

Grow Your Own. It’s not just about growing veg…

October 2, 2013

Grow Your OwnEveryone tells you its good to grow your own fruit and veg. You’ll get fit, it’s great for the mind, you know where your food comes from, you learn the seasons, it’s organic! You’re at one with nature and you’ll shop locally – the list can go on but is that it, can we do more for ourselves in our quest to lead more sustainable lives than just head outside and sow a few seeds?

Callan Community GardenWell we’re about to find out in Kilkenny…

Thanks to the KLP community garden initiative, two gardens I’ve been working with are now learning what’s involved with small business enterprise.

Continue Reading…

Food & Drink

Spicy Salsa Recipe & Green Tomato Tips

September 17, 2013
Spicy Salsa made from food grown in an Irish garden

Spicy Salsa made from home-grown produce

September is one of my favourite months for many reasons, not least the continuing harvest and thoughts turning to next year’s growing season.

In the community gardens and at home we’ve started to write our lists of seeds to buy, we’re pondering over what grew well for us, what didn’t, what we liked and what we’d sooner give a miss to and we’re also keeping our eyes open for sources of well-rotted organic matter that can be added to the beds once we’ve cleared them of spent crops.

Olivia of Lavistown HouseFollowing a successful and enjoyable preserving workshop held by Olivia at Lavistown House in Kilkenny for the Goresbridge and Kilkenny gardening groups recently (funded by Kilkenny Leader Partnership), we’ve looked at recipe ideas for pickling and preserving many of the fruit and vegetables that are still growing.

In the next week or two we’ll be firing up the stoves and cleaning the jars in preparation for a couple of group preserving sessions where we’ll share the work and fun involved with pickle and jam making.

Ripe tomatoesI’ve made several colourful salads at home from food grown in our garden which I’ll share with you next week but in the meantime, one of our personal favourite dips is this quick and easy salsa.

Containing juicy, ripe tomatoes, coriander seeds, chillies and onions you can’t beat it for a burst of autumn flavour and colour.

It’s much tastier than the racks of jars you’ll find on shelves or cold cabinets in supermarkets that have been imported from sunnier climates and if you’re growing your own, you can’t get any more local and of course, it’s free!

Salsa Recipe Ingredients

2 tsp coriander seeds
1 large red onion chopped
2 garlic cloves crushed
1-2 hot green chillies or to taste
450g/1lb ripe tomatoes
4 tsp chopped coriander
Seasoning

Method

Corriander Seeds

Coriander Flowers & Seeds

Dry fry the seeds in a heavy based saucepan for a few minutes, then crush using a pestle and mortar.

Mix together all the ingredients, cover and stand for at least 30 mins or overnight to allow the flavours to develop.

Green tomato tips:

With nights drawing in and temperatures dropping, I’ve noticed lots of people seeking advice on ripening their green tomatoes.

Tomatoes need warmth to ripen so whether they’re growing inside or out, first nip out the growing tips at the top of the stems to stop the plants growing any further – at this time of year it’s wasted growth – the plants will not be forming any more fruit at this stage. Remove any flowers or small fruit that are trying to develop then remove all the leaves from the plants which will allow the fruits to bathe in the last heat of the autumn and not nestle behind cold, dark foliage.

If your plants are strung up, you could try untieing them and laying them down on black plastic or weed membrane (not something I’ve tried but have heard it’s very effective). Again, the tomatoes will pick up the warmth from their dark underblanket.

Placing green tomatoes next to ripe bananas (that emit ethylene, a ripening chemical) works to a certain degree but personally we’ve found that the skins toughen and turn blotchy and unattractive.

Green Tomatoes and Chilli Peppers

If all else fails you might like to try a couple of recipe ideas for green tomatoes – the first a green tomato and chilli chutney and secondly (I promise you’ll never know they’re in there) green tomato buns which are our son’s most  favourite of all the ‘vegetable’ cakes.

Happy harvesting!

Food & Drink

How to preserve herbs in vinegar

July 16, 2013
How to preserve herbs | greensideup.ie

Herbs – a little bit of summer in a bottle

Do you ever preserve the herbs you grow?

I’ve written a couple of posts about growing herbs but once you have a sufficient quantity, you might like to start using them. Herbs can easily be popped into bags and frozen loose. They can also be chopped up, placed into ice-cube trays, topped up with water and added directly to dishes later, or they can be dried by hanging them upside down in bunches which allows the full flavour of their oils to develop.

This year I’m making much more of an effort to preserve our food. It started with the three different fruit cordials recently blogged and now it’s the turn of the herbs

If like me you tend to leave herbs to flower for the bees, popping outside only occasionally to snatch fresh handfuls to add to cooked meals or salads, you might like to try flavouring vinegars with them that can be drizzled onto food for a change.

How to preserve herbsI’ve chosen the simplest method I’ve come across that was suggested by Darina Allen in her Complete Cookery Course.

It involves adding a few sprigs of herbs to sterilised bottles and completely covering them with a vinegar of choice. I’ve started by separately adding tarragon, mint and fennel into three small, *sterilised bottles filled with a simple white wine vinegar. I’m still on the look out for a locally sourced cider vinegar given that it’s so good for us too!

How to preserve herbs | greensideup.ieWhen to pick herbs

The best time to pick herbs is in the early morning after the dew has dried and before they flower and are at their most flavourful.

Uses

Tarragon vinegar can be used as a base for a vinaigrette or added to soups, casseroles and sauces. Mixed with cream it’s a delicious accompaniment to chicken. Mint and vinegar are synonymous with lamb dishes but will be tasty with salads and couscous. Fennel vinegar can be added to salads, chicken and fish dishes.

How to sterilise bottles

We save bottles and jars for preserving but there are some pretty alternatives for sale if you’d like to use them for gifts. Either way they should be sterilised and the easiest way I’ve found is to soak them in hot, soapy water, wash them thoroughly removing all the labels and glue then pop them in an oven to dry at 180 °C for about 15 minutes and fill them when they’re still hot.

Once bottled the vinegar should be stored in a cool, dark place.

Do you have a favourite recipe that would taste delicious with a herb vinegar?

Food & Drink

Green Tomato & Chilli Chutney Recipe

October 22, 2012

Beech tree in all its glory

Autumn is the most vibrant season of the year with the full spectrum of orange, browns, yellows and reds shining out from the hedgerows and fields.

It’s also the time of year most associated with harvesting and preserving and I can’t help but wish those glorious reds (or even a hint of yellow or orange) had extended into my polytunnel and were now the main colour of my tomatoes! Instead, around two-thirds of this years tomato crop are still green. Healthy but definitely green, which has left me once again trawling through the recipe books so as not to waste the harvest. October is also the month for picking red chilli peppers and Bramley cooking apples, making this a deliciously seasonal chutney.

Green Tomatoes and Chilli Peppers

Green Belle and Celine Tomatoes and Mixed Chilli Peppers

When we blog recipes we often worry that we’re not crediting them correctly but given that I’m rubbish at following them and usually end up adding ingredients or leaving some out, making up recipes can come quite naturally as a result. On this occasion it appears to have worked as initial tasting is quite sumptuous (and most chutney recipes are based on a similar variety of ingredients anyway). The chutney is quite sweet yet because of the additional chilli peppers, leaves a fiery aftertaste (depending upon how many you add). The flavours can only improve over the next few weeks as they are allowed to blend.

The quantity given will make around nine jars of various sizes (I have a lot of green tomatoes!) so halve or quarter it to your own needs.

Green Tomato & Red Chilli Pepper ChutneyIngredients

1.6kg green tomatoes, diced
400g Bramley cooking applies, diced
600g red or white onions or scallions, diced
1-3 red chilli peppers to taste
4 cloves garlic
500ml cider vinegar
2.5cm piece root ginger, finely chopped or grated
160g sultanas
400 g soft brown sugar

Add all the ingredients to a large stainless steel saucepan, bring to the boil then simmer for around an hour or two or until liquid has a firmer consistency and isn’t as runny and the ingredients resemble a chunky chutney.

Empty into freshly sterilised jars and seal whilst the ingredients are hot. Leave for around three weeks to allow the flavours to blend and settle before serving.

Chutney makes a delicious accompaniment to cheese and freshly baked bread.

Tomato and Chilli Chutney

Green Tomato and Red Chilli Chutney

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