Chilli Jam Recipe

Homegrown Chilli Jam Recipe

I’ve been experimenting with growing chillis this year, for the first time ever. I’ve always thought there was something quite majestic about a chilli plant loaded with bright red (or yellow or green or any variety of colours), and having seen some plants gong cheap at the garden centre, I thought I’d give it a go.

The red chilli plant has done really well in the green house (aka front porch!) and the orange ceyenne pepper has done reasonably well outside, but probably needed a bit more sun!

Having now managed to get a reasonable harvest of chilli peppers, I wanted to have a go at making something that would last… Chilli jam!


This was a bit of an experiment, but I’m really pleased with how it came out. I’d probably add some more chilli next year (an extra ceyenne would probably have done it) for a bit more heat. That said, this is a really flexible recipie, so use as many or as few as you like!

Ingredients

  • A handful of chillies, finely chopped (If using shop brought, try starting with 2/3 medium red chillis)
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp dried coriander
  • 650g tomatoes, cut into quaters (I used a mix of red, yellow and green tomatoes)
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 250ml red wine vinegar
  • 600g granulated sugar

Method

  1. Add the tomatoes to a large pan with a splash of the vinegar and soften for a few minutes.
  2. Add the onions, cumin, corriander, chilli and the rest of the vinegar. Bring to the boil and simmer until the tomatoes have almost completely softened down to mush.
  3. I like to remove some of the tomato skins at this point, which will make a smoother jam.
  4. Reduce the heat, add the sugar, and stir until it has all dissolved.
  5. Bring back to a rolling boil and simmer for around 5 minutes.
  6. Pour into sterilised jars and allow to cool.


The jam, which is a bit more runny than traditional jam) goes excellently with cheese, or dolloped in a burger!

Swiss Chard

img_1225I love growing chard (aka: Swiss Chard, Leaf Beet) it’s so easy to grow, and will cope with pretty much all weather meaning it’s a great crop for ensuring you’ve got something growing all year round. Chard is also pretty flexible, as you can either harvest mini leaves that can be used raw in salads, or when mature, giving leaves that can be used just like spinach (although Chard is actually more related to beetroot).

Chard comes in a variety of colours (I like to grow a variety called “Bright Lights” which is really a collection of different verities) as there’s something quite ornamental about seeing the different coloured stems standing proud in the veg patch. Being a cut-and-come-again type plant, a few chard plants will give you a little harvest every week or so. They also grow really well in pots, especially if you want to harvest as mini-leaves for salads.

This year I’m also going to try over-wintering a few plants, as they’re biennials, and should flower in their second year. Apparently you can use the flower stalks like sprouting broccoli, and I may try harvesting some of my own seeds!

Chard tastes like spinach and can be used whenever you might use spinach; the only thing to watch for is the stems! Chard stems take longer to cook than the leaves, meaning they need to be cooked separately. Just cut them away and add the, to the pan a few minutes before you add the leaves.

Swiss Chard

 

Chard works particularly sliced and added to a stir-fry, or in a curry. Getting the family to eat it on its own can be a little tricky, so that’s where this little recipe comes in handy…

Ingredients

  • Chard, washed and stems cut away and leaves sliced
  • 1 Onion, finely chopped
  • 1 Clove of Garlic, finely chopped
  • 6 Mushrooms, chopped

img_1227Method

  1. Heat a little oil in a frying pan and cook the onions until starting to soften.
  2. Add the garlic and mushrooms and cook for a further 5 minutes.
  3. Throw in the chard stems, and cook for around 2 minutes before adding the leaves.
  4. Cook until the leaves have wilted down, but stop before they go too soft!

This versatile little side dish works well with a roast dinner, and goes really well with some crispy potatoes.

What’s your favourite way to use chard? Let me know in the comments!

Trench Composting

Trench Composting 101

It might sound funny, but I love compost! It’s crazy to think about how much food gets thrown in the trash that could be used to improve our soil and grow new veg! We’ve got one of those black plastic compost bins in our garden, but seeing as it’s full, I decided to do a little bit of trench composting today.

Trench composting has to be the most simple and easiest way to get started with compost, and anyone can do it! All you need is a patch of soil, a spade and some kitchen or garden waste. It also just makes so much sense… you don’t have to keep moving compost around: just dig a hole where you want it!

I’ve just pulled out the last of the carrots from this end of the veg bed, and I won’t be planting anything in for about a month until I’m ready to plant out some spring onions and garlic. A space like this (or one that will be left even longer) is ideal for trench composting, as once you’ve buried your compost, you don’t really want to be digging and disturbing the area for a good few months.

Directions:

  • The first thing to do is dig a hole. Generally speaking, the deeper the better, and I reckon you should aim for at least 30cm. This makes sure that any waste that might attract pests is buried too deep for them to bother.
  • Next, fill the trench with kitchen waste. You can put anything in the hole that you would normally put in a compost bin, but I would recommend avoiding things that will take a while to rot down. The smaller the bits you put in, the faster it will rot, so I like to slice the compost up with my spade at this point. Then cover the trench back over.
  • Now your bit is done, it’s over to nature! Over the next few months, the natural bacteria and worms in the soil will break down the organic materials you’ve added to the soil. This will then create a layer of rich compost, which will naturally be worked into the soil.

 

Right now (September/October) is perfect for trench composting, as it should all be broken down by mid to late Spring; but you can use this method all year round.

If you haven’t got a large bed, you can just dig small holes at random in your garden – just make sure you remember where you’ve dug! You can also dig a trench and gradually fill/cover as you fill up the kitchen compost bin.

The lovely layer of compost you’ve created is great for planting in, and heavy feeders like beans will love you for it!

Why not give it a try, and let me know your composting secrets!

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How to get the most out of your strawberry plants

Around now we’re coming to the end of the strawberry season and it’s time to tidy the plants up and get the ready for next year. Spending a few minutes now will really pay off next year as you’ll have bigger stronger plants and more fruit!

First off, if you used a mulch (I use straw which helps keep the strawberries off the compost) clear this away so you can better access each plant. 

Now, time for a bit of house keeping. Cut off any leaves that have started to turn red or brown, trying to cut them as close to the crown as possible. The leaves will naturally turn red as they grow old, so cut them back and watch new leaves grow. 

Next you can use runners to create new plants. The runners look like long stems with a little bit of growth attached. Each runner will produce new strawberry plants, and it’s really simple to do!

Simple Guide To Strawberry Runners

  1. Fill some small pots with compost.
  2. Place the new growth on the runner on top of the compost. This is the crown. 
  3. Gently push the runner into the compost. You may want to use a small stick to peg the runner down. 
  4. Water the compost lightly. The crown should rest on the surface rather than being completely submerged, and you want to keep the surface of the compost damp to encourage the crown to send out roots. 
  5. After around 6 weeks your runner should have rooted. Now you can cut the runner off from the main plant. 

And that’s it! Keep an eye on the new plants and they’ll grow nicely ready for next year. 

Each new strawberry plant should fruit next summer, but you’ll have to wait another year for them to really get gowing. 

Of course if you don’t want any more strawberry plants then make sure to cut of the runners, as each runner will drain the main plant of its water and nutrients. 

Strawberry plants tend to last around three years, so remove any old ones and keep planting new runners to ensure a long lasting crop.

Now to enjoy the last few strawberries until next year!

Bank Holiday Projects

Bank Holiday Project and Sunshine Juice

I’m writing this after a beautifully sunny bank holiday spent in the garden building a new growing area and experimenting with a new recipe.

For the past couple of years, I’ve been pretty frustrated that the trays I have don’t fit on my windowsill or the mini greenhouse, so today was the day to build what I’ll call a growing tower!

It might be pretty empty now, but after a couple of coats of paint, I’m sure I’ll have no problems filling the shelves!

I also tried another way of using up a glut of tomatoes: sunshine juice! (OK, it might just be tomato juice made with yellow tomatoes, but sunshine juice sounds so much better!).

Really simple to make, here’s the recipe (makes two glasses):

Ingredients

  • 450g tomatoes (cut in half, but don’t bother if using cherry tomatoes).
  • Small onion cut into quarters
  • Salt & Pepper to season

Method

  1. Put all the ingredients in a pan, add a splash of water and bring to the boil.
  2. Allow to simmer for 15-20 minutes, stirring regularly.
  3. Once the tomatoes have boiled down, pour into a sieve over a jug. Use the back of a spoon to push all of the juice through.
  4. Allow to cool and serve with a splash of Worcestershire Sauce.

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Using yellow tomatoes made the juice sweeter than normal, and it passed the “would I make it again” test, so why not give it a go!