The past month has heralded the arrival of frosty mornings and icy nights. The frost-bleached grasses cover the landscape in a golden cape. Orange berry bushes provide bright accents of colour along the bleak roadside. As autumn makes way for winter, our daily routines adjust too. Join me as I reflect on the month of May, inspired by Slow Living Essentials
There has been much busyness in the kitchen lately. I have been making a lot of different soups this month. They make great lunches. I always make more than we need and freeze half for another meal. Brassicas are on the menu again as they are currently being harvested on the farm. Our cow is in full milk production without a calf to share the flow, so in the past two weeks, we have been eating more dairy products than ever. In the last week I have made feta, ricotta, halloumi, gouda cheese, ice-cream, butter, mascarpone cheese, cream cheese, mozzarella, buttermilk bread and yoghurt. Milking is usually my children's job, but even Dad has been roped in on the odd occasion to help with the milking.
I found a fantastic recipe for a quick pastry, perfect for venison pies...or any other filling... Cream together 200g cream cheese, 200g butter and then mix in 2 c flour. Roll it in a ball. Chill for 30 min. Roll out, cut and fill pastry. Seal and glaze with a beaten egg. Bake at 200 degrees C until golden. So simple and delicious.
He takes after his dad who has become such a pro baker, producing top quality pizza bases, loaves of yeast bread and rolls so regularly that I hardly have to bake bread anymore.
The last of the apple harvest has been turned into dried apple rings. Our clear, dry winter days are perfect for drying fruit. Dried apples are lovely chopped into muesli or eaten on their own as a snack. I also have racks of herbs, thyme, rosemary and sage, drying in preparation for bottling.
Some of the cheeses that I have made will only be ready in a few months time. I have bottled feta, maturing for a couple of months in brine. The picture below shows the curds in two moulds, draining off the whey.
Here is undyed gouda cheese, fresh off the press, waiting to be cut into two rounds for brining for 24 hours and then maturing for a few months.
I think my most exciting stockpile is this bottle of halloumi cheese. Although, judging by its popularity, it might not last us very long.
Reduce, Re-use:In an attempt to reduce veterinary expenses, I have overcome my fear and learned to give injections to my cow myself. My husband and son have also re-used pencils in an innovative way. On separate occasions two of our hens were stepped on by a cow and broke their leg, so they devised effective splints for them, using the said pencils.
We re-use all our teabags by drying them in front of the fire, soaking them in paraffin and using them as firelighters. We also re-use our coffee grounds, scattering them at the base of broad beans and roses to discourage ants from bringing aphids. All the cheese making produced more whey than I could handle. After using it to make ricotta, I use it in soups, baking and to feed the dogs and chickens and my garden. The surplus whey has found a very eager recipient. There is a pig in the staff village up the road who gulps it down in a minute, squealing loudly whenever it sees us arrive with more buckets.
Our vegetable garden is looking rather bare. The asparagus and rhubarb are all mulched into their winter beds after being frosted. All the frosted beans, tomatoes, marrows, cucumbers, peppers, and brinjals have been pulled out and the last fruits eaten or preserved. The current stalwarts are the last turnips, some leeks, cabbages, cauliflower, onions, spinach and rocket. As the grazing frosts over, we are hoping for rain to irrigate the field of oats growing next to our home - winter grazing for our animals. The oats that I sowed in our tunnel as green manure is flourishing in comparison.
My clever husband has been creating lovely saddle racks for storing tack indoors after our last lot were stolen from the outdoor tack room. I love the vertical use of space.
I made and sold beeswax, olive oil and honey lip balm along with April's soaps at the May farmers craft market.
My cream cheeses were sold out. I am hoping to create a name for myself as the local cheese lady.
I am devouring Ricki Carroll's book, Home Cheese Making, and learning so much as I apply the new skills to the buckets of milk s they enter our kitchen. Her website is a great resource for cheese makers too.
The only community enhancement that I managed this month was to help in fattening up the local community pig. Oh yes, we also helped babysit my friend's six children.
We are so enjoying the horses... Saturday morning rides with my man, my son setting up jumps in the field and Sundance behaving like a dream, training Omega, exhilarating father and son outrides, nuzzling soft noses looking for apples and affection. Thanks to a wonderful kindness shown to us after a burglary that cleaned out our horse gear, we have tack again and are able to enjoy riding again. I love watching them doze in the early morning sunshine, warming up after chilly nights.