Monday, 30 September 2013

So dam good

My lovely neighbour is now in possession of her large bottle of elderberry cough syrup, and I got a bonus gift.  A bagful of damsons - almost 8lb of them.  Now I must admit the only previous experience I have of said fruit is the extremely sour offering from my parents' trees.  Yuck!  Neighbour's husband obviously had a similar experience as when he discovered his plum tree was actually a damson, he was happy to pass the fruit my way.

The bluish black fruits smell deliciously fruity, but appearances can sometimes be deceptive.  Uncooked, these are as sour as I remember them to be.  Cooking them however releases all the gorgeous colour and flavour and a saucepan of these beauties simmering away on the stove looks and smells divine.

I've ended up with quite a selection of goodies, and I've got a couple of pounds left to do yet.  I have some scrumptious damson jelly, some damson syrup which will be awesome drizzled over ice cream, and two bottles of "dambeena" cordial from Pam Corbin's River Cottage Preserving Handbook recipe.

Damson goodies - jelly, syrup and cordial
If, like me, you rank damsons pretty low down on your list of fruits worth making things out of, it might be worth giving them another go.  All the things I've made from my gifted berries are absolutely delicious and I'll be keeping my fingers crossed Mr Neighbour doesn't develop a liking for them!

Until next time. x

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Fair exchange

The neighbour I mentioned in yesterday's post about Elderberry Syrup liked it so much she wanted some, but was reluctant to try making it herself.  Knowing she and her husband have a glut of eggs thanks to some new chickens, we agreed a trade.  She picks her own berries and gives me some eggs, and I'll make the syrup for her.

It's been a while since I had home-grown free range eggs.  I used to get some from another neighbour, but he's now down to only two chickens, and so getting some again was a real treat.  The so-called free range eggs sold in shops aren't a patch on these.

Proper home-grown free range eggs
There was only one thing for it.  Boiled eggs for tea!  The yolks were so dark and the flavour absolutely gorgeous.

Followed by apple crumble made from apples foraged locally, I had a thoroughly home-made / home grown and frugal tea.

Home made apple crumble
Until next time. x

Monday, 23 September 2013

Elderberry cough syrup

While chatting to my neighbour earlier today, we got onto the subject of the fruit harvest and the making of jams, syrups and cordials.  I was telling her about the elderberry and blackberry winter cold syrup I've been making - one which is supposed to give the immune system a real boost and do wonders for reducing the symptoms of colds and flu.  Apparently elderberry syrup was used during a flu pandemic in Panama in 1995!
Homemade cough syrup
Having researched various recipes, I decided on putting blackberries in with the elderberries as on their own, the elderberries are a little too "earthy" tasting for my liking.  The result is a pleasant tasting syrup with a nice lingering aftertaste of blackberry.  My neighbour agreed it was delicious and asked whether it was difficult to make.  It isn't.  And making your own sure beats paying the extortionate price for Sambucol or similar at a chemist or healthfood shop - around £9.00 for 120ml - with the bonus of knowing exactly what's gone into it.

As with most of my stuff, the recipe isn't at all precise.  I picked a punnet of blackberries from the hedges around my allotment, and snipped around half a carrier bag full of elderberries, which also grow in abundance on the peripheries of the allotment site.  The ready availability of both these plants was a major factor in my decision to take the plots I have.

To make the syrup, wash the blackberries and chuck them into the largest saucepan you have.  Strip the elderberries from their stems - I use my fingers to "tickle" them off, others use a fork - wash and throw in with the blackberries.  Just cover with water, then bring to the boil, knock back the heat and simmer gently for 15-20 minutes.  Strain through a jelly bag into a large bowl or similar.  Leave for an hour or so, then gently squeeze the bag to extract as much juice as possible.  Warning: this process will leave your hands looking as though you have just murdered someone!!

Tip the juice back into a saucepan, add some sugar when the juice is hot but before it reaches boiling point, simmer for a few minutes to allow the sugar to completely dissolve, then decant into sterilised jars or bottles and cap them to ensure a tight seal.  I don't measure the amount of sugar, just add enough to give the mixture a pleasant, but not overly sweet, taste.

Et voila!  Start taking a spoonful morning and night if you feel like you've got a cold coming on, and if you've already got a cold, take a spoonful every 2-3 hours throughout the day.  Once the seal on your jar/bottle has been broken, store the syrup in the fridge.  It should keep for a couple of months.  Unopened, it may keep for up to 1 year until the next making season. :)

Until next time. x

Disclaimer:  Obviously this post is in no way intended to be taken as medical advice, as I am not a doctor, nurse, or licenced healthcare practitioner.  This post is for educational purposes only and you should always consult your GP or medical adviser, and carry out your own research before taking any herbal remedy.

Saturday, 14 September 2013

Step Counting Freebie

Small has got a bit fed up with step counting in 2s the 2p coins I printed out and stuck onto the dining room wall.  I'd printed out the numbers from 0 up to 24 - mainly because the numbers are also useful for the 2x table, but also because a girl's only got so much room in her dining room school room to stick up useful posters and stuff!

He's been counting on beyond the 24 on the wall, and as he can already count to 100 (thanks to playing Snakes and Ladders since he was 2) I decided to create him something a little more challenging.

Introducing "Counting Sheep" - a 10-page freebie you can download and use to help your own small or classroom of smalls with step counting.  Some of the sheep are blank for the kiddos to fill in, which also helps with number formation.

Counting Sheep Freebie
Have fun, and until next time. x

Monday, 9 September 2013

Back from hols and a freebie

Apologies for the lack of blogging, but we've been taking a well-earned break and enjoying a "not back to school" holiday.  As a home educator, I don't observe school holidays where most kids do absolutely nothing and forget everything they've learned.  Here, we learn every day.  We do take time out though, and what better time to enjoy a holiday than when all the other kids have gone back to school!  Frugal as ever, we went to visit my parents who live in North Wales.

We did lots of foraging for blackberries which were frozen and brought home to make delicious bramble jelly.  We visited Llanberis, right in the heart of Snowdonia, and took a ride on the Llyn Padarn railway,

"Dolbadarn" engine at Llanberis Lake Railway
and we also visited the fantastic - and better still free - National Slate Museum, which is just opposite the Gilfach Du station on the Llanberis Lake Railway.
National Slate Museum of Wales
The museum also provides spectacular views of the Vivian incline at the former Dinorwig Quarry.  The mined slate was transported down the incline to the railway below, and then (presumably) transferred to the main gauge railway which was on the opposite side of the lake to the narrow gauge railway, so it could be freighted to Port Dinorwig (Felinheli) where it would have been put on the ships for shipment to the world.
The Vivian incline, Llanberis
I've not been totally idle though, and as well as making the blackberry jelly, I've also put together a little freebie, in the form of sight word cards that can be used as flashcards or as games for Reception/Pre-K age kids.  Enjoy!


Until next time. x