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Saturday, 21 July 2012

Coping with the glut

With the best will in the world, at this time of year it is very tricky to keep up with all the fruit that is ready to be harvested. Finding the time to pick it all is one thing and turning it straight into jam is another.

I met a fellow allotment holder coming out of the gates yesterday, a bag stuffed to overflowing with broad beans. "Lovely broad beans, John," I said, "Are you going to freeze them?"

"Me hunter gather," he replied, "the wife does the freezing bit."

Ah yes, that rings true. Whereas a man can leave the allotment, sweaty and muddy, and head straight for a soak in a warm bath to ease his achy muscles, the woman has to deal with whatever harvest she has just brought home before considering a quick shower.

When fruit is harvested it is important to deal with it quickly to keep it at its best. If you leave it just for a few minutes it will attract fruit flies - not something you really want in your kitchen. And within a few hours it will be oozing and by the next day it may even be furry! So either it needs to be parked in a the fridge for a while or turned straight into some culinary delight or put in the freezer.

Obviously, when you freeze fruit it is never the same again upon thawing. However, it can still be used perfectly well for any cooking purposes so all is not lost. It is certainly absolutely fine for jam making and in fact makes jam making easier as it is already softened by the freezing and needs less cooking time.

Before freezing consider how you wish to use the fruit in the future and prepare the fruit ready for this purpose. For example, for soft fruit, top and tail it first, and for stone fruit, cut it in half, remove the stone and chop it into smaller pieces if necessary. Apples and pears are best peeled, cored, sliced and lightly cooked first. Next, think about the amount you will need. For jam making I freeze everything in bags of 1lb of fruit as that makes it easier. For other uses, such as for cheesecakes or cakes, I freeze in whatever quantity the recipe requires and label the bag appropriately - e.g. 6oz raspberries for cheesecake. Sometimes it is just as easy to go the whole way and make the end product first and then freeze it - such as when I'm making crumbles. A batch of cooked apples and some blackberries, say, will make 4 crumbles which I can freeze for later and cook from frozen in 20 minutes - lovely! If you're not sure how you might use the fruit in the future then place it in a single layer on a tray to freeze and then the next day decant it into bags. The fruit should be individually frozen and not stuck together in some difficult blob. However you freeze it, remember to label it clearly as things can look different once frozen and you could soon end up with a freezer full of UFOs - that's Unidentified Frozen Objects!

Sunday, 15 July 2012

The Moos at Ten

Last night was the 2012 Midnight Moo - an all ladies 10 mile walk through Milton Keynes. The herd set off a midnight and whilst they were busy striding through the early miles, Jammy Cow and her heifer friends were busy preparing the final mile for their welcome home.

At the beginning of mile 10, ready to greet the herd for their final mile was the very professional Moos at Ten Cow, Mavis.  She is a very sensible and reliable cow and in stark contrast to the next cow round the first corner. Silly Cow, Connie giggled her way through the night.

Those of you who walked the 10 miles will know that most of mile 10 is uphill so the Moos at Ten team were ready to add that extra bit of encouragement as the herd came through. Having said that, Bossy Cow's version of encouragement is about as friendly as bootcamp with her strident, "Keep moooving!" shout. It is at this point in the early hours of the morning that you realise exactly how far 10 miles is to walk. "Holy cow, aren't we there yet?" you may mutter as you pass the pious Holy Cow, Mary. 

Continuing up Midsummer Boulevard, the end is near and breakfast at Pret A Manger awaits, a thought not lost on the perpetually hungry Fat Cow, Victoria as she patiently waved the crowds through. 

Normally, Hetty the Mad Cow stands out as a bit odd but last night she was in good company with lots of ladies suitably dressed up for the night.

Through Witan Gate underpass and by now there is less than half a mile to go. Bed is calling and lucky you, you'll soon be home and tucked up. Lucy, the Lucky Cow was there, cheering you on for the final push. And only another 50 calories left to burn, something Clover, the Skinny Cow was quick to point out.

Nearly at the end of mile 10 now and so very close to achieving your aim. A point to feel proud and to reflect upon why you are doing this. Willen Hospice is a fantastic cause and everyone is impressed by your fundraising efforts. Remember those Concrete Cows you passed in mile 7, well one makes a final appearance here to salute your efforts on behalf of Milton Keynes.

And there, with the end in sight, Jammy Cow welcomes you to the end of mile 10 and congratulates you on completing the Midnight Moo. A big cheer, breakfast, bath and bed. 

So can you work out how many cows there were on mile 10 of the Midnight Moo? If you can and you are local to Milton Keynes then why not enter our competition to win a fabulous hamper of goodies. Visit www.themoosatten.co.uk or email your answer to enquiries@jammycowmk.co.uk 

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Article in Shenley Church End Parish Newsletter July 2012

The Milton Keynes Tourist

2012 is a very special year for the UK and “staycations” are being promoted as the new way to holiday, yet can you imagine Milton Keynes being a tourist destination?  It is always hard to step back and view your hometown with the fresh eyes of a visitor but Milton Keynes particularly does not seem like the obvious place for a holiday.

I was born and bred not a million miles away in Bedford and moved to Milton Keynes in 1996. Since then I have fallen in love with the place. There are numerous green spaces, a road system that makes getting about easy, every shopping outlet you could wish for and increasingly more and more places of entertainment. What’s not to love?

Sadly, some people would argue that there is not a lot to love about Milton Keynes. “The Concrete City” where even the cows are concrete, apparently. These do tend to be people who have never visited the place or who have spent very little time here. Still, for someone like me, trying to make a living out of selling home made preserves, it is obvious that Milton Keynes is not the tourist magnet that say, Cornwall is.

Back in January 2011 I was sat around drinking coffee with friends and bemoaning the fact that I lived in Milton Keynes and not Cornwall. Nothing wrong with MK you understand, just if I lived in Cornwall I could make my jam as usual but market it as “Cornish Jam” and sell it in the nearest gift shop to the tourists. To my surprise my friends suggested that the same thing was possible within Milton Keynes and perhaps with even more of a novelty value just because Milton Keynes is not considered such a tourist hot spot.

This hit me like a lightning bolt of inspiration. What better way to make the point that Milton Keynes is not all concrete cows and roundabouts than by selling jams and chutneys made in Milton Keynes from only fruit and vegetables grown in Milton Keynes. And so Jammy Cow was born, with an honorary nod towards our famous concrete cows.

Having established the brand, I then went in search of the market. I was somewhat surprised to learn that about 3 million tourists visit Milton Keynes every year for business and leisure purposes and from all over the world. I soon found out that there are over 20 hotels within Milton Keynes too, as well as B&Bs.  I’m pleased to say that already Jammy Cow products are available in several of these hotels.

But what of the other little gems that we so enjoy when on holiday? You know, gift shops and quaint little cafes serving coffee and sandwiches or cream teas. Well, I’m pleased to say that such places do exist within Milton Keynes and are well worth searching out. From the garden centres of Woburn Sands to the listed buildings of Stony Stratford there are independent shops and cafes that have all the charm of anything you would find in Cornwall. And it’s not only the older parts of MK that hide these gems. You will find lovely places such as Squeaks in Broughton, Yenna Bean on Grange Farm and The Coffee Boutique in Oxley Park. All excellent little places to pop into for a drink and a bite to eat with friends and family.

So no need to count the days until your next holiday. Instead, make the most of what Milton Keynes has to offer and treat yourself to a holiday-style day out without the hassle of packing a bag and getting stuck in traffic. And if you fancy a souvenir to remind you of what a special place Milton Keynes is, don’t forget to pick up a jar of Jammy Cow – Milton Keynes grown and made.


For more information about Jammy Cow please get in touch. We would love to hear from you. At this time of year we are on the hunt for surplus fruit and veg to go into our preserves. If you have any spare perhaps you would like to swap it for a jar or two of our lovely jams and chutneys.

www.jammycowmk.co.uk www.facebook.com/jammycow
Or contact Hazel: Email: enquiries@jammycowmk.co.uk Twitter: @jammycow
Tel:01908 673013

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Making the most of herbs

My herb garden is growing like mad right now and threatening to close up the garden footpath and prevent people reaching the front door. Fortunately, Steve has been out with a hedge cutter and trimmed it right back, leaving a nice clear route for the postman and a big pile of gorgeous herbs.

Now, the thing about herbs is, you only need to use a little at a time and using too much can be counterproductive. Fortunately, they are very easy to preserve if you have a sudden glut. Two weeks hanging in a warm space such as your airing cupboard or dangling in your greenhouse is all that is needed to dry them. Then scrunch them in your hands and decant them into a plastic bag or glass jar for storage.

Alternatively, chop your freshly cut herbs finely, sprinkling into ice-cube trays and fill with water before freezing then just drop a herby ice-cube into your food whilst cooking. I also like to make a few herby end products to freeze too. Sage is perfect for turning into stuffing. Use a food processor to turn a slice of bread into crumbs then to chop an onion and finely to chop the sage then mix the lot together in a bowl. A little seasoning and few drops of water are needed and then the lot can be squished together in your hands to form stuffing. This can either be moulded into stuffing balls or just suitable sized portions then put on a tray for freezing. Perfect for stuffing the crop of a chicken or other bird. 

I had a bit of rolled lamb shoulder to roast the other day so I made a different variation of stuffing to suit the flavour of lamb. Made in the same way as the standard sage and onion, this one was made with rosemary, thyme and marjoram (or oregano), onion and a clove of garlic, along with the bread and water. I took the lamb out of it elasticated netting, unrolled it, put in the stuffing and rolled it up again before returning the netting.  And this week we bought a piece of pork from M&S which had a layer of herby butter smeared between the cracking and the meat. The butter had within it chopped up thyme, parsley, garlic and a small amount of lemon zest. Very easy to duplicate at home and herb butter can be frozen in portions until required.

Another lovely way to flavour meat with herbs is by making a herb mustard. Again, a little bit of fiddling around with the ingredients can create mustards suitable for different meats. This weekend I made Cider and Sage Mustard with some fresh sage from my garden and Virtual Orchard cider. This mustard is divine if smeared on pork chops or a joint of pork before cooking. Later this month when the garlic is ready to harvest I shall make some Garlic and Ale mustard with Concrete Cow Brewery beer. This one is perfect for beef. For lamb Rosemary Mustard is perfect.

Finally, from of my herb garden this week I have harvested a bunch of lavender. This is currently in my greenhouse drying. In previous years I have used dried lavender at Christmas to make little lavender bags and lavender bath bombs to give as socking fillers. However, this year I have decided that I shall dabble in lavender flavoured food. I've always been of the opinion that lavender food tastes like soap but from reading around the subject, it would seem that food only tastes like soap if too much lavender is used. In subtle quantities the results are, apparently, sublime. So, look out, lavender flavours will soon be added to the Jammy Cow range.