honeyed ginger

Devoted readers may remember that in the early days of spring I prepared gingered honey. Quite inadvertently, I stumbled upon something finer still.

honey-gingers.jpg

Accidental candied ginger! Ah, the honey infused the ginger just as ardently as the ginger infused the honey, and sugared it over, without syrups, completely raw. Oh, the gorgeous stuff!

honeyed ginger with chocolates

Naturally one must introduce honeyed ginger to dark chocolate. My loved ones are now wondering why I didn’t share (blushes) and so I must hurry to make another very large batch. I should think it will be ready for winter, will you try this too? A wide-mouth mason jar should be about right for extracting the ginger, and the honey left is an excellent medicinal. Now, do check back soon, as I have something else gingery and rather exciting to show you.

blueberrying

One fine morning, we rose early (taking a break from that prolonged, distracting state that we call moving house) and headed to the farm with our buckets, hats and snacks.

blueberrying

A summer isn’t right without a few trips to the local farms, strawberrying, raspberrying. I feel rooted and stable when I’m eating food we’ve gathered ourselves, and I see the children are so content.

blueberrying

We are so lucky to know a farm that uses organic practices. (If you’re on the southern part of Vancouver Island, visit Nicholas Farm, they’re wonderful, I’m so grateful to live nearby.) Not a chemical to worry us, and such beautiful rows of heavy fruit.

blueberrying

Be sure to bring your young blueberriers with you. They are nimble and close to the little bushes, and if you ply them with sandwiches they may pick quite a heap.

blueberrying

My small one shouts “Jackpot!” upon finding gigantic berries. Extraordinary things. Six of us picked 120 pounds of gorgeous fruit in a short morning on the farm.

blueberrying

Berries to cook into jam or kiiseli or tarts; to dry, to sink in a jar of gin, to freeze. I could live on the beauties. Soon we’ll plant our own little patch and go blueberrying at the lakeside cottage.

hazelnuts

What elation to gather the hazelnuts before the squirrels made off with the entire harvest. We felt a bit smug, having just outsmarted bears who make off with plums, too.

hazelnuts

What a pleasure to shuck them, sitting on the back step with the children, like shucking corn both in word and in action. Albeit with enough repetition to cause a couple of blisters.

hazelnuts, hulled

What a delight to set them in a basket to dry in a warm room, and watch the pale green deepen to that hazelnut brown.

And what a disappointment to find them all empty, not a single nutmeat amongst them. All our plans for hazelnut torte, or honeynuts! Dashed. Back to buying cobnuts at the shops. The hazels were recruited for an autumn display, beautiful but slightly unfortunate, like an ornamental cherry in spring. Do you gather nuts from local trees before the creatures take them all? What do you do with them?

plum picking

One year as we patiently awaited beautifully tree-ripened plums, a cheeky young bear stole into the tree and ate every last plum. He cracked branches, being neither a small nor a careful bear, and he lounged around in the sunny garden long after the larceny. Every year since, we make sure to beat the bears to the plums. The fruit will finish ripening in a bowl in the window.

plum-picking

Little girls are a good size to slip between the leaves for plum-picking without any branch-cracking or fruit-bruising. They do eat more than their share of plums, mind you.

plums

I’ve always got high hopes for all the things I could make with the plums. Yet in all but the most bumper-croppish years, they get eaten up while they’re fresh.

plums and berries

If you’ve got an abundance of plums in these last days of summer, or wild blackberries (which rarely get through our door without being plunged into whipped cream and devoured) get the quarterly, out this week. It includes a very simple recipe for preserving fruit through winter. Even if life has been too much of a whirl for jams and jellies, you’ll feel industrious and a little bit triumphant over this one – pretty good for ten minutes work.

halloumi

After making cheese at home, cheese as delightfully simple as cream cheese and as entertaining as mozzarella, I was thrilled to spend a day studying how they make cheese on the farm. Another soft cheese, the exquisitely squeaky halloumi. Follow me around Old Plawhatch Farm‘s dairy to see how it’s done.

making halloumi cheese

We begin, of course, with the milk. Old Plawhatch’s biodynamic farming practice is not only idyllic, deeply in tune with a beloved herd and the rolling Sussex hills they graze on, but it produces a living food, full of all the enzymes needed to digest cow’s milk. It’s clean, gorgeously rich stuff, and what’s more, we’re making cheese just at the time when the cows are eating that rapidly-growing springtime grass that seems to promote extraordinary healing. You’ll see the golden evidence in the pictures below.

making halloumi cheese

Compared to my cheese-making, even seeing this much milk at one time is remarkable. The walls of the vat are filled with hot water to slowly warm the milk.

making halloumi cheese

Meet Tali, who runs the dairy. She’s measuring and preparing rennet for when the milk reaches the correct temperature;

making halloumi cheese

Then stirring the rennet well in, just as I do with mozzarella and other cheeses.

making halloumi cheese

We clean the dairy extremely well in preparation, as we’ll need a sterile environment to culture the cheese.

making halloumi cheese

Isn’t the old cheese press gorgeous?

making halloumi cheese

Large, round cheese moulds are lined with a reusable cheese-cloth. A metal screen is also sterilised, ready for when it is needed to strain the whey from the curds.

making halloumi cheese

Tali has a good trick for checking if the vegetable rennet has set the milk: press a finger into the surface, then lift up – the curds should separate cleanly.

making halloumi cheese

We attach large metal blades to the mechanism to cut the curds. This is the same step in making mozzarella, when you slice the curds into cubes with a long knife.

making halloumi cheese

Gorgeous, chartreuse whey releases from the curds.

making halloumi cheese

While we’re between tasks the brine is made by measuring sea salt into a clean bin and filling it with water.

making halloumi cheese

Now the screen is fitted to the vat. Here we go! The next part is a bit like a fire brigade, only with whey. Luckily we had a bit of an international brigade of volunteers.

making halloumi cheese

Open the tap; catch the whey in a clean bucket;

making halloumi cheese

And pour it into another vat. This one will heat the whey.

making halloumi cheese

Scoop up the curds;

making halloumi cheese

Into the waiting cheese moulds.

making halloumi cheese

Fiddle with the cheese press, add weights, set it all up to press on the moulds.

making halloumi cheese

Whey will drain across the table and into waiting buckets. A treat for the pigs! Let’s go have lunch at the farm shop while we wait for it to press. I love the food there, grown on Plawhatch, the sister farm Tablehurst, and all over England.

making halloumi cheese

Pressed. Look at that.

making halloumi cheese

That is a cheese!

making halloumi cheese

For halloumi, there’s a few more steps. Having turned the cheeses out of their moulds, cut them up.

making halloumi cheese

Cut, and cut.

making halloumi cheese

Once it is cut you can see what an astonishing amount of cheese it is. Remember the hot whey?

making halloumi cheese

Drop the cheese into the vat of hot whey. We leave it there for awhile;

making halloumi cheese

Then lift the cheese out;

making halloumi cheese

Rub it well with sea salt;

making halloumi cheese

And send it off to chill.

making halloumi cheese

Once it is chilled, drop the cheese into the waiting brine. The sea salt will preserve the halloumi well, for a soft cheese. Tali recommends soaking the halloumi in water for a bit to draw out some of the salt before using it.

making halloumi cheese

Have you eaten halloumi? I adore it grilled, served with lots of vegetables. Absolutely delicious. Thank you, Old Plawhatch!