Tuesday 31 December 2019

Our house from a distance

This is the view of our house from across the neighbouring fields on the last day of 2019. You can just make out the house behind the trees on the right of the photograph.

The drain or dyke is Baldwins Lode (lode is an Anglo Saxon word for a watercourse). Baldwins Lode is quite modest compared to some of the Fen drains or dykes but plays an important role locally for drainage and irrigation. The Internal Drainage Board have recently dredged the lode. The bankside reeds have been mowed as part of the work.

The field on the left is still covered in stubble from the wheat harvested last August. Sugar beet grew on the field to the right and has only just been harvested and collected.  

Wednesday 18 December 2019

Walnuts, pickled and otherwise

We have a substantial walnut tree which crops abundantly, though not every year. The main way we take advantage of this largess is to store the nuts in the garage and periodically shell batches of them, enough to fill a jar. This keeps me going with a small handful added to my porridge every morning from September to March, as well as for cake decorating and the like. 

The shelled walnuts need to be kept in the fridge otherwise the oil in the nuts will eventually turn rancid. We have tried other ways to store walnuts, including drying in a low oven and using a dehydrator but this way seems to work best. 

The other thing we do is to pickle walnuts, a traditional Christmas-time accompaniment. Angela, the noted designer of Nativity play costumes, among many other accomplishments, spotted pickled walnuts among my list of preserves yesterday, and asked how to pickle them. Here is what we do which works very well for us. We can't remember where we sourced the recipe but we can vouch for its efficacy.

The key thing is to use immature walnut fruits that are still green, before the hard nut has developed. For us this is sometime in June. A pin can be used to test to see if the inside is still soft. 


  • 225g salt
  • 1 litre malt vinegar
  • 500g brown sugar
  • 1 tsp allspice
  • 1 tsp cloves
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp black peppercorns
  • 1 tbsp fresh grated ginger


  1. Prick the walnuts with a fork and cover with water and the salt.
  2. Leave for a week, then drain and renew with a fresh brine solution for another week.
  3. Drain the walnuts and lay out on trays in a dry, airy place. After a few days they will have turned black.
  4. Combine the remaining ingredients in a saucepan. Bring them to the boil, add the walnuts and simmer for 15 minutes. Cool and spoon the nuts into large jars and cover with the liquid.
  5. Leave for a year. 
A jar of pickled walnuts opened today

Tuesday 17 December 2019

Drawing on reserves

This year we have had some poor crops (apples), some crop failures (carrots), some seasonal bonanzas (asparagus and grapes) as well as a wide range of produce we can nearly always rely on. Not all of it is suitable for storage or preserving.

Here is what we are still harvesting:-
- Jerusalem artichokes
- Parsnips
- Spinach
- Leeks
- Celery
- Red cabbage
- Eggs

This is what we have stored:-
- Potatoes
- Onions
- Garlic
- Borlotti beans
- Walnuts

From the freezer:-
- Cauliflower
- French Beans
- Runner beans
- Peppers
- Chilli
- Raspberries
- Blackberries
- Black currants
- Red currants
- Plums

Some of the products from preserving:-
- Jams
- Chutneys
- Honey
- Passata
- Pickled walnuts
- Dried plums
- Apple juice
- Elderflower cordial
- Cider

Home grown meat from the freezer
- Pork
- Lamb
- Mutton
- Chicken
- Duck
- Turkey

Friday 6 December 2019

Beet heaps

December view. Across the road one heap came and went and another has appeared. I can see it from where I am sitting. Trucks will be going back and forth next week to take it to Bury St Edmunds. There are still fields yet to be harvested so I suspect there is still more to come.