Recipe: Plum Wine

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The formulation of this recipe was more trial and error than a regimented step-by-step instruction but it appears to have worked incredibly well. We have half a dozen establish plum trees here in the Walled garden and therefore a bountiful supply of plums. This recipe makes around twelve litres of plum wine and produces a beautiful Rosé coloured drink and a satisfying pop once bottled.

You will need;

  • 15L Fermenting Bucket with an Airlock with Rubber Stopper
  • 5kg fresh plums (I’m using a variety called Edwards)
  • 2kg of golden caster sugar
  • 10L of Boiling Water
  • 1 lemon
  • 5g Cider yeast

Step One: Wash the plums; discard any which are too soft, rotten or mouldy. Avoid using wind-fallen fruits. The process of fermentation relies on clean and sterile fruits and equipment.

Step Two: In the clean fermenting bucket, crush the plums as best you can to break the skin and release some of the juices. I did this using a metal potato-masher, but use any utensil you have at hand (so long as it is clean – dip in boiling water for a minute or two to sterilise it).

Step Three: Pour into the fermenting bucket 10L of boiling water. Give it all a good mix and pop the lid on the bucket. Store the bucket in a dark, warm space for three/four days. This allows the plums to imbibe in the water, releasing their sweet juices. Swirl the bucket everyday to ensure mixing.

Step Four: Add 2kg of sugar, the juice of a lemon and mix. Then sprinkle the yeast over the surface of the liquid. It will float on the top. Allow it to sit undisturbed for ten minutes before mixing everything together.

Step Five: Return the lid ensuring the Airlock is securely fitted. Leave the bucket in a warm, dark room for 3 – 4 weeks, swirling the bucket daily to ensure mixing. You’ll start to hear and see air bubbles coming through the Airlock when fermentation begins.

Step Six: If you are looking for a dry, sparkling Plum wine bottle the liquid into secure bottles with a swing-top cap. The wine will continue to develop it is still a very active and young wine, the carbon dioxide produced through the slower rate of fermentation will provide a very welcome fizz in the wine and pop when opening the bottle. If however you’d prefer a still wine syphon into Demi-Johns with Airlocks. Rack the Demi-Johns for a further few months, keep tasting until you find the wine to suit your taste.

Autumn is beating at the door

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Leaves on trees are slowly turning from the vibrant fresh greens of summer to indulgent amber, scarlet and gold. Berries on bushes in the hedgerows are bountiful and glistening in the early morning dew. Industrious red squirrels are darting around the garden gathering seeds and nuts and any form of insulation they can find to keep the winter weather out of their dreys. Without a doubt the season is turning from summer; autumn is beating at the door. The first named storm of the season is upon us and has left its mark on the garden. Several trees have been blown over or snapped in half, large limbs have fallen from old oaks and beach trees. We’ve spent two days clearing up.

Teasses, Millennium Wood, Storm Ali

As our gardening predecessors once would have done; we have taken to preserving as much of the garden produce that we grow in the walled garden in our newly constructed root store. The idea of the root store is to prolong access to fresh (and in our case) organic fruits and vegetables and would have originally supplied fresh fruits and root vegetables to the Mansion house throughout the year. Much of the old techniques of storing fresh fruit and vegetables have been forgotten by modern gardeners so we have to rely on the historic accounts of victorian gardeners who were adept at keeping produce for many months.

So far we’ve managed to get our potatoes lifted and stored in crates, some of the better quality apples are polished, wrapped in newspaper and are now stacked in crates. Apples which are scabby or damaged will go into our apple juice (some of which will be fermented into cider). Also stored in the Root Store are pumpkins and squashes, which after being cured in the sun will store until the spring. Carrots, Beetroot, Celeriac and Jerusalem artichokes will be stored in the Root Store in years to come.

Fleshy produce such as plums need to be eaten, frozen or used to create Plum Wine. We’ve done all three (recipe for Plum wine to follow).

We have used the old Victorian Boiler room as our Root Store so have ingeniously divided the room with a floor above the old boiler (which is still in place, but very degraded). This gives us two very useful rooms. The upper story room is the Root Store and the lower story room will be used to grow mushrooms and force rhubarb.

The harvesting of produce is something every estate gardener looks forward to, its the culmination of months of hard work. The bottling and storing is only a tiny part of the overall task; starting with digging over beds and mulching in the winter, to hand fertilising early greenhouse crops. Ultimately the thinning, feeding and nurturing of crops in the garden all works towards these few weeks in the year when you have to be focussed on gathering produce at the right time and processing it so that it is available long into the cold dark days of winter. Its really a very primal hunter-gatherer instinct you’ll find in most people and I’m yet to meet someone who doesn’t take great pleasure and joy from it.

Garden Larder – Late Summer Harvest

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It is such a privilege to walk into the Walled Garden at this time of year to gather produce you have so carefully cultivated over the previous months. Those dark cold winter days of sowing seeds and thinning stems are rewarded by the late summer with an abundance of fruits and vegetables.

I’ve already started my first batch of Plum Wine – Recipe to follow – and soon we’ll be lifting wind-fallen apples to juice for Cider.

Dahlias in the Walled Garden

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Teasses, Walled Garden, Teasses Estate

Dahlia ‘Belle of Barmera’

Teasses, Walled Garden, Teasses Estate

Dahlia ‘Zorro’

Teasses, Walled Garden, Dahlia, Teasses Estate

The Walled Garden provides the ideal climate for these stunning Dahlias. We like to try different varieties each year, and once again we’ve been bowled over by the intensity of colour in each of the varieties we’ve selected. Here Belle of Barmera is stunning, but the star of the show has to be Dahlia ‘Zorro’ with large vibrant blooms.

Teasses, Walled Garden, Dahlia, Teasses Estate

Fresh, Warm, Juicy Peaches

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There is nothing nicer than plucking a fresh ripe peach from the tree. Even better if you’ve had the opportunity to help towards the growth and development of those same peaches and have observed them gradually fatten over the early summer months. Now in late July the fruits are plump and ripe. To plunge your teeth through the flesh and be splattered with warm sweet juice is an absolute delight few get to enjoy. As the juice   trickles down your chin you recall all those sunny childhood summer holidays. The taste of sweet fruit and sunshine on your skin.

Peaches, Teasses, Greenhouse, July, Fruit

Recipe: Wild Garlic Pesto

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The woods here at Teasses are abundant in Wild Garlic which rears its pungent head in March and continues to the end of the April. As the plant matures the strength of the flavour reduces so if you don’t want a fiery strong garlic taste then hold off until the second half of April. In this recipe I use the leaves of the plant but the flowers are edible too and can be used in salads or as. garnish on top of  soups such as Sorrel or Pea. Unlike its namesake Wild Garlic doesn’t produce a bulb so you need to use it when it’s available.

Note that if you intend to cook with the pesto – for example roasted Mediterranean vegetables coated in pesto – that the flavour becomes less powerful when cooked. I like to add another couple of tablespoons of the pesto once the vegetables come out of the oven, it also helps with the colour.
Recipe:

This will easily make one large jar.

You’ll need;

  • a bunch of fresh, washed and roughly torn wild garlic – enough to almost fill a mixing bowl.
  • 200g organic pine nuts – the more you add the thicker the pesto and less pungent the garlic.
  • 500 ml organic olive oil
  • 100g organic parmesan – or other hard cheese
  • 1 organic lemon
  • water
  • salt and pepper

Step One: Gently heat a dry shallow pan, when almost too hot to touch throw in your pine nuts and lightly toast.

Step Two: In a food processor put the roughly torn wild garlic leaves with the lightly toasted pine nuts, cheese, a pinch of salt and the juice from the lemon and a little oil.

Step Three: While blitzing the contents of the food processor drizzle in the remaining oil.

Step Four: Continue to blitz until you are happy with the consistency. If it is too thick add some water. The best pesto is slightly chunky. Add more salt and some pepper to taste.

If you want truly authentic pesto remove the food processor and pound the ingredients in a mortar and pestle.

Once sealed in a clean glass jar this pesto lasts approximately one month when refrigerated or three months if frozen.