Purveyors of fantastic sausages and diverting nonsense

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Oh hello there! 

 

Welcome to my blog.

 

Here I post the day to day goings on round about the smallholding. Animals, gardening, cooking, eating, family life, mud, laboured pastiche may and will all get a look in here at some point. It's also where I post occasional reviews. If you have something you would like me to review please contact me here.

 

Neither intentionally instructive nor evangelical, it's not always pretty but if self sufficiency and / or schadenfreude's your thing you might like to stick around... If you like what you read please share and do leave me a comment if you feel so inclined. I love a comment, me.

 

For more of the same, visit the Chants Cottage archive

 

By Sarah, Jun 26 2015 02:36PM



“Call the prisoner to the dock.


“Sarah Coomer, you stand accused that on the eight of May and upon several subsequent occasions you did wilfully and with malice aforethought pass the Sandford Millennium Green woodland bit next to the road with the wholly inadequate fencing alongside it, and that fully in possession of your faculties you FAILED to stop the car in order to pick the armfuls of the wild garlic which you knew full well was growing abundantly there, and that accordingly you did NOT stuff any of it into the only thing you had to hand, i.e. dog poo bags whilst avoiding eye contact and keeping an appropriate distance in order to minimise general middle class embarrassment with the other bloke doing the same thing also accompanied by an indifferent and huffy child brooding upon spending an afternoon pulling weeds up in a wood that could otherwise have been gainfully employed pulling pretend weeds up in a pretend wood made of cubes. And having done NONE of the above, that you did FAIL to return home and shove it all in the Magimix with some of the AMAZING hand pressed olive oil from Steve and Martine’s olive grove, a handful of toasted walnuts (it really makes all the difference, m’lud) and a chunk of desiccated ‘Taste the Difference’ Gran Padano (sell by date end Nov 2014) because that’s all there was in the fridge and pop it in the jars recycled from last years hawthorn jelly, the last of which you enjoyed at the weekend with the rabbit Dodgy James swapped for a dozen duck eggs when he popped round to pick up one of his didgeridoos. Apart from the seven jars that you tipped down the bog after they went mouldy.


“And that you did on every single day of June so far walk past at least six million massive elderflower heads whilst walking a short fat dog and a gangly bonkers one in various locations throughout the County of Devon without once making an attempt to sever any of them and stash them in the Morrisons 50p bag for life which you did knowingly conceal in your car and never take out again even to use at actual Morrisons because you always forget to bring it in and ended up using those stupid tiny cardboard boxes instead. And that you did consequently get BACK into the car and straight home without a single elderflower and that you FAILED TO STOP at the new Co-op ‘to see what it’s like’ and to pick up the three tonnes of sugar required to convert every twenty heads into half a pint of cordial.


“Forty three counts of Not Making Nettle Soup when you had every opportunity and literally six acres of young nettles at your disposal not to mention a freezer full of home made chicken stock going begging to be taken into consideration.


“M’lud in light of the gravity of these heinous and depraved crimes, I can only recommend the harshest sentence: that the accused be taken from this court to a place of execution and drowned in a hand made oak cider barrel full of her own courgette chutney, twenty nine jars of which have been on a shelf in the garage since last August. And may Hugh have mercy on your soul.


“Officer, take her down……”


No, no pleaaasse... I promise I'll pick some... I promise... have mercyyyy ..Wh... Wha...? Where am I? Blimey. What a dream. Must have been all that nice unpasteurised goat's cheese I bartered for a sausage down Cheriton Bishop food market yesterday. Phew.


Alright. It’s a fair cop. I actually did get round to picking some wild garlic and I also managed to make at least three meals involving nettles. But I know I could have picked more, much more, of both. The shame. What kind of a handwringing hobby farmer are you, I hear you cry. And (prepare to lynch me, o subscriber to ‘Country Living’) I am eschewing the elderflower entirely, despite having a whole tree full of the things on my own driveway. Furthermore, I am also determined to ditch the nagging sense of guilt at not having turned it into any kind of almost pointless foodstuff with only days to go before it all goes crispy and falls off the tree. Yeah. So stick that in your trug and ferment it, Richard Mabey.


Elderflowers. Their pretty, starburst heads. The tiny dainty flowers which look bloody great on a cake. Their heady unmistakeable aroma. At this time of year social networks are clogged up with gleefully Instagrammed litres of cordial, champagne, wine. Cakes, biscuits and jellies. All set off with a delicate spray of blossoms. But I say STUFF THEM and their slightly cat wee whiff. At least for this year.


I gave sugar up a while back. Fascinatingly, when you give things up it turns out that a) you become an insufferable bore about it and shove the fact down the throats of anyone unfortunate enough to encounter you and b) you become massively sensitive to the presence of your chosen nemesis wherever it arises. And elderflower cordial, or ANYTHING, it seems you can do with elderflowers, involves at least the same amount of sugar required to make a life-size toffee statue of frowning money liker Alan Sugar stood on a crate of Tizer eating a massive stick of candy floss.


Don’t get me wrong. I like the smug glow that comes from fixing an elderflower gin with my own had wrought cordial as much as the next overprivileged numpty with too much time on their hands. (No offence, me.) (None taken, me.) •fist bump• (Ow.) (Sorry.) And my children like it as much as they like any other gloopy syrupy substance marketed to impressionable owners of disposable teeth. But they don’t NEED it. They will happily drink water. “Mummy, this water is DELICIOUS. It’s just perfect for washing down the quinoa and kale risotto. Thank you SO MUCH,” they trill, before offering each other the last chestnut flour falafel and bezzing off to recite Longfellow to each other whilst playing with their hand-forged sticks and hoops. Elderflower cordial may well contain any number of delicious health giving vitamins and minerals but mainly it contains twenty seven hundred weight of sugar per teaspoon. The sugar is necessary as a preservative, and I daresay neat elderflowers are none too yummy, but being your average overprivileged time-rich numpty, I am lucky enough to be able to afford / grow all the fruit and vegetables we need and my kids are therefore pretty unlikely to succumb to scurvy even without the benefit of scoffing said tree dandruff in any form. Unlike my brother who actually did succumb to scurvy. Yes, real actual weevil biscuit, piratey, Captain Bligh type scurvy. Because the only vegetable he would eat was lettuce. With butter on it. Once a year. IF ONLY MY MUM HAD GIVEN HIM ELDERFLOWER CORDIAL. Eh? EH???








By Sarah, Jun 1 2015 01:44PM




Are you sitting comfortably? Then we'll 'pig'in. (Sorry. SORRY.*)


I started making salami in the Spring of 2013, basically because I bloody love food and this very much includes cured meat and charcuterie. The thought of making my own WITH MY OWN PIGS was irresistible.


I stopped at the supermarket on the way home from the abattoir where I had just picked up the meat from my first two pigs to buy the other ingredients needed to make simple salami (black pepper, garlic, wine, salt, fennel seeds), such was the charcuterie shaped bee in my bonnet, or more literally, the pig in my boot. I had already taken delivery of a wide selection of sausage casings and a really rubbish mincer. Only pausing to put the rest of the meat in the freezer, I made some chorizo and salami as soon as I got home, using the recipes in the River Cottage Cook Book by Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall, patron saint of all would-be hand wringing hobby farmers. I hung it up to dry out in what we then called the Secret Shed (because you could hardly see it due to all the other crap all over the place when we moved here). I left it for about a month. Bingo. By the twin alchemic wonders of salt and fresh air, I had made purest salami and chorizo. I started to air dry small pieces of ham too, flavoured with black pepper or fennel seeds. I fed some of it to friends. I swapped some of it for some posh marshmallows. My brother distributed it to his American in laws. The reports were overwhelmingly favourable. The words 'delicious' ,'authentic' and 'loads better than anything you can get from a supermarket' were used more than once and not just by me repeating them in the mirror.


I began to think about selling charcuterie online and after much scrubbing and fretting and testing and doing of a basic hygiene exam I got permission from the council to make and sell air dried meat sundries from home. I bought a fancy mincer which cost an arm and a leg (unfortunate phrasing, maybe, but you get the picture). I moved hanging operations out of the dingy potting shed full of leaf mould, appropriated a small outbuilding, whitewashed it with leftover Farrow and Ball 'Clunch' and started using it as a hanging room. Then rather accommodatingly my friend Nikola who ran the charcuterie stall at the local farmer's market in Crediton (every first and third Saturday of the month, people) kindly upped and moved to Uganda in the Summer of 2014, and I grabbed her spot as quick as you like / with possibly unseemly haste. I have been in business ever since, and now I am delighted to be able to offer my wares online as well.



I make the salami in small batches of between 5 and 10 kilos in our kitchen. Basically, this is as much as I can do between school runs (you can clock me a mile off in the playground on making days due to the rich aroma of boozy spicy meat). It is flavoured variously with red or white wine, prosecco, local cider, herbs and spices ground by hand in a pestle and mortar where necessary, fresh garlic and sometimes pan roasted nuts too.


Due to landscaping issues we didn't have our own pigs for a while, (ie the driveway is now where we used to keep them) so recently I've been using rare breed, free range meat from friendly local suppliers (South Yeo Farm East, Chagfarm and Duckaller Farm). But as from this Summer, I will once more be making the sausages with our own stock, staring with three lovely Berkshire gilts who are currently coming along very nicely. They now live in a paddock of about 1/4 acre, which features trees under which to shade and scrump acorns, a natural spring which has created a wallow and a lovely hand built shed to try and destroy. All mod pig cons. And let's face it, they deserve it.




*not sorry




By Sarah, Jun 1 2015 01:20PM



I have plants. Growing. In my garden. That are meant to be there. Yes, after a whole year and three different sets of workmen, the raised beds are finished, full of the well-rotted manure that’s been hanging around since we moved here just waiting for its chance to shine and already sowed and planted with various crops: asparagus crowns, runner beans, peas, purple sprouting broccoli, Brussels sprouts, celtuce, purple mustard, fennel, carrots, spuds, shallots and beetroot. They are also already bristling at the seams with overjoyed docks and teeny nettles, the unexorcised roots of which riddled the manure heap (it’s not for nothing that Dock plants also are known in the West Country as ‘Carrie’s Hand’.) I have overhauled the small herb bed the contents of which had basically transformed themselves into a huge a raffia mat sprouting bits of grass and twigs, and have planted sage, salvaged lovage, thyme, lavender and garlic chives. My ‘surviving’ globe artichoke has broken free of its horrible pot, split into three and is now to be found, in its new triptych form, in the mud plain beyond the raised beds. In this area the children have also claimed growing patches of their own in which to waste all my flower seeds, fight over the one mini spade and pretend not to notice that the hose is trained squarely at their sibling’s visible pant band rather than the goodly earth.


Yes, the annoying gardening pedant types amongst you will no doubt be sharpening your moaning quills and be poised to scratch off a missive. Or at least be tutting slightly at the audacity/idiocy of my sowing carrots into manure. And any fool knows that carrots that grow in manure split into the many rooted carrots favoured by Beelzebub and his dark minions / the producers of eighties schadenfreude orgy That's Life. Well, cool your boots, Neville (for arguments sake the collective gardening pedantry wonks shall be hereby known as Neville because it suits them down to their perfectly friable, horse syringe / Playmobil free, pH balanced ground with all its tilth and nutrients) because I know all this. But I have done it anyway. And I shall tell you for why.


I like to think of myself as an ‘instinctive’ gardener. Put another way, this means I never take any notice of anything anyone tells me and always think whatever I do will be okay. That this approach may not strictly apply only to gardening is really not the subject for a serious gardening blog, which is very much why I don’t write one. If you want one of those go and tug Flowerdew’s pig-tail until he gives in. Anyway viz a viz comedy devil carrots, I am happy to just see what happens. Yeah, that’s how we roll. And more’s the point, frankly, after a YEAR of waiting to sow ANYTHING into ANYTHING I could not be arsed to faff around carting DIFFERENT MUCK and SAND and BLAH and taking the manure OUT and UGH. So the carrot seeds went into the manure and I shall probably have carrots the like of which Doc Cox would have given his best sparkly bow tie for. Okay, NEVILLE?



By Sarah, May 19 2015 01:21PM



What ho. Is it Spring? Oh. No. Well, I'm here now, so I suppose I will tarry awhile, mainly because it's too cold to move anywhere else. I have been sulking / hibernating / sneezing for a month or two, and having a mild mid life crisis the upshot of which is that a) I have had a haircut at an actual salon (with a stylist who seemed able to peer into my very soul and invent an apposite do: "Dirty! Messy! You godda keep it dirty AND messy, darlin' or it WON'T WORK!!!" the upshot-upshot of which is my commissioning of a coat of arms with the motto 'Dirty and Messy' featuring the heraldic devices of the half-throttled dog mangled chicken rampant and the mud clogged laundry filter sinister) and b) I have decided to apply for an MA in Early Modern History before my frontal lobe becomes so addled by pig ordure that my brain becomes fit for nothing more taxing than the commentary on 'Ice Road Truckers'. In preparation for academia I am reading Schama on the Dutch Golden Age. Schama is a bloody smartarse. And I want me a bite of that arse. Oh yeah. A big gobful of olden complicated arse. Now, let me turn back to my research if I may. I find there's nothing like getting back to the primary sources. Now where was I?... Hard life, blah blah... drudgeful rural existence, yadda yadda.... scratching a living from the land... clothes held together by mud... diet consisting mainly of pease pudding washed down with rancid frumenty... Oh hang on, that's my diary from last week.


Yes, it's all a bit grim and cold, but not as cold as it was last week when I accidentally let the heating oil run out on the coldest day of the year so far. Fortunately, even though I haven't got the foresight to not run out of oil we did have the foresight to install a wood burner eighteen months ago, for just such eventualities (though it does comes in very handy for the ritual burning of inspirational quotes printed off from Facebook and the unintentional ruining of handmade boots as well). Also I had made sure that I had recently become better acquainted with someone who owns one of these.

Frances is a friend of Rachel, my dear clean-freak erstwhile almost sister-in-law. Frances makes socks with a Victorian sock cranker which is frankly (Mr Crankly) the best invention since the electrical moustache restraining spoon (pat. pending). I actually went for a SOCK FITTING which made me feel a BIT like Prince Charles. Though he probably doesn't have to drive half a mile up a potholed lane through a snowstorm without a fan or heater in a filthy Megane which is literally falling apart around him to get to his sock fitterer, and his sock fitterer probably doesn't live in a hidden rambling cottage smelling of woodsmoke and stewing apple with kindling drying in nets chrysalis-like under the eaves. And he probably doesn't come away with a demijohn full of the most beautifully clear elderflower wine thrown because it's cluttering up the hall either. Three days later I went back to pick up the socks. They are hardwearing, warm and comfortable as well as looking like the cat's pyjamas, hosierally speaking. Frances is launching a website soon so YOU TOO COULD OWN SOME OF THESE BABIES. She is 'The Sockmaker' and her Old Cranker is a thing of cottage industrial beauty.


Elsewhere, outside, in the quagmire: piggies. Our three weaners moved into their bijou hovel the week before Christmas when they were small enough for me to carry all the way down the hill, wriggling and squealing like stuck pigs, despite not being remotely stuck (sissies). They aren't any more. In fact they have just crossed over from 'cute pigletty wigletty' stage into 'stop chewing my welly shoe lest you don't stop there right I'm off' stage. A few days ago they kept escaping their electric fence and rampaging into the sheep only zone, much to the sheep's chagrin / utter indifference. We finally realised that rather than charging the fence as we'd thought, they had worked out how to lift the electrified wire off the hook thanks to the makeshift plastic hosepipe handle wrapped round it. With their snouts. Clever, scary snouts full of snaggle teeth and cunning. Which is why I have no compunction whatsoever about turning them into pancetta, because frankly if the welly shoes were on the other trotter they would gladly hoover up my generously proportioned hams without even pausing to slather them with mustard. Which would be a shame really, because proper seasoning is everything, don't you think.


Finally, to the garden. The garden. the garden, the garden. Hang on, what garden? Yes. Still. After six months and three teams of different blokes and a sum that would have funded some kind of exploratory mission to Jupiter and back in a golden rocket jazzed up with diamonds, the raised beds are (sigh) NEARLY finished. They are still empty, so we could still conceivably convert them into three very long swimming pools or super delux dog kennels featuring home cinema (playing Lassie, Beethoven, Dogtanian etc), gym (bone on elastic stuck to wall) and mezzanine leisure area (hot-tub full of fox poo). Anyway. All I need to do now is paint them, put some paths down and fill them with aggregate for drainage and beautiful friable black loamy entirely clay free weed free slug free horse syringe free Jerusalem artichoke free soil. And then plant them up with lovely seeds and plantlings. That's all. If you have any idea how long it will take to fill up 30 sqm with a recalcitrant wheelbarrow and a pink plastic octopus spade please put your answer on a postcard and pop it in this diamond encrusted rocket. The winner will receive a jar of green tomato ketchup wrapped up in a copy of the Venny Tedburn Parish News puzzle special ("1 Across: The state of being covered in filth (5). 4 Down: Not tidy (5)")






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