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The Good Life


It’s raining up here and has been for most of the week, so without going on to the allotment I have to occupy my mind in other ways…

I blame Richard Briers and Felicity Kendall for a lot of things, and I believe they have a lot to answer for. And the reason for my “upset”, is Christmas.

Even now I can see people out there in internet land shaking their heads and uttering ‘but Muddy Knees, it is barely August, why do you fret so about the Festive season? And where is the link to the 70’s sitcom?’

Years ago, when we lived many miles from our friends we wanted to take them all out for a meal, but expenses, time and location dictated that we couldn’t do that. So we decided to take a meal to them, but being of the self-sufficiency persuasion we thought we’d provide most of the things. Over the years it has evolved into what my eldest brother calls ‘His Annual Red Cross Food Parcel’ knowing that after Christmas he may never need to buy jam or chutney for the year.

So over the years the package has evolved. It contains jams, sauces and chutneys, various alcoholic beverages (we’ve made sloe gin, limoncello, chilli vodka and home made wine), home made cheese, home made sausages (more on that next time), home made marzipan fruits, and a few shop bought luxuries we can’t make or would last longer (chocolate, biscuits, olives and so on). The general idea being that you can put it away and use it through the year or when you wanted. I did one year make stollen but it didn’t keep for very long, so I won’t be repeating that.

Anyone fancy rhubarb and rose petal jam, gooseberry and elderflower jam or apple and lavender jam? We have lots of recipes (some odd, some old, some new).

One year we made mushroom ketchup. Another year was raspberry vinegar. We made rosehip syrup. We’ve bottled samphire (sea asparagus) that we picked from the North Lincolnshire coast (up by RAF Donna Nook). We’ve made our own cordials. A perennial favourite is the red chilli jam. We’ve discovered a recipe using marrow that makes a really good spiced chutney that is just like mango chutney. And every year we try and do something different.

And all the things we make are preservative and additive free, organic and where possible, home grown. That’s important for some of our friends.

This is what we have left at the moment …

So around this time of year we start thinking of what we can make to go in the hampers, what fruit do we have available? What chutneys can we make? What twist can we add this year? And we keep our eyes open as to where you can get things for free (bilberries from Brimham Rocks, sloes from Fountains Abbey). What are the blackberries looking like in the hedgerows?

We use the surplus that we have grown or collected (or scrumped) to our advantage and we know full well that we’ll never ever get through the amount of jams and chutneys we could make.

If anyone wants a recipe for chutney or jam then please feel free to ask and I’ll let you know and hints or tips I have, or my favourites for certain fruit or veg. I don’t know if that means anything in this world of the internet, but I will happily offer all my experience. Note, this does not expand to piccalilli as I can’t stand the stuff, sorry.

Now that is out you can probably see why mrs MK and myself are nick-named Tom and Barbara by most of our friends. See link explained.

Those in the know will realize that this is not a cheap or easy option. It is however a very personal option, and over the years we know exactly what some people want, and, believe it or not, expect!

So what can they expect this year? Now why would I go and spoil Christmas this early?

(cue the theme music)

More blog posts by muddy_knees

Previous post: Did the BBC get it wrong?

Next post: The Super Sausage



Oh well done MK. Your gifts sound just perfect, actually your lifestyle would be one I would like to explore (if I had the land, the money and the knowledge) Lol

3 Aug, 2009


Mk all of us can buy xmas gifts but yours is a time consuming and as you say personal option,also very thoughtful and I applaud you and your wife for doing it your way...........

3 Aug, 2009


those are my type of presents. :o)
well done on all your hard work.

3 Aug, 2009


lovely blog Mk oh i would have loved Barbra&Toms life used to watch it never would miss a series,your chutneys &Jams sound wonderful lovely presents,Keep up the good work:~))))

3 Aug, 2009


Lovely to be able to give such thoughtful gifts. :-)

4 Aug, 2009


wonderful. Wish I was on your parcel list! Lucky people, to have such time and care taken over really valuable presents.
Restores my faith in human nature, it really does. Well done both.

4 Aug, 2009

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