As someone who dislikes waste, I am always up for recycling. Also, I have the sort of mind that says, "Oh, that sounds interesting, I wonder if I can make that?" I was watching a cookery programme the other day and they mentioned making wine syrup from left over wine. Vincotto is the Italian version of wine syrup.

The first question was; what left over wine? Later I thought, interesting, I must have a go at that. The second question was; where do I get the wine?

Writings suggest that the syrup can be used to drizzle on Ice Cream, Cake, Fruit or Yoghurt, but the part I was interested in was the suggestion that it could be an alternative for Balsamic Vinegar – now you're talking!

Some will remember that this year, again, I made "Château Allotment" red wine from the grapes grown on my allotments. This wine was only ever going to be a low alcohol table wine. Though acceptable, because we have so many good wines in our cellar, the likelihood was that I would make red wine vinegar with this product, so I took two bottles from the rack and made Vincotto with it.

Here is how I made it:

A normal 75 cl bottle of wine holds about 4.5 cups; therefore, using a ratio of 3 cups of wine to 1 cup of granulated sugar put everything in a pan and set to boil, stirring occasionally to ensure the wine absorbs the sugar.

Once the pan has reached boiling point, reduce the heat to allow for a gentle simmer; continue to stir until the mix is reduced by about two thirds and is taking on a sheen on the back of the spoon. Taste the liquid, it should be sweet.

Allow the liquid to cool and bottle and place in the refrigerator.

If you are looking to use this as an alternative for Balsamic Vinegar, I found the syrup a little too sweet for this. I therefore put a couple of drops of Malt vinegar in the bottle and shook it to mix.

However, if you are just looking for an intense, mature, adult sweet taste of grapes, leave out the malt vinegar. It will surprise your friends if drizzled over a fruit or an ice cream dessert.

The picture below is the end result of my two bottles of vino.



Food that evokes memories

This weekend (28th, 29th of Nov) has been a busy one, I made 4 Salami sausages, 4 Saucisson Sec (Fig 1), 12 links of Pork and Leek Sausages (Fig 2) and have started a large chunk of a dried Pork called Coppa (Fig 3), however, the food that had the most impact on me this weekend, is a simple Broth with Pease Pudding.

The taste of the Broth with the Pease Pudding evoked such memories of being back in my mothers' kitchen whilst she made, what was a cheap winter meal. I can remember her using a large pressure cooker without the weight on to boil the Ham and the absolute heavenly smell of the Broth cooking on her Raeburn cooking range. Even more so, I remember the taste of hot home made Ham and Pease Pudding sandwiches; whereby she took two thick slices of home made bread, buttered them and then spread hot Pease Pudding and Ham on them – so delicious and comforting. My memories were then transported around the kitchen, the colour of the walls etc. I can even feel the heat of the cooking range on my face – what fantastic memories of when I was 14 or 15 years old.

Only now, having cooked the Broth myself, do I appreciate the love, skill and attention to detail that went into what I always assumed was a simple meal.

The journey to this reverie started when, as an "off the cuff" decision whilst in the local butchers shop we purchased a 'Ham Knuckle'; this led to us also purchase some Pearl Barley and Split Peas with a plan to doing a broth and Pease Pudding dish – little did I know the journey it would take me on.

I have often made simple Broths using Bacon or Lardons, however, using a Ham Knuckle is something else altogether and is to be recommended. Added to this is the simple act of tying together a cheesecloth bag half full of split peas and dropping them in with the boiling Knuckle and allowing them to boil together for an hour or so – Alchemy happens, the Peas turn to ham flavoured paste (Fig 4) and the effect of the boiling water straining through the Peas results in a thickened sauce; no need for stock in this Broth.

Remove and defat/debone the knuckle and return to the pot; throw in some Potatoes, Swede Turnip, Carrots and Leeks, red lentils and a good handful of Pearl Barley then boil until the Barley is soft (Fig 5), serve with a good dollop of Pease Pudding on the side and chunky bread, delicious (try some Pease Pudding and Ham on the bread).

Figure 1 Figure 2 Figure 3
Figure 4 Figure 5  

The pleasures of cheese making

Recently, I have been making some cheeses with a slightly different approach; I say that because I have been trying different maturation processes. An example of this would be the four Goats milk cheeses I recently made. All of the four cheeses came from the same 5 litres of milk and went through the same production process (Fig 1), but once dried, some were matured differently. One was immersed in Olive Oil with herbs (Fig 2), another one was rolled in smoked Paprika (Fig 3) and two were wrapped and placed immediately in the fridge.

Yesterday I was prompted to write this blog as I looked at the Stilton I had made at the same time as the 4 goats cheeses. I was checking the Stilton to ascertain if the maturation box needed draining, however I noticed a wonderful "Bloom" on the skin of the cheese (Fig 4). This caused me to reflect on the variety of the cheeses I had made on the one weekend (Fig 5).
The "Bloom" on the Stilton developed further overnight (Fig 6), so much so, the following evening I pierced the cheese (Fig 7)to allow the air access into the centre of the cheese. Once I had done this, I decided, this cheese was to be the Christmas Stilton for the family; how lucky are we?

The point of this blog is just to reflect on the varieties of the humble cheese we can all make at home (Fig 8) and how it can give such pleasure to those who make and eat their own cheese.

I suppose it would be remiss of me not to draw attention to the fact I do run cheese making courses - for more information click here.

Figure 1 Figure 2 Figure 3 Figure 4


Figure 5 Figure 6 Figure 7 Figure 8



Slow Cooker recipes?

I don't know about everyone else, but certainly in our home and within our sphere of colleagues, slow cookers are very 'de rigueur'. Everyone is discussing how they use these mini cookers to ease the burden of preparing meals whilst holding down a busy job.

There is a difference of opinion, some colleagues feel they are dangerous and won't leave the cookers cooking throughout the day, others think they are fantastic. I have to say, as recent proud owners of a small (for two persons) slow cooker, Jan and I are greatly impressed – especially when cooking those less costly, potentially tough cuts of meat.

I think using the slow cooker may turn out to be a winter thing rather than all year round, however, the quality of Boeuf Bourguignon, Lamb Casserole and other such meals that require long cooking periods has not suffered at all from being cooked in our slow cooker. I must also say, the smell of cooking when you come indoors from work is fantastic and the knowledge that the meal is ready to eat is great too.

Recently, Jan cooked some Pig Cheeks overnight with Carrot and Sweet Potato using English Stout as a cooking sauce, we divided the meal into two and took them to our respective offices to eat as lunch; apart from the questioning looks about 'why would you eat Pigs Cheeks'? Those who sampled our lunch asked for the recipe.

In my office, this started a discussion about me doing a special recipe section on the website with a focus on slow cookers – I tend to think just adjust the recipes to include very slow cooking for 6 or 8 hours.

What is the opinion of my readers, should I do a special section for slow cooking?

Next meal for us is that delightful Milanese stew Ossobuco, which is a veal stew made from the cross cut leg joint and includes the bone with the Marrowbone; Ossobucco in Italian means "Bone with a hole" which is how the joint should end up after eating the meal – anyone want the recipe?

Cheese Jokes

What do you call cheese that is not yours?

Nacho Cheese


What cheese would you use to lure a bear out of a tree?


What did the cheese say to itself when it looked in the mirror?


What cheese would you use to obscure a small horse?


There was an explosion at the cheese factory. Everything was covered in debris.


How did Mr Cheese paint his wife?
He Double Gloucester


A man threw a lump of cheese at me! I thought "that's not very mature"



Kindly provided by Rorie...


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