Our village shop closed as about 11.30am on a Sunday so you have plenty of time to get there and pick up the nice farm shop bacon for sarnies and the paper.
This week, because I didn’t think the man or dog needed bacon, I just dropped in for a paper. I saw only the tabloids and was not that keen on the Sunday Express.
But luckily Peter, the nice man who runs our shop, said how glad he was to see me because there was a pile of Observers left. Needless to say, the Telegraphs had all gone.
Anyway, whilst we were chatting, he told me of a ‘stash’ of sloes up on the Downs.
I want to say this was of no interest to me at all but I have to admit, as the Sussex housewife I am rapidly becoming, I galloped up there with (Waitrose of course) plastic bags stuffed in my pockets.
Now I don’t like gin or sweet things so why I felt the urge to pick sloes for sloe gin is really beyond me. But I did, and now they are in the freezer. ( Apparently, and don’t get too excited here, but traditionally you have to prick each small fruit to release the juice before you put them in the gin with what seems to me, to be a lot of sugar. But, hey, how exciting, I hear that you can burst the fruit by freezing them.)
And as for elderberries, I am on a mission. Last year there was a tree on the lane which was full to bursting with elderberries. I knew you could make some undrinkable wine from the flowers, but found that you could make a vinegar from the berries.
This year, the hedging has been done so the tree is cut down and out of action for a year or two. But my vinegar last year was a huge success – think how much more ‘on trend’ to say to your supper guests, ‘Yes, I always think that duck breast is great with a salad of mild radiccio and this dressing – no, no not raspberry vinegar, which would be good of course, but elderberry vinegar – don’t you think it’s just gorgeous?’
Last year I made a shed load of preserves and jams and pickles and sold them all to my friends at a mass lunch when I menaced them and made them pay up in aid of Syrian refugees.
So, although I have sworn not to do all that again, the elderberries were needed. I friend has found a weighed-down tree so now the freezer has elderberries to cope with as well as sloes.
And, naturally, blackberries for jam.
Let no one tell you all this preserve stuff is nothing but a faff and a long-winded faff at that.
Let me tell you, I am ashamed how gratified I was when my crab-apple jelly made it to a restaurant in Scotland where they asked for more. (The tree is not well this year, so I cannot supply.)
Today I met a friend in London – I went and bought shoes in Covent Garden, put my nose in a gallery or two, had Mexican food and a conversation about Sierra Leone, the state of the NHS, the improbability of a European-wide immigration policy, renewable energy and the appalling nature of the big energy companies, how appalling it is that Israel is annexing 1000 acres of Palestinian land.
But this weekend, it will be elderberry vinegar making.