Welcome to English-Cottage-Lifestyle.com monthly E-zine…Inspiration and ideas to help you discover and enjoy the English Cottage Lifestyle.

Quote Of The Month…

“What a man needs in gardening is a cast iron back with a hinge in it.”
Charles Dudley Warner.

In This Issue:
  • Drying Fruit and Drying Fungi
  • Making Pot pourri
  • Cottage Garden September Calendar
  • Recipe Of The Month: Apple and Blackberry Crumble

Drying Fruit

Drying fruit and fungi was the most common and simplest method of preserving for the cottager when the garden produced a glut and the precious harvest needed to be stored to get them through the fallow seasons. Preserving was the only way to ensure that their bounty would provide for them during lean times. The cottager did without electricity back then and working in harmony with natures seasons was essential to the cottagers well being and survival.

Drying fruit and fungi works by removing the moisture that the micro organisms need to grow, thus preserving the food indefinitely.

Drying Fruit.

Some cottage garden fruits dry really well such as apples and plumbs the cottager would have dried fruit in the oven or by air dying, the British climate not being suitable for sun drying. Only use organic fruit, ripe and in perfect condition for drying, as cottage gardening is done organically this should not be a problem.

Peel and core the apple and cut it into rings about 5 cm (¼ inch). Traditionally they would be threaded on sticks and dried in an oven until no juice can be squeezed out. To air dry apples prepare as above then thread a cotton string through them and hang up in a dry, well ventilated spot for 5-6 days, they will gradually dry but be pliable to the touch.

Drying plumbs; Take dark ripe plumbs bursting with flavour and pit them. Prepare in the same way as apples and bake in an low temperature oven until dry.

Storing Dried Fruit

Traditionally the cottager would have packed the dried fruit in jars, today you can also wrap the dried fruit in plastic.

Drying Seeds

In early autumn harvest your wild poppy seed (Papover rhoeas) they should be completely dry when harvesting. You can either shake out the seeds from the holes or hang them upside down in bunches inside brown paper bags to collect the seeds. Poppy seeds taste great in salad dressings or sprinkled over salads and in baking. Save the dried flower pods for flower arranging or to make pot-pourri.

The seeds of Love-in-a-Mist (Nigella damascona?) can be harvested in the same way as poppies and also used in salads and baking.

When onions go to seed harvest in early autumn and dry as above. Onions seeds are also used in breads and salads.

Drying Mushrooms.

Drying mushrooms is a better alternative to freezing as mushrooms just do not freeze well. Dry them only if they have been picked fresh. You may need to experiment here a little. You can dry mushrooms whole or slice them. Button and more common mushrooms can be storked and sliced or quartered. Dry in a warm, well ventilated place.

Thread the mushrooms on a string or lie them flat on paper on a sheet? Over an aga or dry them in a moderate oven lying flat on paper. They should be thoroughly dry.

Storing Dried Mushrooms.

Store dried mushrooms in a paper bag, boxes or glass jars in a cool, airy place away from direct light until needed. For the strongest flavour use within a few months. You can also store mushrooms in oils such as olive oil, or rape seed oil or any other natural oil to add flavour.

To use the dried mushrooms simply chop them finely and add to soups and stews. To use them sliced add some tepid water or stock to them for about 20 mins to reconstitute them and cook normally.

Drying Tomatoes.

If you have a glut of tomatoes from your cottage garden this is a great way to use them up. Your organic tomatoes must be really ripe and bursting with flavour for drying to work. As tomatoes are a more recent addition to the English cottage garden there is no traditional way to dry them. The best option for the cottager today is to use an oven on a low heat with the oven door cracked open.

For Fully Dried Tomatoes:

A rule of thumb on the drying times is about 15 hours in a very low oven with the door ajar. You are trying to create a breezy low humidity day of 32 degrees C/90 degrees F as if you were sun drying in Italy. Larger tomatoes may take longer. Tomatoes will almost never dry at the same time so towards the end of the drying time you will need to remove the dry tomatoes from the oven and keep on drying the rest until fully dried. They should be firm without any juice. You will need a fine mesh oven rack; cut the tomatoes in half and lie them face side up, sprinkle with natural sea salt. Or dry them on the vine; lay them on the rack vine side down, cut a cross on the top of each tomato and fill with a pinch of sea salt.

Storing Fully Dried Tomatoes.

Store the fully dried tomatoes in sealable containers and use within six months. You will need to re-hydrate fully dried tomatoes in warm water for 30 mins before using for cooking. They need to be cooked before eating.

Semi Dried and Sun Dried Tomatoes.

To get semi dried tomatoes simply remove them from the oven (set the same as fully dried tomatoes, above) half way through. Pack them into jars which have been fully sterilized before hand and fill with a good quality olive oil. Sore in the fridge for up to six months. They will be ready to eat as you need them. Put the semi dried tomatoes into sauces, sandwiches or stews.

To get sun dried tomatoes cut the tomatoes in half crossways and put them on your fine mesh oven rack, season with sea salt and sugar and drizzle with olive oil. Use the oven as above. After about 8 hours turn them upside down. Drying time is approximately 8-12 hours. They should be totally dried out. Store sun dried tomatoes in sterilized jars covered with olive oil. If you like you can use your favourite herbs in the jar. Store the jars on a cool dry place. Use in salads or as you like. If you prefer semi roasted tomatoes follow as above simply remove them when they have been reduced in size by about half.

Making Pot Pourri.

The cottager in the past used pot-pourri to disguise any bad smell. Making pot-pourri is easily done it is a mix of dried flower petals, spices, oils and a fixative to keep the perfume. There are many recipes to try and the cottage garden should give you plenty of varied fragrance. A good base is rose petals then add other petals for colour. Collect the petals on a warm sunny day and leave to dry in a warm airy room. Mix them together when they are dry and crisp in a sealed jar for one to two months and shake daily.

Good flowers or leaves for pot-pourri are rose, lavender, bergamot, carnations, jasmine, mimosa, lilacs, mint, myrtle, peonies, philadelphus, pinks, rosemary, sweet woodruff and wallflowers. Unscented flowers with colour can also be used such as delphiniums. Additives include geranium oil, lavender oil, rose oil and verbena oil.

Cottage garden September Calendar.

September in the English cottage garden is all about harvesting your fruits and vegetables; if you have a vegetable patch of course. In many cases you will have a glut of one vegetable or another if you can not cook everything give some away, or trade different produce with a friend, its how the cottager has always survived. It is a nice idea to give an elderly neighbour a harvest basket if they love cooking but have trouble getting back from the shops with all those bags.

If your cottage garden is more flowers than produce its time to clean up a little before the cold weather sets in. This is the time to buy or plant spring-flowering bulbs and spring-flowering plants. If you have a greenhouse now is the time to keep the warm air in.

The hedgerows are full of wild, healthy blackberries this month so why not enjoy a little foraging eat them fresh for breakfast, make hedgerow jam with elderberries, or simply freeze them to make crumbles and pies over winter months. Apple and blackberry crumble is one of my favourite puddings…yummy!

So grab your diary and organise your gardening to do list with ECL’s September Calendar.

Recipe Of The Month.

Apple and Blackberry Crumble. A perfect recipe for late in the summer season. This recipe is from my family and is very simple to make. Feel free to change the fruit; add gooseberries, rhubarb etc.


  • 500g Cooking apples (tart such as Cox’s) peeled and cored and cut into small pieces.
  • 250g Blackberries, wash gently.
  • 55g Caster sugar.
  • ½ tablespoon fresh lemon juice.

For The Crumble

  • 100g Plain flour.
  • 100g Fresh chilled farmhouse butter. Cut into chunks
  • 100g Sugar (brown or caster).


1)In a pan add the apples and blackberries with the sugar and lemon juice and cook gently over a low heat. The apples should be soft and the juice from the blackberries should have run off when ready.

2)To make the crumble, sift the flour into a bowl and rub in the chilled butter chunks then add the sugar.

3)Pour the warm fruit into a casserole dish (or Pyrex bowl etc) and sprinkle on the crumble topping. Make sure that all the fruit is covered. If you need to, place the dish on a baking tray as fruit could bubble over into your oven.

4)Bake in a fairly hot oven (about 190 degrees or gas mark 5) for approximately 30 minutes or until golden brown.

5)Serve hot or cold with cream, clotted cream, ice cream or custard.

In the next issue of English Cottage Lifestyle:

“Harvest Time: Storing produce and saving seeds”

It is my sincere hope that the information I provide on English-Cottage-Lifestyle.com assists you in finding inspiration from the English cottage and country life wherever in the world you may be.

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Wishing you a lovely day,

Helen Green.
English Cottage Lifestyle