I don't know about you but it's the thought of the Summer which is getting me through this long and freezing Winter! The long, dark days, layers of clothes, and lack of social activity is all getting a bit much too bear and the thought of being able to leave work when it's light and drink in a pub garden all night seem like luxuries too far away. Despite this incessent cold, Spring will soon be here but as it seems so far away, here are a few things that might help you through the remaining bleak weeks of winter.
Going for a picnic is a great way to waste an afternoon and some fantastic vintage baskets can be found on the internet or in vintage shops. If you really hunt around, you can find some with the original (and beautiful) china plates, cutlery and thermos flasks. If the thought of using something that old to eat off of freaks you out a little, you can find some convincing reproduction picnic baskets from Country Cottage Chic.
Summertime is great for fruit in England and there are fruit farms all over the place where you can pick as many strawberries, raspberries and gooseberries as you like to make jams, chutneys and cakes.
Jam is really easy to make, economical and very rewarding when you get a good batch. There are great jam recipes all over the place but a really good book is The Women's Institute's Book of Preserves- their list of recipes is endless and all methods are very easy to follow. You will need to invest in a Jam pan and a thermometer, though and you can pick those up from any good cook shop. Top the lids with squares of gingham fabric, secured with an elastic band to make a pretty present- give it to your Mum with a bunch of sweet peas from the garden- she'll be impressed.If jam isn't your thing, however, Summer Pudding is another great way to use up your soft summer fruits and is also extremely easy to make. I always use Delia's summer pudding recipe and it's never failed, so that'd be my recommendation but it's pretty hard to get wrong so any recipe will do!
One thing I haven't tried to make but would love to is Elderflower Champagne. There is a great River Cottage recipe online which sounds straightforward- although laborious! If you have the time, space and patience to make a batch, why not pack it in your vintage picnic basket along with some homemade bread, some cheese and homemade chutneys and a slice or two of homemade Victoria sponge sandwiched with homemade strawberry jam?! It's easily done and well worth the effort. The hardest part is finding the perfect picnic spot...