Now that the clocks have turned back and the nights are continuing to draw in, everything is beginning to slow down here on the smallholding. We’re no longer rushing to harvest and process vegetables from the raised beds, or fruits from the orchard. The honeybees are hunkered down for the cold months so, aside from some varroa treatment in late December, we don’t need to disturb them again until spring. We have left them with hive entrance mouse guards to stop any furry friends taking up residence alongside the colony in the brood box; a slice of baking fondant to supplement their honey supplies; and a few old woollen jumpers under the hive lid to help insulate them against the cold. Egg-production from the chickens has slowed considerably, while they finish their annual feather moult and react to the shortened daylight hours. And, due to the seasonal slowing of the orchard grass growth, the geese are easily keeping it trim, which means there’s no need for any supplementary lawn mowing from us.
Nevertheless, we still find ourselves with lots to do at this time of year. Mostly a series of tidying and cleaning jobs. The collective tasks feel very much like tucking the smallholding up for winter. Last weekend, there were orchard leaves to rake up and mulch. Raised beds to be weeded and covered with fresh compost. Plant pots and seed trays to be cleaned and stored neatly away. A patch of stinging nettles to be strimmed. And a pile of wood leaning against our biggest apple tree that needed to be sorted through, chopped and stacked in the logstores. All quite hard work, but we find there is much enjoyment and satisfaction to be gained from completing each task and spending the daylight hours outside in the open air.
Part-way through the day, one of us with hands numb from scrubbing seed trays in icy hose water, the other spattered with mulch from the compost bins and sporting a pattern of nettle stings, we broke for lunch. Homemade sausage rolls are one of our favourite eats for cold autumn days spent in the garden. A steaming-hot combination of organic sausagemeat; puffy, butter-rich golden pastry; the very last of the orchard pears; salty, melty puddles of blue cheese; and a scattering of poppy seeds. We find there is rarely time to disappear off in the middle of the day to cook on days like this, so we made these first thing in the morning, ahead of the work starting, and reheated them for a few minutes before serving. We ate them with some crunchy pickled beetroot and a dollop of brown sauce on the side. They were a warming and hearty way of filling ourselves up and fuelling us on for the remainder of the day.
Sausage Rolls with Pear, Stilton, and Sage
Makes 8 large or 24 small
- 350 g (around 6) organic sausages, removed from casing
- 2 firm pears, peeled, cored and chopped into very small cubes
- 6 sage leaves, chopped finely
- 75 g Blue Stilton cheese
- 375 g all-butter puff pastry sheet (40cm x 25cm)
- 1 chicken egg, lightly beaten
- ½ tbsp poppy seeds
Put the sausagemeat, chopped pear and sage in a large bowl, crumble in the Stilton, and use your hands to mix and squash everything together until nicely combined.
Open out the pastry sheet on a baking sheet lined with greaseproof paper (or make use of the greaseproof paper that the pastry came on) and cut it in half lengthways.
Divide your sausage mixture roughly in half and arrange it on top of the pastry, so that it runs down the centre of each pastry half, shaping it into a rough sausage shape as you do so.
Brush one side of each of the pastry sheet halves with beaten egg. Then, for one half of the pastry, fold one side of the pastry over the top of the sausage meat, join it to the opposite side and press down to seal. Press a fork along the edge to create a pattern and to strengthen the seal. Repeat for the second pastry half.
Brush the tops and sides of sausage rolls with beaten egg and sprinkle over the poppy seeds.
Pop in the oven at 200°C for around twenty minutes until puffed up, golden brown and the Stilton and pear juices have puddled and caramelised on the greaseproof paper. Slice the rolls into 8 or 24 (depending on your preferred size – see above) evenly sized individual portions and pop back into the oven for a few more minutes to crisp up the cut edges. Serve hot.