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Kitchen Preserves

A lot of people say we have had a lousy summer but for me it hasn’t been so bad. I’m not a one for the hot sun so having a summer without having to try to get to sleep sweating away in bed with pesky mosquitoes buzzing around your head all night, has been lovely. Great Britain is blessed to have such wonderful seasons and being placed where we are facing the Atlantic we have to accept whatever weather comes our way. September is one of my favourite months and it has already lived up to its reputation of providing us with some lovely Indian summer days.

I love the Autumn. I love how September slowly starts to bring in these chilly mornings followed by a glorious warm sunny day to then end as a chilly evening that might need the first fire to be lit. I love the first of the Autumn gales blown in from the Atlantic giving us a timely reminder of what’s to come. I love to see the hedgerows bursting with fruit; blackberries, sloes, haws, rose hips, elderberries, crab apples and rowan. I love to go to farmers markets and greengrocers and see the new Autumn harvests for sale; damsons, plums, greengage, pickling onions, cob nuts, pears and apples. And you really can’t beat walking across a field and stumbling upon some Field Mushrooms or, if you are really lucky, a Puffball or two! Best of all, l love turning my hand to preserving some of these fruits and seeing the jars and bottles in some dark corner of the kitchen lined up, maturing, waiting to be opened on a cold winters day and releasing their summer goodness onto your plate. Right now is as good a time as ever to get out there and start gathering some blackberries and turning them into a few pots of jam and a nice crumble or pie, especially with some nice Bramley apples thrown in.

Some of my preserves and booklets from WW2

In the kitchen its the time to get the preserving pan out again and I have been busy over the past couple of weeks making not only Damson Jam which, by the way, is the best jam l have ever made, but also a few jars of Red Onion Marmalade, Pickled Onions, Sloe Gin, Pickled Pears, Blackberry & Apple Jam and even bottled some Plums. I haven’t tried bottling fruit for years and unfortunately l made the mistake of having the oven too high and literally boiled one of the jars to the point it was bubbling over the brim. Oops…it still formed a vacum when it cooled so should last a little while. I recently bought the River Cottage book on Preserves and can really recommend it.

Of course, back in WW2, preserving foods was not done as a bit of fun but was essential in providing fruit during the long winter months. As well as making jams and chutneys people would have dried, bottled and stored as much as they could. Blackberries were the most common fruit as they will grow anywhere including waste land in inner city areas. In the countryside the pickings were far better as l have already described. The W.I. formed preservation centres in villages up and down the land making tons of preserves for the general public using free fruit that would otherwise have gone to waste. Last weeks episode of Wartime Farm showed how canning was the most popular method of preserving fruit as this needed less sugar than making jam. I really take my hat off to those women of the W.I. who did so much for the war effort and brought comfort to so many.

This wartime leaflet still carries sound advice for anyone today wishing to collect some of this Autumns free harvest. Go on, give it a go. Believe me there is nothing better than going for a walk right now and coming back with a few berries from the hedgerow and turning them into a pot or two of jam.

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Posted by on September 23, 2012 in Cooking, September

 

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Damson Jam….not for the faint hearted

I have just spent the best part of two hours making Damson Jam. I bought the Damsons from a great greengrocers in Bridport the other day as we were passing through.

Bridget’s Greengrocers

I believe its the same one Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall visits on some of his programmes. Anyway, having bought my Damsons, Plums and some lovely Cox’s Apples l decided to make jam out of these lovely deep purple nuggets.

Weighing Damsons

I used 3lb of Damsons, 2 3/4 sugar and 1/4 pint of water.

In a large pan slowly simmer the damsons in the water until the damsons break up and release their stones.Now l am guessing maybe l should have made this jam at the start of the day rather than at the end of a rather hard days work. Standing there and slowly removing the stones was not my best job of the day! Top Tip: It is easier to remove the stones once the sugar has been added as they all rise to the surface, Its still a real fiddly job.

Removing the stones

Bring to the boil until setting point has been reached. To test just spoon a small amount onto a cold saucer and let it cool a little. Push the jam with your finger and if it wrinkles and looks like a skin has formed then it should be set.

Pour into hot jars and seal immediately. I made about 5lb. I hope it sets otherwise it will be lovely with rice pudding. PS The next day proved it had set and tasted fantastic. Well worth the effort!

Did anyone watch Wartime Farm? I thought it had the makings of a great series. The addition of scenes of them sat round a wireless listening to Neville Chamberlain’s speech announcing the outbreak of war and Churchill’s rousing speeches was quite moving. Looking forward to the coming weeks.

 
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Posted by on September 8, 2012 in September

 

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