Friday, 10 July 2009

The Preserving Season

As we live on clay soil, I have a series of raised beds for cultivation of food plants. For years, one of the back beds has been planted with blackcurrants. I failed to prune them last year and now there is a bumper crop.
Having taken out the largest berries, there is still a lot of fruit left on the bushes, so my first crop is going to be used for blackcurrant jelly. This is a prize preserve which is relatively quick and easy to produce and never fails to give results.
Take 1 kilo of blackcurrants, check them over to remove stalks and creepy-crawleys but avoid washing them. Add the fruit and 900ml of water to a jam pan and boil, simmer for 25 minutes to allow the pectin to diffuse into the water. I use this time to wash and sterilise the jars and lids.
Add 1.5 kilos of granulated sugar and allow the pan to come to a rolling boil. It takes about 15-25 minutes to reach setting point. Scoop off any scum and add to jars.
I use a jam funnel and a sieve, pushing the jelly through with a spoon. I cannot be bothered with a jelly bag for this type of jam, it is not necessary. The photo above shows my small jam funnel and small sieve which I use for very small pots. I also use a large jam funnel and large sieve for larger pots.
A few hours late, when the jam is cool, I add labels. Every sentient being should try my blackcurrant jelly. It is probably the best jelly in the world.

My favourite use for this preserve is on freshly made scones. It also sits well in Jam Tarts and is exceptionally good between a Victoria sponge cake. Warmed through and watered down it makes an excellent syrup for drizzling cold on ice cream.

We have a glut of gooseberries this year, again, a result of lack of pruning. My next task is going to be gooseberry jam. I cannot wait for the Victoria plums to ripen now that my mind is in preserving mode.

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