Strawberry Jam (and a tomato)

Okay – so the two punnets of strawberries we’d acquired to date became 6 punnets today. Faced with a glut of strawberries, and only so many strawberries a person can chow down, the decision to make ready the jam pan was made. The recipe used was as follows:

Strawberries with pectin enhanced sugar.
(Makes 3-4 jars, 455g – 1 lb) – (Type of Set: medium)

  1. Fresh strawberries: 800g / 1¾ lb
  2. Jam sugar: 1kg / 2 lb
  3. Water: none
  4. Knob of butter

Preparation
Clean jars in a bowl of hot water to which has been added a small drop of washing up liquid, rinse under a running tap. Leave to stand on some clean kitchen paper towel, tops down.
Set oven to its lowest setting, place jars, right way up onto oven tray and place on middle shelf.
Hull and wash strawberries, place in pan, using potato masher or liquidiser crush fruit into a pulp. Heat slowly, and pour in sugar, stirring continuously until dissolved. Add knob of butter still stirring, increase heat and bring to a rolling boil. Now start timing, do not boil longer that the time recommended, usually four minutes. Skim off scum with slotted spoon.
Allow to cool for 15 – 20 minutes to prevent fruit rising. Pot, cover and label.

Jaime our friend happened to be staying over and helped Suz with the washing up of the jam spoons – how kind.

On a totally different topic – we’ve got our first tomato. Hurrah! We shall feast this night.

Pickled Onions

Having been sat in the garage for two weeks waiting for their moment in the limelight, time was finally found to do a spot of pickling. These were the Brown pickling SY300 onion seed that we sowed back in March and we were starting to lose some as they turned squidgy.

Basic preparation of the onions – spend an evening in front of the telly peeling and topping and tailing them. Give them a good rinse out in fresh cold water. Then pop them all into a bowl, cover with more fresh cold water and add plenty of sea salt until you can’t dissolve any more into the solution. Cover with something to stop flies/dust/dogs/children getting in and leave overnight. The salt leaches the water from the onions and will make for a crisper onion. The fact that it is sea salt in theory gives a clearer finish to the pickle.

Next day, drain the onions and pat dry to get rid of as much water as possible. As it was my first time I cheated and used ready-spiced pickling vinegar – I washed and popped into a 100 degree oven the jars. Not one for totally cheating, and feeling slightly adventurous, I mixed the pickling vinegar with balsamic vinegar – 2 parts PV to 1 part BV, and then brought the pickling/balsamic vinegar concoction to simmering point. Removed the jars from the oven, popped the onions in tightly and poured the warm vinegar in. The heated contents pulled the pop-up middle of the jar lid down to create a decent seal as it cooled. Job done.

Next time I’ll experiment with my own pickling spice mix, but gently does it 🙂

Sugar-free Chutney

Here’s one for all who would like a sugar-free chutney recipe. Suz has dug the recipe out that was used as a basis, it’s from The Cottage Smallholder site and is a recipe from Kate Auty, for a no-cook chutney.

The listed recipe uses soft brown sugar, but instead Suz added very ripe pears and fruit juice, raisins and cinammon to the mix. It was also cooked in the end, after 3 days had passed, before bottling – to get rid of the remaining liquid.

Recipe for Kate Auty’s No-Cook Apple, Date and Onion Chutney

Ingredients:
•    1 lb/454g of cooking apples
•    1 lb/454g of dates (stoned)
•    1 lb/454g of onions
•    1 lb/454g of soft brown sugar
•    1 pt/570 ml of malt vinegar (we use cider vinegar)
Method:
1.    Wash, peel and core the apples and skin the onions.
2.    Mince the apples, dates and onions using the coarse profile.
3.    Put the minced fruit and onions in a large glass or china bowl.
4.    Add the sugar and vinegar.
5.    Stir very well and stir once a day for three days, keeping it covered closely with a clean tea towel against flies.
6.    On the fourth day bottle the chutney in sterilised jars with plastic lined screw top lids and label. (How do I sterilise jars and lids? Why do the lids have to be plastic lined? See Tricks and tips below).
Tips and tricks:
•    Katey says that she tried chopping (instead of mincing) the ingredients one year and the onion didn’t break down as much as the apple and date and remained crunchy which spoilt the chutney.
•    Why do I have to use plastic lined lids for chutney?
The vinegar eats into metal lids that are not lined. If you use cellophane jam pot covers the vinegar evaporates through these and you are left with a dried up mess in your jars.

Damson Gin

Having been given some offcut Damson branches laiden with damsons in exchange for some eggs, I decided to make a little something to help combat the coming winter nights…damson gin.

Really easy this one:

  1. Wash and stone 500g of damsons.
  2. Add to a washed kilner jar or similar.
  3. Add the equivalent amount of sugar.
  4. Top up with 1 litre of gin.
  5. Shake vigorously until all the ingredients are mixed together.
  6. Repeat 5) every few days for three months.
  7. Decant liquid into a new bottle and drink, small amounts at a time.
  8. Use the fruit pulp in an amazing damson pie, or a very drunk trifle 🙂