Strawberry season is here, wooohooooo! I vowed at the beginning of the year that this year I would make strawberry jam, once the season was upon us. Get ready for a selection of strawberry based recipes. It is no secret that I loooooooovveeee the combination of strawberry and basil; basil MIGHT be my favourite herb but it has serious competition from coriander and rosemary, oh and mint. What is your favourite herb? It’s like choosing between children right?!
I don’t like to reveal my Christmas hamper recipes before Christmas but it’d be cruel not to share this Christmas jam recipe with you, so that you can munch away on festive toast after opening your advent calendar each morning. I based this on a recipe I found on the BBC good food website and jazzed it up a bit with some fresh cranberries and orange zest.
The closing of summer means that soon all the season’s delicious fruits will be going out of season and before we know it winter will be here. Not to be depressing, winter has beauty too and nearly all of my favourite flavours (ginger, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, mulled wine, gingerbread, brandy drenched Christmas cake, Christmas pudding and home made mincemeat) are associated with winter. The end of summer traditionally saw everyone preserving all the fruit of the season, often in jams; so here is my goodbye to summer, some beautifully bright jam.
Nectarines have been in season and seem to be a bargain everywhere, so I’ve been getting them when I can, peeling, dicing them and then freezing them until I had ~1 kg to make jam with. Soft fruits like nectarines are easier to peel if they are ripe and you blanch them in boiling water.
Nectarine and rosemary just feel like a natural flavour combination to me, and I do love a boozy jam. I’ve had a bottle of rosemary gin on the side for months and thought a (large) dash in my nectarine jam would go down well.
I promise next year I will really work on my photography, there is no natural light where we live and I never have time to get anything more than a quick snap. One day though, one day. Also, can we take a minute to appreciate the hexaganol jar? A seriously underrated jar shape if you ask me, and my personal favourite; they are more efficient with regards to storage space than round jars and their tessellation pleases me greatly. A absolutely do not need to get out more.
A both this weekend and last weekend were pretty damn special but let’s talk about last weekend. On the Saturday one of my dearest friends got married, a wedding we’ve been waiting for since forever because they are so obviously meant for each other. The wedding was Roald Dahl themed and BEAUTIFUL and I was delighted to be asked to make a Bruce Bogtrotter cake (which I’ll share soon!) but today let’s talk about jam.
This jam came about because of a lovely morning stroll with James and his aunt, uncle and their adorable dog. There were so many blackberries (mostly not ripe though), so we picked all the ripe ones. It was a team effort but we got about half a kilo which was plenty to make jam. As if reading my mind, James’ uncle announced his favourite jam was blackberry and apple, and that was that; that evening I made 5 medium jars of blackberry and apple jam. I like putting apples in recipes because they are more likely to set, being a high pectin fruit, which berries certainly aren’t. I found the recipe in a book called Jams, Preserves and Chutneys, published by Like Books.
We also picked sloe berries, which means only one thing. Sloe gin. More on that soon too!
Ingredients: (the original recipe was double this, this half version below make ~5 200 ml jars)
- 500 g of blackberries
- 375 g of apples (preferably green apples), peeled, cored and diced into small chunks
- 750 g of caster sugar
- 62 ml of water
- 0.25 tsp of cinnamon
- 0.25 tsp of nutmeg
- Jam thermometer, optional but advised
- Sterile jam jars (I put my jars in the oven at ~60-70°C whilst I make the jam)
- Put the fruit into a large, heavy bottomed pan.
- Add the water and simmer for 10 minutes until soft (use a hand blender if you want to have a smoother jam).
- Add the sugar, stirring continuously over a medium heat until all the sugar has dissolved.
- Stir in the cinnamon and nutmeg, place you jam thermometer into the pan.
- Put a small plate into the freezer.
- Boil for ~20 minutes, stirring often, until setting point is reached (105°C / 220°F), place a tsp of jam on a cold plate and place in the fridge for 5 minutes. Push it with your finger, if a crinkly skin forms, your jam will set. If not boil for further 5 minutes and repeat.
- Remove from the heat and skim any scum off of the top of the jam.
- Transfer into warmed sterilised jars.
Continuing with the theme of slow cooker love, I made some stock using a left over chicken carcass. This might just be my favourite use for a slow cooker because it was such a simple and easy way to make stock without using up a hob and having to keep checking up on it. There is something very satisfying when a recipe calls for 1 cup of stock and you’ve made your own.
I also like how resourceful making your own stock is, it makes a use of discarded bits and bobs. You can throw anything into a stock, peelings, bones and Parmesan rinds; I keep my Parmesan rinds in a bag in the freezer ready for making stock. I also like to keep any left over fresh herbs I have in the freezer to use from frozen. Some people even keep a large Tuppaware box in the freezer of peelings, bones and Parmesan rinds until they have enough to make a big pot of stock. Homemade stocks, particularly stocks that use bones, are full of nutrition too! I fail to see a downside.