Archive for July, 2013

Redcurrant jam, Empress Felicity style

That huge redcurrant bush and its less prolific, container-grown sister have yielded about 3 lb (just over 1.3 kg) of fruit. There are a few stragglers, which I will pick in a couple of days’ time… after I’ve been blackberrying. I picked the three pounds of currants gradually, over the course of a couple of weeks, cleaned them, de-stalked them and put them in bags in our freezer. But yesterday I discovered that the freezer has been playing up – either the thermostat is wonky, and/or the rubber seal around the door is on its last legs. Either way, it meant that the currents hadn’t solidified and because I didn’t want to risk them going off, I made jam out of them last night. Making jam in the sweltering heat (yes, summer’s arrived!) is not recommended, but I didn’t want to let all those beautiful currants go to waste. redcurrantjam2013
What do you do when you’re not an expert jam maker? You turn to your mum’s old recipe books of course. In my case, the book is Marguerite Patten’s Cookery in Colour, a worthy tome first published in 1960. There wasn’t a recipe for redcurrant jam, but there was one for blackcurrant jam, so I used that. For the weight of currants I had (2 pounds 10 ounces or 2.625 pounds), I would have needed just under 2 pints of water and just over 3 and a quarter pounds of sugar, according to this recipe.
Being chronically incapable of following recipe instructions, I used about 1 pound ten ounces of sugar and just over one pint of water, reasoning that (a) the currants were oozing plenty of juice already, and (b) surely nobody would want THAT much sugar in their jam. Following Mr Beans’ recommendation I also used the juice of half a lemon, to help with setting.
The instructions in Ms Patten’s book were: 1. boil up the currants with the water until they go mushy, and (b) add the sugar, stir to dissolve and boil the bejeesus out of the mixture until set. Well, it didn’t say “boil the bejeesus”, but that was the basic gist, anyway. I complied with the instructions, but added the lemon juice and associated pulp about halfway through the boiling process. The result was three jars of a dark garnet red jam, which tastes gorgeous. Because I used so much less sugar (and added some lemon juice), the jam tastes lovely and tart – a real grown-up flavour.
If you’re wondering what all my quantities are in metric, here they are:

2 pounds 10 oz (2.625 pounds) currants = 1.2 kg
1 pound 10 oz (1.625 pounds) sugar = 740 g (give or take the odd gram)
1 pint water = 0.56 litres. Actually I used a bit more than a pint, so call it 0.6 litres.

Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by EmpressFelicity - July 15, 2013 at 12:32 pm

Categories: cooking   Tags: , ,

2013: the year that summer was one month late

The saucepan on the right contains the first of our redcurrants (about three quarters of a pound of them), picked at the beginning of this month (July). Not too late in the year you might think, but the raspberries that grow in the raised bed alongside the currants are only just now producing fruit. In normal years, those raspberries would have been over by the middle of June. My tomatoes are only just now starting to flower. Ditto my runner beans, which are really struggling to get going. On the plus side, we have a nice healthy crop of strawberries! (Of course, it helps when you have at least 30 plants. If you like strawberries, and want to eat more than a couple a day at the height of the season, you might as well have a whole corner of the garden dedicated to them. Or at least a corner of your patio.) redcurrants
Anyway, back to the redcurrants. They are superb. I never expected this much fruit from just a couple of bushes. Since that first saucepan-full, I’ve picked three more lots and there will be at least one more to go. The first batch was stewed with enough sugar to give a sweet-but-tart flavour. Stewed redcurrants make a great accompaniment to roast pork or poultry. The rest are being frozen in batches.
Another success story this year has been our rhubarb patch (in the corner of another raised bed), which has finally got going. I’ve managed to get four or five batches of stewed rhubarb from it. In the process, I discovered a tasty way to eat it – with vanilla yoghurt. Rachel’s Organic Vanilla is nice, if expensive. Or you can buy supermarket’s own natural yoghurt, and add sugar/natural vanilla to taste. For a more substantial dish – a proper meal as opposed to a dessert – add raw porridge oats to the yoghurt, stir in and leave for half an hour before adding the fruit.
Sadly, it’s not all been good news. The mouse melon seeds I planted at the same time as my tomatoes grew into healthy looking seedlings, which I hardened off outdoors before potting up and placing against our extension wall. A couple of them have died and the others are not growing at all. I don’t know what went wrong there. Not enough sun, I suspect. I still have some seeds left so will try again next year.

Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by EmpressFelicity - July 8, 2013 at 7:35 am

Categories: crops   Tags: , , , , ,

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