At the end of last month my friend Sharon shared her recipe for Saag Aloo using shallots and chard from her garden. This week we’re talking berries. Ever since Sharon joined my online flower arranging class she regularly sends photos of the flower arrangements she’s created using flowers from her garden. This week she sent me a note saying she’d picked some artichokes which she’d nestled in amongst a vase of flowers, ready to eat later! At this point I should point out that I don’t usually advise that you eat your flower arrangements – you may have unwittingly included something poisonous.
This weekend I’m planning on going blackberry picking. I hope I haven’t left it too late. What do you think: berries for the jar, or berries for the vase? Much as I love incorporating seasonal materials in with my flowers I’m really keen to try out Sharon’s recipe for hedgerow jam. So it’ll be jam jars for me this week. I’m particularly looking forward to testing out Sharon’s method for the “setting” point, which I struggle with every time …
Sharon’s been picking already – but she’s got her mind on flowers as well – picture the scene … “Here I am wandering around the house with my most recent collection of stuff picked from the garden and arranged in a way that pleases me. I try the vase in various places, stepping back and looking at it from several angles. Finally, I settle on the place where it looks its best. Finding the right place in my home for a flower arrangement is all part of my enjoyment.”
Delicious with frozen yoghurt in the winter. You can reduce the amount of sugar in it and keep it in ice cube trays in the freezer. Sharon found this recipe in one of her grandmother’s recipe books 30 years ago. You’ll need to take care not to let your skin be irritated by the millions of tiny hairs in the rosehips and take care not to get any in the finished syrup.
- Collect the biggest most colourful hips you can find.
- Food-process 500g of clean rosehips with a little water.
- Add this mash to a litre of boiling water in a saucepan.
- Simmer for ten minutes and then leave to steep for an hour.
- Strain through double muslin or use a double layer of a (new) J-cloth lining a plastic sieve.
- Do not try to push the product through the cloth just leave it to sit and drip for an hour or so.
- Add up to 500 g of sugar and bring to the boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Then boil hard until syrupy.
- Cool and “freeze” in plastic tubs.
Your syrup will never go rock hard with so much sugar in it. When you want to use some just scrape a spoonful out and put it in a pretty jug to soften to syrup again. This has a unique flavour, slightly perfume-like, with a pretty peachy colour.
Apparently, Sharon’s mum picked huge quantities of fruit and spent ages making vast arrays of preserves which were carefully bottled, labelled and put at the back of her larder to be brought out and used over the next few years. These days we want to have those flavours and textures and range of products, but faster, easier and in smaller quantities.
Instant, store cupboard jam
There is only one step in making instant store cupboard jam. All you need to do is combine frozen and defrosted mixed fruits, water, lemon juice, maple syrup and chia seeds. And stir – breaking up the big bits of fruit as you go. Serve 10 minutes later in a pretty small bowl.
Collect together from your walks in the countryside and from friends and family’s gardens blackberries, elderberries, rosehips, apples, pears, plums and some mint leaves and a chilli (for a bit of background heat and a hint of mint!)
- Thoroughly rinse your fruit and sort through it, taking out any leaves, twigs and so on.
- Peel, core and chop. Remove the seeds from the chilli and chop it finely. Slice the mint leaves into fine shreds.
- Add some water to your collection, barely enough to come half way up and either microwave in short bursts until really soft and mushy or simmer on the hob until really soft.
- Line a sieve with a piece of muslin and pour this soft fruity mix into the muslin. Pull up the four corners, tie and hang as shown. Leave for a few hours. Do not squeeze however much you are tempted.
- Measure the fruit juice you have and to every 500ml add 400g of jam sugar (sugar with pectin added). Heat and stir in a big saucepan or stir thoroughly after 3 minutes in a large dish/jug in the microwave. Now you need to cook this mixture until it reaches that consistency described as the “setting point”.
The setting point is easy to get right if you do one of two things early on in the recipe:
- either use the jam sugar which contains pectin; or
- pour a little methylated spirit into a saucer and pour into it 1tsp of the slightly cooled boiled fruit and water (just before you add the sugar). If it forms one jelly like lump it contains lots of pectin. If it forms several small soft lumps or none at all add some commercial pectin (the product’s name is Certo and it is usually on the supermarket shelf with the sugars).
It is the concentrated combination of pectin, acidic liquid and sugar raised to a high temp that makes jams set.
If your mix has plenty of pectin in it then the simple spoon or saucer checks will give you clear results so you know where you stand. Without enough pectin these simple tests become ineffective and give muddled results.
The spoon and saucer tests
Tip your teaspoon into your jam, and with care run your finger down the back of a teaspoon. It should leave a clear line.
Spoon your jam onto a saucer and allow it to cool a little. Push your teaspoon pushed against the jam and it should create wrinkles on the surface.
I wish you luck with your jam making – let me know how you get on.
If Sharon’s recipes have inspired you to get outdoors and you fancy getting creative with flowers, perhaps you’d like to join my next 4-week online flower arranging class. You can find out more and book your place here.
If you’re planning to find your happy with flowers this week don’t forget you can amaze your friends with your knowledge about getting your flowers to last longer. Sign up here for access to my free five-day mini course and make a start on getting your flowers to last longer.
Keeping in touch
Until next time, happy flowers
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