Friday, 13 December 2013

Cranberry Relish 2013

A small offering for the Christmas Table.....

I like to make a few pots of a cranberry type relish each year to go with the Christmas meats.  I looked through several books, and decided to devise my own with a special twist....

A spice which goes very well with rich meats and also chicken, and which I often include in sauces is the juniper berry.  This grows on an evergreen low growing bush but I find just buying them in a jar is much easier than trying to source the right type of plant!  Also I love gin, well in moderation, a nice drink to start the weekend with a few nuts maybe?

As this is for a few special presents, I do not put the ingredients or date made on the label, but just in case anyone wanted to know what was in the jar, here is the recipe with full list of ingredients:
300g Cranberries
300g prepared cooking apples
50g dried cranberries soaked overnight in 1 tbs gin
5 juniper berries crushed
1 Large Orange, finely grated peel and juice
100g soft brown sugar
pinch of allspice
50g organic cider vinegar
More gin
I  cooked all the fruit gently together till soft, but still holding its shape.  I then added the sugar, spices and vinegar, and cooked the lot gently stirring to make sure it did not catch on the bottom of the pan.   The preserve was then ladled into hot sterilised jars, I then floated a teaspoon of gin and slapped on the lids quickly and tightly!
Hope that Janice and Nicki enjoy this one...

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Pear, Lemon & Cardamom Marmalade

I love marmalade....toast and marmalade, home made bread toasted with melted butter and marmalade for breakfast.....delicious!  With fresh coffee and then the newspapers afterwards...all wrapped up in my lovely woolly dressing gown from Melin Tregwynt.  That's how we have spent this morning, with the rain dripping onto the conservatory roof. I look out at the damp garden and make up my mind to bring in my succulents.  Autumn is truly here, but what a glorious summer we have had!

Back to this most recent of marmalades....I love cardamom, in savoury dishes, but since I discovered the Hairy Biker's coffee cake, in sweet things too. 

I have pears to preserve/conserve, so looking through my books, I found this recipe in Seasonal Preserves by Joanna Farrow.  I bought a kilo of fresh plump lemons during the day, and planned for my next batch of preserves.

Hubby was going off for dinner with his college  friends,  I had all the evening to myself,  an evening of chopping and boiling...

My hand is still a little sore and as I tried the following:

'Halve and squeeze the lemons. Cut the squeezed lemons in half.  Using a sharp knife, flatten the peel down on the surface and cut a thick horizontal slice to remove the pith from the peel'...

I had thoughts of serious knife cuts and no one to come to the rescue.  Luckily I had only cut through the first lemon and tried this when I thought of a better way for me.  With a sharp potato peeler off came the zest,

then with the famous rocking action of sharp knife through the peel I was left with a bowl of fine pieces.  I was in the zone with great music in the background.

I then peeled and chopped through a huge pile of pears...well you need quite a few small pears to end up with 1.4 Kg prepared fruit.  All this whilst the lemon peel and pith was boiling time I shall reduce the liquid to 1 litre and cook with a lid on.  My reasoning being that if the air smelt so wonderful, then I would prefer this aroma to stay in the liquid, and despite my extractor going full pelt, the walls were beginning to drip with condensation.  Even better, I shall use my pressure cooker, since I do this each time I make Seville Marmalade to reduce the cooking time dramatically.

Then the stirring fruit, sugar and spices starts: the smell was magical, but quite strong.  Before potting up I went fishing for most of the pods, that way to avoid having to pick them out when eating the conserve and I thought leaving them in would lead to too much cardamom flavour.  That evening I felt a little deflated.  So much work chopping and cooking, and maybe I would not like the preserve....I quietly tidied up, washed up, and lined up my jars to set overnight, and said a prayer to the Preserving Gods.

In the morning, I tried the little bit I had put by in a ramekin dish on my morning toast,  the smell was sharp and spicy, the taste far more subtle: tangy and mellow.  How can one have such opposite tastes in one mouthful?  Its the wonderful juxtaposition of lemon and pear...

A couple of weeks later the preserve has mellowed further, and is the marmalade of choice for the present. 

Interesting marmalades so far: Grapefruit Marmalade, Lime Marmalade, Grapefruit and Lemon Marmalade, Apricot and Orange Marmalade, Kumquat marmalade spiced with cardamom, and now this one.  All of them well worth the effort.  Of course for my son and husband, I will always make the classic Seville at the right time of the year: January, unless I have put some down for future use in the freezer.

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Chunky Pear & Walnut Chutney

What can I say about my hero, my husband,   one of the things he dislikes is the smell of vinegar...and what has our home been smelling of some days? .... and he brings me pears from a colleague which I turn into chutney....and he loves that I am enjoying my chutney festival....

One of my favourite, once again.  Ingredients:  Pears, Apples, Organic Cider Vinegar, organic sultanas, sugar, walnuts, oranges, cinnamon, salt.

With the dried fruit soaking in orange juice,

I busy myself with all the chopping of Pears and Apples....

Roasting the walnuts,  boiling and stirring the chutney,

And then an hour or two later....and then there is all the washing up and clearing up.......

Plum Cheese

Just how much fruit can one pack into a preserve?  With all the plums this year, I felt I could do justice to the abundance from my tree....but next year it may need a good rest. 

I picked plums right from the time they first set, at first small plums with the petals still attached, then again when the fruit was no larger than my thumb nail, then as the weeks went by larger and larger plums were sacrificed to the reclycle bin just so that the branches of the tree did not snap, and allowing room for the remaining fruit to swell and mature. 

I chopped up nearly 3 Kg fruit, and put them stones and all, with 4 star anise into a large roaster and cooked them down slowly in the oven, with no water.  When well reduced and cool, I took all the stones and star anise out.  I was going to sieve the fruit, started to, but with my sore hand could not continue.  Having made sure that there were so stones left, I got out my hand blender, and pulped down the fruit to a thick pure. 

It now weighed 1.9 Kg, to which I added 80g goats butter, and 1.4 Kg sugar.  I took these proportions from Basic Basics by Marguerite Patten. 

With careful cooking, I ended up with a glorious rich 'cheese'. 

Some small straight sided jars were filled, but the balance had to go into my normal jars.  This will be wonderful with crackers, or bread and cheese....

Moroccan Spiced Plum Chutney

This batch of chutney was made from a recipe which I adapted.  Seasonal Preserves by Joanna Farrow.  Ingredients include Victoria Plums from my garden,

onions, fresh ginger, dates,

cinnamon, turmeric, cumin seeds,

organic cider vinegar, sugar, pine nuts,

and Ras el Hanout.  I loved the idea that Barts add Rose Petals to this spice mixture. I can truly say that this is the second preserve this year to include rose petals...

I look forward to some tagines during the winter months with a little of this chutney, or flatbreads with slow roasted lamb and vegetables.  Or with bread, hummus and roasted red peppers.  It would also work well as a marinade for lamb prior to cooking....but I must wait another month or so for it to mature and for the flavours to develop.........

Plum and Red Onion Confit with Port

My little Plum Tree nothing would it bear last year, but this year....sufficient for different preserves.

I love a pickle or chutney on the side, with salad, cold meats, beans, with cheese on toast.....and this one will be great with bangers and mash!

Juggling various recipes, substituting red onions for white, cider vinegar for red wine, adding some extras, I came up with this one.

All items weighed after preparation:

750g red onions
4 tbsps. organic rapeseed oil
1250g plums
450 ml organic cider vinegar
250 g soft brown sugar
1 tbls pepper corns roughly crushed
1 tsp sea salt
5 tblsps port

Gently cook the onions in the oil, do not 'fry', just enough to 'sweat gently'.  Next time I shall do this for only a short time as the onions continue to cook, and I would like to have seen more whole pieces in the finished confit.

Add the remaining ingredients, except for the sugar, salt and port, and simmer uncovered until the plums are soft.

Over a low heat, add the sugar, and simmer gently until thick.  Add the port, and stir through, add about 1 tsps. salt.  Cool a little on a plate, taste, and add more salt if you wish. Pot into heated jars, and store for about 2 months to mature.  Once opened use within two months.

This one should keep unopened in a cool dark cupboard and continue improving for a year.

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Fig Conserve with honey and port

This Summer has been busy....and I've had little time  to write about the preserves I've been making.  Delving into my book, where I write all my recipes, with lists of preserves made, and checking on the pictures still in my camera, here is one of my favourite ones.

Since my luscious rose petal, rhubarb and apple conserve, I've made a few jars each of the following:  Blackcurrant jam, strawberry jam, Seville Marmalade, and Apricot.  All fairly standard.

Each year I look out for figs.  Early September on the Saturday of Leamington's food festival, I found this wonderful tray of figs at the greengrocers in Leamington.  Here if you ask for Vanilla, they unscrew a large glass jar, and put the plump vanilla pods in a paper bag.  Carrying this on top of the box of figs to the car on a warm sunny day got me thinking of my father...wish he was still around for me to talk food with....he used to call me his little 'gourmet gourmande'.
Here is my recipe:
1 Kg Fresh figs, weighed after trimming
650g sugar and 100g honey
1 tsp ground allspice
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 lemon zest and juice
3 tbsp. rum, Mauritian Vanilla Rum if possible, added just before potting, or you could use something like Port with a vanilla pod during the macerating.
Chop up the figs into pieces, and add the other ingredients, except for the rum, and macerate, covered with film for a few hours or overnight.  In the sunshine on my stone table in the conservatory, I watched the juices develop, and could not resist a little stir from time to time.
Stir over a low heat, then bring to the boil,
and continue until thick.  Stir from time to time to avoid any sticking, especially towards the end.  Because of the low sugar ratio, and the high fruit content, its no use using the temperature test just cook gently till you have the consistency you like.  I like mine quite thick, I got 1.2 Kg net weight from this lot. 
I love this fig conserve stirred through yogurt, at the bottom of on in a steamed pudding, or in a bakewell type tart.  Lovely too on fresh scones.
This is one of my favourite preserves.

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Rose Petals conserved in a wonderful jam

During these last few days of warm sun and still evenings, I'm been aware of the wonderful scents from the garden roses.  One of best being from the Red rose growing over the arch: Etoile to Hollande.  The same red rose which I have made into numerous posies for friends and which a few years back even graced our Christmas table.

It got me thinking:  if elderflowers with their perfume bring so much to a cordial or conserve, and rose water is used in desserts then how about capturing the warm scent of summer of deep red roses.  I scoured through my books and found none which used rose petals in jam.  I can't imagine that I am the first to think of this, and went on line to check this out....yes roses can be used but nip off the little white bit at the base of the petals.  I could not find out why but as this was the first time I would be using roses, I followed that instruction.  Some said add rose essence at the end.  I do have some rose water but decided not to add this, as I wanted to see if the roses alone would add the subtle aroma I was looking for, and be in balance with the rhubarb and apple.

I've devised this original recipe using my first bundle of rhubarb from my new plant from the garden, some cooking apples, and lemon juice.  I used some preserving sugar as I know that rhubarb is low on pectin, and as a result got a very good set.  Next time I shall try using more lemons and just standard sugar.  I may also cook the apple separately to a puree then add that to the macerated rhubarb.  However I do think the apple bits which held together as they had been through the maceration process does look pretty.  I await comments from the preserve tasters.

I left the dry fruit to marinate in the sugar until it has shrunk and was swimming in its own juice. Just before it was time to cook up the fruit, I found the tall ladder and climbed to the top to cut off stems of lovely open roses, and sat on the patio, pulling off all the petals, and washing them gently in cool water.  Less deadheading this weekend........

As the whole was warming, I added the petals, minus the little white bits at the base,  and soon a wonderful dark red damask looking mixture was developing.  The taste is glorious  but with the smell still hanging around, and my taste buds overwhelmed, I shall wait a couple of days before trying it properly.  

Roll on Saturday, less dead heading, and time to sit and savour this jam with warm home made scones in the garden!

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Gooseberry and Elderflower Jam

Since coming back from holiday, we've been sticking wonderfully to our resolution of going out for long walks at least once a week.  Walking through field and woods and enjoying the sights and smells of the wild flowers and birdsong. 

Well away from a road, and crop spraying I found a wonderful elderberry bush fragrant with the pollen on its newly opened we had to stop and came away with a large carrier bag full.  The extra pockets in my walking trousers always house a bag for foraging! 

The previous day I had spied some wonderful small gooseberries at the market, but with an eye watering price...but they were local and I imagined the pricks of the pickers and succumbed, having got a little mark down as I bought over a kg, made up from several small punnets.  I love it that this market holder will decant the fruit into brown paper bags and reuse the plastic tubs.

I started by using the scissors to top and tail the gooseberries, but found that nipping them with finger and thumb did a much better job.  It took ages, and in the end finished this jam around midnight!

I wanted to made a green jam...and these little gooseberries looked a little under ripe, often the best for pectin etc...but the jam did turn a delightful blush colour in the end, so the berries must have been on the ripe side.  I wonder if there will be some elderflower petals in the jam.  If I lived in the really great gooseberry growing areas, I might be able to ask someone for their thinnings, which would give green jam!

Apricot and Ginger Conserve

A few weeks back I made this jam the day after I saw a large pile of rosy apricots at my local market.  I just knew that they would be perfect for a batch of jam, without knowing exactly which recipe I would try out.

After leafing through half a dozen books, I chose this one from The WI's Book of Preserves...I wanted to see whether I agreed with the author's view that this was her favourite recipe in the book.  Without trying every other one, I don't think that I would very truthfully be able to comment. 

When making a new preserve which isn't just the pure fruit, and have added spices or 'bits', I usually wait with baited breath for my chief taster's opinion.....'yes its really lovely', and he liked the ginger bits too!  I of course love out of the ordinary as well as classic preserves....

Its more or less a standard Apricot Jam with equal weight prepared fruit to sugar, with kernels added and some crystallized ginger roughly chopped added.  I had 1.2 Kg fruit and added 50 g ginger.  The balance is about right, still the smooth sharpness and wonderful colour of the apricots with the occasional pocket of gingerness! 

We have had it on some of my homemade soft breakfast bread and also on yogurt and rice pudding. 

Used to cover a chocolate cake before spreading the chocolate ganache...resulted in a very classy cake.

Saturday, 1 June 2013

Pineapple Chutney

Starting with the apples, then the pineapples, all chopped fine to the size I want in the final chutney,

Then after what seems like hours of stirring, together with a wonderful blend of vinegar, sugar and spices,  the chutney is ready to pot....only two are different...without chillies specially for Janice.

I used some of this chutney to marinate some meat and it worked a dream.  The meat was very tender and the sauce had that extra something, a richness and a depth of flavour that I had not tasted before I used this in the marinade.  This is my favourite chutney in sandwiches.

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Notsnarb Pickle

After my Piccalilli in February, my March Chutney taste buds drew me to devising a version of Branston Pickle. 

When I first met hubby, he had a severe aversion to vinegar....I did have a bottle, but had to hide it.  Eventually over the years he has been 'desensitised', and does from time to time partake of pickles or chutneys.....but no vinegar can come near any of the salad dressings, I use only fresh lemon, lime or orange juices.

I love to have my preserves with the minimum of added manufactured or artificial additives, so I rather hope that this chutney will mean than I need no longer buy Branston Pickle.....

I've written up all about it and included the recipe on my other blog, but just in case you are too busy here is a collage for you to enjoy!

Saturday, 9 February 2013


With a heavy bag of fresh vegetables from the market, and a bag full of pretty purple shallots from Waitrose, I spent a Thursday evening in preparation...weighing, chopping into small pieces, and salting.

The next evening, with the vegetables shrunk, and standing amongst a salty brine, it was time to mix up the spices and vinegar, and start the sauce, finish off the pickle and pot it up in sterilised jars.

I had posted this on my facebook page, and my nephew contacted me for the recipe.  I had adapted the one from The River Cottage Handbook: Preserves.  As he is in Spain where the vegetables are so plentiful, I hope that he will try this.  There are many variations, and I do have a recipe with no sugar, but most of the versions of Piccalilli which I have tasted in the UK have some sweetness. 

This chutney goes back to the days when British Colonialists came back from India and wanted to replicate the chutneys they had enjoyed.  It goes so well with cold meats, Pork Pies. and in a cheese sandwich too.  With the crunchiness of the veg which should remain,  together with the slightly sweet vinegary taste, Piccalilli is a great compliment to both raw and cold cooked vegetable salads, and beans. 

For this batch I used the following:

1 Large Cauliflower, with the following added to make up 1.5Kg of vegetables
French Beans
75g fine pure sea salt

Cut the above vegetables, it took me over an hour to prepare the vegetables, then put them in a covered glass or plastic container, or large plastic bag, mix in the salt, and leave for 24 hours turning occasionally.  Then wash quickly in very cold water, drain and preferably swish in a salad spinner, or squeeze with a clean boiled tea towel to remove as much water as possible.  Do this just before you are ready to turn the veg into the prepared sauce.

Before you make the sauce, find your jars, and lids.  Wash them in very hot soapy water and rinse well, then drain, and sterilise and dry by putting them in a low oven for about 10 minutes.  Don't do this with the lids.  I put the lids into boiling water, then put the dish with lids in the oven.  Dry the lids before using with fresh paper towels.  Use warm jars to fill with the chutney.

40 g cornflour
10g ground turmeric
10g English Mustard Powder, or finely ground and sifted pale mustard seeds
15g whole yellow mustard seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1tsp ground dried coriander seed
800ml organic cider vinegar, one could use white wine vinegar or light coloured alternative
150g golden caster sugar, or any other light sugar
50g honey.

Blend the spices with the cornflour, and dampen down with some cold vinegar, mix to a loose paste.

Add the rest of the vinegar, sugar and honey to a large pan, and bring to the boil.  Reduce the heat to gentle, and carefully pour the spice and cornflour mixture into the vinegar stirring all the time, stir till thickened, and continue to boil gently for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring all the time.

Remove the pan from the heat, and carefully stir in the vegetables into the hot sauce.  Fill your sterilised jars with the mixture and press down making sure there is plenty of sauce to cover the vegetables.  Seal immediately with vinegar proof lids.

These are lids which have a plastic membrane and stop the vinegar from attacking a metallic lid, or it could be a plastic lid, but this has to be air tight.

This chutney is reminiscent of the Achard which we used to eat in Mauritius and which I have had a go at a couple of years ago.  Unlike Achard, which can be eaten within days and which is usually refrigerated as there is much less vinegar, Piccalilli needs time to mature, 4 to 6 weeks, and unopened, it can be stored in a cool dark place, and is good for up to a year.

The sauce is much more yellow than that of Piccalilli in the shops, but with turmeric being a beneficial spice, I do not think I would want to reduce the quantity.  One can use ordinary flour too, but as a friend of mine cannot tolerate gluten, so I chose the cornflour option.

You may use a variety of vegetables, and there are many recipes on line which give ideas.  One could also make a smaller proportion back to 1/2 Kg of prepared vegetables for just one large jar.  My Cordon Bleu Book of Jams, Preserves and Pickles suggests:  in addition to cauliflower,and onions, which seem to be the constant in all the recipes I have looked up: cucumbers, marrow.  Elsewhere I have seen butternut squash, pumpkin, capers, nasturtium seeds.....

I would like to make a green and white version next time, with Romanesco cauliflower and white cauliflower,  small white onions, and other green and white vegetables.

Blueberry and Lemon Jam

 Washing the blueberries and fresh bay leaf.

With the blueberries on special offer, and few other good looking fruit available, I came back from Waitrose with several large packs.   This is the first time I have used this fruit in a preserve.  In fact until my little grand daughter started eating them, I had never had them.  Hubby thinks they taste of nothing....and usually steers clear of them.  I like them with a little yogurt and honey.

Then I got down to choosing the right recipe. My eye was caught by the Blueberry and Lemon Jam Recipe in the Women's Institute Book of Preserves, because it had an added ingredient...Bay Leaf...

I settled for a soft set jam, as I did not want to boil away the flavours.  The jam is delicious, soft, dark, and with just a hint of spice, which would not be easy to detect if you did not know what it was, just another layer of flavour which adds an interesting complexity.  It is wonderful on brioche, rice pudding, porridge, yogurt etc.  I've used it as a base for an almond tart.

The following morning in the low slanting rays of a sunny winter morning, I stuck on the labels.

Not a big yield, fairly pricey, but a touch of luxury.  Its worth it!