Friday, 19 September 2014

Beetroot Chutney

Eight jars now stashed in the cupboard.  Hurrah!  Can't believe that I haven't posted about this preserve in previous years...but this is a time of year which is more about making preserves than writing about them.

I've posted the recipe on my other blog, You are welcome to try it yourself, or if you're one of my friends who have continued to help 'support' me in my preserving journey, do come round and pick up a jar.

Monday, 15 September 2014

Fig Conserve

Each year I pander to some inner nostalgic yearning.  I love figs, ever since I was really young.  My Mum used to chase the arrival of tins of figs when a consignment arrived by boat.  There must have been some sort of bush telegraph on the island.  Later when supermarkets arrived on the island: Mauritius, or at least the larger usually Chinese emporiums, you could rely on getting them there, but not always!  The large tin was opened and the jam decanted into a couple jars, which were then kept in the fridge.  One of the snacks my Dad had in the afternoon when coming home from work, was a sliced pain maison, ice cold hard butter, which soon melted in the heat, and green fig jam.   Being daddy's girl, of course, I had to have the same!

Now I eat all types of figs, and when on holiday in warmer climes often buy a small bag full, and eaten on the foot if fresh, or if dried, they are brought back home to poach.  Some sharp goats' or creamy sheeps yogurt topped with a couple of poached figs is my fall back pudding of choice.

I look out for figs in the local fruit and vegetables shops, and splash out on a tray full.  This year for one week only it seems, our Kenilworth Greengrocer had 500g tubs of smaller, but no less beautiful and ripe figs.  I did not hesitate and came home with 3...

In the week, Katherine had given me a few crab apples and having just prepared them, thought of incorporating them into the preserve.  I make this preserve to use in things, rather than to get a 'perfect' set jam.  Its the flavour I am going for.  Figs are all texture and looks, sweetness in abundance, but I feel them are improved with a few extras in a compote.  I once had fig and lime marmalade, which was a great combination.  This time I decided to add orange, and a few spices too.  The figs bought last year in Dubrovnik market had dried bayleaves, so this Fig Conserve has had a few fresh bay leaves added.

Fig Conserve

1200g  prepared figs, chopped to about 1.5 cm pieces
1 Large Orange zest and juice
2 large ladles of crab apple juice
3 Bay Leaves
1 tsp powdered allspice
1tsp powdered cinnamon
900g sugar

Put everything apart from the sugar into a large pan, and then simmer gently till soft, stirring from time to time to make sure nothing sticks.   The consistency is thick.  I think the fruit continues to cook very gently as it cools, you can then add the sugar or leave it a little longer if you have other things to do. Taste the mixture, if you would like something extra such as lemon juice or lime juice, then add it now.  Stirring gently until the sugar is dissolved, its then brought to the boil, and cooked again, till its a thickish consistency.  I cooked it for about 15 minutes.  You need to stir from time to time to avoid the fruit catching on the bottom.

This morning I had some from the little pot on my morning pumpkin brioche, and it was delicious.  I liked the texture too.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Greengage or Reine Claude Jam

 I love the colour green, it goes well with lots of other colours.  We were talking about this, earlier today, we that is a few knitting friends, and could see that it went so well with browns, greys, oranges, some blues etc.....

In preserves I have found it hard to get a good green colour, even my gooseberry jam was not quite the pale interesting green I thought it would be.

I like plums, and look out the little green ones.  Several years ago when my mother was here on a visit, we had to go in search for them.  Believe it or not, with my interest in flavours, I had not yet tasted one of those little green plums.  When I had looked at them, my mouth just puckered, but my mother explained that they were probably the sweetest of the lot.  I'm so pleased that she made me buy them that day.

This year I have been on the look out for them at the market, reminding the stall holder that I was waiting for them to come in.  Maybe there was not an English crop this year, or maybe they came when I was away.  Last week, at our local greengrocers which is really going from strength to strength, I spied some cellophaned packets of small green plums, imported sadly, with the name Reine Claude.  I was intrigued so got a few packs, and brought them home.

Now it is so easy to look things up, you just Google it, and read several entries.  I did this and soon realised that I did indeed have greengages.  Back in 1980's before the internet, research required a visit to the library, and as there were not quite so many cookery books to buy,  I acquired my copy of Jane Grigson's Fruit Book.  I bought her book on vegetables at the same time.  Her entry on plums and greengages is still probably better than anything I have read on the internet.  She writes beautifully, gives information and history of the fruit, and  there are also a wide array of recipes.  Despite only a splattering of line drawings, and yellow edges and some loose pages now, my copy would only be discarded if replaced with another one in better condition!  But I quite like my old book, which is well used and annotated.

Well thanks to a gardener who lost the labels off the plums trees imported from France in 1724, who grew and nurtured them.  By the way our Victoria Plum, named after one of our Queens, has suffered so much from disease, and squirrels this year, than with only 4 plums, it is for the chop.

I sympathise with you Sir William Gage, who lost them?  Please do not blame the gardener.  It is a very easy things to do.  In France the PR people chose one the best names for the tree which came from Italy, naming it after the Wife of the french King Francois I:  Claude.  The plum in England was still green and it was first grown 'maybe' on the estate of Sir William Gage, so it got its name..Greengage.  But maybe there was a political reason not to give them a french queen's name in England? Maybe it was also grown elsewhere, but the name Greengage lives on.

So here is the jam, soft, green but maybe not quite the right green, sweet, maybe too sweet and uncomplicated for my palate.  The preserve may mature and become infused with the bitter notes leaching out of the kernels which I included.  I broke into the stones with my nutcrackers, extracted the kernels and blanched the skins off, and placed them in the pan at the same time as the sugar.  On scones it was delicious but it is somewhat overwhelmed by brown bread.