Mick Jagger had obviously not discovered the benefits of making jam when he wrote 'I can't get no satisfaction' (double negative Mick, tut tut). Maybe, now he's old and wrinkly he has at last found satisfaction by stirring up a little crab apple jelly. I really don't know. What I do know is, that making jams, jellies and chutneys is the most satisfying of pastimes. I've spent the last two days in my kitchen amid a haze of sticky boilings undisturbed by husbands and children and it has been bliss. Bliss I tell you.
First up was chilli jelly or 'chelly' as we like to call it. This is really a vastly superior version of sweet chilli sauce. I used some of the crab apples from my garden and added red and green chillies from Sainsburys'.
Plain crab apple jelly is delicious and beautiful. Crabs are high in pectin so it should set easily. My chelly hasn't set that well, I think the chilli interferes with the pectin. No matter though, this will be mainly used as a sauce. Also once it has cooled down it will firm up.
Update: actually now it has cooled right down it has set perfectly. We are going to sample some with an oriental stlye fish stir-fry tonight ;o)
The cooked apples have to be strained through a jelly bag overnight. If you want your jelly to be clear and jewel-like don't be tempted to squeeze the bag -it will make it cloudy. You will yield more though.
But why wouldn't you want your jelly to be clear? It's like having stained glass windows in your kitchen.
Next I dug out my bag of frozen blackberries to make into jam.
Three and a half pounds of berries didn't yield as much jam as I'd hoped.
Six jars should last a few months I hope.
Finally, more damsons. On Monday morning during the first school run of the term I noticed that a small tree I had taken for a blackthorn back in April -see this post (first two pics) was in fact laden, absolutely laden with damsons and not sloes. What was more, the branches were in grabbing distance.
Yesterday I took a basket with me and on the way back from school filled it. I picked five and a half pounds of damsons. Why on earth I ever bought damsons when I seem to be surrounded by the things is a mystery.
I decided to make jam with half of them and purée the rest for the freezer (I love damson purée stirred into yogurt).
I'd never made damson jam before. It is a bit of a faff because you have to fish out the stones as it boils*. The taste, though, oh the taste! Damson jam is quite the most delicious jam I've ever tasted or made. I wish I'd made all five and a half pounds into jam now. Too late alas- I stewed the rest whilst making the jam. All I got were three and a half pots. I added some cinnamon sticks and some cloves but I'm not sure it needed any extra help.
Damsons must be the fruit par excellence for preserving -jam, jelly, cheese**, chutney, gin -all fabulous.
My preserving efforts are far from finished. I will soon be up to my nipples in quinces. What to do with them? My preliminary plans are for quince jelly, quince vodka, quince cheese and quince and pumpkin chutney. I will also be baking them, adding them to Middle Eastern inspired meat stews and stewing them for the freezer.
All the fruit I have used has been free which makes my efforts doubly satisfying :o)
* If I'd made jelly instead of jam this would not have been necessary. Next year, next year....
** A 'cheese' is an old-fashioned preserve best described as a solid jam. Damsons and quinces are the best fruits for cheeses. You slice little pieces off them to eat as a sweetmeat or with actual cheese. The Spanish delicacy membrillo is quince cheese.