Well the hols are here and hopefully the Summer is ahead of us with time to make some more memories. The Summers that you remember as a child somehow never involve rain. They seemed hot, with scratchy dry grass making your legs itch when playing endless games of cricket in the garden. Going on holidays with aunts, uncles and cousins, always someone to play with on the beach. Simple fun but there it is, all locked away in my memory - it is so important to spend this time with children - my own remember on really hot days stopping at the fish and chip shop to pick up something for tea and then going to the local woods to sit and eat in the cool of a tree cathedral. It was always a shock coming out again into the hot evening to make our way home. Happy days.
Now our weather seems to have shifted in time, with the hottest days earlier in the year but no matter, we can still make memories. Some of my earliest involve jam making. My Mother had to preserve fruit by bottling or making jams. She didn't particularly enjoy doing it but needs must. There was little refrigeration and certainly no home freezing so there was endless picking, topping and tailing and boiling to be done. I, on the other hand, loved it! From being sent into the blackcurrant bushes to pick the low hanging fruit that the birds had missed, to stringing, topping and tailing gooseberries - I thought it was fun. When it came to making the jam I 'helped' by having a little stool as a table with the tools of my trade laid out - wax discs, cellophane covers, rubber bands - and a saucer of water to dip the cellophane in - just lightly mind. Handed up to Mum, in the right order, I was only 4 or 5 and couldn't see over the table! Later, laying in my little bed, the soundtrack of my childhood Summers was the concert on the radio and the cellophane covers drying and 'pinging' as they did so. Happy days.
To bring us up to date, I have been experimenting again - this time with a light Summer relish - Kiwi Fruit and Lime. It is zesty and tangy and is a very good match for salads and barbeques. You can also make and eat, it doesn't need to mature like a darker more robust chutney. Here's what you need:-
1 kg/2lbs 2oz kiwi fruit, peeled and chopped into 1cm pieces, approximately
500g/1lb courgettes, skin on but chopped to a similar size
500g/1lb white onions, peeled and chopped
2 large pieces fresh ginger ( about thumb sized) peeled and shredded
600ml/1 pint white wine vinegar
3 limes, zest and juice
340g/12oz white sugar
2 teaspoons sea salt
2 teaspoons cardamom pods
Put everything into a pan except for the last four ingredients
Cook gently over a medium heat until all of the ingredients have softened. Add the sugar and stir to dissolve.
All the lime juice, the salt and cardamom pods.
Cook gently for a further 15-20 minutes and then turn off the heat.
Stir in lime zest and pot up into warm jars immediately. Store away from strong light and use within one year.
Two great additions to our jars and bottles - this lovely little swing top bottle, the 125ml Bambino, just right for wedding favours or flavoured oils etc. buy as singles from Rosie's Pantry or in 20's from the artisan area on lovejars.co.uk
Our second new jar is a 500ml Food Jar which is ideal for pickles and chutneys. We have that season ahead of us so with its beautiful straight lines there is no waste of product. Great, great price too!
STOP PRESS! Since my post we have received our new gift boxes for carrying eggs to friends. Check out 'Cluckingham Palace' on lovejars.co.uk
Another Bank Holiday looms and by all accounts the weather in the UK is set fair for a few days. So, it will be out with the barbie, off to the beach or forest for a picnic, or maybe a staycation in the back garden (saves all the traffic hoo-ha). Whatever you are doing you are going to need refreshment and what better than a nice home made cordial.
I can't be fussed with all that I hear you cry. Well, listen up. Grate the zest from seven lemons, or two large oranges, or seven limes, or two grapefruit - or some of each - squeeze the juice, add to a pan with 1 litre of cold water, and 1.5kgs white sugar. Leave over-night, strain and bottle. If you are making for a party, or just to use over the weekend you don't even need to bottle it - just keep covered in the fridge in a jug. The taste is incomparable to even the top of the range cordials, it's fresh, with a huge citrus burst. You can use it, obviously, just diluted, you can make ice-lollies, pour neat over ice-cream or make grown-up 'lemonade' by diluting with Prosecco or some other fizz of choice. Try it - you won't be disappointed. To extend the shelf life to one year follow the method for processing in a water bath or use a purpose built canner. For Lemon Cordial here's the detail
A delicious, easy drink for all the family. I bottled mine in 250ml milk style bottles, Bevanto, from www.lovejars.co.uk
my foraging bargains
Have you any of your special cordial Nanny? Er, no. Damn.
It would so easy to have had some home made cordial but I have just run out - too busy making marmalade. So this weekend I was determined to put it right. Cordials are so easy to make, and so delicious, bearing no resemblance to the highly coloured, synthetic tasting gloop we have come to expect as standard. Most of them don't even require any cooking and if you sterilise the filled bottles in a waterbath they will keep for up to a year, They won't though - as they are too delicious. The recipes for lemon and lime cordials are on my recipe site.
I had two mangoes left from the mango chutney last week, which were lovely and ripe, and when I was foraging for supper in our local supermarket yesterday they had a lovely big pineapple reduced to 60p. So I snapped that up and cooked it gently with the mangoes until everything was lovely and soft and then poured it all into a jelly bag to drip overnight. Today I added an equal amount of sugar to juice, plus a tablespoon of citric acid. I stirred the contents of the pan over a low heat to dissolve the sugar then poured into sterilised bottles. A great way to use up the mangoes. THEN . . .
I put the fruit from the jelly bag into a clean pan with 3 large chopped onions, 3 large peeled and chopped cooking apples, 900ml/1.5 pints cider vinegar, 900g/1.5 demerara sugar, 3 garlic cloves, 1 tablespoon grated nutmeg and half a teaspoon of cinnamon. Cook gently together until it is all soft. Finely slice two chillies of your choice - I used Scotch Bonnets - and add to the chutney; cook for a further 20 mins. Pot up into hot, sterilised jars and seal tightly.
And there you have the best possible result - two stunning preserves from one lot of ingredients!
Do try making some cordials - they are so easy to do, and now is a very good time as there isn't much else on the horizon except the imminent arrival of the rhubarb season. Oh, speaking of rhubarb, I bought a small amount of rhubarb on the same trip to the supermarket and made some Rhubarb and Raspberry Cordial as well, with a few frozen raspberries left from last year. So, Nanny is all stocked up again - my next batch will be when the Summer berries are here, Mixed Berry, Beena, Raspberry & Redcurrant, whatever takes my fancy.
All cordials can be diluted with water, or sparkling water, soda, tonic water, add some gin or vodka if you like. They can be poured neat over ice-cream or diluted and made into lovely ice lollies - a brilliant money spinner at the school fete!