Busy, busy as usual but last Sunday I spent the day with the lovely Marina making just whatever took our fancy. We started off, as usual, with coffee and biscuits and a 'chat' - well - I talked mostly and poor Marina had to listen!
We started off by prepping the ingredients for Courgette & Mint Relish which had to be left in salt to draw out the water. Then we cooked up some blackcurrants and left them to drip through a jelly bag ready for some cordial after lunch and the-e-e-n boom, boom BOOM - we made some lovely Raspberry Jam. More to go through the principles of jam making than anything else.
By then it was one o'clock and very much time for a welcome lunch break, we tried some Lime Cordial and some Limoncello to fortify us for the afternoon session!
I devised this recipe when Trev and I were married, six years ago. We were having a lamb roast and my WI were providing salads and new potatoes - so the classic mint sauce wouldn't really have been suitable. This was a variation to that and proved so popular it is still one of my best sellers today. It is a great answer to the perennial problem of what to do with all of the courgettes - along with Ratatouille Chutney it is a very tasty preserve to make and keep for some of those Christmas buffet parties, and to be reminded of Summer.
I was looking around the garden the other evening and was amazed at how fast everything is growing ( note to Trev: Lawn! ) Lawns, what's the point of them? They waste so much precious time. Anyway, from about now until the middle of Summer the herbs will be at their best. If you don't have a garden then have a few pots of herbs by your door or on a windowsill. The value that you get from them in terms of flavour and versatility will more than repay you for any outlay.
You can start harvesting them anytime now, just taking what you need, and take the opportunity to make a batch of lovely Lemon Vinegar - add a small handful of lemon balm or lemon thyme to the lemon zest. Herb Jellies - either mixed flavours or single variety will be invaluable during the winter months for flavouring casseroles and roasts. Jar into small jars and make a variety to be most versatile.
My most favourite way to preserve the scent and flavour of fresh herbs is to make Herb Salt. Again, very useful - the most useful ingredient - in the kitchen. I keep a jar beside the hob and use it everyday. You will need:-
Around 100-150g/4-6oz mixed herbs of choice, picked over and stalks removed
500g/1lb rock salt
Don't wash the herbs unless they are very dusty. Roughly chop with scissors and then mix with the salt. Process in a food processor or liquidiser goblet in small batches until thoroughly combined.
Spread out onto silicon baking paper or greaseproof paper on tea trays or baking sheets and leave to air dry overnight. This just allows any excess moisture to evaporate.
Next day, jar the salt in convenient amounts. The salt will keep indefinitely as it will preserve both the taste and colour of the herbs. You can have great fun mixing other flavours such as garlic or lemon zest, try making single flavour varieties for specific uses - Lemon Balm with lemon zest for fish for example. Makes a great gift as well!
I have been quiet of late, I do know that. Trev and I have been beavering away constructing a new website which you might like to take a look at www.lovejars.co.uk
A bigger, better offering than anything we have done in the past, the prices are great - naturally - but I have been sourcing some great products for the artisan producers out there. Many of you need small scale, but beautiful packaging that isn't all over the High Street, and that is just what we have had made for us - and you. I will continue with this theme as we go forward, and whilst anyone can buy from lovejars.co.uk you producers will find it especially helpful.
We know what it is like to run a small artisan preserves company - because we still do it. We know what is important to the small producer, what is needed. That is why delivery rates have been pared to the bone - with great rates for Ireland and the Highlands & Islands and FREE for orders over £100 for UK Mainland. We will always be working to reduce this cost as much as possible and we never make profit from delivery charges - you pay what we pay - and then again, sometimes you don't because it will be FREE - for you! For the first time we will be offering full pallet prices if you need a lot of one size. Delivery is included so all you pay is the pallet price. For now, contact us for details firstname.lastname@example.org .
We have created a login system for you so there will be no repeated completion of your details, saving you time. It will also mean that special prices for artisans on some products will not necessarily be displayed on the website.We will also be able to bring you special deals on ends of lines with some real bargains.We have links to the strong glass industry in the UK so most of our glass will be British - with a small amount from Europe. Soon there will be hard-to-find ingredients like bulk vinegars and spices to make your lives easier.
We have lots more planned to go on the website so check back regularly or you can subscribe to our newsletter ( free of charge of course ) so that we can tell you about new arrivals. We will be linked to my recipe site m.rosiemakesjam.com to give you ideas what to make and which jar to put it in. Don't forget on the recipe site that the recipes are scaleable - if you want to make more - or less, just adjust the weight of the main ingredient and the rest of the recipe will change accordingly.
I'll just put a few pics of the lovely things we have on lovejars.co.uk then leave you to browse around the site. I love jars and hope you do too!
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!
Enough galivanting around the countryside winning awards - back to work now. I have a lot of stock to get made, my new labels to re-brand the products as 'Rosie Makes' - I don't know about you but labeling takes up more time than anything else. It all looks really smart though - good old Trev, coming up with another great design. I've been making more marmalade - chunky and fine shred, plus experimenting with a Seville Orange & Date Chutney. If it turns out well I'll post the recipe for you later. There is some more Souper Mix which I can't make fast enough, frankly, it is sooo popular, and today it's been Fiery Bengal Chutney with Scotch Bonnet Chillies. We are off to Legoland tomorrow until Saturday with the little guys but Sunday will be Piccalilli I think.
While I have been making I have also been trying to photograph what I am doing so that the library of 'stills' gets more comprehensive. Not easy balancing the camera whilst stirring the pans! There is going to be an accident one of these days! I am really pleased with the mobile recipe site I have devised it so that you can look up recipes on the go and soon you will be able to interrogate the site to find all that you need really easily. The problem is some of the recipes don't have photographs yet so it is those gaps I am trying to fill first. So bear with me, I will get there. There are just a couple of what I took today at the bottom of the page so a good start.
I'll just leave you the lovely recipe for Apple, Pear and Plum Jam which I also made this week - it is easy to make at the moment as there is not much around to get excited about and it is very delicious!
Apple, Pear and Plum Jam
Makes around 4.5 - 5kgs / 10-11lb
900g/2lbs cooking apples, peeled and cored
900g/2lbs pears, peeled and cored
900g/2lbs plums - I used up some frozen ones I had ( make sure the stones are removed )
grated juice and zest of one large lemon
2.5 kgs/5lbs 4oz sugar
Prep all of the fruits and then put into a large preserving pan with the lemon juice.
Cook until it is softened then add the sugar off of the heat.
Stir until dissolved and then return to the heat and bring to a rolling boil.
Boil rapidly for 15-20 mins until setting point is reached.
Pot up the jam into warm jars - and enjoy.
There are still some places left on my regular classes and the new Master Classes are now available - phone or email me for more details. Next Professional Day for Artisans at The Old Smithy is May 24
How little we know of what is ahead of us – and what a blessing that is! I hope that you all had a much better Christmas break than we did – Trev and I were on our way to Scotland for a few days break over the holiday when we had a call to say his Father had been taken to hospital. We made our way back and spent the next few days in and out of Bury St Edmunds hospital where sadly Jim passed away on 27th. There had to be an inquest as he died of an industrial-related illness – even though he had been retired for thirty years – and the funeral was delayed by ‘ the seasonal backlog’ – a charming expression!
We returned home – eventually – only to both succumb to the Winter sickness bug which went round the whole family one by one. All back to normal now thankfully but where did January go? At least the snow largely passed us by!
I am now catching up with getting some marmalade made, we have started the first classes of the year which have been hugely enjoyable. I get the woodburner stoked up and the smell of the cooking marmalade spreads through The Old Smithy – there is nothing quite like it to lift the spirits. I am also trying to devise a new recipe to enter into The Marmalade Awards at Dalmain at the beginning of March – I will be there demonstrating and hope to meet some of you there as well. Son Rob has taken my latest recipe home tonight to try it out for flavour so I will see what he thinks tomorrow.
I am also devising a new programme of Masterclasses – especially for those of you who have been to one or more classes at The Old Smithy and are now looking to study one subject in more depth. I will be sending out some literature on this shortly, and details will be on the website.
Have you seen our recipe site for mobile? Just enter m.rosiemakesjam.com for a whole host of recipes covering most preserving subjects. As soon as Trev gets time he will build a Search option so that you can snap up some bargains whilst out and about as you will have the relevant recipes – with ingredients – at your fingertips. Let me know what you think. I’ll be adding more and more recipes over the coming weeks.
Well, February tomorrow – and more Marmalade. Need to give the work kitchen a fresh coat of paint and visit the Spring Fair at the NEC next week, fit in a trip to London for a business meeting, another class, and some WI duties – happy days.