At this time of year it's easy for those of us with preserving OCD to go a little crazy waiting for the Summer rush of fruits to arrive. It's a bit like having a baby - we've quite forgotten the manic marmalade season and are now ready for some more mayhem. We've checked our jar supply, there are enough lids, labels, and we're stockpiling sugar so we don't run out. What are we to make though? The rhubarb is starting to come in now - I don't know about you but rhubarb never quite presses my preserving buttons. Don't get me wrong - I do make stuff with it, lots of people like it - love it, but I'm not a fan.
I was filled with trepidation at the beginning of the week - Trev announced he was going to make a rhubarb crumble. 'Oh no!' I thought, dreading the acidy bite of the fruit only just masked by the lovely crumbly topping. Anyway, show willing, " Oh good, do you want me to help?" No, a recipe had been obtained from the internet and lo and behold a lovely crumble duly appeared. "This is absolutely delicious!" I said - and it was."What have you done to it? It's amazing!" "Oh I just put some sherry in with the rhubarb" What? "It said port, but I got to the sherry first - that's what it said in the recipe"
Well, whether it was that or some particularly fine rhubarb but it was so smooth and no trace of acidity - so sherry it is from now on. Our veg box has just arrived and I can see some rhubarb in there - Trev?
Anyway, back to preserving. I have been wanting to make a relish with carrots for some time and decided, as you do, that today was the day. Somebody asked for it ages ago as they had had a particularly tasty one in a sandwich from Marks & Spencers! So, I set to and with a little experimentation managed to produce some small jars of some rather delicious relish. From reading through my various recipe books it seems that carrots do not keep as long as other vegetables so I have put this in small jars with a 3 month shelf life.
It ended up as Gingered Up Carrot Relish and this is what I did.
I took 1 kg/2.2lbs fresh carrots and topped, tailed and peeled them. I grated them on a hand grater but you can use a processor if you have one.Peel and core two cooking apples and grate those as well.
In a heavy bottomed pan put 2 teaspoons yellow mustard seed, 4 teaspoons crushed coriander seeds and 2 teaspoons cardomom seeds, taken from the pods. Put the pan over a low heat and just gently toast the seeds for a few minutes to release their oils. Add the carrots and the apple and stir to combine Pour in 240ml/8fl oz cider vinegar, the zest from 2 oranges and their juice, stir to combine. Cook for around 10 minutes over a low heat to soften the carrots and apple. Peel and finely chop a large piece - 5cm total - of fresh ginger and add it to the pan. Finally stir in 250g/9oz soft brown sugar. Stir again and cook over a low heat for a few minutes until the sugar has dissolved.
Now increase the heat slightly and cook on for about another 15 minutes to evaporate some of the liquid and until the mixture has become quite syrupy - then it is ready to jar up. I used quite small jars 125g/4 oz but as the mixture wouldn't pass through a funnel I had to spoon it in and it was quite a messy job. Fill the jars to the brim and wipe the jars clean before sealing tightly with a lid. Store somewhere cool and dark so that you don't lose the vibrant colour. I don't know what Marks and Spencer's tastes like but this is amazing, a real hit from the orange followed through with a lot of heat from the ginger. Enjoy.
Gingered Up Carrot Relish
Pesto, Presto, Pasta, Pronto
Busy week this week with Easter orders and stock to make for the shop. Great to see the first of the rhubarb coming in, I always think it heralds the start of the preserving season proper. That's wrong really as I preserve year round, but it is the first of our native fruits - except it's a vegetable, botanically speaking. I know this because I dragged Trev for a visit round a rhubarb farm in Pontefract, one of the best known of the old farms, Olroyd's. It was absolutely fascinating and I now have much greater respect for this rather humble er, fruitable! One of the best times to go is in early February and have a tour of the forcing sheds and a very informative talk afterwards.
I have some raspberries in the freezer so you may have too - why not try making Rhubarb & Raspberry Jam? It is really delicious and both fruits shine through in the taste. I only made one batch last year and regretted it for the rest of the year.
Chilli Jam was also on the list to make as I have been out of stock for a while ( because I don't actually like it! ) I set to though and really it is easy to make and a best seller. The ingredients look so colourful and the hens really love all of the peelings. In fact they thought it was their birthdays and Christmas yesterday there were so many peelings. The hear my car coming down the lane and are all waiting in the compost bin by the time I get to them. Needless to say there isn't much compost! That is more than up for by their obvious pleasure and they would be smacking their lips if they had any!
One of my deli customers had ordered their usual weekend bucket of pesto and while I am making it I always think how useful it is as a standby ingredient. You can have it on pasta dishes of course, in fact, it is so delicious you can just have it stirred through some good pasta for a quick lunch. Use it on tomato based dishes and drizzled over pizza either before or after cooking. I use it on squares of puff pastry, topped with a small piece of Brie, or similar, baked for around 15 mins and then topped with a splodge of pesto - great nibbles to have with drinks. You could have it on a jacket potato with or without cheese, stirred through mashed potato, spread in tomato sandwiches or rolls. With the Easter weekend coming up, why not make a batch and keep in the fridge? It's good for 2-3 weeks and only takes minutes to make. Here's how.
Pick the leaves from a handful of fresh basil ( approx 2 x pre-packs ) and put into the goblet of a liquidiser or the bowl of a processor.
Give a quick whizz to lightly chop the leaves. Add around 75g pine nuts, 2 roughly chopped garlic cloves, salt and freshly ground black pepper and around 100ml olive oil. Whizz again until combined and smooth-ish. Add around 50g grated parmesan cheese and whizz to mix in the cheese. Add a little more oil if needed, or more cheese if too runny.
That's it. Store it in a jar or small bowl in the fridge and be generous when you serve. The flavour is amazing and the colour is fresh and enticing.
These pictures show the amount I was making for my customer - yours will be less!