Happy Jammy New Year everybody!
Now, this blog isn't about boring dusting or clearing out cupboards! I know that most of us preservers are up to our ears in Seville Oranges and that the annual marmalade making is well underway. When that is finished, however, what will there be? Take a little bit of time out to plan for the gap between marmalade and the soft fruit arrival. I have been Spring cleaning my chest freezer this week - it is very surprising what you find that has been forgotten! I am not one of those organised people who keep an in-out log but it does all get used on a regular basis. My freezer is only used for fruit and vegetables and there is always a small bag of something or other that has gradually fallen to the bottom recesses. So this week they have all been retrieved, the freezer cleared out and defrosted and the bigger bags replaced. This flurry of activity is so there is the maximum room for filling up the freezer with Seville oranges so that I can make marmalade throughout the year.
Now, don't get me wrong, I love the madness of the marmalade season, the fact that it whooshes in after Christmas when we are all ready to replace the cinnamon, clove and pine-y smells with something fresh and tangy. There is nothing quite like the smell of the marmalade cooking to clear the head. However, there may be all sorts of reasons why you may want to extend the seasons - pressure of work maybe, busy parent, or perhaps you find it just too tiring to make a lot in one go. I can relate to that, but my main reason is because I sell my products, I can never make enough for a whole year if I just make it in the season. There would have to be 48 hours in the day, 49 of them spent cooking!
So I buy lots of oranges as soon they arrive and make some marmalade then, and put the rest into the freezer for later. You probably know by now that I make my marmalade by cooking the fruit whole first, and then cut up the peel when it is nice and soft. The recipe with lots of photographs are on our lovejars.co.uk website. This means that I can freeze the oranges whole and take them out as needed. I just loose fill the bottom of the freezer to about half it's depth, which leaves me space at the top for a few other things.
If you anything like me, you will end up with a few bags of this and that which aren't much use on their own. I combine berries to make Berry Good Jam, just cook on the usual jam principles of one to one - sugar, fruit, lemon juice. Or, this week I have been making fruit syrups, single flavours, which will be very useful later in the year for drizzling over ice-cream or flavouring cakes and puddings. I have bottled them in 100ml bottles as they are a bit special almost being the very essence of the fruit. I totally forgot to take any photographs on the way through but it is basically a jelly making principle of cooking the fruit down, straining through a jelly bag and adding sugar to the juice. I have made some blackberry today and am looking forward to putting a little in the bottom of my glass on a hot Summer's day before topping up with chilled Prosecco. Yum.
I will be using up some veggies and tomatoes in a lovely hot chutney with some Scotch Bonnet chillies which were lurking in the basket tray at the top of the freezer. My son Rob loves really hot things so let's see what he makes of that!
Here is the recipe for Blackberry Syrup - I will also be making some Blackcurrant, Raspberry and Strawberry flavours as well.
450g/1lb granulated sugar
600ml/1 pint water + 1 teacup
Makes about 8 100ml bottles
Cook the blackberries with the teacup of water very gently until the fruit is very soft and pulpy.
Mash well with a wooden spoon and the pour into a jelly bag and leave to drip overnight
Measure the juice and allow 600ml/1 pint water and 450g/1lb sugar to each 600ml/1 pint juice
Put the water and sugar into a pan and stir to dissolve the sugar
Bring to boiling point then maintain a steady boil for 5 minutes
Add the juice to the pan, bring back to boiling point and cook for a further 5 minutes
Pour into sterilised bottles and seal loosely
Put a folded tea towel or J cloth into the bottom of another pan and stand the bottles on the cloth. Pour enough cold water as high as the pan will allow, leaving a space for the water to bubble. Bring the water to the boil and then simmer for 20 minutes to sterilise the contents of the bottles. Remove the bottles carefully as they will be very hot and tighten the caps down firmly. Leave to cool then store in a cool dark place. Use within one year.
Just a footnote on jars - we are offering much smaller quantities on lovejars.co.uk now, so ideal for home preservers. There are lots of exciting new things in the pipeline and some great offers. This new range of marmalade jar wraps, labels and tags will be on the website this week and I will have some special prizes coming up.