Bottling Sunshine

IMG_2925I don’t think there’s been a winter I’ve wanted to end more than the one that finally gave up on us sometime in May.

But haven’t we been compensated since!  It’s not so much the sport; of course I’m pleased that Wales won the Lions tour, don’t mind that England is still waiting for a Wimbledon men’s champion after 77 years, that a Kenyan bloke won the Tour de France or that Australia decided to field their 2nd XI for the Ashes just to give us a fighting chance.

It’s more that nature has been glorious.  One apparent effect of the late winter is that all the flowers came out together.  The heat of the last few weeks meanwhile has produced an astonishing crop of fruit.  Our raspberry canes have never been so heavily laden.

A couple of years ago I had a bit of a jam making binge.  I popped over to Maynards, which supposedly (according to Wikipedia anyway) was the first pick-your-own farm in Britain, to buy strawberries and raspberries.

Economically it makes no sense.  People traditionally preserved fruit as jams because they had too much of eat to eat fresh and because they wanted a little bottled sunshine in the depths of winter.

If you do have a glut of fruit it really does make economic sense.  If I hadn’t cropped the raspberries almost all of the 1.6 kg of fruit I picked would have gone to waste.

IMG_2913As it is it made amazing jam.  The intensity of the flavour is a marvel.  It’s also very simple.

Several recipes suggest using sugar with pectin. It’s really not necessary.  It’s quite easy to get ‘a set’ without it and allows more fruit and less sugar in the end product.  I just used plain sugar, £1 per bag, 50/50 with the raspberries. I also added the juice of a small lemon.  The result; eight jars of jam that could not be had in shops for love nor money for about 20p each.   That’s when jam making makes sense.


Raspberry Jam

Jam and sugar in a 1:1 ratio, + a little lemon juice (optional).  In my case that meant

1.6kg  raspberries

1.6kg  granulated sugar

Juice of one small lemon

Put the sugar (in bags) into the oven along with the jars at around 100ºC.  The jars will sterilise, the sugar will go into the pan warmer and be less likely to crystallise.

IMG_2902Wash the raspberries and give them a chance to drain properly.  When they’ve shed the water put them in a large saucepan (quite large with that quantity) along with the lemon juice and bring them to the boil.

Add the sugar gradually, stirring constantly.

Bring the mix back to a rolling boil.

This is the slightly tricky bit – deciding when it’s boiled long enough.  The recipes I looked at suggested boiling for as little as two minutes, with most advising 5-10 minutes.  However they also say to test the set with a cold spoon or by dropping a little of the boiling liquid onto a frozen plate to see if the surface wrinkles when it runs.

IMG_2912That didn’t work for me.  Last time I cooked it until it wrinkled it took damned nearly 20 minutes and the jam was not that great – rather gelatinous and the flavour was dulled by overcooking.  This time I went more on blind faith, started testing at five minutes and took it off the heat at eight still without any convincing sign of its thickening.  It’s had a couple of days to settle now and I’d say it was just about perfect – slightly soft set but the flavour is astonishing.

Luca, meanwhile, loves ice cream so I set out to make some today.  I have an old Kenwood IM200 ice cream maker that is essentially a motorised paddle that fits onto a bowl that normally lives in the freezer. It’s not great but it just about did the job.

Luca and I went out to pick a few more raspberries from the garden. There were a few disasters. I swore a fair bit. The end result was, I reckon, sublime.

Raspberry Pavlova Ice Cream

3 egg yolks (I used duck)

225 ml semi skimmed milk

75g caster sugar

225 ml double cream

2 small meringue nests, crushed

Raspberries (approx 200g)

3 tsp raspberry jam (as above).

Put the egg yolks and sugar in a good sized bowl (which will fit the milk and cream as well) and whisk together until paler and aerated.

Bring the milk just to the boil. Take the milk off the heat, bring it to the bowl with the egg/sugar and slowly whisk it in.

Return the mix to a medium heat. Stir constantly. Do not let it boil or it may (probably will) separate. Keep stirring over a moderate heat until it has thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon.  This will happen about the time you have started to lose the will to live let alone stir. It takes bloody forever. Be patient. Take up Buddhism or something. Good things come to those who are prepared to stir as an article of faith.

When it has finally thickened a bit let it cool right down. When it’s cool/cold add the double cream, slowly whisking it in.

At this point I poured the mix into the machine and then added the rest of the ingredients through the hopper.  Wrong.  It got clogged up.

The thing with this machine is that if you stop it to unclog it, it gets worse. Things freeze and the paddle can’t move.

My suggestion is to mix the raspberries, jam and the crushed meringue into the custard and cream mix and then spoon everything into the machine while it’s running. It’s essential that the paddle is whizzing round before anything goes in – or kablooey.

I won’t bother you with details of the swearing or the attempts to rescue my fast freezing mess.  I did, however.  It wasn’t quite frozen when the ice cream maker started to catch so I scooped out the rescued mix and let it finish setting in the freezer.

Ben and Jerry’s  can stop sending me their ‘we’re not really corporate’ pseudo-hippy emails now. I don’t need you any more B&J. I have found the route to ice cream nirvana and you’re not part of the plan.

And best of all, weather allowing, there’s a good six weeks of summer left, maybe more. Hammock, elderflower champagne, ice cream. Bliss.

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One Response to Bottling Sunshine

  1. Andy. says:

    There is something very wonderful about eating what you have grown. We have courgettes, spuds, beans, lettuce etc and anticipate that we could survive of our own small garden for around twenty five minutes.
    I am always amazed at our surprise , as we both exclaim, “Look a Courgette!”.After all, it is a courgette plant.

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