Showing posts with label Preserves. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Preserves. Show all posts

Monday, 4 February 2013

Marmalade and Sunshine

 

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When I began slicing the Seville orange peel into pretty slivers, the sky was dark and the treetops were doing a dance in the wind, whipping violently from one side to the other in a maniacal tango. By the time I’d finished, the sky was blue and golden light tumbled across the garden. It’s official. Marmalade makes the sun come out.

I’ve been mainlining citrus recently. It is one of winter’s greatest compensations, along with crocuses, porridge with cream and log fires. Each morning, as I walk back from the park with Barney, I drop in at my favourite greengrocer. At this time of year I often pick up some blood oranges, sherbet-y Sicilian lemons or juicy little limes. And when the Seville oranges appear in all of their bumpy-skinned loveliness, I know it’s time to drag out the preserving pan.

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So good with simit rolls for breakfast.

I used Dan Lepard’s recipe. It’s delicious as it is, or if you like you can add 50ml of whisky at the end of cooking to give your breakfast toast an extra kick.

This year my marmalade making was made a little easier by my new eBay bargain, a citrus press. I bought it because I’ve been making a glass of blood orange juice for breakfast (Tip: add a splash of rosewater. So good.) each morning and I wanted to shorten the distance between my half-awake state and good humour. But it certainly made quick work of juicing all those sevilles and left smooth, clean orange halves all ready to chop up. I’d say that was a tenner well spent.

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Seville oranges, ready to go.

 

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Putting my ebay bargain through its paces.

 

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Chopping the peel.

 

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Soaking the peel.

 

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Already well into the first jar.

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Thursday, 6 December 2012

Are we there yet?

 

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Here we are on Day 800 of our Christmas preparations and I feel like I’m on first name terms with every single piece of dried fruit in my larder. But this mincemeat really is worth the tiny bit of effort involved in making it. It will see you through an Office Hero quantity of mince pies and if you have any left, you could try this Mincemeat Crumble Tart which makes a nice alternative to a traditional pudding on Christmas Day for those of you who don’t care for it. I know you’re out there.

While we’re on the subject of puddings and fruity things, I’m a bit furious at Morrisons for their Christmas advert which features a little boy sneaking some Christmas pud to his dog under the table. Unless you want this Christmas to live on in family memory as the one where Timmy accidentally killed Rover, this is a really bad idea. Raisins, currants and sultanas can be highly toxic to dogs and ingesting them can lead to renal failure and death. Not very festive.

I know this because a couple of years ago, I had a box filled with Christmas puddings sitting in the corner of my dining room ready to do a taste test for a magazine feature. Our dog Barney got into the box, into one of the puds and was halfway through it before I discovered the crummy little buggar. Cue a trip to the vet’s, charcoal tablets, three days on a drip and a bill of ‘nice little holiday somewhere warm’ proportions. So don’t be as silly as Morrisons and do keep all of the pud, cake and pies for yourself.

Plum and apple mincemeat

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This recipe comes from River Cottage Handbook No. 2 Preserves, by Pam ‘The Jam’ Corbin. Pam’s recipe is unusual as it contains no suet. I like this as I think it gives the mincemeat a fresher, cleaner more lively flavour. Pam uses Russet apples but I didn’t have any of these kicking about so used Blenheim Orange instead. This is one of my favourite apples, great for eating and cooking, so grab some if you can find them.

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Makes 4 x 450g jars

1kg plums
Finely-grated zest and juice of 2-3 oranges (200ml juice)
500g russet apples, peeled, cored and chopped into 1cm cubes
200g each currants, raisins and sultanas
100g orange marmalade
250g Demerara sugar
½ tsp ground cloves
2tsp ground ginger
½ nutmeg, grated
50ml ginger cordial or wine (optional)
100g chopped walnuts
50ml brandy or sloe gin

Wash the plums, halve them and remove the stones. Put them into a saucepan with the orange juice and cook gently until tender. This could take as little as 15 minutes but may take longer if your plums are not very ripe. Blend into a purée in a blender or liquidiser, or press through a sieve. You should have about 700ml plum purée.

Put the purée into a large bowl with the rest of the ingredients, apart from the brandy or gin. Mix thoroughly, cover and leave for 12 hours.

Preheat the oven to 130˚C/250˚F/Gas mark ½. Put the mincemeat in a large baking dish and bake, uncovered for 2 – 2 ½ hours until thickened. Stir in the brandy or gin (it will bubble up and steam quite a bit), then spoon into warm, sterilised jars, making sure there aren’t any air pockets. Seal and store in a dry, dark, cool place until ready to use. It will keep for up to 12 months.

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Thursday, 8 November 2012

A fine pickle

Salted Vegetables
Salted vegetables, ready to be transformed into piccalilli.

For months now, a certain woman has followed me all over London. I don’t mean literally. There is no stalker skulking at the end of the path, unless you count that rather severe-looking woman with a bun and sensible shoes I see every morning by the bus stop, but then she’s probably just on her way to work.

No, I mean Anna Colquhoun. When I took his garden design course earlier in the year, Andrew said to me ‘Do you know Anna, she has a pizza oven in her garden?’ As we walked our dogs around Clissold Park, my friend Karen would describe to me a series of amazing preserving courses she took every quarter in a pretty house right by the Arsenal stadium. At parties, with remarkable frequency, people would ask me if I knew her.

So when Riverford invited me to a cooking class to promote their pickling kits, I was delighted to discover it was just a short distance from my house, at the home of the fabled Anna who is also Riverford’s preserving expert.

Anna
Anna strains the apples for the sage jelly.

Half a dozen of us gathered in Anna’s kitchen to throw ourselves into the fine art of preserving, fuelled by wine and good ham. A self-confessed ‘food nerd’,  Anna imparts her wisdom with great charm and enthusiasm. We chopped and stirred, measured and sniffed, and watched carefully for the sage and garlic  jelly to reach its setting point. We made a fine green tomato chutney and, most excitingly for me, the best piccalilli I’ve ever tasted.

Tomato Chutney
Green tomato chutney

Sage and apple jelly
Sage and apple jelly

Piccalilli has a special place in my heart. It’s one of the few things I can remember my grandmother making. Every autumn, she would patiently chop up the produce from my Uncle Jos’s allotment and steam up the kitchen with the spicy aroma of vinegar, ginger and mustard. As a child, I marvelled at its eye-shocking yellowness. Barbara’s piccalilli perked up many a northern Sunday tea, sitting alongside wedges of pork pie or slabs of ham.

I hope the late and indomitable Barbara will forgive me, but Anna’s piccalilli is even better than hers. It’s hot, which I like, but also she chops the vegetables much smaller than usual. I would be perfectly happy to eat it greedily with a spoon, which is exactly what I plan to do when this batch is ready in a week or so. Patience, Debora, patience.

Book one of Anna’s fantastic, hands-on, cooking classes.

Check out Riverford’s  excellent, extensive range of produce.

Anna Colquhoun’s Amazing Piccalilli

jarred up piccalilli
The end of a delicious evening.

This is a hot piccalilli. You can use more or less spice, simply adjust it to your taste.

Makes 7-8 450g jars

2kg prepared vegetables: choose a colourful mix of cucumbers, carrots, onions/shallots, courgettes/marrows, bell peppers, cauliflowers, green beans, green tomatoes, sweetcorn kernels

About 8 tbsp fine pure salt
1050ml cider vinegar, white wine vinegar or malt vinegar
400g white granulated sugar
1tbsp coriander seeds, crushed
1 tbsp cumin seeds, crushed
1 tbsp celery seeds
2 tbsp yellow mustard seeds
40g cornflour, or 60g plain flour
2tbsp mustard powder
1tbsp turmeric
1tbsp powdered ginger

Cut all of the vegetables into matching 1cm dice, or larger if you prefer. You should have 2kg prepared weight. Layer them in a big bowl with the salt and leave for several hours or, preferably, overnight. Don’t skip this step – salting is important for drawing out excess water which would otherwise dilute the pickle. It also ensures the vegetables retain their crunch.

Place your clean jars in the oven and turn it on to 140˚C/275˚F/Gas mark 1 to sterilise them. Leave the jars in there until needed.

Rinse the vegetables in several changes of cold water and drain very well.

Reserve a little cup of vinegar and place the rest in a large pan with the sugar, coriander, cumin, celery seeds and mustard seeds. Heat to dissolve the sugar and simmer for 5 minutes.

Stir the cornflour, mustard powder, turmeric and ginger into the reserved vinegar to make a paste. Add some hot vinegar to this to loosen it, then pour the paste into the pan, stirring briskly as you go to avoid creating lumps. Simmer for a few minutes, stirring.

Bubbling away
Bubbling away.

Now add the drained vegetables and simmer everything together for 5 minutes, stirring often. Anna likes the vegetables half-cooked, so they retain a little crunch and I do too.

Pack the hot pickles into hot jars, making sure there are no large air pockets, and seal immediately. Wait one month before opening and use within a year. Once opened, store in the fridge.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Miss Scarlet’s Vittles

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Dutch rhubarb and Sicilian lemons by the counter.

I’ve been a bad food writer. I was passing through my favourite greengrocer and second home, Stoke Newington Green, the other morning, picking up a basket of mushrooms and pumpkins, clementines and walnuts. So far, so orange and brown and seasonally correct. I almost made it out. There, by the counter, was my temptress and seducer. A box of definitely-out-of-season Dutch rhubarb so spectacularly scarlet it was in my basket quicker than you can say crimson. Reader, I was weak.

I love red. I can’t resist it. The late, legendary American decorator Albert Hadley believed you should have a touch of red in every room. (His powerful client list reads like a roster of libraries, museums and hospital wings with all its Astors, Paleys, Rockefellers, Gettys and Whitneys.) A cushion, a rug, a vase of roses or berries, a pot of amaryllis, an enamel colander or a lacquer tray. Just a shot. It shakes up a room like a slick of red lipstick against a pale face. It’s also my emergency prescription for anything that looks too wearyingly tasteful.

So anyway, this is my long-way-around attempt to explain my food writer apostasy. Rhubarb in November. So shoot me. It will leave a lovely stain.

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Kentish plums.

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Kentish quince.

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Egyptian pyramid.

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So pretty.

Stoke Newington Green, 39 Stoke Newington Church Street, London N16 0NX

Open every day, 7am – 10ish pm

 

Rhubarb and vanilla jam

 

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Sundae breakfast.

If there is a prettier way of starting the day than a spoonful of this jam swirled through some Greek yoghurt, I don’t know what it is.

Makes 4-5 340g jars

1kg rhubarb, trimmed weight, cut into 2.5cm chunks
1kg jam sugar with added pectin
1 vanilla pod, split lengthways
Juice of a small orange
Juice and pips of a small lemon

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Macerating in the pan.

Pour a layer of sugar in the bottom of a preserving pan or large saucepan and then add a layer of rhubarb. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla pod with a small, sharp knife and place the seeds on top of the rhubarb with the pod. Continue layering the sugar and rhubarb, finishing with a layer of sugar. Cover and leave overnight to macerate.

The next day, place a couple of saucers in the freezer. Pour the juices over the rhubarb and tie the pips from the lemon in a small circle of muslin with kitchen string. Place the bundle in the pan too.

Warm the jam gently, stirring it slowly from time to time to dissolve the sugar without breaking up the chunks. Once the sugar is dissolved, bring to a rolling boil and boil rapidly until the setting point is reached. This should take about 8-10 minutes. This is a soft-set jam so don’t wait for it to get too solid. A droplet of the jam on one of the chilled saucers should just wrinkle when you push it with your finger.

Remove from the heat and let it sit for 5 minutes and remove the muslin bag. Seal the jam in warm, sterilised jars. Either discard the vanilla pod or snip a little bit into each jar. Unopened and kept in a cool, dark place the jam should keep for a year.

Monday, 5 April 2010

Wayward tarts. It’s not you, it’s me.

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Look, I tried my best. I’m sure it was my fault. Two days of fizz-fuelled festivities blunted my baking arm. I’d promised Lady de B two tarts for Easter Sunday lunch, Blood orange meringue pie and Black bottom pie from Lindsey Remolif Shere’s Chez Panisse Desserts so I got up at 6.30am on Sunday to make good on my promise.

Can I start by saying I love this book? Many a summer evening has ended with scoops of its Beaumes-de-venise ice cream melting alongside slices of apricot tart. In autumn and winter, its apple crisp or espresso cognac mousse are to be found on my table almost as often as salt and pepper. But I just couldn’t get my tarts to behave. The blind-baked tart shells cracked like river beds in a drought, requiring patching, cursing and coaxing into usefulness. I struggled on. They were fine but not the perfection I was seeking.

But no matter. I was playing to the home crowd, those most likely to forgive my failings. Besides, after a feast of Lady de B’s homemade gravadlax with mustard sauce, barbecued shoulders of lamb, cheese and salad, the tarts vanished quickly enough so they can’t have been too horrible.

DSCN1498 Barney and Patrick play in the garden.

DSCN1413 So many glasses, so little time…

DSCN1405 Richard made collages of parties past and laminated
them into placemats.

DSCN1529 Tucking in.

DSCN1479 Lady de B’s home-cured gravadlax with mustard sauce
and cucumber salad

DSCN1507 Barbecued shoulder of lamb with roast potatoes and
cauliflower gratin

DSCN1514 I think Kim and Steve raided a particularly fine French restaurant to come up with all of these fabulous cheeses.

DSCN1532 The smell of the cheese brings Patrick to the table.

DSCN1556 Wayward tart No. 1: Blood orange meringue pie

DSCN1561 Wayward tart No. 2: Black bottom pie

DSCN1612 Naughty Claudia feeds Barney at the table.

Chez Panisse blood orange curd

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What was delicious and easy was the blood orange curd I used to fill the meringue pie so at least I can offer you that. I’ll try the tarts again and post them later.

Makes about 1 ½ cups

2 blood oranges (about 275g/10oz)
1 tbsp lemon juice
¼ tsp cornstarch/flour
¼ cup/55g caster sugar
1 egg
4 egg yolks
6 tbsp/85g unsalted butter

Wash the oranges and finely grate the zest into a non- corroding bowl. Juice the oranges, strain 7tbsp of the juice into the bowl, and add the lemon juice. Mix the cornstarch/flour and the sugar – this prevents lumps from forming when it’s mixed with the eggs. You may omit the cornstarch/flour unless you are filling a tart that you want to brown. Put the egg and yolks in a small, non-corroding saucepan and whisk the sugar-cornstarch/flour mixture into them. Stir in the juice and zest mixture. Don’t be alarmed if it seems to curdle; it will smooth out later. Cut the butter into several pieces and add to the mixture.

Cook over a low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture coats the back of a spoon as for crème anglaise. Remove from the heat and stir for a minute or two until the heat of the pan dissipates so the custard won’t curdle on the bottom. Pour into a small container and chill.

Sunday, 27 September 2009

When life gives you lemons (and butter)…

Bramley Lemon Curd

After the wedding, I had lots of lemons and some lovely French butter left over so I decided to make a few jars of lemon curd. Is there anything more delicious, spread onto hot toast or spooned under a pillow of meringue in a pie? Is there anything more cheerful than a line of golden jars stacked up on a shelf? And I’ll be honest, I was in need of a bit of cheering up.

Oscar (Admilbu Meridian Dancer) in the Garden.Oscar
3rd January 2000 – 14th September 2009

Our little cat Oscar died. He’d been ill for quite a while, his sturdy frame diminished so he was light and bony as a bird, his once-plush fur rough and dull. A few weeks ago, he jumped down from his chair and his back legs gave out. He sprawled across the floor. I stayed up all night with him cradled in my arms, his head damp with my tears. In the morning, Séan nestled him into a carrying basket, lined with his Arsenal towel, for his final trip to the vet. I busied myself with mindless tasks, loading the dishwasher, folding the laundry, sweeping the floor, my skin prickly with grief.

An hour later, Séan called to say ‘We’re coming home’. So, despite having said goodbye to him, there he was back in the kitchen, walking like a slightly drunken sailor but happily tucking into his breakfast. He’d had some kind of stroke but the vet said he was in no pain and would adjust, could improve. We treasured the bonus of his final few weeks. He nudged up beside us on the sofa, licking our hands with his sandpaper tongue. On bright days he would find a patch of sunshine on the terrace and stretch out his skinny frame on the warm slate.

Colette wrote ‘There are no ordinary cats’. Oscar wasn’t the least bit ordinary. He was beguilingly handsome, with cashmere-soft fur in the richest shade of chocolate brown and bewitching jade green eyes. He had a profound sense of his own importance and would call nosily if he felt that his court (Séan and I) weren’t sufficiently attentive.

Oscar & Liberty With Liberty.

Delphi, Liberty & Oscar With Delphi and Liberty. Another day, another sofa…

When we first brought him home, a tiny kitten you could fit into one hand, we already had two cats, Delphi and Liberty. They weren’t too thrilled with this interloper. He was desperate to play with them, edging towards them unabashed by their hissing hostility. So I was delighted one morning when, as he tumbled about on our bed, Liberty jumped up and gave him a tentative lick. Did he stretch out with pleasure? Give her an affectionate nudge? No, he jabbed her clean across the nose with his paw. In later life, his favourite game was to lurk on the stairs when we had visitors, seducing them with his glorious good looks so that they would ruffle his fur through the banisters. He would purr, his whole body vibrating with pleasure, until the moment when he had drawn them in sufficiently so that they would press their faces against the wooden rails. At this point, invariably, he would give them a quick swipe with his paw and, on one notable occasion, bite them on the nose.

In his final weeks, Oscar was too frail to climb the stairs and spent his time on the ground floor. One evening, as I was making dinner, I couldn’t find him. I searched the dining room and sitting room. Séan looked upstairs. He discovered him three flights up at the top of the house. He had scaled his personal Everest and died on our bed. And that was Oscar. Get where you need to be or die trying.

I still look for him in the house, wait for him to swirl his way around my ankles when I come in the door, jump onto my desk and head butt me as I type. But his chair is empty. Kiddo, I miss you, you furry little fury. Living with you was a ten-year seminar in the fierce pursuit of pleasure, in hunting down the sunniest spot, the cosiest blanket, the tastiest morsel and the highest branch. It was an honour to be your devoted friend and servant.

I'm ready for my close up...

Our lovely vet Caroline sent us a card following Oscar’s death: ‘It was a real pleasure and privilege to treat Oscar over the years. He was a real character and was always so stoical ...’

Bramley lemon curd

Lemons

This recipe is from River Cottage Handbook No.2: Preserves. It’s been my great pleasure to meet the book’s author, Pam Corbin, a couple of times. She teaches wonderful preserving classes down at River Cottage, where she’s known affectionately as ‘Pam the Jam’. She says of this wonderful curd ‘It’s like eating apples and custard: softly sweet, tangy and quite, quite delicious’. She is quite, quite right. I hope you’ll enjoy it too.

Makes 5 x 225g jars.

450g Bramley apples, peeled, cored and chopped
Finely grated zest and juice of 2 unwaxed lemons (you need 100ml strained juice)
125g unsalted butter
450g granulated sugar
4-5 large eggs, well beaten (you need 200ml beaten egg)

Put the chopped apples into a pan with 100ml water and the lemon zest. Cook gently until soft and fluffy, then either beat to a purée with a wooden spoon or rub through a nylon sieve.

Put the butter, sugar, lemon juice and apple purée into a double boiler or heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water. As soon as the butter has melted and the mixture is hot and glossy, pour in the eggs through a sieve, and whisk with a balloon whisk. If the fruit puree is too hot when the beaten egg is added, the egg will ‘split’. One way to guard against this is to check the temperature of the puree with a sugar thermometer – it should be no higher than 55-60 ̊C when the egg is added.If your curd does split, take the pan off the heat and whisk vigorously until smooth.

Stir the mixture over a gentle heat, scraping down the sides of the bowl every few minutes, until thick and creamy. This will take 9-10 minutes; the temperature should reach 82-84 ̊C on a sugar thermometer. Immediately pour into warm, sterilised jars and seal. Use within four weeks. Once opened, keep in the fridge.

Sunday, 12 July 2009

Bottling joy, an every day experience

Apricot jam

What do you do when you have loads of fruit? Make jam. Lady de B and I bought most of the fruit for Stuart’s party at New Covent Garden Market as it was cheaper to buy a whole tray wholesale than a few punnets retail. This meant we had lots left over. So on Tuesday night, we got together for our own little preserves festival. In a few hours, we had a shelf full of strawberry jam, raspberry jam and apricot and vanilla jam, along with peach and almond chutney to go with the cheeses at Paula’s wedding in September. We were a two-woman WI.

Preparing peach and almond chutney.From this....to this.

One of the (many) things I love about Lady de B is that she’s my autodial person for produce. When rhubarb, blackcurrants, quince, medlars or walnuts arrive in the market, I can call her in a high state of excitement and she doesn’t think I’m mad. And it’s a reciprocal agreement. In January, I got a near-breathless call from her announcing she’d seen Seville oranges in Borough Market. The marmalade season was upon us. I dug out the preserving pan, stocked up on sugar, fished out a box of jars from the cellar.

The day before our planned marmalade extravaganza, Séan was admitted to hospital and my life of gentle, joyful domesticity vanished for five sombre weeks. The ping of the kitchen timer was replaced with the beep-beep-beep of monitors. I was in a foreign land of blue linoleum corridors and waiting. Waiting for tests, waiting for results, waiting to speak to consultants, all the time my mouth filled with the sour taste of fear.

Our friends and families were wonderful. His room was filled with cards and visitors. Flowers and fruit arrived in amounts that would have done New Covent Garden proud. We watched movies, reruns of Friends, Obama’s joyful inauguration. We played Scrabble, read, held hands. Lady de B even smuggled Barney into the little garden at the back of the hospital so man and dog could share a few happy hours together. Friends invited me for supper, picked up laundry, walked the dog, fed the cats.

But each evening, home alone, I felt raw with longing for our ordinary life together. Eating dinner, going to the flower market, planning parties and holidays. It seemed like a distant country. Looking back was too painful; looking forward too full of terrifying uncertainty. Every night, as I spooned chopped fruit into Tupperware boxes and washed pyjamas for the next day, I felt numb.

Now he’s home and well and I feel a small rush of happiness every day at 7pm when I hear his key turn in the lock. He still drives me mad. Within a one metre radius of the laundry basket is not the same as in the laundry basket. Unless we’ve received some sort of nature reserve status of which I’m unaware, that lawn needs cutting. A few light bulbs in the hallway chandelier would be nice. It’s normal.

On Tuesday night - as Vanessa and I chopped and stirred, filling the kitchen with sweet, spicy clouds of steam - I felt joyful, as if I were bottling happiness. Forget fancy cars, diamonds and designer shoes. Curling up under our Moroccan blanket on the sofa to watch a film, breakfast together in the park on Saturday mornings, Sundays spent reading the paper, drinking tea and talking nonsense with friends, a few jars of jam. These are my riches, my bounty, my daily blessings.

Apricot and vanilla jam

Apricot jam on hot-buttered home-made toast Apricot jam on my homemade raisin and walnut bread.

We created this recipe from Lady de B’s copy of Mrs Beeton which was given to her mother by her grandmother and then passed on to her. I couldn’t resist adding a few tweaks, as I prefer French-style softer set jams which contain less sugar and really allow the fruit to shine. If you prefer a thicker, English-style jam, simply increase the weight of the sugar so you have the same amount of sugar as fruit and boil a little longer. We also added some vanilla because, well, how can that ever be a bad thing?

Makes about 20 jars

2kg apricots
1.8kg sugar
Juice of a lemon
250ml water
2 vanilla pods, split lengthways
A small knob of unsalted butter

Halve the apricots (reserving a small handful of kernels) and layer them in your pan with the sugar, lemon juice and vanilla pods. Pour over the water and leave to macerate for an hour or so. While you’re waiting, put a few saucers in the freezer and crack the reserved kernels. Blanch the white, almondy bit inside the kernels in some boiling water for a minute and put them on one side.

Warm the apricot mixture over a low heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar then boil rapidly until the setting point is reached. You know you’re there when a dollop of jam on one of the chilled saucers wrinkles when you push it with your finger. I like to take it off the heat when it just starts to wrinkle as it’s so hot it continues to cook a bit afterwards. Add the blanched kernels. Don't bother skimming off any scum that forms, just stir in a bit of butter at the end which will disperse it. Spoon into warm, sterilised jars and seal. We also retrieved the vanilla pods, snipped them into smaller pieces and added the pieces to some of the jars.

A good night's work

Our little harvest festival of chutneys and jams.

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