Each year our local branch of the Women’s Institute host the Village Show – a display of local home grown and home made produce. And this year I actually entered something, after being “encouraged” by LSH – my redcurrant curd and rose petal jelly.
I was slightly nervous about doing this. After all the WI are the font of all knowledge where preserves are concerned. I suspect that many of them come out of the womb knowing how to make the perfect raspberry jam! I certainly wasn’t holding out any hope for the redcurrant curd – this batch was definitely on the “soft set” side and whilst pretty and tasty I didn’t think it was WI standard. And indeed it came away empty handed beaten by an array of lemon curds.
So it all rested on the rose petal jelly which was competing against about five or six other jellies, mostly of the redcurrant variety. I approached the bench nervously. Would it be too radical for the WI? How would it compare with those made by people with years of jelly making experience? I hadn’t been this nervous since my degree results….
And it won! I am so excited. The comments on the back of my card were “lovely clear jelly with unusual flavour”. So if you want to eat your own “prize winning rose petal jelly” you can find the recipe here.
In the meantime I am just going to stick my certificate in pride of place on the fridge door before having a celebratory glass of bramble gin!
The LSH and I have been brambling, risking life and limb climbing through overgrown hedgerows in search of the elusive blackberry. They are everywhere but the best fruits are hidden in the depths of prickly bushes and vicious nettles. By the time we return with our hoard, we are stained with scarlet juices and bearing scars.
But what to do with them – I have enough jam to last til the next season. Blackberry curd is an option as is freezing them til my bramleys are ready to turn into crumble. However, worryingly, my thoughts are turning to gin…..(clearly this blog is turning me into a cake making lush!)
I already have some rather potent plum brandy from last year but I’m in a “booze producing” mood. Pip and Little Blue posted a raspberry gin recipe recently and I feel it’s wild cousin will lend itself to a similar treatment. So I’ve put some of them into a large jar with remains of a bottle of Gordens and some caster sugar.
But already maturing in the cupboard is the last member of my redcurrant preserve family. After jelly and curd comes something that the River Cottage Preserves book calls Shrub aka Redcurrant brandy.
If you are keen to get into preserve making I can heartily recommend this and you’ll find this recipe amongst many others. Follow the redcurrant curd recipe to get your redcurrant juice ( You can force this through a sieve if you want). For 300ml of juice, add 600ml of brandy and pour into a bottle or large jar. Leave for a week. Put the liquid into a pan with 300g of sugar and heat to about 60C when all the sugar should be dissolved. Pour back into a sterilised bottle. Now for the difficult bit – leave for a few months to mature and voila – a splash of warming summer fruits to see you through the cold winter months.
And finally an update on my rose jelly – the photo on the left is my Gertrude Jekyll rose in full bloom. It’s on it’s second flush and I’ve made some more rose jelly but just from this rose (pictured right). As you can see its come out a slightly more peachy tone than my earlier batch that also had a much darker bloom added to the mix. My white roses may be the next ones I try – it will be interesting to see what colour that goes.
As I type this post the rain is hammering down outside and we definitely seem to be moving into Autumn. A few days ago it was bright and sunny though so I was harvesting again in the garden to make more preserves. But this time I had a more floral crop in mind – my old English roses.
I adore these old English roses with their heady scent and big frilly flowers. We have a few of these in the garden and at this time of year they are coming into bloom with their second (and final) flush of blossoms. Hot on the success of my redcurrant jelly I thought I’d have a go at rose petal jelly to try and preserve my roses for a little while longer.
This is a really easy recipe as you only need to remember one simple equation – volume of petals in a jug = volume of water = weight of jam sugar. Dead easy. All you then need to add is the juice of one lemon for every 500ml of water.
You want scented roses for this as this is what is going to give the flavour for your finished jelly. And you need to make sure that you haven’t sprayed them with anything. Cut you blooms and carefully pull the petals from the flowers. Make sure that you pick through them to remove any creepy crawlies that might be lurking (you want rose petal jelly – not rose petal jelly with speaks of insects…).
Put them into a measuring jug and lightly press down to compact them slightly. You don’t want to squash them but you do want a reasonably accurate idea of the volume. Whatever mark it comes to, that’s how much water you add and that’s how much jam sugar you need in grammes.
Put the petals into a pan and add the water. Bring up to a simmer and leave for about 5 min until all of the colour has come out of the petals and into the water. Drain through a seize, pressing the petals to try and get all the liquid from them. The colour will look a bit anaemic at this point but don’t panic – this will all change.
Put the liquid into a clean pan and add the lemon juice. You should see the colour immediately become more vibrant (the final colour will depend on the colour of your roses). Put back on the heat and gradually add the sugar, stirring all the time until it is completely dissolved. Turn up the heat and boil rapidly for about 8 minutes until it reaches setting point. If you have a jam thermometer this is easy as it’s ready once it hits 105C. If not you need to take it off the heat and put a teaspoon of jelly onto an ice cold saucer and see if it crinkles when it cools. If it doesn’t bring it back to be boil for another few minutes.
Once it’s ready, pour into warm sterilised jars.
You should have a delicate sweet jelly a taste not dissimilar to Turkish delight. Delicious on scones or in my case eaten straight out of the jar!
It seems hard to believe but the nights are already drawing in and the fruit harvest season is coming to an end. The autumn fruiting raspberries have a while to go yet – the canes themselves are now bigger than me and are producing a decent crop of good sized juicy berries. But both my redcurrant and blackcurrant bushes are now empty of fruit after I spent time stripping them of their jewel bright fruits.
I’d already made some delicious cordial with blackcurrants and the rest has been made into three jars of jam. But the redcurrant needs a bit more thought as its produced its best ever harvest producing over two kilos of fruit.
I’ve made half of it into redcurrant jelly using the recipe from the River Cottage Preserves book. It’s pretty straightforward. First you make your juice and you don’t even need to strip the berries off their stalks to do that. Just put them in a large pan with water, simmer and wait until all the juices have been released. Then it’s all about patience as you need to leave it to strain naturally with no pressing of the juices out of the fruit as it will make the final jelly cloudy. I have this wonderful straining bag from Lakeland and I had to stand on a stool to tip all the fruit into it.
I left it for about 6 hours before putting the juice back into a pan, bringing to the boil before adding granulated sugar stirring all the time (there is a lot of pectin in currants so you shouldn’t need special sugar for this).
You then bring it to the boil again for about 8 min until it’s reached its setting point. I test for this in two ways – using a probe thermometer to check the syrup has reached 105C and then I pop a teaspoon of the syrup onto a very cold saucer to make sure that a crinkles once cool. It’s then popped into jars whilst warm.
It’s incredibly tasty stuff. I wolfed the little that was left on the ladle as jam maker’s perks. Roll on Autumn when I can start adding this to the juices of my Sunday joint to create a delicious gravy. I just need to decide what to do with the rest of them…Any ideas?