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.
I don’t usually do cake, as even the most cursory glance at this blog will show. But this weekend we had the inlaws for dinner and I was in charge of pudding. So I have faced my cake demons and have actually baked one (I’m blaming my recent Bake Off binges for thinking that this might be a good idea….).
I wanted to use the redcurrant curd that I’d made earlier but I wanted to make something a bit snazzier than a victoria sandwich. I eventually stumbled upon this – Nigella Lawson’s lemon meringue cake. You can find the recipe here
It’s a twist on a lemon meringue pie but with sponge instead of pastry. Nigella’s version has lemon juice and zest mixed into the sponge mix, but as I was using redcurrant curd I decided to go for orange instead and so added the zest of one orange along with 5 tsp of orange juice (the mix looked a bit dry). Once you’ve added the thin layer of sponge to each sandwich tin you then pop the meringue on top.
In one tin it’s smoothed flat to form the base of the cake, and in the other it’s pulled up into peaks and scattered with sugar to create a more impressive top. It’s baked once a skewer comes out clean which doesn’t take long (I’ve hidden the slightly burnt edge of the base off the top of the photo…). Removing the bottom tin wasn’t too much of a problem but I was a bit worried about squashing the carefully constructed peaks of the top – I think a loose bottomed tin would be distinctly less stressful than trying to delicately handle fragile peaks of meringue!
The whole thing was then sandwiched together sponge sides in with whipped double cream and redcurrant curd. Obviously I added more curd than the recipe said only to see it start to slide Vesuvius like over the side of the cake – not quite the look I was going for! So in order to try and deflect attention from the curd avalanche I sprinkled some pink sugar on top.
I was a bit worried about this as it wasn’t the neatest of cakes but taste wise it was a massive hit with everyone raving about it. The in laws even took doggy bags of slices home with them. And it was even better the next day when the filling had had more time to set. Cake for breakfast – what could be better!
I still had some of my redcurrant glut to use after making my redcurrant jelly. Last year I made Bramley Apple Curd so I decided that this year I would have a go at making a redcurrant version.
This is another easy preserve to make although it only keeps for about 4 weeks so you can’t make too much of it in one go. As with redcurrant jelly, you start off with making the redcurrant juice. Whilst you should give your fruit a quick wash you don’t need to take them off the stalks. Take 200g of fruit and add 80g of water. Bring the water and fruit to a simmer and leave until the fruit is soft and has released all its juices. This will take about 30mins. The fruit is strained to get all those lovely juices, but unlike jelly you can squish this through a sieve if you want.
You want 200g of the juice. Put it in a bowl over a pan of hot water. Add 125g of unsalted butter and 450g of granulated sugar. Keep stirring until the butter has melted and the sugar has completely dissolved. Pour into a clean pan. Make sure the mixture isn’t too hot – you don’t want to cook the egg as soon as it hits the pan so it shouldn’t be any hotter than 55C.
Take 200g of beaten egg and pass through a sieve into the redcurrant mixture. Keep stirring over a medium heat until the mixture thickens into a rose coloured custard. It should be about 84C. Pour into warm sterilised jars.
I love this preserve – it’s such a beautiful dusky pink colour that beats any shop bought curd. It’s delicious in cakes or just spread on toast or indeed any use you have for lemon curd. As I made extra redcurrant juice I’ve decided to have a go at making redcurrant shrub – a traditional fruit liquor. It’s currently fermenting in the kitchen cupboard so I will report back later on how that one has turned out.
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?
We seem to be tumbling towards June at a rapid rate of knots yet I’m still putting the heating on and using a brolly remarkably regularly. To make matters worse my plum tree hasn’t blossomed at all this year which means for the first time there’ll be no plum jam, sauce, vodka (insert favourite plum recipe here). But for once we had sun and warm weather this weekend. So there has been less baking and more sowing and weeding. In “celebration” of this fact here is a bit of a gardening special (with a small amount of bread…).
I’ve sowing fennel and salad leaves and I’m waiting for my French beans to germinate. Some plants are already well underway including my courgette plants. All 6 of them have sprouted and are doing well. I’m taking a bit of a risk and have potted 2 of them up and put them outside. The forecast at the moment is for no frost so I have my fingers crossed that it stays that way. If not I have 4 back ups still in the greenhouse.
Whilst my plum tree has been a failure this year, elsewhere I have plenty of signs of a decent fruit crop, including my Bramley apple which has a decent amount of blossom on it.
There are also loads of redcurrants and blackcurrants already starting to form as well as these little beauties – alpine strawberries. I grew these from seed a few years ago and now they have self seeded everywhere in the garden. These are hidden underneath one of my climbing roses.
As part of my general clearing up I’ve been moving a few pots around and this is how I found this little fellow – possibly the smallest toad I’ve ever seen! He soon hopped off into a secluded spot by the side of the greenhouse.
It hasn’t been completely bread free though. I made some naan breads with toasted cumin seeds in to go with our curry and another batch of the semolina buns I made a couple of weeks ago but this time in as burger buns. So here they are along with my new bread basket.