Preserves

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IMG_20140827_153529[1] 27/08/2014

I have a great big cooking apple tree in my garden and each year I always struggle with what to do with all the fruit it produces. There are only so many apple pies and crumbles a girl can eat so I thought a good way to enjoy them all year round would be to make some different preserves with them.

It’s also a great way to use all the spare jars that I’ve accumulated ‘just in case’. 

Bramley Lemon Curd – Makes 5 x 225g jars

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Ingredients:

  • 450g Bramley apples, weight when 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)

Method:

  1. Put the chopped apples into a pan with 100ml water and the lemon zest. Cook gently until soft and fluffy then beat to a puree with a wooden spoon and rub through a nylon sieve.
  2. Put the butter, sugar, lemon juice and ­apple puree into a 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.
  3. If the fruit puree is too hot when the beaten egg is added, the egg will split. Check the temperature with a sugar thermometer — it should be no higher than 55–60C when the egg is added.
  4. If your curd does split, take the pan off the heat and whisk vigorously until smooth.
  5. Stir the mixture over a gentle heat, ­scraping down the sides of the bowl every few minutes, until thick and creamy.
  6. This will take 9–10 minutes; the temperature should reach 82–84C on a sugar thermometer. ­Immediately pour into jars and seal.

Once opened, keep in the fridge. This is lovely on toast, swirled through yoghurt or icecream, as a filling for pies and tarts and even straight off a spoon (don’t judge me).

Crab Apple Chutney – will give approx 12 x 220ml jars.

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Ingredients:

  • 2kg mix of crab and cooking apples (whatever you have) peeled, cored and chopped into little cubes.
  • 450g demerara sugar
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 4tsp turmeric
  • approx 20 cloves
  • 500ml apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tsp chilli powder
  • 2tsp salt
  • 10cm ginger, finely chopped
  • Fresh Thyme (optional) 

Method:

  1. Place the apples in a heavy based saucepan. Stir in all other ingredients, cover and bring to the boil.
  2. Reduce heat to low and stir chutney, be sure it doesn’t stick. Cook uncovered for about 1 hr to 90 minutes, depending on size of cubes, cooking apples will fall apart but crab apples won’t. Stir regularly, it will reduce and thicken. Leave to cool completely then pour into sterilised jars and label.

Keeps for months and tastes at its best after the first month.

Apple and Blackberry Jam – makes approx 6 jars

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Ingredients:

  • 600g Blackberries, washed & drained
  • 500g Cooking apples, peeled, cored and cut into berry sized chunks
  • 1kg Granulated sugar
  • 300ml Water
  • 10g Butter

Method:

  1. Put the water and apple chunks in a preserving pan and simmer gently until soft (about 5 minutes).
  2. Add the blackberries, bring to the boil and simmer until soft (about 15 – 20 minutes).
  3. Add the sugar off the heat stirring to dissolve the crystals.
  4. Heat the pan gently to ensure all the sugar dissolves then boil rapidly for 10 minutes.
  5. Take off the heat and test a large drop of jam on a chilled saucer and if it crinkles after a couple of minutes then it’s ready.
  6. If not, boil for another 2 minutes and repeat the test until ready.
  7. Remove excess scum with a slotted spoon and then stir in the butter to remove the rest.
  8. Ladle into sterilised jars.

I store mine under the stairs in a cool, dark cupboard. The jam keeps for ages this way and it also probably has something to do with all the sugar too.

I normally find homemade jam recipes extremely sweet so I only used 700g sugar in this batch and sound it was spot on. The fruit doesn’t become lost in a syrupy gloop this way and you are left with a few chunks of fruit running through the jam which are great to bite into when spread on toast for your breakfast.

While collecting blackberries for the jam recipe, I got a bit berry happy and picked way too many. The result? Blackberry vinegar… ok, and another blackberry and apple crumble.

Blackberry Vinegar (approx 1 litre)

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Ingredients:

  • 45og (1lb) blackberries
  • 600ml (1 pint) apple cider vinegar
  • 450g (1lb)granulated sugar

Method:

  1. Place the fruit and vinegar in a covered bowl and leave to steep for 3-5 days stirring occasionally. Strain the liquid and measure it. Add 450g (1lb) of sugar for every 600ml (pint) of juice and heat gently in a pan until the sugar dissolves, then bring to the boil. Pour into sterilised bottles when cool.
  2. Put the blackberries in a large bowl. Make sure they are no more than 2 inches deep.
  3. Pour on enough apple cider vinegar to cover them.
  4. Now cover and leave for 3 to 5 days, depending on how time-strapped you are. Leaving them longer will simply impart a stronger bramble flavour.
  5. Now grab a muslin bag and strain the blackberries for twelve hours, suspending them over a bowl to catch the drips.
  6. Measure the juice collected and add it to a saucepan. For every 1/2 pint of juice, add 1/2lb of sugar.
  7. Bring the liquid up to boil, while at the same time stirring until all the sugar has dissolved. Once boiling, simmer for five minutes.
  8. If a frothy scum appears on the top of the blackberry liquid, skim it off.
  9. Wait for the liquid to cool before pouring into suitable, sterile bottles.

At the end of step 5, I squeezed the bag of blackberries to get every last bit of juice out of them. The end result gives you slightly thicker vinegar than if you didn’t squeeze the bag at all but this is definitely a good thing. The sauce clings to whatever you put it with. I recommend using it on pancakes or icecream.

Finally, I give you more jam. I don’t even have plum trees but I came across one hanging invitingly over a neighbour’s fence and they weren’t using them so… I permanently borrowed some.

Vanilla, Rum & Plum Jam

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Adding the rum and vanilla to plums produces a luxurious jam that’s perfect served on warm buttered toast or English muffins at tea time. Also you can serve this incredible jam as an accompaniment to strong cheese, or sliced with roast duck or pork.

Ingredients:

  • 2 lb. plums, halved, pitted, and coarsely chopped
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 1/2 cup rum

Method:

  1. Put the plums, sugar, water and lemon juice in a heavy pot. Split the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape out the inner seeds. Add bean and seeds to the pot. Bring the mixture to the boil.
  2. Simmer, stirring frequently, until mixture thickens up, about 30 minutes. Add rum and move a pot from heat. Remove the vanilla bean and discard.
  3. Spoon the jam into warmed, sterilized jars. Seal, label, and store in a cool, dark place.

Please be careful when working with any of these recipes as boiled sugar is super-hot. Use a funnel to help fill the jars and prevent spills.

It is important to seal your jars as soon as they are filled so they remain sterile however, exercise caution when labelling and storing. Leave the jars to cool once sealed to avoid burns.

You could purchase some nice pretty jam jars (and not be stingy like me) then these preserves would be perfect to give away as gifts too.

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