Summer jam making begins

Most people traditionally associate jam making with the later stages of summer when fruits such as plums and blackberries are ripe. Of course you can always start with making strawberry jam around June, but it seems a shame not to eat the early crop fresh, or just with sugar or cream.

However, the Gooseberry is a perfect fruit to kick off the jam making early with. It’s a pretty ugly fruit, with a horrible texture and something of an acquired taste. But it makes probably the best jam out of all the fruit: tangy, sweet with a tang, and a runnier set.

This is an easy jam for first-time preservers to make and usually sets nicely. If you’re lucky, the jam will turn from green to pink as it nears it’s jammy readiness! Put into jars as soon as the heating process is over. I use a glass measuring jug (which has been sterilised too) to fill the jars. Wipe off any spills (be careful, the jars will be hot!), add wax circles and jam pot covers, then screw lid on tightly. Enjoy on fresh bread and butter but equally good on toast.

Gooseberry Jam

Gooseberry & Elderflower Jam

2lb Gooseberries
3/4 pint water
3lb Sugar (preserving if you have but ordinary will do)
Elderflowers 5-6 ‘bunches’
A piece of clean (sterilised) muslin

A preserving pan or saucepan with a heavy bottom!

Have ready 5/6 1lb jam jars that have been properly cleaned and sterilised. I run mine through the dishwasher then dry them upside down in a low oven. Wax circles are good if you have them and transparent jam pot covers seal in the freshness and protect the lids until you are ready to use. I also have a funnel which makes pouring the jam into jars so much easier. (All readily available in high street or online – just search for jam making equipment).

* Wash your elderflowers and make a bag with the muslin to put the flowers into.
* Bring gooseberries to the boil and let them simmer until soft.
* Take off the heat, then add sugar. Stir until all the sugar has dissolved (if you use a wooden spoon, you can feel if there is any undissolved).
* Put back on to heat and bring to boil. Hang the muslin bag from the saucepan handle so that it is submerged in the jam.
* Simmer until you get to the jam setting point on your thermometer! If you don’t have one, use a saucer which has been in the freezer for a few minutes. Carefully, take a teaspoonful of your mix and put it onto the saucer. If, after a couple of minutes, you get ripples when you drag a spoon through, it should be ready. I always do this, even with the thermometer as sometimes it’s still a bit watery and may not set very well. You’ll notice that it starts to cling to the spoon and reduces down quite a bit once it’s ready. Remove the muslin and discard the flowers.
* Get that jam into jars!

Notes:
I added my elderflowers when the jam was nearly ready as I didn’t have any muslin, so I plucked off all the tiny flowers and threw them in right at the end. I always add less sugar as well but if you are not confident follow the recipe so that the jam sets nicely, then if you find it too sweet you can adjust the sugar next time.
Most recipes say add a knob of butter at the end to disperse the scum but I find that this disappears on its own, so I don’t add any …

Whatever you do, don’t be tempted to taste the jam when hot as it this will not have a very pleasant outcome!

Happy preserving!

Micky

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Spring Dance at Cheek2Cheek

My first event!!  I was very excited when Alison agreed that I could lay on the food for this event … a leap of faith on her part, so I was determined that she wouldn’t regret this rash decision!  The theme was ‘Venice’ so I was in my element and began planning the menu straight away.  As the dance had been planned for some time, the ticket price had already been established so I had to work within fairly tight constraints.  However, I pooled all my resources and was really pleased with the outcome.

The buffet featured 2 pasta salads, frittata (an Italian omelette full of tasty vegetables and a bacon one for the carnivores).  Basically, a quiche without the pastry so that our dancers didn’t fall asleep after their supper. Home made sausage rolls, a flaky pastry tart with vine tomatoes, mozzarella and fresh basil scattered all over.  A lovely fresh coleslaw made with red and white cabbage provided a crunchy accompaniment.  This was finished off with a lemon cheesecake topped with raspberries, and a decadent tiramisu.

Many thanks to Alison for entrusting me with providing the food for her event and I am very much looking forward to working alongside her again for the Summer Dance – 1950s cool – on 21st August 2014.  Check out her Facebook page, Cheek2Cheek Dance for more details.

Keep dancing!

Micky

p.s. Alison has also sent a lovely testimonial which you can find here – thank you Alison!