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Tag Archives: Jams & Chutneys

Jam Galore

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In today’s post, I am going to do a quick round up of our recent jam making activities, as evidenced by the picture below. I’ve already talked about a couple of the varieties that you can see here, but we have had a good jam making run and produced several types this year. I still have some blackberries and more damsons in the freezer so we won’t be short of preserves this season. We hope to have another jam making session before Christmas, if only to clear space in the freezer. As I have already mentioned, preserves can make great gifts so that is another incentive to get jamming before the festive season. There was a nice feature in (I think) the Irish Times Magazine on Saturday from Clodagh McKenna, giving her recipes for apple chutney and a blackberry and apple jam. I can’t now find the link, but I’ve added the apple chutney recipe I found on Clodagh McKenna’s website. I am keen to try out the chutney but I prefer to make blackberries into a jelly rather than a jam so I’ll stick with a recipe from last year.

Jam Selection

These are a few of our jams….

I think that overall, our favourite jam this year was the rowan and apple jelly that we made for the first time this autumn. It was so tasty that we have already opened the last jar (although in fairness our first batch was not a large one). The beautiful colour and tangy flavour made it a winner on buttery toast and we are already looking forward to foraging for rowan berries next year. The next in appeal would probably be the lavender and apple and the rosehip and apple. This is again partly for the lovely clear colours and because of the flavours of these unusual types of jellies.

I think that there has been a particular pleasure in trying to make (and eat!) preserves that are not readily available commercially. That was our reason for tackling an elderberry preserve too. There was also the satisfaction of first making use of some flowers for cordial, as we have featured in an earlier post, then harvesting some fruit later in the year. Sadly, we couldn’t forage berries from the same patch that we used for flowers since the council, in its infinite wisdom had despatched workers to cut all the elder bushes hard back. It seemed a strange time of year to be doing that job and I don’t suppose the local bird population was very impressed either. Still, not to be defeated we foraged a bit further afield and came home with a few clusters of glossy black berries.

Elderberries and Apples

Ready to cook….

Here are links to recipes that we found to try out: On Lavender and Lovage.com, we found an elderberry preserve recipe. Then on The Cottage Smallholder.com, we spotted this rosehip and apple jelly recipe.

I cannot say that we managed to get perfect results the first time round, but we were very pleased with our endeavours. We’d love to hear about your jam making exploits and about any favourite recipes. Do drop us a line!

 

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Bottled Elderflowers

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Our latest venture into the culinary world has been to add to our supply of preserves with some elderflower cordial. I think this is the third or fourth time we have made elderflower cordial and this year the fruits of our labour have been particularly sweet (if I say so myself) . Elderflower cordial, whether homemade or bought, is invariably delicious, I have never found one that I didn’t like. I find the idea of drinking bottled flowers an attractive one, especially such pretty flowers as elderflowers. They have a beautiful and irresistible scent that transfers intact from the flower to the drink. The taste is usually sweet although it can be sharpened if you introduce citrus fruits into the mix. Our own cordial this year is slightly tangy due to the two oranges, two lemons and three limes that were infused along with the flowers.

Elderflowers

Elderflowers

Recipes for a cordial do not have to be difficult, as the one we used shows. Our recipe (taken from Jams & Chutneys by Thane Prince, published by Dorling Kindersley) tells you to dissolve sugar in water, pour this into a large bowl over the flowers and chopped fruit and then stir in the citric acid. The liquid is left for four days to infuse and is then strained and bottled. It is a very simple process and if you are prepared to wait four days for the infusing, it is a good option. However, there are other recipes using different methods that may be quicker. The recipe we used last year (don’t ask where it came from, neither of us can remember!) instructed you to boil the liquid twice and add the sugar at a later stage, it also didn’t need to infuse for as long. However, this recipe produced a cordial that was very sweet and thick. While this was fine to start with, the cordial soon thickened even more until it resembled a thick syrup more than a drink. There are numerous recipes available and it’s probably a good idea to try a few and then come up with your own variation that ticks all the boxes in your opinion. Personally, I love the result this year, my only comment being that you could probably manage with only two, or even one, lime. It’s also worth buying elderflower cordial in a cafe, deciding which you like most and using the ingredient list to figure out how to make a similar one.

One point I think is worth making about the process of making elderflower: do not under estimate the difficulty involved in finding citric acid. While I admit it is easier to find than pectin, (we could only find this in Fallon and Byrne, where it is ridiculously overpriced), it is still not readily available. Thane Prince recommends Jewish, Polish and Asian grocery stores but we found it in McCabes chemist.

Elder flower cordial and ingredients

Our elder flower cordial and some of the ingredients

Then comes the uses of cordial. Obviously, cordial makes a drink, however, we feel sure that it could be used for other purposes. What we had in mind is an elderflower jelly, made with the cordial and vegetarian gelatine. It is also delicious when drizzled over a fruit salad, a perfect summer snack! I tried it with apples, bananas and oranges and was very pleased with the result.

Elderflower is one of our ‘wild harvests’ that we pick on the banks of our local river. The large, white flower heads come out in between May and June. It is best to pick them in the morning, before a lot of insects have settled on them. Always shake the flowers well before using them, this dislodges any insects. It is best to pick the largest, whitest flowers you can reach. The old, yellow ones or flower heads with unopened buds won’t have as strong a fragrance.

Although it’s late in June, there are still many elderflowers out and ripe for the picking. So, you’d better get picking!

Photo credits: Basket of flowers from Wikipedia, with thanks.

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