Incey Quincey Jelly

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The very first post I ever wrote for my little blog was all about Quince Jelly. I have to admit it wasn’t a very good post because I didn’t actually include the recipe! Therefore, I thought I’d do a better job this time round 🙂 It’s interesting that I didn’t blog about quinces until May last year yet I made my first batch of jelly this year in March. Hmmm…that’s a bit of a Nerdy Thing to say isn’t it! Anyway, here is how I make quince jelly.

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First take your quinces and wash them. About 2kg should give you 3 – 4 jars give or take. The best bit about this recipe is that is requires very little preparation and by that I mean you simply chop the quinces roughly and place in a pan (pips, skin and all). Then cover with water, bring to the boil and simmer until you have a mass of peachy, pinky pulpiness.

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The next stage requires a little bit of structural engineering unless your home is equipped with a jelly stand. the first time I made this jelly I really went to town. I constructed two towers of recipe books; Nigella, Nigel Slater, Annabel Langbein, Leith…. They all jostled together in perfectly formed little towers and upon these edifices I balanced a cane tied with the pulp in a muslin bag. This year I used chairs. Why I didn’t think of chairs last year I don’t know. It’s a lot simpler and requires less lugging and lifting. I’d recommend using chairs rather than cookery books.

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So, there you have your little balloon of pulp gently and quietly drip, drip, dripping away overnight. Do not prod or poke the balloon of pulp. It won’t bite you but it will make for a cloudy jelly.

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So after a night of dripping you should now have a beautiful pink liquid that smells quince-ily fragrant. You are about to make it even more delectable….

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Measure out the juice and for every cup of juice add 1 cup of sugar.

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Then gently dissolve the sugar over a low heat. You’ll feel the grittiness of the sugar as you stir to begin with. Once the grittiness disappears you know that the sugar has dissolved.  Crank up the heat until you get a good rolling boil going. Ferocious! After 5 minutes start testing for setting point. Don’t be too anxious about this. Pop a saucer in the freezer. Take it out, spoon some jelly onto it. If it crinkles then it’s ready. If it doesn’t boil a bit longer. I once fretted and frowned over my quince jelly setting point and ended up Over Doing It and  the result was quince paste in a jar. Incredibly difficult to get out and with the texture of industrial glue. I’m sure I could have re-used it to mend things with.

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Pour into sterilized jars and label. Hmmmm….that photo isn’t doing much for my jelly.

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Oh yes. Much better. Much more representative of the little jar of sunshine that is Quince Jelly. I made 3 1/2 jars and used the little half jar to smear over a leg of lamb that I’d studded with garlic. I roasted this with veg and some quince that I’d peeled and chopped (like an apple). It was Very Tasty! Roasted quince is sweetly perfumed but has a sour edge which is just yum.

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Here’s my little quince tree.

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Such a beautiful part of Autumn. The first splash of yellow before the leaves start to turn.

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Lots more to harvest. I have a hankering for quince and vanilla sorbet…….

If you have courgettes coming out of your ears…..

Courgettes 1

….then do I have a cake for you! I’ve already said how I find harvesting the first courgette from my vege garden one of the most exciting things ever and this year I am determined not to ruin it by getting Bogged Down with a surplus of these little green delights. I’m making a new category about Making The Most of Courgettes! It’ll hopefully be a one stop shop, an answer to the Mayday call of vege gardeners all over the world when their courgettes start to Run Their Lives. So, here is Courgette Recipe #1 which I stumbled upon in a really fabulous recipe book from the Library called A Good Harvest – Recipes from the gardens of Rural Women New Zealand.

Recipe Book

It’s full to bursting with great tried and tested recipes that have been handed down the generations. These are little gems – if they’ve stood the test of time then they must be good.  Everything from Nana’s Cucumber Pickle to Mrs Duckworth’s Tree Tomato Chutney, Jolly Fruit to Silverbeet ChowChow; it’s all in here. But the one for this post is called Zucchini (Courgette) Loaves and it is very wholesome, toothsome and “I want some more-some”. I took one of the loaves round to a Real Life Rural Woman friend of mine and after scoffing a few slices she wanted the recipe! So here it is Mrs Egg (and pass it on to your friends who dropped in for tea and enjoyed a slice and asked for the recipe too!!)

Zucchini Loaves by Margaret Pittaway, National Councillor, Southland and Otago

3 cups plain flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
3 beaten eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
1 cup oil (I used sunflower)
1 cup of chopped dates
1 cup chopped walnuts (I used pumpkin seeds instead)
2 cups grated zucchini
2 cups sugar

Preheat oven to 160-170c.
Sift dry ingredients into a bowl and then mix all ingredients together. Divide mixture between two lined loaf tins and bake for 1 – 1 1/2 hours or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.

This makes a very sticky, claggy mixture a bit like wallpaper paste (!) for want of a better description so don’t be put off!

Unbaked

Here they are before being baked. I always check my cakes before the suggested cooking time because my oven is a bit of a fiery monster. I also always cover my baking with a sheet of baking paper (this can be re-used indefinitely for other baking).

Cake and Tea

Ah….lovely. Who’d have thought a little green vegetable could be magic-ed into a tasty cake!

Cake

You could always use raisins, currants, sultanas and other nuts. I forgot to mention I put a tablespoon of chia seeds in the mix too. Happy Baking and God Bless the courgette!

courgette flower

Easy Peasy Blackberry Jam

Close up B and Apples

I love jam; it’s really very simple. I love it’s fruitiness, stickiness and downright jamminess and I want to make it myself. I have the fruit trees in the garden and I have the recipies so it should be child’s play shouldn’t it? Well, Quite Frankly No It’s Not. I’ve lost count of my many jam disasters; the burnt saucepan left out on the wood chopping block after attempting greengage jam to which even the chocolate Labrador raised an eyebrow. Then there was the burnt grapefruit marmalade…. I thought I might be able to save it by adding to a marmalade cake. I offered a piece to Mr Fig who chewed it thoughtfully and proclaimed that he couldn’t quite put his finger on it… “…that’ll be the brunt grapefruit.” I said…. cue loud guffaws of laughter. This can’t go on so I decided to take matters into my own hands and travelled 12,000 miles to England where I knew of a Jam expert who’d been making delicious jams for years aka my Mum. We gathered some blackberries from my sister’s allotment and a couple of apples and set to work. Here are my top tips for a Fool’s Guide to making jam that doesn’t burn!!!

Blackberry and Apple Jam
Cooking time 35-40 minutes Makes 1.5kg jam

450g Blackberries
450g cooking apples (weight when peeled and cored)
2 tablespoons water
900g sugar

add Blackberries

Wash the blackberries and allow to drain well.

Cut up apples

Chop the apples and put in the preserving pan with the water and simmer gently for 10 minutes.

A and B in pan

Add the luscious blackberries and continue to cook SLOWLY. You’re looking to achieve a soft puree as the fruit softens and the fruit juices ooze out.

Add sugar

Now it’s time to add the sugar which is where it all used to go wrong for me. It’s imperative that you dissolve the sugar completely so it won’t catch on the bottom of the saucepan when you start to boil. Just keep gently stirring until there’s no grittiness to the liquid.

Turning to puree

At this point turn up the heat and start to boil. Watch out for bits of flying fruit and juice as this is a feisty little jam! I used to let my jam just boil away merrily unattended but my Mum prods and pokes with a wooden spoon checking it all the time.

Rolling Boil

Once we got to about 7 minutes of boiling we began to test for setting point. Just spoon a little onto a saucer and if it wrinkles when you prod it then setting point has been reached. I used to fuss and sigh over whether it was a wrinkle or just a pucker or crease and would boil some more just to be sure….But I will fuss no more! Simply pour the jam into sterilised jam jars and seal with lids.

Jam 1 Jam 2

Looks good doesn’t it and it tastes sublime! It does seem so simple now I’ve seen it done. I can’t wait to get back and Try Again with the first fruit of the season – plums. I’m also desperate to try greengage jam again and will be using this great recipe from My Home Makes

Close up Blackberries

From the Sub-Lime to the Ridiculous

Lime Display

My lime tree is pickled in limes; all over. What to do with all these limes? My lime-loving friend always takes a bag or two and she freezes the juice for use in Thai inspired dishes. She also quarters them and freezes for use in vodka and tonic! I froze lime juice two years ago and guess what? It’s still in the freezer! I now tend to make lime cordial and I’ve just given it a new lease of life after becoming the proud owner of a Soda Stream! How 80s is that! I have fond memories of the Soda Stream of my childhood; it was bright orange and we made drinks individually in glass bottles adding whatever syrup we liked. The latest soda stream has just one bottle (you can buy more) which you fill with water and chill and then add the fizz and syrup. I’m going to try it with my Homemade Lime cordial.

Lime Prep

This is how I make my oh-so-easy Lime Cordial. You will need :

6-8 large limes
650g sugar
4 cups boiling water
1 tablespoon citric acid (optional)

Finely grate the lime rind making sure you don’t include any of the pith.

Cut and rind

Squeeze the juice from the limes and set aside.

Juiced Limes

Combine the lime rind, sugar, citric acid (if using) and boiling water and mix well to dissolve the sugar. Add the reserved lime juice and mix through. Leave to stand until the mixture is cool. Strain the mixture through a fine sieve or piece of muslin.

Lime Drink

Pour into sterilized bottles and seal. See my post on sterilizing jars if you need advice on this. Serve one part lime syrup to about 4 parts (or to taste) of chilled water, lemonade or soda water.

Lime Close up

Delicious and great for keeping the bugs at bay (and scurvy too I suppose!)

When it gets Chilly make Chilli Jam

Tucked away quietly in my greenhouse are some little precious gems; glossy, smooth and fire engine red. I treasure my little chilli plants because they are very unassuming vegetables; just quietly growing and chilling out all summer long while I sow seeds, pick vegetables, preserve fruit, water and weed. Then, in Autumn they continue to hang out happily while I rake leaves, compost finished crops, plant winter veg and put the garden to bed. Then, and only then, do they send out their cool chilli vibes….It stops me in my tracks and I amble over to the greenhouse as their shiny coats catch the sunlight and wink at me. Ah yes, I think, time to turn you glossy beauties into your destiny aka Chilli Jam. It lifts my heart because just as the summer vege garden comes to an end there is always chilli jam to warm me up and remind me of those sunny days.

My recipe is that of the lovely Nigella Lawson. It is so, so simple and so, so rewarding to make.

Gather your chillies and feel uplifted!

Just gathered

The ingredients for Nigella’s Chilli Jam are as follows:
150g red chillies
150g red capsicum
1kg Jam sugar
600ml cider Vinegar

Ingredients

Now recipes always advise that you wear latex gloves when handling chillies. I don’t. I never have but then I see chillies as my friends and friends don’t hurt each other. If you harbour concerns that your chillies are looking menacing then perhaps pop on a pair for protection and peace of mind. Start to chop and scrape out the little seeds. I use a tea spoon to do the scraping.

Chillies

Pop the chillies and pepper in a food processor…..

Not chopped

… and whizz until suitably blitzed to little red confetti flakes.

Chopped

Dissolve the sugar in the vinegar in a large pan. It’s important at this point NOT TO STIR. However, it is oh-so-tempting to stir at this particular moment. You will think “Hmmm…how do I know if the sugar is dissolved if I can’t stir it?” I thought that too and had to restrain myself from stirring to check. I ended up leaving it longer than probably necessary but I didn’t want another Greengage Jam debacle circa Summer 2012 when I made three attempts to make this preserve and burnt three saucepans; all because I hadn’t dissolved the sugar properly. Some of my friends were sympathetic; others were incredulous; My husband laughed his head off. I don’t like to talk about it anymore…. Scrape the chilli and pepper mix into a pan and bring to the boil. Nigella then firmly instructs us to leave it at a “rollicking boil” for 10 minutes. I’m not sure if “rollicking boil” is a technical term but I like it. I hope my boil was rollicking; it certainly looked energetic.

Rollicking Boil

Remove the pan from the heat and allow to cool for about 40 minutes. You will see it turn from a syrup to a thick, viscous texture to a jelly-like texture. The little flecks of pepper and chilli will sit on top of the syrup at first and then disperse and sink throughout the mixture as it cools.

Jam settling

Pour the mixture into sterilized jars. People can get a bit overwhelmed by the whole process of sterilizing and worry about poisoning themselves and others. It is right to worry about poisoning yourself and others with homemade preserves but I find that this can be completely avoided if you do the following:

If you are recycling jars then soak in soapy water and remove their labels. If you have a sticky film on the jar use a few drops of tea tree oil and it’ll help to remove the sticky.

Either run the jars through your dish wash cycle or rinse and place on a baking tray (with lids) and pop into a warm oven to dry out.

I often put my jars straight from the dishwasher into the oven as I make my preserve. No germs, no poisoning! Happy days!

Pouring jam

A little jar of liquid warmth. Great in sandwiches, with cold meats or as a marinade for chicken.

Finished Jam