I love jams and preserves for their quaint charm and pure indulgence and this is perfect to complement the new lamb, new veal and new everything that comes with Spring!
Sugar 4 Tbsp
Salt and pepper, one pinch of each
Chop the onion finely in a food processor: just peel and chuck in and rejoice because of no tears! Result!
Melt the butter and add the onion puree.
Cook in a small pan on low heat until soft and brownish.
Then add the spices and seasoning.
I keep this in a clean jar for a few weeks in the fridge and warm it up (or not) to eat over a joint of lamb or some duck legs. You can replace the butter with rapeseed oil if you want – but I do love butter! It’s got good vitamins too…
|Orchid display in Kew
Blackberry jam with balsamic vinegar
Caster Sugar 500g
Juice and zest of one lemon
1 cinnamon bark
Vanilla pod split in half
Balsamic vinegar 1 tbsp
Leave the fruit and whole spices to marinate in the sugar for a few hours if you can.
Sterilise 4 or 5 jars in the dishwasher the day before. On the chosen jam day, put the sugar and fruit mix in a jam pan with the lemon juice and zest. Get it up to a rolling boil then turn the hob down a bit and let it bubble for 8 min. Pour the vinegar in the last few minutes. Check the setting by dropping a tear-drop of jam onto a cold plate. It should look thick and jelly-like.
Give a quick rolling boil again then retrieve the vanilla pod and cut the strip in bits. Put one in each jar and pour the boiling jam after it. Screw and turn each jar upside down to sterilise through.
This my godson favourite jam and he can clean up a jar in one single seating! But even if you are not into teenage gluttony, this is an unusual and richly fragranced jam to try on toast and muffins.
Now that local and delicious varieties of strawberries are available in the fruit markets, it is time to make that first batch of jam! I was feeling uncharacteristically nervous and anxious yesterday and so I pulled out my jam wares and started making a very quick but very satisfying version of my annual strawberry jam. Within half-hour I had 8 lovely jars full, I was feeling more contented and the house smelt like a ladies tea-room! Phew!
Jam is the simplest thing: take two ingredients (sugar and fruit) and boil it until set! But the essential is to have the right pots and bits. You absolutely need one large stainless steel jam pan, a jam thermometer, a long ladle for pouring the jam in the jars, a steel funnel with a large opening and of course some clean jars with lids.
1 kilo of strawberries
1 kilo of crystallised sugar
Juice of one lemon (plus zest)
Do not wash the fruit if you can help it! Just take the stalks off with a sharp knife and put them in the pot with the sugar and lemon. I added nice stringy zest to enhance the lemony note and look more interesting in the jar. You can experiment with vanilla pods or pink peppercorns or chopped fresh mint – all delicious and adding a pretty variation to the classic strawberry jam. Add them just before the end. Leave the fruit whole: mine looked like beautiful scarlet jewels in a thick syrup. If the strawberries let too much juice out, just cook it longer. You want runny and not overcooked, over-set jam.
Bring to a boil, dip you thermometer in and when the temperature has gone up to “jam point” (105° C.), turn the heat down and let it simmer 20 min while you sterilise your pots in the dishwasher or in a simple steamer for 10 min. The thermometer is essential because without it jam making is a bit of a frustrating hit and miss business. Test that the jam is set by dropping a few droplets onto a cold saucer: it should be runny and slightly gloopy and should wrinkle when you run your finger through it for the ultimate test – taste is simply magic!
Now use your long ladle to scoop out the boiling jam straight into each clean jar. Be careful not to burn yourself and have plenty of kitchen towels around to hold the jar! Using a jam funnel like the one in the picture makes it easier. Screw the top on the jar and turn it upside down. This way the boiling liquid sterilises the air left in the jar by letting it pass through and no further sterilising is required.
Then comes the hardest bit: you should leave it about 3 months before opening them so the flavours have time to mingle and blossom… A bit like laying down a good vintage. In any case, the jars unopened can last a few years easily and make lovely presents to friends. I DO LOVE being given homemade treats! And I love giving them away… Sounds corny but giving food as present is a lot like giving a bit of TLC and affection.