Sep08

Of jam and gin

Tipu communes with WG Grace

Tipu communes with WG Grace

Occasionally Tipu and I walk a small boy to school across Clapham Common and this week we picked up the first conkers of the season – it’s wonderful to have an excuse to collect them as I love their rich, satiny chestnut gloss, wonderful patterning like contour lines on a map and their creamy undersides. Shame you can’t eat them, really.

However, the advent of conkers with their implicit message that summer was really over put me into a bit of a panic. I’d steadfastly been ignoring the blackberries on Tooting Common on the grounds that it was far too early for all that jammy nonsense but then when I looked again the Tooting brambles were rapidly going over the hill. I rather stickily collected the remnants of what must have been a marvellous crop then started to hunt for elderberries. Tooting offered sloes (tempting for the gin) but no elder bushes at all, so I took myself off to a wildlife conservation area were elderberries were plentiful, though again the blackberries were, well, a bit rubbish really. On the way, incidentally, Tipu and I passed the grave of the great cricketer W.G. Grace and made our obeisances to his shade…

Anyway, we collected (or I did, and Tipu pootled about jumping in and out of muddy ditches and swan-filled ponds) more squishy blackberries and loads of elderberries and headed home. Squishy blackberries are just NOT what the books recommend when preserving fruit – firm and ripe is perfect – but I hoped that the jelly would work anyway. And it did! It tastes just as nice as it used to when I collected conkers for myself. By the way, if you are worrying about the availability of blackberries, anywhere outside London (where we have a famously warm microclimate, ho hem) the hedgerows are chock full of them – I collected loads of firm sweet ones this weekend in Kent, and kilos of damsons and sloes as well, and plenty more were coming through.

So this is what you do to make the nicest autumn jelly in the whole world, ever. You will need a large preserving pan or very big stockpot type saucepan, a jelly bag and a means to suspend it over the preserving pan, a quantity of clean jam jars with lids and a packet of jampot covers containing waxed discs, cellophane tops, rubber bands and labels. Match the size to the jars you have – I find it better to buy the 2lb size (weirdly, jam makers remain firmly imperial, none of that metric nonsense) discs, etc, as you can always cut them down but you can’t scale them up if you have wide-necked jars.

Blackberry and Elderberry Jelly

Blackberries and elderberries dripping; damsons waiting their turn

Blackberries and elderberries dripping; damsons waiting their turn

  • Equal quantities of blackberries and elderberries
  • Granulated sugar

Start by stripping all the berries off the elder sprigs. To do this, hold the stalk of the sprig firmly in one hand and use a fork in the other hand to rip the berries off into a colander. Lots end up on the floor. Don’t tread on them, they stain nicely. Rinse them, weigh them either properly or by eye and put them into the pan. Rinse the blackberries and add a matching quantity. Cover the whole lot with cold water, with perhaps a couple of centimetres more water than fruit and slowly bring them up to a boil. Turn down and simmer until the fruit is really tender, which takes about an hour.

Let the fruit and its liquid cool for a bit then carefully put it into the jelly bag suspended over a robust saucepan or mixing bowl. Allow it to drip for about 24 hours. When no more liquid is emerging from the bag, measure the fluid and for each pint (here we go being imperial again) of blackberry and elderberry juice you need 1lb of sugar (550ml water to 450gm sugar).

Heat the oven to 140C/gas 1 and put the clean jam jars in to sterilise them.

Put juice and sugar into the clean pan and heat very gently, stirring, until the sugar dissolves. Then bring the pan to a boil and let it boil hard for about 20 minutes. When the mixture looks really bubbled all through you can start to test it for set. Take a cold plate, dribble a little of the mixture on to it, leave it for a couple of seconds, then tip the plate gently and see if the jelly is beginning to set. If it runs off, keep boiling and checking every five minutes until the jelly forms a little crinkled skin on its surface as you tip it; this means it’s ready.

Let the jelly cool for a little while. Stir in a knob of butter to help disperse the scum. Remove any remaining scum with a slotted spoon and put it on to the testing plate. (Scum it may be but it’s rather nice on bread and butter!)

Use a small jug to pour the jelly into the hot jars. Carefully place a waxed disc on top of each one (it must be a good fit to keep mould from forming, so trim the discs if necessary) and then cover with a lid. Alternatively, moisten the cellophane tops and carefully stretch them over the jars, securing them with a rubber band. Label and store somewhere cool.

Note: if you can’t find blackberries, elderberries work well with apples to make jelly, but the taste isn’t so luscious.

damsons and damson jelly

damsons and damson jelly

To make damson jelly, which is a lot nicer than damson jam (and has none of those tiresome stones that you really never can get rid of) wash the fruit, cover it with water and cook until tender as before, then continue as for Blackberry and Elderberry Jelly.  Damson jelly also works on the pound of juice to pint of water principle and, because the damsons are so tart, there is never any problem with the set.

And where was W. G. Grace while the jelly was being made? Lurking in the corner of the Book a Cook kitchen, of course!

Waiting for a googly

Waiting for a googly

And now for the gin…

Sloe gin

  • 75cl gin
  • 200-300g ripe sloes
  • Sugar to cover

First rinse the sloes in a colander, and remove any bits of twig or leaves that are hanging about. Prick the sloes with a fork. Tip a clear bottle of gin (Bombay Sapphire of course has the prettiest bottle but don’t be tempted: the blue glass looks awful when full pink sloe gin) into a container, and put the sloes into the empty bottle, filling it to at least one third the way up.  Now, using a funnel, pour in caster sugar. Shake the bottle gently as you do it, so that the sugar gets down in among the fruit. The sugar should end up level with the top of the sloes. Next pour the gin carefully back into the bottle. Screw on the top and lay the bottle on its side somewhere safe. For about a week or so you should turn the bottle every day so that the sugar dissolves and the fruit juices start to get into the alcohol. After that, you can turn the bottle whenever you remember. Gradually the liquor will turn a deep and satisfying shade of pink – the riper the sloes, the darker the gin – and by Christmas (assuming you’ve started the process in September to October) you can pour yourself a glass and celebrate!  I like it with lots of ice, but it’s good as an after-dinner liqueur too.

Bookmark and Share

41 Responses to “Of jam and gin”

  1. No1 son says:

    I am very impressed that you managed to get the dog to sit on WG GRace’s grave!

    One of the people who should be contacting you soon is the daughter of a big cricket fan – who has written a book on the subject.

    See you soon

    x

  2. Great Post!…

    [...] I found your entry interesting thus I’ve added a Trackback to it on my weblog :) [...]…

  3. Title…

    New Apple 11-inch MacBook Air…

  4. Thank you!…

    Sir/madam, thank you for yor time, knowledge and work in creating this excellent site. I’ve sent the url to friends and colleagues, I have found your material very educational, I hope your readership increases dramatically!…

  5. Sexcam says:

    Good…

    your blog is ok…

  6. Looking up to the time and endeavor you put into the web log and complete info you provide! I will bookmark the weblog and also have my shavers correspond up here much . Thumbs up! ….

  7. Chanel bags says:

    Very interesting post. . Iam very much enjoyed by reading your site. . this. Article has furnished a utilitarian info . . Thanks for the information given. ….

  8. shred guitar lessons…

    There is a lot of usefull info here….

  9. Pokerplay.nu says:

    Another Title…

    I saw recently so sending a trackback to my site, thx again Si…

  10. companies richer. Oh another hint… He is NOT a celebrity, just a loser”…

    “Obama is a handsome man and if he wasn’t already involved in a homosexual relationship with Larry Sinclair, I’d totally go…

  11. hjgahjdg sagd sag dsajd gsja d…

    hewc eh ed ce wjf lelf ejf lewqlf lel jf…

  12. fantastic future proof deals…

    fantastic post had to quote it….

  13. discount car insurance…

    Find advice about how to have instantaneous and also discount car insurance on the internet to save lots of your hard earned money from each of our internet site. Simply click you just read more….

  14. EZ Up Tent says:

    EZ Up Tent…

    The particular Ez Up tent is one of the hottest include tentutes applied via build displays. Below are a few items to consider when you are examining an excellent E-Z Up fast defense….

  15. Wholesale Yankee Candles…

    [...]just below, are some totally unrelated sites to ours, however, they are definitely worth checking out[...]…

  16. NBA is a magic word that associates with numerous dreams. As millions of people are going after NBA matches and NBA stars, they are going after what they wear. It is always said that when you love someone, you’ll love his or her dog. It is the same with the case. And [url=http://www.lovejerseys.com/nfl-jersey-c-65.html Discount NFL jerseys] won’t let you down in the summer for they will make you feel the existence of your favorite NBA star all the time.

  17. Really informatory clause keep on sharing more informatory articles which will help me and many others….

  18. Our Blog Is Linking Yours…

    [...]This blog holds some very useful information….

  19. Unlocked cell phones…

    [...] Below you will discover a number of unrelated blogs,however I belive are wonderfull blogs worthy of a read [...]…

  20. I saw this really great post today….

  21. Sites we Like…

    [...] Every 6 months we link to websites that we enjoy reading. Listed below are the latest websites that we picked [...]…

  22. Pregnancy says:

    “Meditation can bring peace to the mind, but not to the world simply because there are those who do not want peace and therefore will not meditate.”…

    “Do you know that that’s a pipe-dream? There has never been "peace" on the earth and there will never be "peace" until HE returns. Meditation is good for lowering blood pressure – so it’s not entirely useless but to say that it c…

  23. Wartrol says:

    good post…

    I can see now whats my friend is saying.. good post…

  24. OpenOffice Download…

    [...Remember to Accept This Trading Links Invite...]…

  25. Kasper Suits…

    [...Be Sure You Accept This Link Exchange Invite...]…

  26. Kasper Suits…

    [...particularly and I'm likely going to use it on my own blog, with thanks..]…

  27. backhoe deals…

    [...] Every week we link to blogs that we enjoy reading. Listed below are the new additions that we picked [...]…

  28. 3 pt backhoe says:

    backhoe deals…

    [...] Every week we link to blogs that we enjoy reading. Listed below are the new additions that we picked [...]…

  29. Sondage Rémunérés…

    This web site is simply great.Thanks for sharing this very good blog. Very inspiring! keep up the good work….

  30. OpenOffice Download…

    [...Be Sure You Accept This Trading Links Request...]…

  31. Sondage Rémunéré…

    This is my Excerpt…

  32. Title…

    watch tv on your pc…

  33. I enjoyed reading this a lot…

    I really hope to read more of your posts in the future, so I’ve bookmarked your blog. But I couldn’t just bookmark it, oh no.. When I see quality website’s like this one, I like to share it with others So I’ve created a backlink to your site (from …

  34. Jtosme Movie says:

    Tks…

    Great information! I’ve been looking for something like this for a while now. Thanks!…

  35. Tks…

    I really need it,thank you very much!!!…

  36. Kitchen says:

    Tks…

    Great information! I’ve been looking for something like this for a while now. Thanks!…

  37. Health says:

    Tks…

    Great information! I’ve been looking for something like this for a while now. Thanks!…

  38. Kaffee says:

    Kaffee Salvatore…

    Eine neue Kaffee Seite…

  39. discount bedroom furniture…

    [...]while the sites we link to below are completely unrelated to ours, we think they are worth a read, so have a look[...]…

  40. Hey {this is a|this can be a|it is a} {real|actual} cool {website|web site}…

    Hey I discovered this website to be really fascinating! Bookmarked!…