Category Archives: preserves

Concentrated mint sauce

To continue with the theme of mint…

Whilst I was picking the mint for the Shropshire Mint Cakes I picked enough to make a jar of concentrated mint sauce to make sure that we have some for our roast lamb this winter. Mary Berry, the source of this recipe, (although I have also found it in one of my Shropshire recipe books), suggests that you make this concentrate in June just before the mint flowers.  I never make it then, as winter seems so very far away and I always think about it but never get round to it.  But actually the mint in my garden flowers in June and then rejuvenates itself and flowers again in September and this year is still growing new shoots even now.

This mint sauce is made with the tender and strongly scented new tips.  I managed to pick 50g, which is a fair amount of mint in a bowl. But as you only need a teaspoon or so each time you make mint sauce, this will last me through the winter roasts until the new mint comes through next spring.  If you have plenty then double up and make a jar for a friend.  It will definitely be appreciated.

To use the concentrate in the winter.  Take a heaped teaspoon of the concentrate and mix in a bowl with a slosh of vinegar and it’s ready to douse your lamb.

50g mint sprigs
100ml vinegar (Mary Berry suggests distilled vinegar but I use white wine vinegar)
75g granulated sugar

Method

Wash a jar and its lid well in soapy water, rinse in clean hot water and place in a low oven for 15 minutes to sterilise.

Place the vinegar and sugar in a pan and bring slowly to the boil (this will allow the sugar to dissolve before boiling point is reached).  Now you can either chop the mint leaves using a knife and then add to the hot vinegar or you can put the leaves in a food processor and add half the vinegar and pulse until finely chopped, then add to the rest of the vinegar (be careful with the hot vinegar).  Pour into the warm sterile jar and seal immediately.

 

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Crabapple jelly

I was reading Cathy’s post about the beauty of design in nature and found it very inspiring.  I immediately felt the need to take a walk to experience some of this beauty just outside my door.  The perfect excuse for this was provided by the heavily laden crab apple in the hedge.  It has been a few years since I have seen such drooping branches.  The crab apple is a beautiful fruit, a miniature apple made all the more beautiful by its scars and blemishes. I filled a large bucket with carefully picked beauties and wandered back admiring the beginning of autumn and the hues of red, brown and gold peeking between the green.

A quick rinse of my 2½ kilos and they were destined for the preserving pan.

How a green bitter fruit can turn into an amber jelly is one of the magical acts of cookery. When you cook those apples into a green sludge you do wonder how the jelly will be transformed into something that you may want to eat alongside your roast lamb. But, honestly, you will enjoy every sweet appley mouthful and it feels even better that all you paid for was the heat and the sugar.

As many crabapples as you want to use ( I picked 2½ kilos)
Enough water to just cover them in the pan
Granulated sugar  450g for every 600ml of strained juice
If you wanted a little spice then feel free to add a cinnamon stick, 4 cloves, coriander seed or  a star anise into the pot

Method

Rinse the crab apples and place whole into a preserving pan (if you have time and patience you could quarter then to reduce the cooking time a little).  Add enough water to barely cover them (I needed 3 litres for my 2½ kilo). Bring to the boil and simmer until the fruit has turned to a sludgy mush. You can give them a stir to help them break up a bit.

Allow to cool a little and then pour into a jelly bag and leave to strain overnight into a large bowl. Do not squeeze the bag or the jelly will be cloudy.

Measure the strained juice and pour back into the preserving pan.  Bring this slowly back to the boil.  measure out 450g sugar for every 600ml of juice you have and then add this to the boiling juice.  Stir until the sugar dissolves and then leave the juice boiling rapidly until setting point is achieved.  You can tell setting point by placing a few saucers into the fridge when you start to boil the fruit and then testing the jelly by taking a spoonful of the mixture and pouring onto the cold saucer.  Leave to cool and then push your finger through.  If it wrinkles it has reached setting point.  Carefully pour the hot jelly into hot sterile jars and seal immediately.  Leave to cool before labelling. My 2½ kilos made 7 jars.

To sterilise your jars and lids, wash well in warm soapy water and rinse with clean water.  Place in a roasting pan, lids as well and place in a low oven for 10 minutes (the simmering oven of the Aga is ideal). They should still be hot when you pour the mixture into them.

 

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Pickled peaches

My mum and dad have a peach tree in their garden and because we live in Shropshire and not Spain they are much smaller than the peaches that you buy.  You have to pick them before the grey squirrels find them and then leave them to ripen in the fruit bowl.  This year there has been plenty on the tree and I commandeered them to try out this way of preserving them for the winter months.

They were fiddly little blighters to peel, but they are very lovely with their pink blushing cheeks.
 Once made you need to leave them for a month before eating to give the flavours a chance to mellow and pickle away. So I am looking forward to enjoying these with a slice of ham in October and I will definitely  be saving some for Christmas.

Makes 4-5 jars

1.5kg peaches
500ml white wine vinegar (or cider vinegar)
600g granulated sugar
25g root ginger (I used about 1 teaspoon from my jar of Lazy Ginger)
8 whole cloves
cinnamon stick
½ tsp coriander seeds
¼ tsp dried chilli flakes

Method

Plunge the peaches into a large pan of boiling water for one minute, drain and then cover with cold water.  Peel the peaches and place in a bowl (I did this in the morning and then pickled the peaches in the afternoon and was surprised at how much blush coloured juice collected in the bowl.  Make sure you pour these juices into the vinegar with the peaches).

Pour the vinegar into a preserving pan, add the sugar, the ginger and the spices and stir over a gentle heat until the sugar has completely dissolved. Bring to the boil, add the peaches and any juice collected in the bowl and turn the heat down to simmer.  Simmer until the peaches are tender, which depending on the ripeness of the peaches will take anywhere from 3-8 minutes.  Spoon the peaches into warm, sterile jars.  Return the syrup to the heat and bring to a boil and allow to boil for 5 minutes.  Carefully pour the syrup over the peaches to the top of the jars and seal with vinegar proof lids.  Leave for one month before trying.

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Aga Marmalade

I adore marmalade.  I really enjoy the bitterness of the orange peel in contrast with the sweet jam.  In fact, I just had to get up to make some toast so that I could have some marmalade because writing about it made my mouth water.  Well, between you and me, I made two pieces and spread the other one with lemon curd. I think it is a well established fact that I am greedy, and now there are crumbs on the laptop.

This is the time of year for making marmalade as it needs to be made from Seville oranges and these are only available from markets in January and early February. The Seville orange is incredibly bitter and not at all one that you want to eat freshly peeled. But when mixed with a ton of sugar they make one of the best things that can be spread on toast. The lady who runs my local market tells me every year of the tale of the woman who was naughtily mixing her bag of oranges between the normal and the Seville.  The Seville is usually a bit dearer and this lady thought she was going to get herself a good deal. The market owner thought it appropriate that she let her get on with it and have fun at home playing orange roulette.

Seville oranges freeze very well, so buy them when you see them and put them in the freezer for making marmalade throughout the year.  In fact, I used frozen for this recipe as I mentioned to my mum that I was off to get some Sevilles and she still had some in her freezer from last year so I used those up. Use them from frozen.

I used Mary Berry’s recipe from The Aga Book. In this recipe she recommends that you simmer fresh fruit for 2 hours and frozen fruit overnight.  This makes me feel better as I missed that instruction and was planning to simmer them for two hours but fell asleep watching telly and went straight to bed having forgotten all about my oranges. You see, things always work out in the end.

This recipe made loads, about 10 jars, so unless you have friends and family who are marmalade fiends too you may want to halve the recipe. You will find another marmalade recipe of mine here.

1½kg (3lb) Seville oranges
Juice of 2 lemons
3 kg (6lb) sugar
2 litres (4 pints) water

Method

Put the whole oranges in the Aga preserving pan and squeeze in the lemon juice. Cover with the water and bring to the boil.  Once boiling, place the pan carefully in the simmering oven and leave to simmer until the oranges are tender (2 hours or so for fresh fruit, overnight for frozen). Remove the oranges and leave to cool. Once cool enough to handle cut them in half and scoop out all the pulp and pips and place these back into the water.  Bring to the boil and boil for 6 minutes.  Strain this liquid into a large bowl through a sieve and, using a spoon, force the pulp through the sieve.  It is this pulp which contains the pectin that will set the marmalade. Pour the liquid back into the preserving pan.

Cut the peel of the oranges as thinly or as thickly as you like your shreds to be and add these to the liquid, along with the sugar.  Bring the whole lot up to a rolling boil and boil until setting point is reached.  You can test for this with a sugar thermometer (105°c) or have a cold saucer ready and when a little is allowed to cool on this saucer it should wrinkle when pushed with your finger.

Allow the marmalade to cool a little (this will help with the distribution of peel through the jar rather than it all sitting at the top) and then pour into sterilised jars.

To sterilise your jars, wash in warm soapy water and rinse with hot water, then place on a baking tray in the simmering oven for twenty minutes.

May 2014: I have been requested to link to Aga Living as this is a recipe from Mary Berry’s Aga Book.

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Medlar jelly

The medlars have bletted.

I am ashamed to admit that I haven’t been brave enough to try one raw.  You are supposed to spoon out the fruit and it should taste sweet and cinnamony, but look at them:

I couldn’t do it.

But I could put them in a pot with some cut lemons and boil them up for an hour or so, strain the liquid through muslin, add sugar and boil again to make jelly.  Now I looked at several recipes, including the one at Celtnet and Nigel Slater’s recipe in last Sunday’s Observer magazine and then of course adapted to make my own.

Now both of the above recipes state that you boil the juice and sugar for around 6 minutes.  I boiled mine for a lot longer before it finally looked like it might set.  At the first boiling of about 10 minutes the liquid was still very liquid the next day so I poured back into the pan and boiled again, probably for another 15 minutes or so before it finally showed signs of wrinkling when a little is spooned onto a cold saucer and pushed with a finger.  Now the reasons for this might be that I didn’t add enough unbletted medlars and so didn’t have enough pectin.  But then again Celtnet use all bletted medlars.  It might also have been my fear of burning things and so not having it at a rapid enough boil.  Maybe a gentle boil just doesn’t do the trick.  So I would recommend using about 400g of unbletted medlars (as Nigel recommends) and really boiling the liquid and not being a wimp like me.

The jelly is nice but I am not sure it is really worth the effort of waiting for weeks for your medlars to blet.  I think quince jelly is just as good and not quite as much faff.  If I had a medlar tree I would make them again, or if I receive a boxful again then I will make it, but I wouldn’t go to the effort of seeking the fruit out particularly. As the friend who gave me the medlars said to me, there is probably a reason why the medlar tree is not so popular as other fruit trees. Having said that I have enjoyed the experiment and I am going to attempt to make medlar fudge and that may be a different kettle of fish.

Strained medlar juice

2kg bletted medlars
3 lemons, sliced in half
2 litres of water
granulated sugar, for every 500ml of strained juice add 375g sugar

Method
Quarter the medlars and place into a large pan, add the lemons.  Pour over 2 litres of water and place on a high heat and bring to the boil.  Partially cover with a lid and allow to simmer for about 1 hour until the fruit is really soft.  The time this will take will depend on how bletted your medlars are.  It may take longer.

Pour the fruit and liquid into a jelly bag, or muslin square or a couple of clean tea towels and tie up and suspend from a hook or a tap ( I used the kitchen cupboard handle and a wooden spoon to secure it) until the juice has run out of the bag.  Don’t be tempted to squeeze the bag or the finished jelly will be cloudy.  Measure the amount of juice you have and pour back into the large pan and add 375g sugar for every 500ml of liquid.  My 2kg of fruit yielded 1.8 litres of juice so I added 1.35kg of sugar.  Put onto a medium heat and stir until the sugar has dissolved, then boil rapidly for at least 4 minutes.  Place a saucer in the fridge or under a very cold running tap and then spoon a little of the liquid onto the saucer, allow to cool slightly and then push it with a finger.  It will wrinkle slightly when it is ready.

Pour into sterile jars, mine filled 7 400g jars, seal and allow to cool.

Serve with roast meats, cold meats and cheese or even spread on toast for a breakfast treat.

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Preserving horseradish

We grew some really good horseradish in the garden this year, although the caterpillars (of the white cabbage butterfly variety) ate the tops.  The little monsters.  I was surprised that they found them delicious, but perhaps the tops aren’t as strong-tasting as the root.  I adore horseradish sauce, especially when it is freshly made with cream.  This is the horseradish I retrieved from the garden and I can tell you it takes some digging out.

There was about 225g (8oz) in its unpeeled form and about 175g (6oz) once peeled.

You can grate it a lot finer on a microplane but I just didn’t think I could bear the eye-watering, so I used the grater attachment in my food processor and whizzed away.  It was still eye-watering, it has to be said, but not as bad as actually standing directly over a grater. This has left me with longer strands, but I am hoping these will give an interesting bite to future horseradish sauce.

To preserve it, mix the grated horseradish with one teaspoon of sugar and half a teaspoon of salt and then pack it into a sterile jar.  Add enough white wine vinegar to cover the horseradish (about 125ml, 4 fl oz) and seal the jar tightly.

I am looking forward to seeing how successful this is as a way of preserving one of my favourite things.

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Meddling with medlars

We have a friend who has a wonderful selection of fruit trees in his garden.  This year we have received basketfuls of apples, walnuts, these cherries

and this week, possibly the most exciting yet.

Okay, the cherries were probably the tastiest and it is a real treat to have cherries fresh from the tree and a huge basketful to boot.  But the medlar is a fruit I have read about and wondered about and I find them very intriguing. Now, according to my friend the colloquial term for these little beauties is Dog’s Arse – I can’t begin to think why.

I was thrilled when he knocked the door bearing a basket full of these unusual fruit.

As they are, fresh off the tree, they are hard and yield very little juice or smell. They are not pleasant eaten raw straight off the tree but I am led to believe that if I leave them in a cool, dark place for a couple of weeks they will start to blet, which is they will soften and turn a darker brown, and then could be eaten raw.  However, I am not sure I will be brave enough to try them when, let’s face it, they will be halfway to rotten, and my friend tells me that he left some to blet last year and just couldn’t fancy eating one.  His chickens had a feast though.

Anyway, my medlars are in the garage bletting away.  I plan to make medlar jelly in the next couple of weeks with them. If anyone has any experience of medlars or has a good recipe for a jelly or anything else then I would be very interested to hear it.

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