Saturday, 19 July 2014

We're Jammin'

I have a serious "thing" for jam making. Well, not just jam really, but all preserves, chutneys, pickles, jellies, curds & flavoured spirits. We inherited a couple of clumps of rhubarb, a very old apple tree and two crab apple trees when we moved to this house, which as resulted in an expanded repertoire of jarred produce as I hate to even see windfalls go to waste (great for using as the base for savoury jellies).

A few weeks ago, little G and I headed off to our local PYO farm to get some strawberries. They don't seem to last very long at the farm, so I thought we'd better pick some sooner rather than later, before baby arrived. 

The freshly picked strawberries were delicious - warm from the sun, sweet and juicy.

As soon as we got home, I got down to the business of turning them into jam. I was convinced that I had pinned on Pinterest a recipe for strawberry and Prosecco jam, but when I looked for it, it turned out to be for rhubarb & Prosecco jelly! A bit of googling found me a guideline recipe for Strawberry Champagne Preserve, which I have altered to suit what I wanted to make. So here it it:

Strawberry & Prosecco Jam

800g strawberries, hulled and roughly chopped
1kg bag of jam sugar (I am big believer in jam sugar as it guarantees a set & is very quick & easy - it has the pectin already added)
200ml Prosecco
Knob of butter
Couple of saucers/plates in the freezer
Jars with screw top lids

1. Wash your empty jars & lids in hot soapy water, rinse and place upside down on a tray in a low oven to sterilise
2. Put prepared strawberries into a large saucepan & crush with a potato masher. If you prefer a smooth jam, use a hand blender to puree.

3. Add sugar and heat over a low to moderate heat, stirring continuously until the sugar has dissolved. Do not allow to boil yet.

4. Add butter and stir in the Prosecco (the butter helps disperse the foam/froth)
5. Bring to the boil over a higher heat, stirring continuously until a rapid, rolling boil that can't be stirred down is achieved

6. Leave to boil for 6 mins
7. Remove from heat. Pour small spoonful onto your plate from the freezer & leave in fridge for 1 min. Push finger through the jam - if it wrinkles and leaves a clean path through the jam, your jam has reached setting point. If it is still too runny, bring jam back to the boil for a further 2 mins & then repeat testing process with a second plate from the freezer. (Sorry, I forgot to take a picture of this step, which would have been useful to see!)
7. When it has reached setting point pour jam into hot jars and screw on the lids. If you have lots of frothy foam that hasn't been dispersed by the butter, you can skim off with a slotted spoon & discard before potting (or eat spread on a bit of bread!), as it spoils the clarity of the jam once potted.

My batch made 3 large jars and 3 small ones.

The jam was super delicious and a beautiful colour. I think it makes a huge difference to the favour if you make the jam as soon after picking the fruit as possible. In previous years I have made jam from fruit that is past its best, and it really loses its flavour and colour.

As I had so many requests from friends to try some, I decided to make a second batch the next day with the remaining strawberries. Unfortunately, Mr W had drunk most of the Prosecco whilst watching the football so I decided to use Rosé wine instead. I added the juice of half a lemon too, as I was worried the jam would be too sweet using Rosé. It turned out EVEN MORE DELICIOUS than the Prosecco version!!

So there we have it. A super-easy, super-delicious jam. 

If you've never tried jam making, give it a go. There is a misconception that it is tricky, that you need special equipment like thermometers and pectin and that it takes hours of standing over boiling jam waiting for it to reach setting point. But I've found that if you use jam sugar, it is pretty foolproof and very quick. For basic jams, you can't go far wrong by following the recipe on the jam sugar bag!

Start saving your empty jam jars!

Thursday, 17 July 2014

A new arrival

Tuesday 17th June 2014 was a momentous day for our family - Eliza Clementine Rose arrived at 8.14pm.

Yes, it's a girl! I was so convinced it would be another boy, that I was rather shell-shocked for the first day or so! I have a daughter!!

And a big girl she is too! 10lb 7oz (only half an ounce lighter than her brother!). This was despite all the midwives assuring us that she would be between 8 and 9lbs at the most! I certainly cook them big, and she was only 3 days late (compared to 9 days and 11 days late for her brothers). Just as well she made an appearance when she did, otherwise who knows how much bigger she would have got!

The labour was rather different to how I expected, although the midwife had warned me that 3rd babies tend be a little different. It was all rather stop start, especially once we got to hospital, but we got there in the end. It was another hypnobirth with no pain relief other than paracetamol! Hypnobirthing really works for me, as it is my natural inclination to turn inwards, and focus on my breathing and shut off from everything around me. The midwives were fantastic, and we were very impressed with the level of care generally (this was our 4th different maternity unit over the years, and by far the best!)

Her big brothers were not overly impressed when they heard the news, as they did so want another brother. But I can report that they are both rather smitten with her now!

So I doubt I will be blogging very much in the next few weeks, as I don't want to bore everyone to tears with baby stuff! Needless to say, I've been getting very little sleep for the last 2 weeks, but things are slowly improving. So much harder now that I have school runs to do!

Update: I didn't get around to posting this post, as Mr W smashed his wrist (his left one, and he is left-handed!) in a quad-biking accident on a work team-building day! He spent a weekend in hospital having surgery to pin his wrist back together. Eliza was only 2.5 weeks old at the time (she's now 4 weeks old), so the last couple of weeks have been rather stressful and tiring for me. Unfortunately, Mr W was supposed to be taking his paternity leave this week and in a couple of weeks time, but instead is on sick leave. So much for me having a rest while he looked after everything! He's trying his best to help, but is very limited with one hand, and still in lots of pain. I'm trying to find a reliable cleaner who can help with ironing too, and need to get the gardener to mow the lawns too.