Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Awesome jam!

I was on a jam-making mission today - and am very pleased with the end result! 

Nick and I had weighed our blackberries last night.  We packed three one-kilo lots into plastic containers.  They stayed in the fridge overnight. 

(There is a smaller container of around 800 grams, still in the fridge, which will be used for dessert tonight).

After dropping Vaughan to school, I washed the berries and put them into one of my largest saucepans (which was actually one of my large thermal cooker pots). 

Given the quantity I wanted to process, I decided to make jam on the stove rather than in the microwave.

Nick made a quick trip into town and returned with more sugar and lemons (as well as bread and milk).

I was set for production!  I used 750 grams of sugar for each kilo of berries.  As I had four lemons, I juiced them and also included some lemon zest.  The mixture did it's thing for quite some time.  I wasn't really timing the exercise, just checking back and stirring regularly.  It looked so pretty bubbling away!

Nick has declared this batch of jam awesome - and we all agree that it is even better than the first one of a fortnight or so ago.  Gotta be happy with that!

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Blackberry bounty ...

There's something very satisfying about jars of jam, chutney or relish lined up together on the pantry shelves - particularly when they are my own handiwork!

I've been keeping an eye out for a local source of blackberries but as it's a serious weed, many areas are  sprayed to control further invasion. 

Nick discovered a huge patch recently when he wandered away from our afternoon tea picnic and called the rest of us to admire his find.

We definitely weren't prepared for blackberry picking but very quickly improvised and came home with a haul of just under 2kg!

The fruit formed the basis of a large dessert cake - and yielded two large jars and one small one of jam.  Yum!

We returned to the same area today, much better prepared - wearing long pants and covered shoes.  We also had a large 11-litre bucket, some plastic containers and several pair of secateurs.

There were even more berries than on our last visit (about two weeks ago)!  We picked berries for around an hour and by then our bucket was about two-thirds full.  I weighed the haul once home again - a little under 4kg!  Wow!

I was too tired to make jam this evening but will process the berries tomorrow.  I'll thoroughly enjoy the sound of popping lids - and the sight of my growing jam collection in the pantry!

Sunday, 1 February 2015

Plum tuckered out!

I've had a big day of cheffing. As well as this morning's batch of Pilfered Plum Preserve I've made a big pot of bolognaise sauce in one of my thermal cookers, a zucchini slice (in the oven), some Minestone-ish soup (on the stove) and now the very last of the plums are baking into a dessert cake.

There weren't all that many plums left, praps a cup and a half. They were pipped and then tipped over the bottom of a greased loaf dish. 

The cake batter is easy:-

3 tablespoons butter
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup self-raising flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup milk

Melt the butter and then mix all together. Beat till smooth, then pour over the fruit.  I used plums because I had them but stewed apple or tinned fruit also work well.

I often make a topping to go over the cake mixture.  It's also easy!  My mum would put it on plain cakes to jazz them up a bit and slices of those cakes regularly featured in my lunchbox, during the days when we lived on a farm and had eggs to spare.  The spicy cake topping recipe was my great-aunt's.  (Gwen was a wonderful cook and used to make the prettiest pink icing roses for my birthday cakes when I was a little girl). 

Here's the method:-

3 tablespoons flour
3 tablespoons sugar
3 teaspoons mixed spice
1 tablespoon melted butter

Mix together and sprinkle over top of cake. Cook as usual.  I don't remember how long I left the cake in the oven.  It was probably about 40 minutes at 180 degrees.   The topping becomes lovely and crunchy when cooked.  The plums were pleasantly tart and it was a fine dessert served with some ice cream!

Some toast for Grandma ...

During my early teenage years I was very lucky to spend three consecutive long Christmas summer holidays in New Zealand with my closest friend, her brother and their wonderful grandparents.

Grandma fussed over all of us equally and I was always welcomed as an extra grand-daughter, during those visits and many others since.

I'm not sure my plum jam is as good as Grandma's but as I munched my toast (with real butter and pilfered plum preserve) this morning, I enjoyed lots of happy memories of her - and her shelves of beautifully bottled preserved fruits.

Of course, I also remembered Grandad's story oft-repeated story of the plum jam mouse but fortunately my jam was mouse-free!

I made a batch of jam after breakfast.  There was just enough white sugar for another kilo of fruit. I made a few notes yesterday and used them this morning to ensure no jam boiled over. I'm pretty pleased with the batch, which filled two large jars, one small jar and four individual serve sample pots. 

All up the ingredients for three batches of jam cost $4.39.  Nick and I weighed one of the large jars (empty and full), so were able to calculate the jam contents as being just under 600 grams.  When I looked at Woolworths online, a 600g value pack of IXL plum conserve is currently on special for $3.50, with it's usual price being $4.29. My ingredients cost just a little more than that - and my yield was probably the equivalent of about seven or eight similar-sized jars!