Monthly Archives: July 2012

The best blackcurrant jam

It used to be that Mr Mac made jam and I made chutney. Usually because Mr Mac has a short attention span and when I would still be up at 2am stirring the chutney, patiently waiting for the vinegar to evaporate and a “channel” to form, he would be giving out zzzzz’s, the jam finished hours ago.

However, I’m not sure how it happened but I seem to be the one who makes the blackcurrant jam now (not the gooseberry, raspberry or strawberry though). So despite the awful weather, we picked a bumber crop of blackcurrants at the weekend – just over 6lbs from 2 bushes. Don’t quote me but I have a sneaky feeling blackcurrants have a strong Scottish connection and therefore thrive in the dreich, damp, drizzle!

Anyway, between us we have been making this jam for years. It gets rave reviews from everyone who tries it and it is so simple and quick to make although I must credit the Goddess that is Delia as the recipe is hers!

ingredients (for approx 9-10lbs)

  • 3lb blackcurrants with the stalks picked off and washed
  • 1.5 pints water
  • 3lb 12oz sugar

method

  1. Put the oven on to a medium heat. Sterilise enough jars for about 10lbs of jam. I put them in the dishwasher and then stick them in the oven.
  2. Measure the sugar and put it in the oven to warm it through.
  3. Put a couple of plates in the freezer (seriously – trust me!).
  4. Put the blackcurrants and water into a large pot and slowly simmer until the fruit is tender. You want to try and keep some of the fruit whole.
  5. Tip in the warm sugar and stir it in gently until it has all dissolved. Coat the back of the spoon and you will be able to see if the sugar has not dissolved.
  6. Once all the sugar has dissolved, turn the heat as high as it will go and boil the jam rapidly for 10 minutes.
  7. Get a plate out of the freezer and spoon some of the jam onto it. When the jam is cool, push it with your finger and if a crinkly skin has formed, it has set. If not, boil again for 5 minutes and keep doing the set test.
  8. Remove jars from the oven (remembering to wear oven gloves – just giving you the benefit of my personal experience) and I use a ladel to fill a measuring jug which makes it easier to pour the jam into the jars.
  9. Tighten the lids and leave to cool. Depending what type of worktop you have place the jars on a wooden chopping board if you have one. Granite, slate or stone might cause the jars to crack.

Two important points to remember. First, scoop some jam into a little ramekin so you can try some on toast or with creamed rice for your supper. Secondly, make sure you keep a Mr Mac (or equivalent) handy so when, in the middle of the night, the lids start to pop, you can send him downstairs to check it is not a burglar!
Enjoy!

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Sometimes it pays to be lazy

Today was a rare thing in these parts….a sunny day! Well it was until 4pm when it started to thunder and pour with rain.  However, it was a well needed weekend opportunity to have a good tidy in the garden. Plus I still have flowers in the greenhouse which should have been planted out months ago. (They are still there after rain stopped play!).
Every year I always have big plans for the border underneath the kitchen window. This year was no different. It was going to be a swathe of chrysanthemums, asters, clarkia, cornflowers and any other cut flower I could get my hands on.

With everything else to do I just never got round to it. I did plant some chrysanthemum seeds but I think Dennis dug them up before they had a chance to germinate.  I just left it and pulled out the odd weed every time I walked past.

Last year I planted calendula in this border and look what happened!

They self-seeded and have virtually taken up the whole border.

They same thing has also happened at the gate.

I have not had even a fraction of this success with the flowers I have grown from seed this year.

I also felt bad about neglecting my herbs. Watering was erratic and most of them went to seed. However, in the case of coriander this is a good thing. I now have loads of coriander seeds for cooking with. Result!

So maybe the secret to success in the garden is just do nothing at all!

 

If Noah had a garden……

…..do you think it would have looked like this?

 

 

 

 

Or this?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gardeners in the UK will  relate to my plight. For those elsewhere in the world, this is not just another Brit moaning about the weather. Record after record has been broken since April and today was just one downpour too far for my already waterlogged garden. There has been so much rain that I have not needed to water any plants outside since May! After this afternoon’s deluge, what the slugs had not eaten has been washed away. Underneath the water in the photo are livingstone daisies, snap dragons and california poppies.

Apparently it is all down to the jet stream being in the wrong place but if you are to believe the weather forecasters it is on its way back to where it should be and things should be back to normal soon. For central Scotland that means humid drizzle and frizzy hair!

On the plus side we have harvested and eaten the first early potatoes. Having read the books, when first earlies flower, that is the time to dig them up. However, we waited and waited and they never flowered. The stems went yellow and fell over so we decided to see what was underneath.

The main crop tatties are in bags in the garden and are currently being decimated by slugs….but that’s a whole other blog, dear readers!

My experiment to have early carrots and petit pois worked and both crops have been eated and frozen respectively. Unfortunately, the second lot of carrot seeds I planted seemed to stop growing when they got to about 1cm high and as I have not got round to planting some more I now find myself having a bit of a carrot shortage. The peas outside are flowering so hopefully there should be more of them soon.

The spinach and pak choi were great but lack of maintenance meant they went to seed before we could eat it all.

Outside we have started to pick raspberries but as I write, the strawberries are under water! The blackcurrants and gooseberries should be ready for picking this weekend – jamtastic!

My first head of cauliflower has formed and there have been some small spears of brocolli. I need to research how you are supposed to pick  grow brocolli because mine just seems to flower immediately before an actual head forms. It’s tasty all the same. If anyone can help, please tell me where I am going wrong.

And finally, I have three tomatoes! In recent years we always started eating tomatoes around mid-June. Now we are half-way through July and look at how far behind we are. I am looking forward to my first roast cherry tomato and spaghetti supper.