Sitting in the garden on a summer’s evening, the sun glistens on the cherry tree’s dew from the recent downpour. You can count on the beautiful UK weather to keep the plants refreshed. It’s almost possible hear the small berries soaking up the water and turning into a beautiful red ball of deliciousness ready to be picked. These are to the left of me, and to the right, green bean stalks are slowly crawling up bamboo shoots. If you look closely enough, you can see the first signs of bean life. One of my favourite things is to pick the pods straight out of the garden and eat the peas inside raw. The crunch and flavour they hold is delicious.
Amongst these in my garden there is a mixture of delights being nurtured; including strawberries, blueberries, broccoli, tomatoes, pak choi, salad, asparagus, spinach, onions, basil, lemon balm, oregano, thyme, chives, mint, rosemary, parsley, sage, and fennel. Some of these are growing wonderfully, ad others not so much. Have you ever tried to grow asparagus? We definitely haven’t had an edible crop yet, but this is the fun of homemade produce! Sometimes it works, and sometimes it’s a disaster!
Growing your own fruit and vegetables is wonderful. You don’t have to have a big garden with lots of space to do it either! You don’t even have to have a garden! Think of how lovely a box full of scented herbs would look in your kitchen window. I’m lucky enough to have a ‘gardener’ i.e. The boyfriend, to sow seeds and tend to the produce living in our back garden. And… just a short walk down a path, leads to open land behind our house, and that leads to rows of bushes full of juicy blackberries screaming to be picked. It is this little walk that leads me to this blog post. What do you do with a basket full of the sweet berries… you make jam of course! That is exactly what I did.
The rhubarb season has already been and gone so only the remains of this can be seen poking out through the freshly turned soil. It was a good crop this year, so I saved each stalk, cut it into bite size pieces and froze it for a rainy day. Today has been half rainy, half sunny, so I’ve used that as an excuse to defrost and turn the beautiful fruit into jam just like the freshly picked berries. If I’m doing one type of jam, I may as well go for it and do two. Seeing the finished product in jars and cooling on dining room table puts a big smile on my face. I can say that the jam has been lovingly created from homemade and handpicked fruit. It feels wonderful and I can’t wait to share it with friends and family.
I have taken two traditional flavours and given them a little modern twist. That additional touch, I believe makes all the difference and sets the jams apart from any of the others currently half eaten in my kitchen cupboard.
Jar 1 – Blackberry & Vanilla
Jar 2 – Rhubarb and Ginger
There’s something quite therapeutic about watching berries burst when exposed to heat and the smell of rhubarb as it fills every room in the house with a wonderful scent.
Usually I would decorate the jar with a hessian cover and ribbon, which will happen at a later date… But I just couldn’t wait to share these with you, so you are seeing the bare product, fresh from the stove. I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t nearly drop the jars a few times due to the heat of the glass whilst trying to take photos! If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll see the decorated finished product soon enough! So keep your eyes peeled 🙂
Recipe 1 – Blackberry & Vanilla Jam (Made x2 medium jars)
Adapted from ‘Grandma’s Special Recipes; Jams, Jellies & Preserves’
– 450g Blackberries
– 450g granulated sugar (I used white)
– 2 tbsps lemon juice
– 1 tbsp vanilla extract (Needs to be good quality)
– Sterilise a couple of jars and leave to dry or place in oven on a very low heat.
– Put the berries into a pan (not aluminium) and place over a low heat until soft. Press fruit lightly with a wooden spoon during this stage so the juices are released.
– Add the sugar, lemon and vanilla and stir until all ingredients have dissolved.
– Turn up the heat and boil until setting point is reached. (It’s easy for the jam to burn if left so keep stirring regularly.)
(Note: the temperature at which jam sets is 104C/219F, so if you have a sugar thermometer, hook it to the side of the pan. If not, place a small plate in the fridge to cool whilst the jam boils. Drop a blob of jam on cold plate and place back in fridge for a minute. If jam wrinkles or doesn’t close back up when a finger is run through it, it’s done.)
– Spoon into jars and seal tightly. Leave in a safe place to cool before storing.
Recipe 2 – Rhubarb & Ginger Jam (Made x3 medium jars)
Adapted from Ruby Tandoh’s column in ‘The Guardian’
– 600g rhubarb, chopped into 3-4cm chunks
– 600g granulated sugar (I used a mixture of white & golden)
– Juice of 2 small lemons
– Chunk of grated ginger (Amount depends on your preference. I used 2 tbsps.)
– Sterilise jars and leave to dry or put in a warmed oven.
– Mix rhubarb, sugar and lemon juice in a large pan (not aluminium) and put over a low heat.
– Mix in grated ginger and heat until mixture starts to soften.
– Let jam boil for roughly 10-15 minutes (stir regularly).
(Note: the temperature at which jam sets is 104C/219F, so if you have a sugar thermometer, hook it to the side of the pan. If not, place a small plate in the fridge to cool whilst the jam boils)
– After about 10 minutes, check the temperature or place a small blob of jam on the cool plate and put back in the fridge for a minute. Run your finger through the jam and if it wrinkles or doesn’t close the gap again, it’s ready to be jarred.
– Leave to cool for 15 minutes, the pour into sterilised jars. Leave to cool in a safe place before storing.
In no time at all, you have a collection of jars cooling, ready to spread on the eagerly awaiting Monday morning toast, or stirred into creamy porridge. Brilliant pick-me-ups for a long day in the office.
Already started planting those seeds and walking the paths finding berries? Thought you might have 🙂
Until next time…
Love and Lemons xxx