Tuesday, August 26, 2008

"Jellies soother than the creamy curd..."

The blackberries this year seemed early and plentiful, beginning to ripen at the end of July.
I felt an urge to a bit of country-wifery, and, as pips are not allowed in the current dietary regime, this meant bramble jelly. Indeed, blackberry pips are really a little too pippy in any quantity, though I have never forgiven the rudeness of one of our elderly neighbours, to whom I had given a jar of blackberry and apple jam, who brought the empty jar back the next day, evidently emptied and rinsed out, saying she hadn't liked it because of the pips.

The pips in raspberry jam, however, contribute indispensibly to its raspberry-jamminess, and I would consider raspberry jelly to be an emasculated kind of a thing. But raspberries are never in sufficient quantities these days to do anything with other than eat with cream. In my childhood we had a forest of raspberry canes which the birds never seemed to raid, and an unlimited supply of the fruit which we could mess about with, inventing recipes and gorging ourselves all summer, culminating in an evening of fragrant jam making with the doors open to the evening air. There was never any problem with setting, and I don't remember adding any apple for pectin, though we also had a good old double-trunked Bramley apple tree in the same corner of the garden. Bramley apples are one of the things I sometimes think about wistfully here, though 'miss' may be too strong a word. Granny Smiths are a dismal apology for cooking apples, though Tom likes to eat them raw, I can't abide their plasticcy skins and watery acidity.

So, bramble jelly. I'm sure you all know how to make it, or else live in parts of the world where blackberries don't grow, but in my usual spirit of teaching my grandmother to suck eggs, I'll tell you how I did it. I picked somewhat under a kilo of berries, about two pounds, they don't have to be the most perfect specimens for jelly, then raided one of Victor's roadside cider wildings for a handful of the underripe apples, for the pectin, to make it set. I heaped them up in nonchalant still-life attitudes for the photo call, then soaked the blackberries for a few hours in cold water with some bicarbonate of soda. Not many bugs came out, and I rinsed them off.


Then I roughly chopped up the li'l green apples, and just covered the whole with water. and stewed and stewed them all up.


When it's all turned into a lovely dark purple mush, you get a big bowl and a jelly bag, and scoop the mush into the latter, and suspend it over the former. This is not a very photogenic part of the proceedings, because, at the risk of giving the more delicate among you an attack of the vapours, the distended jelly bag looks like nothing so much as a set of bull's testicles. I think I've lived in the country too long.


Anyway, it drips away happily, overnight if possible. Now this is my most important instruction: don't listen to any of those Women's Institute types who tell you not to squeeze the jelly bag. You must squeeze the jelly bag at the end, for several reasons: 1) You will obtain more juice that way, and more juice means more jam. 2) Who wants crystal clear jelly? It has much more flavour with a bit of pulp in it. 3) You will experience the delicious sensation of pectinous, purple, fragrant juice running all over your hands 4) You won't be able to help yourself. So, go on, squeeze that jelly bag, you know you want to, and furthermore, unless you work in a very specific sector of agricultural science, it's the nearest you'll get to squeezing a set of bull's testicles!
The next bit is where metric weights and meausures, about which I'm not normally at all Luddite, let you down, because there is no satisfactory metric rule of thumb corresponding to a pint to a pound. Measure your juice, and mix it in the preserving pan with sugar, a pint to a pound. I am continentally assimilated to the point where I only have metric scales, but I do still have a pint measuring jug. A foot in both camps.
Bring it all to a good roiling, or rolling, boil, then turn it down a bit and leave it for twenty minutes or so. You can skim the frothy stuff off if you like, which is good because then you get to eat it.
Setting. I still make mistakes and put jam in jars before it's reached setting point, even apparently idiot proof things chock-full of pectin like aple jelly and marmalade, and there's nothing worse than having to pour it all back in the pan and reboil it. (Actually, there's probably many things worse, but not in the area of jam-making. No, in fact, burning the whole lot to the bottom of the pan while you go back to bed of a Sunday morning, that's worse. I've done that too...)
The spoon test never seems quite reliable, I put a blob on a glass plate and put it in the freezer, then wander off while it goes on bubbling. In a few minutes it should be chilled and wrinkle when you push it across the plate. I reckon if it does, with the extra few minutes it's had while you've waited, it should be set. This method is also good because you get to lick the rest of the blob off the cold plate.
I never do any of the recommended waiting till it cools then putting it in sterilised jars. Cooled jam seems to me a recipe for mouldy jam in next to no time. I rinse the jars, lids on, with boiling water, then pour the hot jam straight in and screw the lids on. They go ping ping as they contract later. It generally seals well.
So now you have pretty purple jars of sweet stuff, to put on your toast and rice pudding, with no pips!


~~~~~

I'm writing this while I can, since the computer is complaining mightily, refusing to co-operate in unpredictable ways and throwing up blue-screen error messages. I've de-fragged it, done a hard disk check and fix, tried a system restore but it refuses to do that either, so I think I might call our friendly local anglophone computer whiz for advice, and perhaps visit the nice young Erwanns at Gigahertz. I don't like the idea of allowing Dell to come and take it away, but that might be necessary. It's no age to be breaking down like this really. I scribbled down all the impenetrable codes on the blue-screen message, and saved everything of value on DVD and USB key. Last night it wouldn't connect to the internet at all though the ballon was coming up telling me it had.

Another thing going wrong this summer, but a computer doesn't bleed or feel pain. If I have to do without it for a bit, I'll hold you all in my heart until we meet again, and dream of the day when we have advanced so as a species we can do all this telepathically without the need for cumbersome intermediary machines. See you soon.

23 comments:

Crafty Green Poet said...

I really enjoyed reading this. Our blackberries are still ripening, well some are ripe but most aren't.

I don't like Granny Smith's for the same reason's as you....

I have a foot in both camps too, metric and imperial, very confusing sometimes, but you make a good point about pint per pound....

Dick said...

Good luck with the ailing pc, Lucy. My PowerBook's beginning to mess around too - interminable loading times, sudden page freezes, mysterious feverish messages. I'm shocked at how bereft I shall be if it folds!

Lee said...

OK. Now, bring on the clotted cream!

Barrett Bonden said...

Computers may not bleed or feel pain but they are clearly vengeful. In fact I tremble at conveying this thought via a computer. Have you downloaded the freebie Spybot? It helps my computer clear its throat from time to time.

Needless to say jam-making is well beyond my culinary competence though I have done my bit in trawling the county for Seville oranges during the marmalade season. My only misgiving is the time it all takes. The house smells delicious but I am ever conscious of that new unit of measurement - the jam-hour - ticking away.

Grannies have one worthwhile quality - reliable crunchiness.

herhimnbryn said...

Alright I'll admit it, I'll let you know my secret vice............blackberry jam/jelly and clotted cream on a slice of wholemeal bread.

apprentice said...

I doubt ours will ever ripen in this unending gloom!

But I can smell these. I love them in a crumble with apples, with a brown sugar and muesli crumble topping.

apprentice said...

PS good luck with the computer.
I hope it's not a virus, sounds like it may be a firewall problem.

marja-leena said...

I love reading about your country-wifery days, and had to laugh about 'squeeze'! Yum!

Good luck with the computer, how stressful!

Plutarch said...

Making jelly always seems more satisfactory than making jam. You describe it beautifully. Maybe it's the translucent quality of jelly that appeals. I usually make crab apple jelly and have to remember never to squeeze the muslin because it makes the jelly cloudy.

Rosie said...

oh yes lovely ... raspberries. We have lots of them just about to become ripe at the same time! There is nothing like the smell when staggering about amongst the canes collecting them.It is intoxicating.
I think I have found a solution to the egg glut...raspberry klafouti

HLiza said...

And here's somebody who's never seen berries or apples on trees..they only exist in the chilled section in supermarkets..(I think they don't have berries either). Jams..should come from grocery stores..not made painfully..he he. We don't eat much toast here and I don't eat them with jam..I find the commercially made one too sweet..so I give them a miss.

And that neighbour was really rude..

Granny J said...

Berries -- I never came across so many kinds of wild berries as I saw on my Alaska visit, many of which I'd never heard of. Including raspberries.
Your jelly sounds extra yummy.

Midsummerprism said...

She rinsed out the jar??

Bad bad lady!

Awww' I would have treasured the gift pips and all! Those berries are a kings luxury where live. We have them here but imported from your country and absolutely soooo expensive..totally costs an arm and a leg...

They come packaged in delicate enticing see thru' boxes..I mostly just gently caress the containers wondering wondering from what far far far far away garden it might have come from....must be dreamy to see....

Then I almost whisper an apology because I'd have to settle for a local fruit, or if indulgent, a plum and a few nectarines.

We have the jams tho'..imported as well, expensive by local purchasing standard still, but far more affordable...I love the taste of it and spread it with butter over toast or a nice creamy biscuit...with a cup of green tea with a swimming few twigs of peppermint leaves....or coffee...frothy coffee with a dash of mocha and cinnamon...

uh ow'..am hungry now...

meggie said...

Oh the Blackberry Jelly my Grandmother made!! Sometimes she made jam, which was rather nice, & more lumpy, - & seedy!
She used my mother's old, but washed, of course, nylon stockings, knotted onto the wooden spoon, suspended over the old concrete tub, to let let the juice collect, in a large bowl, which I have inherited, but cannot claim yet, as it was too bulky to fly home.

Tori said...

Oh SWOON!

Jan said...

Lovely juicy delicious pictures so I'm now off to have a glutton on wotever fruit I can find in the bowl...
YOur blog is constantly A TREAT.

herhimnbryn said...

I miss Bramley apples too.

Bee said...

I'm delighted to have a recipe for bramble jelly, as I now have access to lots of blackberries without the childhood knowledge of what to do with the stuff other than eat it straight off the bramble. We are still basking in the summer delights of the south of France, but I know it will feel and look like autumn when I return to England. This sounds like just the sort of project to launch me into the new season. This and buying new pencil cases, of course.

Avus said...

PCs ...I hate 'em! Mine crashed spectacularly a month ago and it was time to get a new one (when I tell you I was on Windows 95, you will understand).
Having bought one (Windows Vista) I then found that I could not download a new driver for the scanner, so dumped it (more expense). Most other programmes reloaded - even Microsoft Office 97 - which was nice, but many photo programs needed new drivers.
So that is why my blog has been quiet for a month or so - I am just fed up with staring at a screen trying to get things back to normal!

Sheila said...

This is simply scrumptious, to the eyes and to the imagination of the taste buds! Those colors!

And you crack me up with your too-long-in-the-country bit!

You're feeding my desire to quit my job and stay home and do this kind of thing.

Dave King said...

I've got an awful feeling that I didn't tell you that all that remains for you to do is to copy the Kick Ass Blogger logo from my - or any - site and install it on yours. Sorry if I didn't.

Isabelle said...

Oh yes, my computer sometimes won't save things or open things... very tedious, but this evening our little Cassie cat started collapsing and the vet thought she'd been poisoned by eating slug pellets. Much worse than our ill computer! She's still in "hospital" but seems to be improving. Stress!

Anil P said...

Very informative, more so since I don't get to see the fruits where I stay. The pictures are indeed appetising.

Once the jam is ready and bottled how long does it last through the year without spoiling?

Out here the heat when it invades spaces can and does reduce the shelf life, in the rains moulds do set in.