Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Blackberry and Elderberry Jelly

I was determined to have a lazy Sunday recently and not spend it in a whirlwind of cooking, baking, cleaning, listening to Lyric Fm and trying to read Saturday's paper. I decided to go for a walk instead with the dogs and just happened to look up.

I mean what do you do? Leave all those luscious black elderberries for the birds not to mention probably the best crop of blackberries for the second year in a row?

So out came my plastic bag and I started picking. I always have a bag in my pocket these days. Not for the dogs but for what I might find out and about.

I picked just over 900g of blackberries and 100g of elderberries, as once you strip the actual berries off you don't have very much weight.

So to the jelly.

I bought this jam pot in Aldi recently. I sometimes think I am mad with the stuff I buy in there. But this is absolutely fantastic. It has a very heavy bottom which allows you to have the heat really low and it keeps bubbling away. It is also really well designed for lifting and pouring. And best of all it was only €25!

My recipe
900g blackberries
100g elderberries
150ml water
Juice of one lemon
1 tart apple (I used a cider apple variety which is midway between a cooker and an eater)

Put everything in the pot except the sugar. Simmer until everything is pulpy and soft. It took over an hour. Use a potato masher and give the whole thing a good mash.

Allow it to cool slightly and then pour into a sieve lined with muslin over a clean basin and leave to sit overnight. Don't push the juice through or your jelly will be cloudy. Allow the weight and gravity to do the work. 

Next day measure the juice. I had just under 600ml. I added 350g sugar and stirred and simmered it until it was dissolved. When it reaches setting point, 105 deg, on a jam thermometer turn off the heat. Alternatively test for a set after about 15 minutes by spooning some onto a small plate and putting on your kitchen window or in your fridge for a few minutes.  Then run your finger through and if it wrinkles, it's set. Turn off the heat under your pot while you do this.

Allow to cool for about 10 minutes and pour carefully into warmed, sterilised jam jars. 

When completely cold, put lids on tightly. 

I used a lot less sugar than normally advised in similar recipes so this would be good with cheese, in gravies/sauces or on bread.

Note: You do not need to follow the above quantities. If you have more elderberries that is fine. What is important that when you measure the syrup produced you add at least half the quantity in sugar for it to set.

Saturday, 30 August 2014

Courgette Spaghetti

Really simple to make. Almost therapeutic. And you do not need a spiraliser unless you are really, really uptight about getting even strips.

Wash, dry, top and tail your courgette. Try get a straight one. A curly one makes life much more difficult. So we are talking supermarket perfection here.

Use a potato peeler and peel strips. Work until you hit seeds and turn the courgette over and work on the other side.

Using a cook's knife cut into strips as evenly as you can manage and to your preferred thickness.

Put a big knob of butter and a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil into a pan with a small clove of garlic crushed and finely chopped. Heat gently. Add courgette and toss around for about 4 minutes. Add some freshly ground pepper and a pinch of sea salt.

You could also toss through some pesto.  Or a cherry tomato cream sauce.

Either way it's a revelation. I'm not sure why but it is amazing.

Another serving suggestion - chicken stuffed with pesto, goats cheese and wrapped in proscuitto with purple sprouting broccoli. Summer is almost over so make the most of summer veg before cold autumnal evenings draw in. 

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Blackberry Vinegar

To begin with it helps to save a few vinegar bottles. I find the SuperValu range very good as the shaker thingies come out easily for cleaning. Also the labels are easily removed. There is nothing more annoying than labels that you have to scrape and soak in hot water to get off glue.

I followed a River Cottage recipe (roughly) but halved the sugar.

250g blackberries
300ml red wine vinegar

Put the blackberries in a bowl and pour the vinegar over. Cover loosely and leave for 4 or 5 days.

Strain the vinegar mix through a double layer of muslin. Gather up the muslin and give it all a good squeeze until you extract every last bit of the liquid. Measure the liquid. Pour into a saucepan and for every 600ml add 200g sugar (the RC recipe adds 454g sugar). I got exactly 600ml out of the above quantities. Heat slowly stirring to dissolve the sugar and bring to the boil. Cool and pour into the cleaned and sterilised bottles. Label and store for a few months.

I had a small quantity leftover and used it immediately in a salad dressing (1 part to 3 parts extra virgin olive oil, a teaspoon of wholegrain mustard and seasoning) and it was delicious but it will mature and the flavour will improve.

I also made one batch with half and half blackberries and blackcurrants and followed the method above. If you like you could add a bit of extra sugar to the blackberry and blackcurrant vinegar.