A new jam experiment

This year we have an allotment. On this allotment are inherited gooseberry bushes, one of which has been extremely prolific in fruit production. I harvested nearly the entire fruit crop today and spent a long time topping and tailing them all.

Most of the fruits were destined for the freezer, however you know me, I just couldn’t resist having a bash at making some jam. And as usual, I used my standard receipe of equal parts fruit and sugar with water, the details that follow will remind you how I make my jam.

I used my last recipe for Blueberry, blackberry and blackcurrant jam, substituting those berries for gooseberries entirely.

Cooking time:
Approx 30 minutes.
Makes approx 1 jar (Kilner – 500 grams/ml)

Ingredients:
333 gm gooseberries
333 gm sugar
200 ml water

Cooking instructions:
Place a saucer into the freezer to chill (to test the setting point of the jam).

Sterilise the jam jars – wash the jars in soapy water and rinse in clean warm water. Allow them to drip-dry, upside down, on a rack in the oven set to 140C/275F/Gas 1. Leave them there for at least half an hour while you make the jam.

Put the gooseberries into a pan with the water
Bring to simmer
Simmer for 15-20 minutes

Add the sugar and stir on a low heat until all the sugar is dissolved.
To check if the sugar is dissolved, coat the back of the spoon with the juice and check that no sugar crystals are visible.
Once the sugar is dissolved, bring the mixture to the boil, then boil on a rolling boil for 5 minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat and stir the mixture to start the cooling process.
Test to see if set on a cold saucer by putting a teaspoonful of jam on the chilled saucer (that you have now taken out of the freezer) and allow it to cool completely.
Then push the mixture with your finger, if it begins to wrinkle and sit up proudly without any liquid running out, the preserve is set. If it slides about as a liquid, then it hasn’t yet reached setting point and the pan of jam mixture should be returned to the heat and boiled for 3 more minutes before testing again. Repeat this process until the preserve is set.
Once the test mixture sets, stand the pan for 10-15 minutes so that the fruit doesn’t sink to the bottom of your jam once it is transferred to your jar.

Pour the mixture from your pan into the hot sterilised jar, seal and allow to cool.

When I made the jam this time, there was some caramelised mixture on the bottom of the pan, I decided to risk mixing it in to the jam to add a bit of flavour to the preserve, I think it made the end result a little darker in colour, but other than that did not seem to convey any negative affects.

Of course that little bit of jam on the chilled saucer is excellent to test the taste of my jam. so, what is the verdict?

The jam is very pleasant taste-wise, however it is a little bit on the sweet side, with not quite enough gooseberry flavour, for mine and my husbands tastebuds. So next time I make gooseberry jam I am going to adjust the quantities slightly. Possibly a dangerous step, but as I only ever make about one jar at a time, the risk is reduced as regards wasted fruit, and anyway without experimentation things cannot be improved.
This is my intended recipe ratio:
366 gm gooseberries
300 gm sugar
200 ml water
I figure that the volume of ‘solid’ to ‘liquid’ should remain balanced and hopefully produce a more tangy jam. We shall see, and shall report further, when I next make gooseberry jam

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Yoghurt scones

We had a little experiment this weekend. As we didn’t have milk available, but we did have yoghurt, we thought it was still worth a try at making scones.

Yoghurt is a tad acidic, so in theory this should give a boost to the raising agents in the flour and baking powder, and add a nice tang into the bargain.

Allow 5 minutes for preparation and about 10 minutes for cooking.

175g self-raising flour, plus extra for dusting
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
43g butter, cut into cubes
1 1/2 tbsp caster sugar infused with vanilla (or add 1 tsp vanilla extract)
90ml plain yoghurt
43g sultanas (optional)
(If preferred beaten egg, to glaze)
Jam and clotted cream, to serve

Heat the oven to 220C/fan 200C/gas 7.

Put the flour into a bowl with the salt and baking powder, then mix.

Add the butter, then gently rub in with your fingers tips until the mix looks like fine crumbs.

Stir in the sugar (if adding sultanas, stir in at the same time as the sugar).

Put a baking sheet in the oven to heat (we use a silicon sheet on top, but you could just grease and dust with flour).

Make a well in the dry mixture, add the yoghurt and combine the ingredients quickly with a blunt knife (it will seem quite wet to start with).

Scatter some flour onto the work surface and tip out the dough. Dust the dough and your hands with a little flour, then fold the dough over 2-3 times until it is a bit smoother.

Gently pat into a round about 2-4cm deep (scones are like a sweet ‘soda bread’ and become tough if over-handled so do be gentle)

Form into a round and cut into four quarters to create four scones.

If you wish, brush the tops with beaten egg then, carefully place onto the hot baking tray.

Bake for 10 mins until risen and golden on the top.

Eat slightly warm or cold on the day of baking, cut in half and top with clotted cream and jam.

  

As an experiment this turned out exceptionally well and the scones were light and tasty. The yoghurt seemed to add an extra creaminess to them as well (unless that was the clotted cream! 😀)

If freezing, freeze once cold.

When defrosted, put into a low oven (about 160C/fan140C/gas 3) for a few mins to refresh.

Jam making time – experimenting again

Remember last August’s jam?
This year I’m experimenting with blueberries, blackberries and blackcurrants.

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I used my recipe for strawberry and blackcurrant jam and tweaked the measurements again.

My sneaky tip for the freshest fruit is to pick the fruit as it ripens on the bush or cane and freeze it. I have a bag in the freezer where I lay the washed and dried fruit so it is in a single layer and then when I need to make some jam, I can take as much as I want from each fruit type. You may notice that the blackcurrants in the photograph are frozen, but the blueberries and blackberries are fresh. Our currant bushes finished fruiting ages ago but the frozen fruits still make excellent jam!

Here’s the recipe I worked to…

Blueberry, blackberry and blackcurrant jam

Cooking time:
Approx 30 minutes.
Makes 1 jar (Kilner – 500 grams/ml)

Ingredients:
333 gm mixed berries
333 gm sugar
200 ml water

Cooking instructions:
Place a saucer into the freezer to chill (to test the setting point of the jam). Sterilise the jam jars – wash the jars in soapy water and rinse in clean warm water. Allow them to drip-dry, upside down, on a rack in the oven set to 140C/275F/Gas 1. Leave them there for at least half an hour while you make the jam.
Put berries into pan with water

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Bring to simmer
Simmer for 15-20 minutes
Add sugar and stir to dissolve on a low heat.

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To check the sugar is dissolved, coat the back of the spoon with the juice and check no crystals are visible.
When the sugar is dissolved, bring to the boil, boil on rolling boil for 5 minutes.

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Remove from heat and stir to start cooling process

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Test to see if set on a cold saucer – put a teaspoonful on the chilled saucer and allow it to cool completely. Then push the mixture with your finger, if it begins to wrinkle and sit up proudly without any liquid running out, the preserve is set.

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If it slides about as a liquid, then it hasn’t reached setting point and should be returned to the heat and boiled for 3 more minutes before testing again and so on until the preserve is set.
Stand for 10-15 minutes so that the fruit doesn’t sink to the bottom of your jam once it is transferred to your jar.

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Pour into hot sterilised jars, seal and allow to cool

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It worked! The jam tasted really nice and the quantities were spot on for making one jar. A bonus being more opportunity for experimenting on the next batch.

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Jam making time – two recipes to reflect the fruit situation

We were struggling to eat the blackcurrants off the bush (I only tend to like them on my cereal in a morning). Then I remembered making jam about 5 years ago when we had a big garden and a glut of fruit. It was fun and had a good end result. I found a really nice recipe online and gave it a go.

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As you can see it was a success and I got 4 jars of tasty jam and a partly-filled ramekin too.

I then wanted to produce a mixed jam of blackcurrant and strawberry as I had just enough blackcurrants to make some jam, if I added something else – and we had a number of strawberry bushes working well for us 🙂

So I trawled the web for an appropriate recipe but couldn’t find one. I found one or two which could be adapted and combined them to craft my own version (taking the bits I liked from each one). I know cooking is a science and changing the balance of ingredients can be dodgy, but what the heck I thought – let’s give it a go!
And here’s the recipe I worked to…

Strawberry and blackcurrant jam

Cooking time:
Approx 30 minutes. Makes 1 jar

Ingredients:
100 gm strawberries
233 gm blackcurrants
500 gm sugar
200 ml water

Cooking instructions:
Place a saucer into the freezer to chill (to test the setting point of the jam). Sterilise the jam jars – wash the jars in soapy water and rinse in clean warm water. Allow them to drip-dry, upside down, on a rack in the oven set to 140C/275F/Gas 1. Leave them there for at least half an hour while you make the jam.
Soak strawberries in sugar
Put blackcurrants into pan with water
Bring to simmer
Simmer for 15-20 minutes
Add strawberries and sugar, dissolve sugar on low heat
When sugar is dissolved, bring to boil, boil on rolling boil for 5 minutes
Remove from heat and stir to start cooling process
Test to see if set on a cold saucer
Stand for 10-15 minutes
Pour into hot sterilised jars, seal and allow to cool

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It worked! The jam tasted really nice and the quantities were more or less correct for making one jar. A bonus being the reduced risk of jam boiling over, due to making a smaller quantity.

I expect you’ll want the second recipe that I promised. It’s still a bit of an experiment but, here it is

Strawberry jam
I went for a different recipe for the strawberry jam, because while I was researching the mixed jam above I discovered the strawberries are low in pectin (so you need to add lemon juice) and are so soft that they need to be hardened off a bit before making the jam (so you need to soak them in sugar before you make jam with them).

Cooking time:
Approx 30 minutes. Makes 1 jar

Ingredients:
500 gm strawberries
500 gm sugar
1/2 lemon (juice of)
Knob butter (only if scum forms)

Cooking instructions:
The day before you wish to make the jam, hull the strawberries and wipe each one with dampened kitchen paper. Use slightly under-ripe strawberries and discard any that are bruised or overripe. Layer the strawberries into a large bowl with the sugar. Turn carefully to mix and coat well, then cover with lid (or cling film) and leave the fruit to soak in the sugar overnight, giving everything a stir around before bed.
The next day, place a saucer into the freezer to chill (to test the setting point of the jam). Sterilise the jam jars – wash the jars in soapy water and rinse in clean warm water. Allow them to drip-dry, upside down, on a rack in the oven set to 140C/275F/Gas 1. Leave them there for at least half an hour while you make the jam.
Pour the strawberries, their juice and any residual sugary juices into a very large pan or preserving pan, remembering that the mixture will rise as it boils, and add the lemon juice.
Give the pan a shake from time to time, only giving very gentle stirs, to avoid breaking the fruit up, until the sugar has completely dissolved. To check the sugar is dissolved, coat the back of the spoon with the juice and check no crystals are visible. When the sugar has dissolved, turn the heat up to its highest setting, bring the strawberries up to the boil then boil hard until the jam reaches setting point (about 8 minutes).
When the 8 minutes is up, remove pan from the heat, put a teaspoonful on the chilled saucer and allow it to cool completely. Then push the mixture with your finger, if it begins to wrinkle and sit up proudly without any liquid running out, the preserve is set. If it slides about as a liquid, then it hasn’t reached setting point and should be returned to the heat and boiled for 3 more minutes before testing again and so on until the preserve is set.
Let the jam cool and thicken in the pan for 10-15 minutes, so that the strawberries don’t all sink to the bottom in the jars. If there is any scum gently stir in a small piece of butter to disperse it.
Carefully remove the sterilised jars from the oven with oven gloves – try to avoid touching the insides of the jars with the oven gloves, which might introduce unwelcome bacteria. Stir the jam, then ladle it into the sterilised jars. Use a jam funnel, if you have one, to avoid spilling too much jam.
Cover the top surface of the jam in each jar with waxed paper discs that have been cut to size – they should cover the entire surface of the jam. Press the wax disc down to create a complete seal.
Cover with a lid while still hot, label and store in a cool, dark cupboard for up to a year.

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I did only make half the quantities here – because that was all I had left from the strawberry plants. You could just buy in some fruit if you needed more.

Actually, you’ve had three jam-making recipes with the link at the beginning, so good luck with your own, and don’t be scared to experiment. 😄

I’d love to hear about your own jam-making. Please don’t rely on my recipes for perfect results if you try them. They are only experiments! But if you do try mine, I’d still like to hear how you get on.

Pizza dough

I learnt a lot about pizza dough this week. Not about making it, I’ve yet to do that – about handling it! Mister S gave me a lesson in manipulating the dough to get the pizza to the right thinness and shape for making an Italian style pizza. I will try and describe what he taught me.

First a point to note is that the dough had already been apportioned into the correct volume for each individual pizza before its final rise, so I had no need to cut off sections of dough for my pizza making activities.

I started by flouring my work surface with the same caputo flour used to make the dough. I then placed the dough onto the floured surface and gently pushed with my fingertips to flatten the dough and shape it out into a circular shape. To create the thin large pizza base I then picked up the dough by one edge and gently worked around its rims stretching the extensible dough as I went. Periodically I placed it back onto the floured surface to re-flour the dough and to allow me to use another technique taught to me by Mister S, to stretch the pizza further into its correct shape.

I placed the floured pizza dough across the backs of my hands with my fingers extended out to support the dough and gently eased it larger and rounder as I stretched it. Then placed it back onto the floured surface again to check it for size and evenness of thinness. In one or two places I had worked it too thin and a tiny tear appeared, but this was easily fixed by pinching the dough together to seal it, an amazingly simple yet effective cure!

I had two attempts at making the pizza bases and under the tuition of Mister S, both came out well. I din’t actually put them onto the peel and into the pizza oven as I didn’t want to spoil my first attempts, but I may progress to this in time. Mastering the art of using a pizza peel is another skill in its own right, so I’m happy to learn how to handle the dough for now. Maybe next time I’ll venture into the development of a topping for my pizza base.

I should point out that I am a non-cooking person, so this was way out of my comfort zone – but I really enjoyed it and I’m looking forward to doing it again next week.

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Biscotti

Biscotti ready to be eaten
Biscotti ready to be eaten

Ingredients

Eggs, 1 x Large
Raw Cane Caster Sugar, 130 g
Plain Flour, 210 g
Baking Powder, 1 tsp
Flavourings (whatever you fancy, here are some suggestions:
Amaretto, 1 tbsp, Almonds, toasted, 100 g, Vanilla Essence 1 tsp, Lemon Essence 1/2 tsp)

Method

Roast the almonds at gas mark 4 for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, cream eggs and sugar together. Sift flour and baking powder into a mixing bowl.
Add Amaretto Vanilla and Lemon Essence to egg mixture.
Roughly chop toasted almonds.
Make a well in the flour and turn in egg mixture until it makes a paste.
Then knead in almonds.
Prepare oiled greaseproof sheet on a baking tray.
Tip mixture on to greaseproof and form a log shape.
Put into oven pre-heated to gas mark 4. Set timer for 35 minutes.
Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes.
Slice into 2cm thick slices.
Place on wire rack and put on to a baking sheet.
Bake at gas mark 3 for 10 minutes.
Turn over and bake for a further 10 minutes.
Remove from oven and allow to cool.
Store in an airtight container.

Enjoy with a freshly made coffee al-fresco on a Saturday morning with family and friends.

Biscotti texture
Close up showing the texture and cracking of the crust on Biscotti

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Panettone recipe for a bread-maker

Yeast 1 tsp
Organic strong white bread flour 400 grams (14 oz)
Sugar 3 tbsp
Salt 1 tsp
Ground nutmeg 1/2 tsp
Butter 75 grams (3 oz)
Vanilla essence 3 tbsp
Medium eggs 2 yolks 1 whole
Milk 220 ml
*Candied peel 50 grams (2 oz) (in raisin dispenser)
*Sultanas 100 grams (4 oz) (in raisin dispenser)
*Zest of 2 lemons (in raisin dispenser)

Put the ingredients into the pan in the order listed above. Set your bread-maker to the ‘basic’ bread setting and select the raisin option (if your machine has this facility – if not add in the extra ingredients (marked with an asterisk) at the raisin beep or at the beginning of the cycle). Select a ‘medium’ loaf size and a ‘light crust’ setting. This should then take around 4 hours to mix and bake in total. Due to the addition of the eggs, it is not a recipe that can be programmed to make use of any delay timer option on your machine.

Previously posted on Julie’s blog