Yesterday, having seen how well this year’s crop of berries are forming at the allotment, I decided that it was a good day to use up some of last year’s produce from the freezer. We had a small bag of redcurrants, so redcurrant jelly (which met the approval of the children last time I made it) seemed the perfect use for it. Then I thought to myself whilst I’m going to the bother of putting the oven on to sterilize the jars, I might as well make some lemon curd.
I had forgotten just how much faffing is involved with making a jelly, but once it was all ready to boil up with the sugar I set the timer and began to juice the lemons (all 6 of them). This is where the mistakes began. You see, I had only made half the quantity of jelly which the recipe stated. The jelly was merrily bubbling away, and I ignored it because usually I can’t get jams or jellies to set properly. I gave it an occasional stir, but was really focused on the lemon curd. After a while I noticed that it looked like it was thickening around the edges, but wasn’t too concerned. I took it off the heat and did the very careful ‘pouring boiling liquid into a boiling jar without hurting myself’ routine, screwed on the lid and carried on with the lemon curd, leaving the jelly to cool on the side.
I was pretty pleased with my multitasking at that point-I had successfully made jelly, juiced lemons, whisked up the eggs and weighed out the other ingredients for the curd. It all seemed to be going so well, the curd was thickening beautifully and smelling delicious. Then, as I was whisking, I noticed white flecks appearing. You guessed it, I hadn’t whisked the eggs well enough beforehand and I’d made a kind of lemony scrambled egg. Not keen on wasting 6 lemons, most of a block of butter, 6 eggs and a lot of sugar, I decided to sieve it. Not my finest culinary moment, but the sieved liquid tasted fine so I popped it in the jars and threw away the rest of the evidence.
Fast forward to tea time, where I’d made a cheat’s roast (gammon in the slow cooker, Actifry roasties and steamed veg). The kids were very much looking forward to their redcurrant jelly to accompany the gammon. I opened the jar, got a teaspoon and prepared to serve it. At that point, it became fairly obvious that I had not made jelly. My cheap teaspoon from B & M (to replace the Jamie Oliver ones the kids had accidentally thrown away over the years with their yoghurt pots!) buckled under the pressure. The closest thing I can think of to compare my preserving to is the red toffee you get on toffee apples. It would have taken a sledgehammer to serve it up! We abandoned it and had apple sauce instead, much to the children’s disappointment.
When I was on my mission to empty the freezer, I found a bag of gooseberries and (not knowing quite how terrible my kitchen skills would be that day) I thought a crumble sounded good. Apparently I was wrong. In my daughter’s word “never make that again.” It seems, despite adding sugar to the berries, that it was still a bit too sour even with a sweet crumble topping! My husband’s helpful advice to the children on how to eat it was “don’t chew it, just swallow it quickly so you don’t taste it!”
From this I have learned:
- A career change involving cookery of any kind is not on the cards for me
- Multi-tasking is a bit like kitchen roulette
- Redcurrant jelly permanently welds itself to the jar if you overboil it
- Whisk the eggs before you add them to lemon curd, and if you aren’t sure, whisk them again
- Gooseberries on their own are a bit too sour to use in a dessert (unless you don’t particularly like the person who is going to eat it)
(I also have a lot of blackcurrants left from last year’s crop, but I think my kitchen needs a rest before I try and turn them into jam.)