Allotment · cooking

Jam packed

Early July is when our allotment fruit cage is at its best-absolutely crammed with currants and berries. We harvested a few types two weeks ago, then last week collected even more. We have an abundance of blackcurrants and whitecurrants, and a couple of redcurrant bushes as well as a gooseberry (ouch!) and some rogue raspberry canes. (The main rows of raspberries are outside the fruit cage, but we didn’t dig up the couple that appeared.) Their fruiting period is very short, so it all needs harvesting and processing in one way or another. My energy levels have been quite low, being sapped by both homeschooling and additional lymphoma treatments, but knowing that the fruit would be wasted if I didn’t get my butt into gear and sort it has given me a bit of motivation!

I’ve lost count of the amount of fruit we’ve picked, but I know we’ve had 3kg of whitecurrants, about 500g of redcurrants and 600g of blackcurrants so far. Some things have gone straight in the freezer-mainly gooseberries, which we will save for winter crumbles, and most of the whitecurrants, which are on ice (literally) until I figure out how to use them. Around 1kg of them are going to a friend to make a whiskey liquer which sounds lovely, and I have used about 100g to add to redcurrants to top them up when making a batch of redcurrant jelly. The blackcurrant bushes are still laden with fruit, it’s just that my fruit pickers keep going on strike every time they see ants, nettles or anything else they don’t fancy the look of. We do need to go and spend a decent amount of time weeding and harvesting when the weather is suitable-at the minute it is either too hot or too wet!

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Despite the heat, I’ve spent a little time in the kitchen preserving some of the berries. I made redcurrant jelly last week, and the excellent news this time is that you don’t need power tools to get it out of the jar. (This post fills you in on my last disastrous attempt!) Today I made 6 jars of blackcurrant jam too, which I did in two batches. I’m glad I didn’t make it all in one go, as the first lot was overcooked, although still edible. The problem here was my jam thermometer (I know, I know, a bad workman blames his tools and all that!) but I genuinely think it isn’t working. The jam had bubbled away quite violently for a few minutes, but was still 10 degrees below setting point according to the thermometer so I decided to try the cold saucer test and the jam wrinkled up. I took it off the heat straight away and I think I salvaged it as it set in the jars well but isn’t totally solid. When we tried some, I felt it was a little too sweet, so on the next batch I reduced the sugar slightly, abandoned the thermometer and relied entirely on the saucer test and I was much happier with the results.

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I still have plenty of preserving to do (mainly blackcurrants), although this year we haven’t had a glut of raspberries like last year so there hasn’t been quite so much to do. The plum tree is looking very productive too, so I will only have a short break before it’s time to start on those and the blackberries in late August. Last year’s plum chutney is very tasty so I think it’ll be a mixture of that and jam. If you have any whitecurrant recipes to share I’d love to hear them, I’m considering some whitecurrant jelly as I don’t think the redcurrant one will last long-my children both love it on a roast dinner! I’ve had a few recommendations, but since I have plenty of currants left in the freezer I can try out a couple of recipes.

10 thoughts on “Jam packed

  1. We don’t have white currants here in Indiana, in fact I’d never seen them before. Do you have tayberries? I remember seeing them when I visited Hidcote Manor. There was a fruit farm just a bit down the road, and I walked down to see it while waiting for a cab.

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