Category Archives: Preserves and Cordials

How To Make Damson Curd

Surprisingly I found recipes for every sort of fruit curd under the sun on the internet and in my cook books but not for this so I have winged it and thought I’d share what I did.

For this recipe I have given the weight of cooked puréed de-stoned damsons. I think you need about 600-650 g fresh fruit to get this quantity.

The damsons I used were (I was told by Neil whose field they were growing in)  a variety known as Zwetschgen in Germany. They are bigger than the bullet like damsons and much smaller than the ones I have seen in the green grocers sometimes called damson plums. I am no expert in the many varieties of damsons. But you can always research more and read all about them on various sites like Wikipedia.

These ones were about 2.5 cms in length, dark, fat and ripe with a bit of give to the flesh. And, though tart, sweet enough to eat raw without making your mouth pucker.

IMG_4185.jpgI picked these ones with a  volunteer friend from the Community Garden at Blaise who lives near the Old Severn Bridge at Aust and happens to have a field lined down one side with glorious damson laden trees and blackberries. Who could resist an invitation to pick damsons? Not me!

The only drawback with damsons is their little stones and there are various ways to deal with them, you need patience!

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damson curd

Joanna’s Damson Curd

per batch

Makes 4  7oz jars

500g of cooked and puréed unsweetened damsons
125g unsalted good butter
300g caster sugar
3 eggs + 1 egg yolk

Wash and gently cook the fruit in as little water as you can get away with. A slow simmer rather than a full boil. I cooked down about 2 kgs of fruit in a couple of cms of water. Don’t add sugar at this point.

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When the skins are soft remove the stones by hand and either put the fruit pulp in the fridge or freeze it for another day if you have as much as I did or carry on as follows:-

If you have a food mill (I have one made by Good Grips which gets a lot of use) then pass the fruit through that as it will also help find any sneaky stones as well as breaking the cooked fruit down into a purée. You can also use a traditional sieve and  back of a wooden spoon to press the fruit through and prepare the purée.

Wash the jars in hot soapy water, rinse, and put on a tray in a warm oven to sterilise. Put the lids in a small pan of boiling water till just before needed.

Crack the eggs into a small bowl and whisk lightly.

In a Bain Marie or a double saucepan put the butter, sugar and fruit purée and stir over a gentle heat till the butter is melted.  If using a bowl over a saucepan remember not to let the bowl touch the water. Keep the heat on low all the way through this process.

Whisk the eggs in and keep whisking and stirring the mixture until it thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon, this can take about ten minutes. Take your time and keep the heat low or you get scrambled fruit egg! Fruit curds continue to thicken up as they cool.

Pot up, screw the lids on, leave to cool, label with a two week use by date and a note to keep in fridge as this has a relatively short fridge shelf life. A good one to share with friends!

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Use the curd to fill cakes, tarts, slather on crumpets and toast, in desserts, eat out of jar very quickly so the photo blurs…

 

Lemon Curd by Zeb Bakes

PS I have totally forgotten I have blogged about making fruit curd before. So if you want a recipe for citrus curds read the old post. I. Have. Totally. Forgotten. So if I repeat myself that is because I am getting old and forgetful.

And I think it is that long  (three years) since I last made it too. And such a pity as I love it so much!

 

Bits and pieces : kitchen and garden

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This is the noonday sun on the last day in August.  Today is the first of September, the beginning of the new year in my head.

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In my kitchen there is a box of meringue fingers studded with toasted hazelnuts from Normandy – a gift to Brian from my sister, Brian likes them crumbled up on top of fresh fruit with yoghurt as a dessert.

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And there were also some very useful indeed sachets of yoghurt starter enzymes (another thoughtful gift from my sister)  for when your old home made yoghurt has gone a bit beyond being used to seed a new batch. Still wondering why no one in the UK stocks these. Lakeland stock EasiYo, all the way from the Antipodes but not these made in Europe. Funny old world….

asier gurk pickle

Pickled Danish cucumber, the asie gurk, from seed sent me by the lovely Misky,  grown by me outdoors here at home in pots with local manure to help them along, peeled and brined and made according to this recipe  and then lovingly waterbath processed by Brian. I don’t think I would make them without his help as I don’t like handling hot jars, damp with boiling steam from the oven.

I use the pickle juice to thin down our current salad dressing, which is a tsp of dijon mustard mixed in a little home made yoghurt and does a very good impression of a mayonnaise with no oil worked into it. The cucumbers are a joy and a delight and much nicer (variety name : the Langelands Giant) than many of the other varieties I have sampled this year. So many cucumbers are full of seeds and surprisingly bitter, these ones have always been sweet and crisp.

I left a tray of my own home saved angelica seed at the Community Garden at Blaise, where I do a bit of volunteering,  hoping it would germinate and the magic of the place has made it happen already. It is supposed to need a period of cold before coming up and this has taught me that books are not always right.

IMG_6992 I was delighted! I suspect not many people have the patience to grow it, it can take up to three years to get stems large enough to candy, or even that much interest in candying and eating it I got there this year having waited patiently for several years and felt great personal satisfaction and one of these days will make some buns or some icecream and use the angelica I candied at home.

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Angelica archangelica coming into flower earlier this year.

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Candied stems drying, they will keep for ages now.

If you want to know how to do it, you could pop over to my acquaintance Dan at the Apothecary’s Garden as I learnt the basics from him.

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Here is my little old mushrooming basket, given to me by my dear friend Hazel, who passed away many years ago now, I remember her when I pick it up and carry it with me, as I carry her in my heart always. Here it is filled with tomatoes and herbs and some wild blackberries, calendula flowers and cucumbers, and a fairy lights chilli plant coming home from Blaise Community Garden.

 

Apples are falling off the tree before ripening for some reason and the pear tree has long spindly branches and too many pears so I took a whole lot off the other day and bottled them and hope the pear tree won’t break too many more of its branches. I need to get a lesson from someone in pruning.

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A squirrel has had most of the nuts off the red hazel but has left me a symbolic handful

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and here is the eternal game being played out by my hairy friends and companions, another good prompt to get out of the house and breathe fresh air.

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Citrus Fruit and the loveliness of Curds

Zeb Bakes Marmalade with Meyer LemonsI have made two lots of marmalade, started on 1st January which seems a long time ago now and then I moved on to the Seville Oranges when they arrived in the shops. Then I got bored with chopping peel and I cut my finger (poor little me!) so used up the remaining Meyer lemons and Sevilles in the house, which were getting a little ripe to make divine fruit curds which are now in the fridge.  We love lemon curd and we love Seville Orange curd too now!

That is my red chilli plant in the kitchen still fruiting away in case you were wondering.

Zeb Bakes Lemon Shred MarmaladeDid I tell you about the Meyer lemons, fabled for their sweetness and aroma, a fruit well known to Americans, but one I had never seen here.  Gloria Nicols went shopping in Bristol and tweeted that she had found them at Tescos so we went off to find them and we did! I got some for a friend too who lives in a food desert in the East of England where their Tescos don’t stock such delights and gave her some as well at Christmas, the exchange of food being a great excuse for a get together!( along with smoked bacon ribs from Cockermouth, a Northern delicacy rarely seen in the South. But I am guessing it will become trendy one of these days to nibble on boiled bones once again… mark my words… but I digress)

The lemons are indeed quite different from Sicilian or Greek lemons, they have a delightful aroma of clementine and what I imagine is a laid back Californian sort of way about them, the sort of lemons that rollerblade and don’t moan about the weather.

I made luscious lemon curd with them two times. The second time I reduced the sugar as the first batch was a bit sweet for our tastes.

Lemon Curd by Zeb Bakes

Meyer Lemon Curd

  • Four ripe Meyer Lemons, finely zested and juice squeezed out. If you mash the remains gently in a sieve you can get a little thick extra goodness out of the pulp.
  • 4 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 125 grams of unsalted butter, softened and chopped into small pieces
  • 250 grams of sugar

Note: if using regular sour lemons or bitter Sevilles you might need more like 300 – 325 grams of sugar, but it is all to taste, best thing is to dissolve it all first and have a taste and take a view before you start the final cooking part. You might find you get away with a lot less sugar or you might be able to use half and half, I am not sure.

3 – 4  seven oz jars, washed and put in a warm oven to sterilize them. Lids in saucepan of boiling water on the hob. (I got three jars out of the above quantity and a ramekin over)

In a bain marie, or a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, put all the zest, juice, butter, sugar and beaten eggs together and stir until the butter and sugar is all dissolved. If you don’t want any stringy bits in your curd, then it is probably a good idea to sieve the eggs first. I forgot and just hoiked out the stringy bit when I saw it lurking in there.

Keep the heat low, a gentle simmer, not a fast boil.  If it is too hot you might get a scrambled egg effect. Stir continuously and watch the colours change gently in the pan. You might get a little foam as the eggs start to cook, turn the heat down, if necessary remove the bowl from the pan and allow it to cool down a bit. The most important thing is to keep stirring and be patient. The curd is ready when it coats the back of your spoon like a thin custard or single cream. It will thicken up more once it has cooled.

Boil up your funnel and ladle and put it into your jars and screw the lids on tightly. Books vary in saying how long it keeps from a month to three months. We try and eat it within a month but Brian remembers his Gran making it and keeping it in the larder for several months.

For the Seville Orange Curd I followed the same procedure as above, (I had six oranges left)  used more sugar (325g)  as the juice was more sour.

There was more juice so it took longer to set off and gave us four jars as opposed to three. I didn’t use more butter though or more eggs. Some recipes suggest adding cream or extra egg yolks, I think it is just one of those things that you can be fairly relaxed about. Keep the temperature low and stir constantly and you should be fine. Or try Celia’s microwave method which she blogged about here.

Gibassiers by Zeb Bakes

You can eat the curds just as they are with a spoon. You can spread it on toast, on teacakes, use it in pastry tarts, to sandwich cakes together, dip your Gibassiers in it for complete luxury and just enjoy it. It’s the sort of thing I make once a year and eat and give away and then it’s gone till next time. Though now I think about it, there is no reason not to make it more often…

There was a cake with a delicate lemon glaze for a while in the kitchen too. I liked these lemons and hope that we continue to import them into the UK.

CrackLemonGlazedcake

Apple Bonanza Autumn

A rare sight in my garden in October. I know these little guys are common elsewhere in the world but not in my patch….

In case you were wondering, the apple cider vinegar saga started in the latter part of this post has rumbled on gently for a month; from our heat wave in the early part of the month till the cooler wetter weather we are currently enjoying the house has been swamped with apples.

The fruit flies have been and gone, lured into the laundry room by the sweet smell of sugary apples, only one managed to fall in one morning – now the first batch is on the way to becoming vinegar slowly but surely. I have a second batch of apples bubbling away cheerily, a small sup of home made cider in the mornings definitely wakes you up!

We peer in most mornings and have a sniff to see how it’s changed and it’s coming along nicely.

Vinegar production, from what I understand from conversation and a little bit of reading, is a slow process and relies ultimately on acetobacter landing on the liquid to convert any alcohol to vinegar.

Like many of these fermentation projects the trick is to get the right bacteria in there at the right point in the process, so like sourdough starters, sometimes it’s good to have a little help from your friends.

I was given some acetobacter (it looks like a semi translucent bit of jelly) by Mitch and popped it into the brew and it is working beautifully. I asked a cider seller at the local market whether they had it, but he looked shifty and claimed that vinegar took five years to make and was less than helpful on the subject. Maybe some special aged balsamic variety takes that long and I have no doubt that vinegar matures and evolves over time too, but it would seem possible to get something serviceable within a few months.  For much more detail and delightful writing on this exciting process I recommend visiting Miskmask’s Vinegar Diaries now on Day 30. and also the guy who kickstarted us all making it, Carl Legge whose blog is looking very smart, all kitted out in its new theme.

My neighbours’ apple trees are still chucking them down and I still keep getting gifted more. It has been an outstanding season for apples here, the long mild autumn weather allowing fruit to ripen fully on the trees.

Over last weekend we finally dealt with the outstanding Concorde pears from our garden tree. We peeled and quartered them, left them in a bowl of salted water with citric acid while we puzzled over the mysteries of the screw top Kilner jars, and I think, hope, have successfully managed to bottle six big jars of garden pears in a vanilla sugar syrup. Brian took on the job of packing, saying it reminded him of Meccano. I think he did a great job!   We followed Pam Corbin as usual from her book Preserves and used an oven water bath method.

While slowly doing this I thought about the women who must have spent weeks preparing and bottling fruits not so many years ago. I grumble at peeling pears for an afternoon, I don’t know if I could do it for days and days at a time, but if needs must then one finds a way I suppose and the satisfaction from knowing you have preserved something you have grown yourself, even in relatively small quantities as a townie like me does, is immense.

I also made a lovely olive oil and apple cake – quite different in texture from the Ottolenghi cakes I made recently and much simpler in method, though it does take an age to prepare the fruit if you’re me, easily distracted.  This cake’s recipe was shared by Carla Tomasi on Facebook and is based on an Anna del Conti recipe so it has an excellent lineage. I hope I did it justice. Carla has kindly put the recipe on her new blog here.

It uses a huge quantity of fresh fruit and has a wonderful light pudding texture. I have put one in the freezer and distributed others to the neighbours who promptly give me more apples back in return. Hey ho. Apples everywhere.

NB I found some left over chopped apple from this cake in the fridge, I had doused them in lemon juice and they had kept well. I fried them in some bacon fat, Mr Misk Style, and slapped them with the bacon between two pieces of sourcream sandwich bread and a

dollop of home made tomato ketchup, again the recipe for that is in the Pam Corbin book and several people have blogged their versions. Please see the comments on this Tomato passata post if you want to follow this up.

One way to make Apple Chutney

I love chutney! A rich combination of autumn fruits, dried fruits and vegetables simmered for hours in a mixture of muscovado sugar and cider vinegar, seasoned with spices and root ginger is one of my favourite things to make. It takes far longer than jam, but is much less stressful, none of this pectin testing and no chilled saucers. Continue reading

T is for… Tarragon Tomato Passata

This is something of a labour of love; the trouble with making your own tomato sauces is that you get spoilt and don’t want to buy the shop stuff. It is labour intensive and, unless you have really good cheap tomatoes, probably not worth it from a financial point of view. However, nothing tastes as good as home made passata and you can adapt the recipe to suit your family’s palate.

The recipe we work off is from Pam Corbin’s wonderful book Preserves, one of the River Cottage Handbooks. We have made many other lovely preserves and chutneys from this book. Recommended !

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