Posts Tagged ‘jam’


As the nights draw in and the last of the August sun lingers into the early days of September the blackberry bushes finally yield their fruit. The tight little beads of white berries turn to red and then finally swell to a deep dark purple. I watch these changes as I walk the dog.   I return to the same spots each year in the hope of cornering the best pickings before everyone else.

My special spot is high up on common ground overlooking the sea.  Amongst the long dried grass and to the side of downtrodden grass paths can be found large clumps of bramble bushes.  As the years have passed my pickings have become slimmer and slimmer, largely due to foraging becoming more popular. Last year it was difficult to collect enough to do anything worthwhile, so this year I decided not to bother.

That was until I helped Sally take a chair back to her beach hut.  When we got there she realised she had left the keys in the car, so I was asked to watch the chair (in case someone decided it was abandoned and took it home) while she returned to her car to get them.

I stood there looking out to sea; there were no ships to spy, and nothing to see so I soon became bored. The sun was quite strong, so I decided to move to behind the beach hut and stand in the shade, and that is when I made the discovery.   Behind the huts lies a steep wasteland, as I scanned across the long grassy bank I spotted what I thought was a large dark mass of ripe blackberries – surely not. I left the chair and went to get a closer look. As I gingerly scrambled up the slope I could see not only one heavily laden bush but also a whole mass of them. Deep rich purple berries glistening in the sun. There was evidence that someone had earlier this season visited and trodden down paths around the bushes and, judging by the weight of the blackberries on the bushes, had not returned.


This is not Sally’s hut. I am keeping that location quiet for now!

I went back to minding the chair, thinking how could I have missed this rich seam over the years. I concluded that the rows of beach huts shield the area from the front and the steepness of the bank shields the view from above. I have now marked this as my new spot.  The minute I was relieved from chair minding I raced back home to grab some containers and gloves. An hour later I was back home relaxing with a cup of tea in my hand and a container of 4lbs of blackberries I had collected.  These juicy little berries were going to be turned into blackberry jelly, as I hate the little irritating seeds that get stuck between the teeth found in jam.

Blackberries are picked in England at the end of August and all through September but never after September as ‘the devil spits on them and they are bad’ that is what I was always told.  An old wives tale maybe, but not such a myth because as the weather becomes colder and wetter the berries can be infected by toxic molds.

It doesn’t matter how many blackberries you have, as with most things cookery it is all to do with the formula. Put blackberries in a large pan with enough water to cover them and lemon juice.  Blackberries are not endowed with masses of pectin so this is where the lemon juice helps.  Simmer for about one hour and strain. The juice is measured and then balanced with sugar, taken back to the heat to boil to setting point, and then bottled.

photo 1

Blackberries with water to cover


Blackberry Jelly


4 lbs blackberries
2 Lemons – juice of,  pips as well
Enough water to cover the blackberries
Sugar granulated (1lb sugar to 1lb of strained juice)
Large pan or preserving pan
Jelly bag or a couple of layers of muslin lining a sieve.

Clean sterilised glass jam jars. (see below)


1. Wash the fruit and pick out any obvious stalks and rotten fruit
2. Place into the preserving pan with the lemons juice and pips  just covering with water
3. Bring to the boil and then simmer for about 1 hour
4. Using a wooden spoon or potato masher break the fruit down as much as possible
5. Let the liquid cool a little – this is not for any reason other than it stops yourself being scalded if you spill any.
6. Strain through a jelly bag and allow to drip through until it dries up. I leave mine overnight.
7. Measure the juice produced and pour back into the cleaned preserving pan. Bring gently back to a gentle boil and add the sugar:

For every pint of juice you will add 1 lb of granulated sugar.

What is left in the jellybag

What is left in the jellybag

Add the sugar a bit at a time.  Stir, you don’t want the sugar sitting on the bottom of the pan and catching.
Once all the sugar has been added stir and gently bring up to the boil.
Using a thermometer boil until jam temperature is reached and set has been tested.  When set is achieved.  Let the pan sit and cool for 10 minutes and then pour into sterlised jars (see below).  Label.

photo 3

The jelly reaching setting point. As you can see the liquid rises quite a bit so its a good idea to have a large pan or preserving pan.

The Set

Don’t just rely on the thermometer reading, the jelly still needs to be tested for set.  Place a small plate into the freezer and leave for 10 minutes and then drop a little jelly onto it and leave for a couple of minutes to cool. Now push your finger through the jam.  It should wrinkle and not flood back.  You want the jelly to be thick enough that the path remains.  If the jelly is not set then bring the preserving pan back onto the heat for another five minutes or so and test again.

Blackberry jelly does not set like other jams it has a much looser set. Once set it will wobble rather than sit solid in the jar.  It also takes quite a while to cool down so best to leave it until the following day before eating.

Makes 7 jars

Sterlising Jars

To sterilise the jars wash them in hot soapy water and rinse. Place on a baking tray and put into a warm oven Gas mark 3/325F/160C and leave for 10/15 minutes. Carefully take out and use.

I use the rule that it is either wax discs or screw lid not both. The waxed disc will prevent the twist top from creating a proper seal.

Remember to label and date. I like to keep a jar from the previous year so I can compare tastes.


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madel SL-1

When I was a child it seemed that every mother was baking for all she was worth, turning out all sorts of fancies and iced novelties.  A lot of them are just distant memories now, but I can remember my mother getting very frustrated  in the kitchen when she couldn’t find a recipe she had been given for some fancy cake or other.  Always asking me if I had seen it?  As if!  My interests were limited to what Cindy was wearing, not worrying where my mother kept her recipe collection.  My involvement was in the finished product not how it got there.

Now I am all grown up, I too get frustrated in trying to recreate those same recipes, either by trial and error or by asking around.  Someone usually has a recipe handed down or can still remember how their mother made them. The same can be said for my Great Aunt Beatie’s recipe for clotted cream.  I wish now that I had taken notes.

It was in a telephone conversation recently that we discussed how fantastic everything was when we were children, days of ever lasting sunshine and school holidays that stretched on for ever, that the memory of Madeleines came up.  I don’t think I have seen them around for many decades so perhaps they are ready for a comeback!   The English Madeleines are very different to the French ones which are baked in shallow shell shaped moulds.  These are baked in dariole moulds covered in jam and then rolled in coconut.  The only major tip I would pass on, if you decide to make these, is to make sure you grease, grease again with butter and then flour the moulds, because the sponge has a tendency to stick.



100g/ 4 oz butter

100g/ 4 oz caster sugar

2 eggs (beaten)

100g/ 4 oz self raising flour

60 ml (4tbs) strawberry jam (or any red jam that is mainly jelly not whole fruits)

75g/ 3 oz desiccated coconut

glace cherries halved to decorate and a few mint leaves.

8 Dariole moulds


Turn oven to Gas mark 4 (180C/350F).

Grease and flour 8 dariole moulds – this is one of the most vital parts of the recipe, if the moulds are not greased enough the cakes will not come out in one.  Put these onto a baking tray.

Beat together the butter and sugar until the mixture is pale and fluffy.  Add the eggs a little at a time.  Then using a metal spoon gently fold in the flour.

Fill each of the dariole moulds 2/3 full with the butter mixture.

Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes (depending on your cooker) the cakes should be risen and when gently touched should spring back.

Cool slightly in their moulds.  You want them to have cooled enough to handle. If you remove them from the moulds straight from the oven they will break.

To turn these out I run a knife around the edge to loosen them and then gentle shake – they should come out in one.  Leave them to cool on a wire rack.

When the cakes are cool slice any excess from the bottom so that they can stand flat – I put mine back into the moulds and used the bottom edge as a guide.

Melt the jam in a pan and pour onto a plate.  On another plate spread the coconut out.  Either brush the cakes with the jam or roll the cakes gently in it, be generous making sure that the surface is covered otherwise the coconut won’t stick.  Then roll in the coconut.  The idea is to cover the tops and sides leaving the base clean.

Top with the glace cherry and serve.  To store keep in an airtight container.

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