Green chutney (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Freshly made Green chutney. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

It’s that time of year. Out come the jars, preserving pan and accessories again, yes, it’s chutney-making season! Green tomatoes are not something I usually have many of, but this year, I grew a spcific green variety of tomato thinking that they would make an interesting addition to the salad bowl. As attractive as the tomatoes are, they are not to my taste, but as it turns out, when combined with cooking apples, they have made a delicious chutney.

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Green Zebra tomatoes on the vine and a branch of Lord Derby apples. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
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Lord Derby apples and Green Zebra tomatoes. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I have eaten green chutneys in the past, and mostly they have been flavoured with cinnamon and mixed spice. As tasty as they were, the colour of the spicy flavourings turned the chutney shades of khaki brown. With this in mind, I set to thinking about flavours that would be interesting and also help preserve the colour.

 

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My green chutney flavourings: onions, garlic, bay and ground fenugreek. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I plumped for ground fenugreek which adds that quintessential “curry powder” flavour but is pale in colour. It has a strong, slightly bitter flavour so use with caution. I suggest just 1 tsp to give a hint of curry. If you prefer a stronger flavour, increase to 1 ½ tsp to 2 tsp.

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Chopped green tomatoes. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

This is a very straightforward recipe. Minimum amount of preparation – just peel and roughly chop as necessary, and let a food processor do the rest of the chopping for you. The chutney can be eaten immediately (it’s not too vinegary from the outset) but if you allow it at least a month in storage, the fenugreek flavour will develop further.

Makes: approx. 1.3kg

Ingredients

  • 650g green tomatoes
  • 325g cooking apples, roughly chopped (prepared weight)
  • 325g onions, roughly chopped (prepared weiht)
  • 2 large garlic cloves, peeled
  • 425ml cider or white wine vinegar
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp ground fenugreek
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 425g granulated sugar
  • 125g sultanas

1. Wash the tomatoes and chop them roughly. Mix with the apples, onion and garlic. Place half in a food processor with half the vinegar and blitz for a few seconds until smooth. Transfer to a large saucepan or preserving pan, then process the other half of the vegetables with the remaining vinegar in the same way and add to the pan.

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Preparing the vegetables for green chutney. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

2. Add the bay leaves, stir well, and bring to the boil, then cover and simmer gently for 30 minutes until softened.

3. Stir in the fenugreek, salt and sugar. Heat gently, stirring, until the sugar dissolves, then bring to the boil, and cook for about 25 minutes, stirring occasionally, until reduced and thick. Turn off the heat, stir in the sultanas, cover and stand for 5 minutes. Discard the bay leaves.

4. Ladle into warm, sterilised jars and seal with non-corrosive lids. Allow to cool then store for 6-8 months in a cool, dark cupboard. Once opened, keep in the fridge and use within 2 weeks. Delicious with roasted vegetables and cheeses.

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Sealed and labelled. Image: Kathryn Hawkins
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Spoonful of green chutney. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

 

Plum and bay membrillo (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Plum and bay membrillo. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

I hadn’t intended to write another post about plums this week, but after making several pots of jam with the largest, juiciest plums, I was down to my last kilo of the smallest fruit. Flicking through an old book on preserves, I happened upon a recipe for making damson “cheese”, and I decided to have a go. It turned out to be very similar to Spanish quince paste, so I’m calling it membrillo. And very delicious it is too 🙂

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Sliced and ready for tasting. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

It takes a bit of time to make plum membrillo because you need to keep stirring the fruit mixture to stop it catching on the bottom of the pan, and it can’t be rushed otherwise you will end up burning the mixture. Other than this, there are just 3 ingredients and a little water. I like the herbal aroma of bay with stoned fruit, but cinnamon would work well, or you could omit the extra flavour altogether for maximum fruitiness.

The flavour is intense and fruity. It is very rich so serve in slices as a sweet treat or as an accompaniment to cheese and cold meats as you would quince paste. It needs to be stored in the fridge, but will keep for a month in a sealed container, or it can be sliced, wrapped and frozen. It would make a nice gift for a foodie friend – wrap in waxed paper for keeping at it’s best.

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Wrapping membrillo in waxed paper. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I also cut a couple of slices into small cubes and rolled in granulated sugar to make melt-in-the-mouth home-made fruit pastilles.

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Home-made plum fruit pastilles. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Makes: 8 slices

Ingredients

  • 1kg small plums (damsons or apricots would also work)
  • 4 fresh bay leaves or 2 dried
  • Approx. 500g granulated sugar
  1. Line a 500g loaf tin with baking parchment. Wash the plums and place in a large saucepan (there is no need to stone them). Pour over 200ml water, bring to the boil, cover and simmer gently for about 20 minutes until very soft. Cool for 10 minutes, then rub though a nylon sieve to extract as much pulp as possible – I ended up with about 1l of pulp.

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    Cooking plums for membrillo. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  2. Pour the pulp back into the saucepan, add the bay leaves, and bring to the boil. Simmer gently, stirring to prevent sticking, for about 15 minutes, until reduced by half. I find a spatula is good for stirring preserves because it enables you to scrape the pan more thoroughly. Cool for 10 minutes, then discard the bay leaves.
  3. Measure the pulp and pour back into saucepan. Add the equivalent amount of pulp in sugar – I had 500ml reduced pulp and added 500g sugar. Heat gently, stirring, until the sugar has dissolved completely.
  4. Turn up the heat and cook the mixture until it becomes very thick – about 30 minutes – until the spatula leaves a clear line across the bottom of the pan. If you prefer, it needs to reach 105°C on a sugar thermometer. You need to keep stirring the mixture which will be very hot, so do take care. I find it easier to wear a long rubber glove when stirring, because the mixture can spit.

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    Cooking the sugary plum pulp for making membrillo. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  5. Scrape the thick, pulpy mixture into the prepared tin, smooth the top and leave too cool completely. It will set firm as it cools. Chill until required.
  6. When ready to serve, remove the lining parchment, and slice the membrillo with a sharp knife – a warmed blade should make for easier slicing. Wrap and store in the fridge for up to a month, or freeze for later use.
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Fresh bay leaves with Victoria plums. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Rhubarb and raspberry jelly preserve (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Home-made jelly preserve. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

I had planned a garden round-up for this week’s post. However, the long spell of fine weather has finally broken and I haven’t been able to get outside that much this past week. To be honest, the hot spell has left the garden looking a bit sad and lacking in colour. So, instead of a weekend in the garden, I got the jam pan out of the cupboard and made some jelly preserve with the last of my raspberries.

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Rhubarb and raspberries after a heavy shower of rain. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
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The last of my raspberries make a perfect match with some freshly pulled summer rhubarb. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

A jelly preserve takes a bit more time to make than most other jams, but if you do find yourself in a preserving mood, I can recommend having a go, as the reward is great and the flavour, intense and rich.

You will need some clean muslin if you don’t have a jelly making bag, but if you are only making a small amount, as per the quantity below, you don’t need any other special equipment, although a sugar thermometer will help take the guess-work out of judging when the jelly has cooked sufficiently. All you need to ensure is that all the equipment and jam-jars you use are very clean; this will enable you to store your preserves for as long as required.

Makes: approx. 650g

Ingredients:

  • 450g prepared raspberries, washed
  • 450g prepared rhubarb, washed and chopped into small pieces
  • Approx. 500g granulated sugar
  • Approx. 25ml fresh lemon juice
  1. Mash the raspberries to release the juices and place in a saucepan. Stir in the chopped rhubarb and 2 tbsp. water. Heat gently until steaming, then cover and cook for 6-7 minutes until very soft.
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    Cooking the fruit. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

    2. While the fruit is cooking, set up the muslin or jelly bag ready for straining the juice. I use a tall jug which I can suspend a jelly bag over the top. Otherwise, a large nylon sieve lined with muslin, suspended over a bowl will work well. The volume of liquid produced by following this recipe will not be much greater than 500ml, so you don’t need a massive collecting container. Make sure it is stable so that it can’t tip over when you add the fruit.

    3. Carefully spoon the hot fruit and juices into the bag or muslin, and then leave undisturbed for several hours until the fruit stops dripping. Don’t be tempted to press or squeeze the fruit as this will make a cloudy preserve. Discard the pulp. Measure the juice and work out the quantity of sugar and lemon juice required. You need 75g sugar and 5ml lemon juice per 100ml juice.

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    How to strain fruit for jelly preserve. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

    4. Pour the juice into a large saucepan and heat gently until hot, then stir in the sugar and lemon juice, and continue stirring over a low heat until the sugar dissolves.

    5. Raise the heat and bring to the boil, then boil rapidly until setting point is reached – between 104° and 105°C on a sugar thermometer. Skim away any scum that rises to the surface during boiling. Pour into clean, hot jars and seal immediately. Leave to cool, then label and store in a cool, dark cupboard for up to 6 months, but the preserve is ready to eat as soon as you want! Delish 🙂

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    Spoonfuls of freshly made jelly preserve on a home-made Welsh cake. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Windfall apple jelly (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

 

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Collecting windfall cooking apples. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Last weekend, I finally got round to gathering the last of the windfall apples from underneath and around the old apple tree in the garden. There were quite a few; some badly bruised, others almost entirely unscathed. I had picked a good harvest from the tree a couple of weeks previously and have these apples safely stored away in an old fridge for later use. In my kitchen, windfalls are destined for the cooking pot and for making preserves.

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Lord Derby apples, just before picking earlier in October. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I find it very satisfying making chutneys, jams and jellies, although jelly making does take a bit of planning and time, and can not be rushed. However, the finished result is very rewarding and worth the wait. This apple variety (Lord Derby) isn’t particularly flavoursome (it is reminiscent of a very large Granny Smith apple), but it is a great cooking apple as it holds its shape and some texture when baked or stewed. It’s not the juiciest for jam making, but as I had so many to use up this year, I decided to get all the jelly making stuff out of the cupboard and get preserving.

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Jelly making kit. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

I always keep a good supply of glass jars on stand-by throughout the year, ready for filling as different fruit and veg comes into season. I give them a good rinse with hot soapy water and then sterilise them along with the lids – I gave up boiling jars to sterilise them, I now use a sterilizing fluid followed by a thorough rinse. I haven’t had any problems with any preserves spoiling since I switched to this less time-consuming method.

The jelly strainer is a piece of kit I’ve had for a few years. The whole contraption stands over a bowl or jug to catch the juice. If you don’t have a purpose-made jelly bag, line a large nylon sieve or strainer with some muslin and suspend over a deep bowl. Make sure you thoroughly clean all the equipment that comes into contact with the fruit or vegetable juice to maximise the keeping qualities for your preserves.

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Homemade herb apple jelly. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

I’ve written a couple of savoury variations on a basic apple jelly recipe I made with my windfalls during the week. Both jellies are delicious with cheeses, barbecue food or roast meats and cold cuts. If you want a plain, sweet apple jelly (the best choice if you have a really tasty apple variety), just follow the recipe for the herb jelly below, and leave out the herbs.

Herb apple jelly

Makes: 1kg

Ingredients

  • 1.5kg prepared cooking apples, roughly chopped  – this is the overall weight once they have been thoroughly washed and all the bad bits taken out
  • Approx. 825g granulated sugar
  • A few sprigs of fresh rosemary and sage
  1. Put the chopped apples (unpeeled, pips and stalks attached!) in a large saucepan. Pour over 1l cold water, bring to the boil, cover and simmer for about 10 minutes, mashing occasionally, until tender.
  2. Carefully ladle into a suspended jelly bag and leave to drip into a clean bowl or jug, in a cool place, lightly covered, overnight. Don’t be tempted to squeeze the bag, just let it drip through naturally. Jelly making is an excellent test of the patience!
  3. The next day, remove the juice bowl, and cover and chill it. Scoop the pulp back into a large saucepan and add a further 500ml water. Bring to the boil, then strain again as above, for a few hours – there won’t be so much juice the second time around, so 5-6 hours should be long enough.
  4. Measure both juice yield together and calculate the amount of sugar required as 450g per 600ml juice. My yield was 1.1l which needs 825g sugar, but if you have a juicy apple variety you will capture more juice.

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    Herb apple jelly preparation in pictures. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  5. Rinse and pat dry a large sprig of rosemary and sage. Pour the juice into a preserving pan or large saucepan, add the herbs, and heat until steaming. Stir in the sugar until it is dissolved, then raise the heat and boil rapidly until the temperature reaches 105°C on a sugar thermometer – this will take several minutes.
  6. Meanwhile, prepare the jars by adding a small sprig of washed rosemary and a sage leaf in each. Remove the jelly from the heat and let the bubbles subside. Skim away any surface residue from the top and discard the cooked herbs. This jelly begins to set quite quickly so ladle it into the jars and seal them while the jelly is piping hot. Leave to cool, then label and store in a cool, dark place for up to 12 months. The jelly is ready for eating right away if you can’t wait! Once opened, store in the fridge for up to a month.

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    Apple and hot red pepper jelly flavoured with hot smoked paprika. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Apple and hot red pepper jelly

Makes: 900g

Ingredients

  • 1.25g prepared, chopped cooking apples (see above)
  • 500g prepared weight chopped red peppers (capsicum) (approx. 4 medium peppers), seeds and stalks removed
  • 6 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 60ml cider or white wine vinegar
  • Approx. 675g granulated sugar
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp hot smoked paprika
  1. Put the chopped apples, peppers and garlic in a large saucepan and pour over 1l cold water. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer for about 20 minutes, mashing occasionally, until tender.
  2. Carefully ladle into a suspended jelly bag and let the mixture drip into a bowl or jug underneath. Leave in a cool place, covered lightly, overnight.
  3. The next day, put the pulp to on side and measure the collected juice. You will need 450g sugar per 600ml juice. Pour the juice into a preserving pan or large saucepan and add the vinegar and bay leaves. Heat until steaming hot and then stir in the sugar until dissolved.
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    Making apple and hot red pepper jelly. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

     

  4. Bring the juice to the boil and boil rapidly until the temperature reaches 105°C on a sugar thermometer. While the juice is boiling, pick out 50g of the cooked pepper and garlic, rinse, pat dry and chop finely – discard the rest of the pulp. Divide the chopped vegetables between your prepared jam jars.
  5. Once the jelly has reached the correct temperature, turn off the heat, discard the bay leaves and stir in the salt and smoked paprika. Divide between the jars – for even distribution of the vegetable pieces, wait for about 10 minutes before sealing the jars, then give them a quick stir with a teaspoon to suspend the vegetable pieces throughout the jelly before putting the lids on tightly. Cool, label and store as above. Best left for a month to mature before eating.

I’m a bit of a wimp when it comes to spicy heat in my food, so, although I call this “hot”, it’s pretty mild. However, if you can stand the heat, this is a good recipe to add as much chopped red chilli to suit your taste. Just cook the prepared chilli with the apples and peppers at the beginning of the recipe – leave the chilli seeds in as well if you like!

 

 

Raspberry jam – 3 methods (dairy-free, gluten-free, vegan)

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Homemade raspberry jam x 3. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Raspberries love the Scottish climate (lots of rain!). The plump, juicy berries carry on ripening even on the most dreary of summer days. I have been picking my raspberries since the end of last month. Sadly, it looks like the end is nearly nigh; the supply is dwindling, but there are still enough to bag up for the freezer for later in the year, and then I will leave the rest for the blackbirds!

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Freshly picked Scottish home-grown raspberries. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

The bushes in the garden are now in their twelfth year, and have given me a good harvest every season. However, I think this autumn, it will be the time to plant some new canes. The variety I chose to grow is Glen Ample; selected for the large-sized fruit, and as the label said at the time, “perfect for cooking and jam-making”. And, they have certainly proven to be.

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Glen Ample raspberries. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

If you’ve never made jam before, raspberry jam is the easiest to make. It practically sets as soon as the fruit and sugar boils. Frozen raspberries work equally as well for jam-making; whilst other fruit loses pectin (the natural setting agent found in many fruits) after freezing, I have found little difference in setting jam made with the frozen berries.

I have 3 methods for making my raspberry jam, depending on how much fruit I have picked, and how much time is available. The first method, is the traditional saucepan method, great if you have a large amount of fruit and a bit of time. This method works well with frozen berries – just let them thaw out in the saucepan you’re going to use to cook them in so that none of the juices are wasted.

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Traditional homemade Scottish raspberry jam. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Traditional raspberry jam – use equal amounts of prepared fresh (or frozen) raspberries to granulated sugar. The yield is approximately the same as the weight of the 2 ingredients combined, so 500g raspberries and 500g sugar should give you 1kg of jam.

Heat the fruit by itself in a clean, large saucepan, stirring, until it steams and starts to break down. Mash it a little with a wooden spoon, reduce the heat and stir in the sugar. Heat, gently, stirring, until the sugar is completely dissolved, then raise the heat, bring the jam to a rapid boil, and stop stirring. Cook for 2 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the jam settle for about 5 minutes. Stir, and then transfer to clean, sterilised jars whilst still very hot. Seal immediately. Cool and label. In a cool, dark, dry cupboard, this jam will keep unopened for up to 12 months. Store in the fridge once opened, and eat within a month.

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Microwave raspberry jam. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Microwave raspberry jam – super-speedy; hassle free; the perfect jam method for smaller amounts of fresh berries (I haven’t tried this with frozen berries but I can’t see why it wouldn’t work). Use finer, caster sugar for this jam as it heats and dissolves more quickly. The jam has a good set, and I find the colour is brighter than the traditional method; the flavour is much the same. My microwave is 900W so you may need to adjust timings accordingly.

Wash and pat dry 250g prepared fresh raspberries and mash with a fork in a large, perfectly clean microwave-proof bowl ( the mixture needs room to boil in the microwave, so choose a good size to prevent the mixture boiling over).

Put 250g caster sugar in a microwave-proof bowl and cook on Medium for 10 minutes, stirring every 2 minutes. The temperature of the sugar should be around 80°C (I use a food probe to check). Carefully pour the sugar over the mashed raspberries and stir well – the mixture will be very sloppy at this stage.

Put back in the microwave, and cook on High for 3 minutes to reach boiling point, then boil for 2 minutes. The jam is now ready to put in jars and seal as above. The jam has the same keeping qualities as with the traditionally made jam above.

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Steps to making microwave raspberry jam. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

My third method for making jam is probably the most delicious and it involves no cooking of the raspberries at all. You do need to select the perfect, unblemished, fresh specimens for best results, and wash the berries well before using. Use caster sugar for speedier heating and dissolving.

This fresh jam has a much softer texture than the other 2. You need to store it in the fridge – I find it keeps well for 4 to 6 weeks. It also freezes so you can keep it for longer  and then take out small portions as and when you fancy. If you haven’t got a microwave, you can heat the sugar in a saucepan – just keep the heat very low and keep stirring the sugar so that it doesn’t melt or burn.

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Fresh raspberry jam Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Fresh (uncooked) raspberry jam – wash and pat dry 250g prepared, unblemished, very fresh raspberries and mash with a fork in a large, perfectly clean, heat-proof bowl. Sit the bowl on a clean tea-towel.

Put 250g caster sugar in a microwave-proof bowl and cook on Medium for 15 minutes, stirring every 2 minutes. The temperature of the sugar should be around 120°C (I use a food probe to check). Carefully pour the hot sugar over the mashed raspberries and stir well – it will hiss and steam. Cover loosely and leave to cool completely, then spoon into clean, sterilised jars or containers. Seal and label, and store in the fridge or freezer.

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Fresh raspberry jam preparation. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

For more recipes using fresh raspberries, see my posts Rhubarb, raspberry and custard crump (gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan) and Rose and raspberry vodka (gluten-free, dairy-free)

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Up close and personal: freshly picked Glen Ample raspberries. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

 

 

Cranberries & Cranberry Jam recipe (gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan)

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Cranberry plant with fruit. Plant images: Stuart MacGregor. Berry image: Kathryn Hawkins

In my humble opinion, there is no fruit nor vegetable that looks more festive than the cranberry. The fresh berries have just started arriving on the greengrocer’s shelves these past few days. The season for fresh cranberries in the UK is quite short, so I’m stocking up my freezer for a year round supply.

The cranberry plant is low growing and creeping in habit, and likes damp, acidic soil; it is a member of the heather family. A few years ago, I grew my own plant in a deep pot. Once it was established, it made a lovely trailing plant in a hanging basket for a while, until I forgot to water it (!) and sadly, it met a very sorry, shrivelled, end. I hope to try again this spring if I can track down a suitable mature plant.

The waxy-looking, scarlet berries are rich in Vitamin C and a staple of the Thanksgiving and Christmas menu. I’ve just made a batch of jam to serve with the Christmas roast; very easy to make and much nicer than anything you can buy in a jar. Add finely grated orange rind for a zesty flavour, and/or a few spoonfuls of Port at the end of cooking for a richer taste. I put the jam into small jars which then makes it ideal for gifting.

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Jars of my freshly made cranberry jam. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Makes: 5 x 200ml jars

  • 500g fresh cranberries – the recipe will also work fine using frozen berries
  • 175ml water
  • 600g granulated sugar
  1. Put the berries and water into a preserving pan or large saucepan. Put a lid over the pan and begin heating – the berries will start “popping” and may jump a bit as they warm up.
  2. Bring the contents of the saucepan to simmering point and cook gently for about 10 minutes until the berries are soft and pulpy.
  3. Stir in the sugar over a low heat until dissolved, then boil rapidly for 5-8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until thick and the liquid has reduced. Cranberries have lots of pectin so this mixture will set readily without having to test that a setting point has been achieved.
  4. Spoon whilst hot into warm sterilised jars and seal immediately. Once cool, label and cover the jar lids if preferred. Store in a dry, cool, dark cupboard; as with most preserves, cranberry jam will keep for several months.

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    Homemade cranberry jam. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

 

 

Smoky Tomato Jam (gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan)

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Homegrown early Autumn tomatoes. Image copyright: Kathryn Hawkins

This is the time of year when I often get very busy with my work and have little time to spend in the garden or the kitchen (outside work hours). However, making preserves is something I try to find time for no matter what else needs to be done. There is so much produce around at the moment, practically begging to be put in the pot and made into jam or chutney, I can’t ignore it.

One of my most popular preserves is, thankfully, one of the easiest to make, so this weekend I got the large preserving pan out of the cupboard and set about cooking up this year’s first batch of Smoky Tomato Jam. It’s really a smooth chutney, but the texture lends itself better to being called jam. One of the best thing about this particular preserve is that it’s ready to be eaten immediately, as well as being a good “keeper”.

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Ingredients for tomato jam making. Image copyright: Kathryn Hawkins

Makes 5 x 325ml jars

  • 700g fresh prepared ripe, but firm, tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 350g prepared red onion, roughly chopped
  • 550g prepared cooking apples, roughly chopped
  • 350ml red wine or cider vinegar
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 large sprigs rosemary
  • 275g granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp each of salt, ground cumin and smoked paprika
  1. Put the tomatoes and onion in a food processor and blitz for a few seconds until well chopped and pulpy. Transfer to a large saucepan.
  2. Put the apples in the food processor with half the vinegar and blitz for a few seconds until well chopped. Transfer to the saucepan containing the tomato and onion mixture.
  3. Pour over the remaining vinegar and add the bay leaves and rosemary. Bring to the boil, stirring occasionally, and then simmer gently for 10 minutes until softened.
  4. Stir in the sugar over a low heat, until dissolved, then raise the heat and simmer steadily for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until it reaches the consistency of thick jam. Turn off the heat, discard the herbs and stir in the salt and spices.
  5. Ladle into warm, sterilised jars and seal with non-corrosive lids. Allow to cool and store for 6-8 months in a cool, dark cupboard. Once opened, keep in the fridge and use within 2 weeks. Delicious with all cured meats, smoked fish, and cheese dishes.
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Jars of freshly made Smoky Tomato Jam. Image copyright: Kathryn Hawkins

In a bit of a pickle

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Homegrown cucumbers. Image copyright: Kathryn Hawkins

For several years now, I have been a successful cucumber grower. So much so, that even though I reduce the amount of plants I raise each year, I always end up with a glut. Whilst I enjoy eating cucumber raw in salads, and they are very good lightly cooked in a stir fry, I have been at a loss as to what else to do with them.

Whilst leafing through an old cookery book for inspiration, I came across an intriguing recipe called Bread and Butter pickle. The name drew me in, and to my delight, it is a real gem. It is one of the best pickles I have ever made, and so easy to make. I hope you like it as much as I do.

Makes 5 x 325ml jars

  • 1kg prepared cucumbers, chopped into 1.5cm pieces
  • 250g prepared red onion, finely chopped
  • 3 tbsp sea salt
  • 550ml white wine vinegar
  • 175g granulated sugar
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Pinch of dried chilli flakes
  • ¼ tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp each of mustard seeds, coriander seeds and cumin seeds, coarsely ground
  1. Mix the cucumber, red onion and salt together in a large, clean, china or glass bowl. Leave to stand at room temperature, lightly covered, for 1 hour.
  2. Drain the vegetables in a fine-holed colander or strainer. Rinse very well in cold running water, then dry very well on absorbent kitchen paper. Pack into 5 x 325ml sterilised jam jars.

    Preparation_of _vegetables_for_cucumber_pickle
    Preparation of vegetables for Bread and Butter Pickle. Image copyright: Kathryn Hawkins
  3. Put the vinegar in a saucepan and add the remaining ingredients. Heat gently, stirring, until the sugar dissolves. Raise the heat and boil for 3 minutes. Discard the bay leaves.
  4. Pour the hot vinegar over the vegetables, making sure they are completely covered. Seal tightly with non corrosive, screw-top lids. Leave to cool, then label, and store in a cool, dry place for at least 3 months before opening. Delicious served with smoked fish or cold cuts. I spoon the pickle over chilli beef tacos – delicious!

    Homegrown_cucumber_pickle
    Homemade cucumber pickle. Image copyright: Kathryn Hawkins

Preserving the Summer (Semi-cuit tomatoes – gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan)

Freshly_picked_homegrown_tomatoes
Home-grown tomatoes ready for the dryer. Image copyright: Kathryn Hawkins

I’ve been picking tomatoes from my greenhouse for over a month now, and there are still plenty to ripen. Whilst I am enjoying them fresh, I do like to make preserves, and first up this year is to steep a few tomatoes in olive oil. A couple of years ago I bought myself a dehydrator, and  I have been drying various homegrown produce ever since. Semi-cuit (semi-dry) tomatoes make a sweet, indulgent and delicious out-of-season treat for later in the year, so these wee treasures are heading for the dehydrator right away.

Dehydrating_tomatoes
My Stockli dehydrator and prepared tomatoes. Image copyright: Kathryn Hawkins

Dehydrating is a very straightforward process. Wash and pat dry the tomatoes; if they are small to medium size, cut them in half – you may want to slice larger tomatoes or just “cook” them for longer. My dehydrator has 3 shelves; I divide up the tomatoes between the shelves, making sure there is some air space between them, pop the lid on and set the temperature to 70°C (158°F). This batch of 650g will take 6-7 hours to dry down so that they are still a bit fleshy and not too leathery. The final yield will be about 150g.

Once the tomatoes have cooled, I will pack them into a sterilised jam jar with a screw top lid, and add a few sprigs of fresh rosemary, bay and thyme from the garden. Pour over good quality extra virgin olive oil to cover the tomatoes completely and screw on the lid tightly. Stored in a cool, dark, dry cupboard, they will keep for about 6 months – so perfect for festive eatings. Once opened, store them in the fridge for up to 6 weeks – the oil will turn cloudy and clumpy when chilled, but becomes liquid again at room temperature. Roll on Christmas!

Semi-cuit_tomatoes_preserved_in_olive_oil_with_herbs
Semi-cuit tomatoes with olive oil and rosemary. Image copyright: Kathryn Hawkins

A taste of Summer: Sweet lavender vinegar (gluten-free, dairy-free)

Lavender_growing_in_a_Scottish_garden
Scottish garden lavender. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

We haven’t had the best of weather so far this month, here in central Scotland. Too much rain to be able to spend quality time outdoors, but it has been warmer, and we have had a few precious sunny hours. The lavender buds are just about to bloom, making them perfect for harvesting.

I have several lavender bushes all round the garden, ranging in colour from pale, pinky-lilac to deep, blueish-purple. Apart from looking delicate and pretty, the soothing scent that lavender brings to the garden is one of the true aromas of Summer.

One of the best ways to continue to enjoy this sensual memory, even when the gloomier months of the year set in, is to pop a few stems in a bottle of vinegar. In a few weeks, you’ll have the sweet smell of lavender and its delicate floral notes, preserved perfectly, in a bottle. It makes a lovely gift too.

How_to_make_lavender_vinegar
Sweet lavender vinegar ingredients. Image copyright: Kathryn Hawkins

 

 

For best results, choose lavender stems with buds that have swollen and are about to break flower. Lavender keeps fresh in water for 3 days after cutting, but keep out of sunlight in order to prevent the buds opening. Change the water and trim the stems a little each day.

To make sweet lavender vinegar:

  • Wash and sterilise a sound, sealable glass bottle large enough to hold 250ml liquid.
  • Trim down 12 stems of lavender to fit neatly inside your bottle and discard any leaves. Gently rinse and pat dry – dip lightly in a bowl of water and dry on absorbent kitchen paper.
  • Gently crush the bud end of each stem between your fingers to release the aroma, and arrange in the bottle, buds downwards.
  • Slightly warm 250ml white balsamic vinegar (agrodolce white condiment) – place on a sunny windowsill, just to take any chill out of the liquid – then pour into the bottle using a small funnel. I use white balsamic vinegar because it is naturally sweet and enhances floral and citrus notes in herbs and flowers. For a more traditional vinegar, choose a good quality white wine or cider vinegar.
  • Seal with a non-corrosive, acid-proof lid or stopper. Label and leave on the kitchen work top for a couple of weeks, gently turning the bottle upside down and back each day.
  • After 2 weeks, taste for flavour and either strain and rebottle ready for long-term storage, or continue to store as it is, allowing the flavour to slowly increase. For an intense flavour, strain the vinegar after 2 weeks, rebottle with more fresh lavender, and store until required. Stored correctly, in a cool, dark cupbaord, your vinegar should last for up to 12 months.

You can use the same method with other fresh flowers and herbs. Rose and Calendula petals work well for flowery vinegars, whilst bay, fennel, marjoram, oregano, rosemary, sage, tarragon and thyme are good choices for herbs to flavour vinegar.