Posts tagged ‘JAM’

September 27, 2012

Fruit of the vine- a gift of grapes means lots of grape jam

by Ciaran Burke

I got the call on Sunday morning,” I have friend of a friend who has a grape vine…”. The vine grower now lives in France, but the vine in question grows in Sligo. Nobody wanted the grapes, the caller thought of me, “would I like the grapes?”  Yes, definitely. We arranged to meet on Tuesday morning, we were told there were lots to pick, but were not sure how much that was. So we packed a couple of buckets and off we went to Tubbercurry, Co. Sligo, a short drove from our home.

We arrived at the vacant house, a west wind blew damp and fresh, the garden overgrown, the grass long and weeds invading the driveway. We followed our friend Mary to the tunnel, a stunning sight greeted us. The vine had started to wander, side shoots stretched out like tentacles, reaching into the air, looking for something to grab. The main body of the vine was supported on a homemade support sytem of wood and steel, winding stems looked ancient, older than their years. They twisted along the suports from the far end of the tunnel. Almost the entire length of the structure was filled by its fruitful presence. The large leaves tried to hide its bounty from our view. We gently eased back foliage to see the large clusters of grapes revealed. We got busy with out scissors, our buckets soon overflowed, luckily I had a crate in the car, the harvesting could continue.

Grape vines are easy to grow, the west of Ireland climate does not provide good ripening conditions, a protected structure such as a greenhouse or plastic tunnel over comes the disadvantage of our location. Each end of the tunnel had plastic netteing for doors allowing good ventilation, essential for vines so as to reduce the incidence of powdery mildew, which can be menace for Vitis vinifera.

So what to do with all these grapes? First of all jam. We have also made cordial and my wife Hanna baked a delicious rustic Italian grape cake. All the recipes are on their way, but first the jam!

Grape Jam Recipe

Grape jam takes a little work to prepare. The work involves removing the pulp from the grape and separating the skins. Then the pulp is cooked and sieved to remove the stones. While the pulp is cooking you blend the skins with a food processor or hand blender. The skins are then added to the sieved pulp, then cooked slowly for about 30 minutes. Then add sugar and boil like mad for about another 30 minutes until the jam is setting. A good set can be achieved without the addition of pectin. I try to limit the sugar quantities to a minimum, partly for healthiness but I also prefer the jam to taste of grapes and not be too sweet.

Ingredients

  • 4kg of grapes
  • 500ml of water
  • tbsp of lemon juice
  • 1.5kg of sugar

Method

  1. Remove the skins. This is easy, just squeeze the fruit so that the inner pulp and seed ejects from the opening where the fruit was attached to the bunch. Put the skins in a separate bowl. Two people doing a 2 kilos took about 30 minutes
  2. Put the pulp containing seeds to cook, when they start to boil reduce heat to simmer for about 10 minutes
  3. Meanwhile chop up the skins using hand blender or food processor
  4. Sieve the grape flesh to remove the seeds, a coarse sieve will do, I used a colander with small holes
  5. Retutn the grapes to the saucepan and add the puled skins. Add the lemon juice and water and bring to boil
  6. Reduce the heat to simmer the fruit for 30 minutes, cooking slowly releases the pectin
  7. Slowly add the sugar and then turn up the heat
  8. The jam will boil heavily and keep the temp up high. It took about 30 minutes for the jam to start thickening.
  9. When it is starting to set, fill the jam into sterilized jars.

This amount made 13 8oz jars. When making jam stir the fruit occasionally to make sure it does not stick to the sauce pan, never leave it alone as it is sure to boil over and burn as soon as you turn your back.

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September 23, 2012

Aronia Jam

by Ciaran Burke

We walked under the spruce trees, passed the twisted hawthorn and down the slope. The long grass brushed our knees, the mild damp autumn evening surrounded us and calmed our senses. The small river trickled over rocks, a soundtrack to soothe as we walked in to the lower part of the garden.

Here trees and shrubs grow in the grass, eventually we will have a woodland where ornamental species mingle with productive plants bearing fruit, berries and nuts. The weather has been so consistently wet I have not been able to cut the grass in this area of the garden since June. The area even flooded a few times when the stream over flowed, then that whole part of the garden looked like the river Shannon. As a consequence, the lower garden is a bit of a wilderness. Despite the wet conditions many of the trees species have grown well. Plants that grow here are tough. Birch trees are happy, willows are ecstatic. The alders, Alnus glutinosa, which we planted in the sucking, wet ground a few years ago have rocketed skyward, their branches provide shelter and their roots fix nitrogen to enrich the soil. Hazels are thriving where there is better drainage close to the stream and Parottis persica ‘Vanessa’ will soon turn gold and crimson with autumn tints.

Betula albosinensis ‘Fascination’ in our “wilderness”.

We picked our way through the grass, plucked some leaves of sorrel to munch and taste their sour flavour. A bush with large clusters of shining black berries drew our attention, Aronia melaoncarpa. Here in our wilderness, it has grown and triumphed. 1.5 metres high, so far, it will in time grow higher. A close relative of the wider grown genus, Cotoneaster, Aronias have a similar display of small white flowers in May.

Aronia melanocarpa fruits

Now in Autumn it gives us its best, the green leaves start to turn a rich red before fading to orange and gold before they fall. Hanging from the stems are juicy black fruits, the size of grapes. It is a plant of beauty and strong constitution. No weeding has been done around it, no fertilizing, no pruning. In wet acid soil it has thrived, and it has been fruitful. It also is growing in shade for most of the day, not until  late afternoon when the sun has moved past the tall spruce trees does the plant receive direct sun rays.

Leaves of Aronia melanocarpa showing the first signs of autumn coloration.

There are other species of Aronia and hybrids too.  Aronia arbutifolia is a smaller leaved plants with small red edible fruits and fiery red autumn foliage. Aronia ‘Viking’ is vigorous with dark purple edible fruits and good autumn colour. We also have another plant of Aronia in our garden with dark fruits that are smaller that A. melanocarpa with a different taste, I think it is A. x prunifolia.

Aronia melanocarpa

I was surprised by how well our plant of A. melanocarpa had grown, and by how beautiful it looked, my mind turned to jam. I mean, I thought about making jam! The berries make a lovely jam.

Beside our tunnel I have a number of plants of Aronia melanocarpa and A. ‘Viking” which I had propagated from cuttings. As soon as I give the long grass and rushes a strimming, I will definitely plant more Aronia bushes.

Aronia fruit

ARONIA JAM RECIPE

Ingredients

  • 1Kg of ripe aronia berries (A. melaoncarpa or hybris, not A. arbutifolia).
  • Juice of one lemon
  • 350g sugar
  • 2 large cooking apples.

 Method

  1. Put the aronia berries in a saucepan with a little water and juice of a lemon. Cook on a low heat, simmering until they are soft, this takes longer than blackcurrants or blackberries, 35 – 40 minutes.
  2. Chop up the apple into pieces, do not skin and cook in a separate saucepan with a little water until it reduces to a soft mushy pulp. Press the pulp through a sieve to remove the skin pieces and set a side.

    Cooking apples sliced and in the sauce pan

     

  3. When the aronia berries have softened stir in the sugar a little at a time. Then add the apple pulp.

    Transfer the apple pulp into the jam once the jam fruit has softened.

  4. Turn up the heat and boil the jam, it should be raging, a roiling boil which will splatter like mad, be careful, it is very hot.
  5. After about fifteen minutes then jam should be thickening and ready for potting.

Filling jars and Storing

  1. Transfer the jam into sterilized jars. I put washed and dried jars with lids removed into a cold oven and then turn the heat to 140 degrees Celcius. Leave them in the oven for 10 – 15 minutes. I put the lids in too.

    Jam jars washed and dried, In the oven for sterilizing.

  2. Fill the jars while jam is till hot, I use a jam funnel. Put lids on straight away and screw tight. This will cause a vacuum to develop as the jam cools, you will hear lids pop after a while. When the jam has cools, label with date and store jars in a cool, dark dry place. Well prepared jam can last for a year.

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September 5, 2012

A Saturday Night with Black Sabbath Making Rose Hip Jam…

by Ciaran Burke

Two pots of rose hip jam

Its coming to that time of year again, blackberries are ripe, elder berries are ripening and the rose hips are nearly there. I “look forward” to some Saturday nights making jam. During the summer I made some rose hip jam from fruits that were in the freezer, it is a delicious jam but it does take a bit of work.  From my old blog here is the story of a Saturday night spent making rose hip jam in the company of Ozzy Osbourne and Black Sabbath. I have added my revised rose hip jam recipe using sugar and apples to add pectin.

The knife cuts through the red flesh, the head is severed, then, thop, brop, brop… bouncing in the bucket. I pick up the next one, cut and chop, thop, brop, brop…

It is Saturday night, the guitars, the bass, the drums, they blast from the speakers. Ozzy Osbourne’s tortured cries accompany, “Am I Going Insane?”… Cut and chop, top and tail, thop, brop, brop… Perhaps I will go mad! I am preparing a bucket full of rose hips, our bounty from the hedgerow, getting ready to make rose hip jam.

Rosa rugosa – hips

Rose hips, the fruit of the rose are easy to pick, once you get started its hard to stop. Wild dog rose, Rosa canina is ideal, and Rosa rugosa hips are also good. The bucket fills quickly, as you add more and more. Then you get home. Now you have to top and tail them. Remove the stalk from the base, and discard the leafy calyx from the top.

Rose hips- a long night ahead!

I start with enthusiasm, what better way to spend a Saturday night? Black Sabbath are playing loudly as I pick through the harvest, topping and tailing. Soon the sound of the falling rose hips is dulled as they land on a layer of prepared hips, no longer do I hear the hollow thop, brop, brop of topped and tailed hips bouncing in an empty bucket. I  work away, Ozzy sings “Tomorrow’s Dream”, rose hip jam on my bread for breakfast.

A busy Saturday night topping and tailing rose hips!

The bucket of unprepared hips is still quite full, and Sabbath are nearly finished one album. I am beginning to think that I am going to get to hear their whole back catalogue. “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath” has me singing “Rosehips Bloody Rosehips” as I dip into the never emptying  bucket.  But I continue with my toil, my three containers in front of me; the harvesting bucket, the compost bucket and plastic bowl of prepared hips. Black Sabbath keep blasting out the tunes, I keep cutting. It is good to hear the old tunes again, air guitar with a sharp knife is not a good idea though

Eventually there is hope, a slight glimpse of white plastic, the bottom of the bucket. Briefly glimpsed before a hip rolls to replace its vacated companion. “Never Say Die”, ah yes, ah song for every occasion, the band plays on. With renewed vigor, I keep chopping, topping, tailing and the bucket is empty at last.

Rose hips topped and tailed

Next I wash some old jars, weigh out 1.2Kg of hips, bag the rest and put them in the freezer.  I place the fruit in a big sauce pan add some water and cook them. Its getting late, but I have lots of Black Sabbath albums. As I move to the next phase of the jam making operation, I change to the second era of Black Sabbath, with Ronnie James Dio on vocals, “Turn Up The Night”. After about an hour the fruits have softened.  I have to press them through a sieve to remove the seeds, a thick pulp of rich red results, it is hard work. Then I skin a few apples and chop them in the food processor. The pulp goes back into a saucepan with two 400ml bottles of apple juice concentrate  and chopped apple. The mixture bubbles like a witches brew, Dio sings of circles and rings, dragons and kings, as I stir the jam. The temperature rises, the jam starts to thicken and after a while of continuous stirring it is time to fill the jars.

Rose hips in the saucepan

This is always the messiest part. The boiling jam is transferred with a spoon into jars that have been heated in the oven to sterilize them. I usually manage to spill some, but only minor scalding results. Soon the jars are filled, I scrape the cooling and setting jam from the edges of the pot. I lick the sweet sticky fruit from the spoon.   It is late, it has been a long night of toil, but this is the best moment, it is hot, it is sweet and it is delicious as Dio sings… “ Heaven and Hell”. Well, it was hard work, for two and a half jars of jam. Not quite hell, but rose hip jam is close to heaven.

ROSE HIP JAM RECIPE

Since I fist made rose hip jam I have revised the recipe using sugar instead of apple juice concentrate. This jam wont be set like a jelly, instead it will be like a thick delicious sauce. It still involves topping and tailing!

INGREDIENTS:

  • 500 g rose hips chopped
  • 500ml water
  • 200ml boiled water
  • 3 apples, cored and chopped, don’t peel them
  • juice of half a lemon
  • 1.5 cups of sugar

METHOD

  1. Boil the rose hips in 500ml of water until they are soft.
  2. In a separate pot boil the chopped apples in a little water until soft and mushy.
  3. Push the pulp of the rose hips through a sieve into a bowl and set aside.
  4. Put the seeds back into the pot and pour in 200ml of boiling water, cook for a few minutes and sieve again, add to the rose hip pulp.
  5. Next, put the apple pulp through the sieve and mix into the rose hip pulp.
  6. Heat the pulp, add the sugar slowly, stirring to make sure it is dissolved. Add the lemon juice. Turn up the heat and boil the jam.
  7. Continue cooking for about 20 minutes until the jam has thickened.
  8. Put the mixture into sterilized jam jars.
  9. Fasten lids and allow to cool.
November 8, 2011

Sea buckthorn berries make good jam!

by Ciaran Burke

Top Fruit, Soft Fruit and Strange Fruit

I was getting ready to do a talk to the North Mayo Garden Club today, and as I was going through my presentation I remembered that I had a few pots of delicious apple and sea buckthorn jam left. Sea buckthorn berries are a super health food; one small berry can have a Vitamin C content equal to that of six oranges, packed with atioxidants and a number of omega oils, it is a wonder fruit. It is also a wondeful tasting berry. Eaten straight from the bush it may be a bit sharp for many peoples’ tastes, but blended with juices or as an ingredient in cooking it is delicious, unique and colourful.

Sea Buckthorn berries - Hippophae rhamnoides

The first of our bushes that we planted gave us a good crop this year, or to be more specific the female plant cropped well. We originally planted two varieties, Rudolph, a male to pollinate, and Raisa a female to fruit, both purchased in Finland while on holidays three years ago. Last year we had a few berries but this year we have lots in the freezer and enough to make jam. We have since planted five more female varieties, we are sure Rudolph will be up to the job, and are looking forward to great crops in the coming years.

To make the flavour of this year’s berries go further, I  mixed the berries with apple to make jam. It turned out great, it is one of my favourite jams, sea buckthorns are one of my favourite berries. Below is the recipe that I used for the jam. I am going to take  a jar with me to my talk tonight so that people can have a taste of sea buckthorn, for most it will probably be their first time. Perhaps some gardeners might be inspired to grow these great plants.

Apple and Sea Buckthorn Jam

Jar of home made Apple and Sea buckthorn Jam

900ml of sea buckthorn berries

3 litres of peeled and chopped desert apples

1 Kg of sugar

300 ml of water

1. Cook the berries, water and apples over a low heat for about fifteen minutes or until the apple is soft.

2. Slowly add the sugar, stirring well to ensure the fruit dissolves.

3. Turn heat up and cook the jam for about fifteen or twenty minutes.

4. Spoon the jam into sterilized glass jars and tighten lids immediately. (Wash used jam jars with soapy water, then dry off and place in cold oven an heat to 100 degrees celcius).

North Mayo Garden Club, talk tonight Tuesday 8th of November- Top Fruit, Soft Fruit and Strange Fruit- a talk by Ciaran Burke. Venue Merry Monk, Killala Road, Ballina, Co. Mayo, Ireland. 8 pm.

Talk will also be given to Claregalway  GIY on Wednesday 23rd November at Arches Hotel, Claregalway, Co. Galway at 8 pm.

July 29, 2011

GOING WILD ABOUT WILD BLUE BERRY JAM IN FINLAND

by Ciaran Burke

BLUE BERRY, BILBERRY,FROACHAN, VACCINIUM MYRTILLLUS- FRUIT

I have been in Finland for the last couple of weeks with my wife Hanna, a native of this beautiful tree filled land. Finland is the most forested country in the EU. Approximately 74% of the country is covered in forest. One gets the impression that even the biggest towns and cities are living areas carved from the forests, trees are never far away. The green gold of Finland provides an important source of income, but the forests are more than resources to be harvested and sold.

Driving through the country, large pines and birches tower either side of the road. The roads are like veins and arteries carrying civilization, through a forested body; it is in this arboreal body in which the Finnish soul resides.

In European folklores, the woods are scary places; big bad wolves attack innocent girls on their way to visit their grand mothers. In Finland however the forests are considered a place of beauty, where most people spend their summer holidays, surrounded by the beauty. In summer as you drive along one of the arterial routes of civilization, you are sure to see people walking to the forests with empty buckets in search for berries or coming from the woods with baskets of mushrooms. Gathering food from the forest floor is a national pass time, or in some cases an obsession.

The two most numerous berry types are lingon berry and wild blueberry, bilberry, or froachan as we call it in Ireland. Both are species of Vaccinium, the former, V. vitis-idea and the latter V. myrtillus. Finns may love their forests, but they are intensely proud of their berries too. Ask them and most will tell you that the Finnish blueberries are the best. Families often have their own preferred places for picking; this information is not shared with others.

Last week we were in Hanko, the southern most tip of Finland. Here the forest is chiefly composed of tall pines. We got a report that the blue berries were plentiful, we went for a walk to see. As often happens in this wooded land, a short stroll became a berry picking expedition. The hot and high afternoon sun filtered through the open pines to dapple light patterns on the sandy forest floor. Mosses and lichens made a soft bed for heathers and blueberries to grow in the shade. We picked a litre of berries and returned home.

WILD BLUE BERRIES PILED ON THE MARKET STALL

Early the next morning we visited the market in Hanko. Here in a car park in the town, adjacent to a filling station, wild blue berries were piled high on a table. The berry sellers were Asian women, Burmese refugees. They pick them in the woods and sell the in the market, their produce marked clearly that they are Suomi, Finnish. Farmers sold vegetables, there were stalls for locally caught fish too. The vegetables stalls sold potatoes measured in kappa’s. A kappa is a wooden box, a 5 litre box is a full kappa, a 2 litre is half. These are traditional measurements used for selling potatoes, converted to metric measurements, the boxes complete with official stamps. Most fruits and vegetables are sold by volume and not by weight at the Finnish markets. French beans, green and yellow are measured in litre and half litre measuring cups.

POTATOES IN FULL AND HALF KAPPA'S

FRANCH BEANS ON THE MARKET STALL

We purchased an additional litre of blue berries and potatoes and vegetables for dinner; then we cycled home to make some jam.

BLUE BERRY JAM INGREDIENTS

In a saucepan I cooked the berries with a small amount of water until the fruit had become soft, a wonderful fruity fragrance filled the kitchen. After about ten minutes of slowly cooking the fruit I gradually added 500g of sugar, made from Finnish grown sugar beet, unlike Ireland they saved their sugar beet industry from EU eradication. When all the sugar was added and dissolved, I turned up the heat and the jam boiled hard. I continued cooking the jam, stirring occasionally until the jam was not running off the wooden spoon.

ADDING SUGAR TO THE JAM

The messiest part of jam making is always when I fill the jars. The jars were heated in the oven so as to sterilize them; they were first washed, then dried and placed in a cold oven. I heat the oven to 100 degrees Celsius and the jars remain in the oven until I am ready to fill them.

POTS OF BLUE BERRY JAM

Later when the filled jars had cooled and the jam was set, we ate Finnish oven pancake over which we spooned this delicious wild blue berry jam. We ate it with home made buns, on bread, and spooned straight from the jar. There is nothing quite like home made jam, wild blue berry jam made with berries from the woodland, delicious!

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