A bowl full of blackcurrants from the allotment. Rohit wanted ice-cream. And the debate whether “to custard or not to custard” raged again. This time not to custard won, with an argument of “if it does not come out right, next batch, custard”!
Next issue, cooking! You could make an ice-cream without cooking the blackcurrants or you could soften them by cooking and extract the juice. If I had not got the sieving attachment for the Kenwood mixer, I would not be debating this. There is no way to hand press and sieve a whole bunch of just about ripe blackcurrants, while the machine with make short work of it. Maybe my lazy bone struck again, I choose the non-cooking method.
No custard and no cooking, now how easy can it be … very! Continue reading
Brin planted 3 blackcurrant bushes this year in mid spring and we did not expect any berries this year. Boy where we wrong. There were profuse bunches in the 3 – 4 branches of each plant. Straight off the plant, the tart, not very sweet but intense blackcurrant flavour was so good. Pop just one in the mouth, savoured followed by another, just like popcorn! Continue reading
A few of months ago in early spring, I remembered Brin once telling me about a “pick your own” farm in Jersey, where she fondly remembered picking and eating strawberries straight out of the plant, seconds after picking! Beat that supermarkets!!!!! Having never visited one and wanting to give the experience to the boys, I started googling and the marvel of the information age showed me one in Poynton, within half hour or so of drive time. I just called them to see when they are open and was told the bad news, due to the very cold and long winter and late arrival of spring there was no strawberries yet and was advised to check their Facebook page for any updates! A farm with a Facebook page!
It was a loooonnng wait. Eventually, well into summer, Facebook update of half a days opening for picking strawberries came. We had a wonderful time roaming around the farm and eating their gorgeous homemade ice-cream, even though picking strawberries proved a very hard job. The farm used integrated pest management techniques, which meant they do not spray pesticides or weed killers after the plants start flowering, meaning you could eat the berries straight off the plant without washing. The down side was there were a lot of weeds and quite a few strawberries with holes. Each one of us had a small paper basket, provided by the farm and priced as such. After half an hour of enthusiastic hunting for the best strawberries and lots of “there are lots good here” and “there is plenty more here” screamed to each other across the field, I started to feel it. All the constant bending wears you out quickly especially with my “fitness!”
After more than an hour, all of our baskets almost full, combined with the experience of picking the gooseberries and red/black currants in our own allotment, we realised one thing … the reason why berries are so expensive in supermarkets … is not the cost of growing, it is the cost of picking!!! It is a vey labour intensive process, picking berries, then they are so fragile, you squish and mash a significant percentage.
Only when we came home we realised what we had done. We had a mountain of strawberries, more than 5 kilos! Recipe does follow eventually…
An unassuming small gooseberry bush about a meter across was already established in our allotment. This has been a particularly good year for most fruit, supposedly due to the very long and cold winter and late spring and summer, who would have thought! The gooseberry bush was a prime example with all the branches just laden to the full. How can a such a small gooseberry shrub give so many fruit? Gooseberry variety here is unlike the gooseberries we have in India. Oval fruit with light green skin with tinges of red. No large single stone in the centre. Instead, about 4 or 5 tiny seeds, which you don’t even have to pick out while eating, and the skin has a lot of fine hairs.
Takes hours to harvest, avoiding the sharp thorns and picking the small fruit one by one. We took turns and did it a quarter of the bush at one time. Even with the tiered picking, we wasted a lot this year, fruit quickly rotting in the unusual heat while awaiting delivery to friends and neighbours. We have effectively used about half the total produce, I estimate.
Staring at the pile of gooseberries, I realised I have never eaten gooseberry jam. Gooseberry ice-cream, at the pick your own farm near Macclesfield, was gorgeous. So it was time to crack ice-cream! My previous feeble attempts at ice-cream making were mostly flavoured ice crystals! But now I had a secret weapon, an ice-cream churner attachment for the Kenwood mixer and the bowl was already in the freezer. Continue reading
We have a small allotment, which was in a bad unkept state when we got it. Brin has been very painstakingly working it into control from weeds. She religiously goes to the allotment hoeing and digging out all the weeds and brought all the land into a cultivable state. Kudos to her. There were a few bushes already established and productive, a large red currant and a gooseberry. The red currants were delicious, together with their translucent red glinting in the light like jewels. Edible rubies are what they are! Together with an army of child labour, bribed with promises of the ultimate jelly, the red currants were picked, gave about 1.2 kg in-spite of the continual tasting by 3 small and 1 large mouths “to see if they are good” and confirm “they are really good” when picking! Though I have watched my mother make tomato jam and tried to recreate it whenever I see “the best” tomatoes as my dad, who was despatched to do the vegetable market shopping used to insist. But it was a hit and miss affair with mostly excellent tasting (according the Brin, who is biased) but sometimes crystallised or was too solid to be spread on bread or just got spoiled soon. Odd, the ones which spoiled was always the ones which turned out to be a very good jam. But all that experimenting, temperature monitoring, jar sterilising etc, and reading about jam making gave a little edge and given the exquisitely delicious brilliant rubies I was faced with, I was determined to get it right. So more research half the night in preparation for the morning. Thanks internet and google …. hmmm they are just facilitators …. thanks to the millions of contributors on the web and books too.
Next day started with awareness that the only red currant jelly I have tasted is the supermarket stuff, so religiously bought each year as “it is delicious with turkey”, opened bottle to some good looking but not very tasty jelly, used a few teaspoons and stays in the fridge for the next year till it gets replace by the new seasonal jar from the supermarket. De ja vu … However the freshly picked and washed red currants glinting in the light was so enticing … I kept tasting and imagining it with boiled sugar, the inner foodie in me could see possibilities. Continue reading