We have been away for the last week and have come back to lots of ripe fruit which is quite exciting. I grow the following in my garden:
- Blackcurrant – Delbard Robusta
- Redcurrant – Red Lake
- Red Gooseberry – Hinnomaki
- Cherry – Lapins, Colt
- Strawberry (Alpine) – Mignonette
- Rhubarb – Champagne & Timberly Early
- Blackberry – Thornless
- Fig – Brown Turkey
- Blueberry – not sure what kind, I grew it in a pot at our last house
The gooseberry bushes, redcurrants and blackcurrants are grown in amongst the hedge of box, lavender and rosemerry that surrounds the vegetable garden (growing against and to cover the rabbit-proof fence). The cherry is fan trained against the fence in the flower border, I love fan-trained fruit trees and would have loved to have them all along the fence but it wasn’t practical…I dream of a huge old walled garden and fan-trained fruit trees. The fig is also trained against the fence (and is only 2 yrs old so isn’t doing much at the moment). The thornless blackberry is growing along the fence behind my rhubarbs which are in a corner raised bed and the strawberries are in the vegetable garden in one of the raised beds.
Finally, I am growing melon Edonis in the greenhouse and the first fruits are forming which I am very excited about.
Last year I lost a lot of fruit to the birds so this year I put up netting and although we did loose a few of the cherries whilst we have been away, I got a lovely bowl full which we have been eating our way through today. I grow the same kind (Lupin on a colt root stock) as I planted in our last garden as they are perfect for eating straight off the tree. Sweet and delicious. It took a while to find one fan-trained, but I finally got one at Blackmoor Nursery , I see they have a new jazzy website which looks quite good. For the first year I left the cherries on the tree, but now, in it’s third year we had a nice crop (what was left!).
The blackcurrants are ready, the bush is only in it’s second year so there are just a few, enough to make a small bottle of cassis so today I set that going. It’s very simple. I put 230g of blackcurrants (as that was all that I had), crushed (and stripped from their stalks but not washed) into a jar with 225g granulated sugar and 300 ml brandy. I sealed the jar and will turn it every few days and leave it in the kitchen window for about one month. Then I’ll strain it not a clean bottle and let you know how it tastes!
Finally, we took our last jar of strawberry jam away with us as a present so I made up a new batch as below:
This is my method of making strawberry jam which is a mix of various recipes. I don’t like it too sweet and I am not very obsessed about a solid set, I don’t mind it a bit soft/runny, in fact I prefer it that way as it doesn’t over thicken with storing.
Makes approx 5-6 jars (320ml)
- 1.25 kg Strawberries (don’t wash them)
- 900g Jam Sugar (with added pectin)
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 1 tsp butter
Put 3 saucers into the freezer. Make sure jars are ready and clean (I put them in a dishwasher).
Hull the strawberries and cut in half or quarters if very large. Add them to a preserving or large pan along with the sugar. Mix gently then leave covered with a clean tea-towel for a few hours or overnight. This allows the sugar to mostly dissolve and keeps the strawberries whole.
Put your jam jars and lids on a clean tray in a moderate oven to sterilize (or if they are in the dishwasher, don’t take them out until you need them so they stay warm and sterile).
Warm the pan over a very low heat until the sugar as completely dissolved (v. important. You don’t want any crystals left), this can take a while, try not to stir too much. Add the lemon juice and turn the heat right up to bring everything to the boil. Keep stirring to stop any jam burning on the bottom of the pan. Once at a ‘rolling boil’ time for 8 minutes them remove the pan from the heat. Place a small teaspoon of jam onto one of the saucers from the freezer, chill briefly then push with your finger, if the skin crinkles the jam is ready, if not, boil for a further 3-4 mins and check again with a new cold saucer for a ‘set’.
Remove from the heat, skim off most of the scum and stir in the butter to disperse any last bits. Leave for 20 mins to settle then pour into clean still warm sterile jars. Cover with a wax disc and seal.