Last weekend I picked the blackcurrants from the bush that forms part of the hedge around the vegetable patch. It’s my first berry crop this year, as the birds ate all the early redcurrants and cherries before I had chance to net them, although I do have a second redcurrant bush ripening nicely. I used last year’s method of combining a prune with the pick, taking all the old wood off quite close to the base, but I’ve decided not to do this again. Firstly, it was quite hard to see what was what, and as I pruned quite low down (a few inches from the ground) I accidentally pruned off some of the newer branches that would have produced next year’s fruit. Also, there was a lot of ‘old’ wood and by removing it, I have taken off well over half the bush, which is too much (I have always understood a third is about right).
Finally, it meant removing all the fruit in one go and as the berries tend to ripen from the top ones down, I have quite a few green and pink berries mixed in with the black ones, in fact I ended up leaving about half on the bush and ground for the birds and then separating the rest out. The unripe ones did ripen up over the next couple of days laid out in the sun, so I did get to use more before they spoilt. In the old days, when the bush was new and I didn’t prune it, I picked the berries as they were ready and it was also easier to deal with the fruit in stages instead of a big, mad, berry making weekend.
So, in the tropical heat of last weekend, I had a lot of cooking to do. I made jam, using the original recipe I blogged in 2011, to be found here. I didn’t make any cassis as we have enough already, BUT, I did finally make blackcurrant, ripple ice cream using a recipe from The River Cottage Year and it was totally delicious. I notice there is a similar recipe here, also by Hugh F-W. I used an ice cream maker, a Tefal Gelato one to be exact and it worked fine. We got a bit over excited and went on to make chocolate ice cream with a blackcurrant ripple and many other varieties. My hips hate me right now.
The excess of double cream hanging about in the fridge then prompted me to make butter, something I’ve been meaning to try for ages. It’s sooooooo good. I used this recipe and added some sea salt as I love the crunch of the crystals. I’ve been eating it all morning with some nice home made walnut bread. Again, my hips really do hate me.
I kept one medium pat and put the rest in the freezer, but considering how quickly we’re getting through it I should have kept more out, I understand it needs to be eaten quite quickly. It really was fun, I can certainly recommend it, the point where the butter fully separates from the buttermilk happens very quickly and is quite exciting, my top tip is to remember to use a splash guard on your mixer if you have one, or the buttermilk will suddenly spray everywhere.
I just wanted to point out that my nice new rabbit shaped butter dish is made by Bliss in the woods and came with my weekly Ocado shopping. It’s so tempting to add little extras now that Ocado sell so many things other than groceries, I have to keep quite a tight check on myself, I did sneak in a set of cute measuring spoons though.
I’m off to work in the garden. We are all at home as the kids are sick, but as we’re having our first cooler day for some time, so I want to get out there and start digging.