Author Archive

One day my Quince will Ripen!

 

Quince’s  have been grown for centuries, a fruit that is a quiet king of the orchard, a truly magnificent fruit. Here in England they are misunderstood, overlooked and underused, so get out and find your quince he may look like a frog but once you cook it it turns into a prince.  Something as simple as adding quince to an apple pie, will change your taste buds forever. It is like nothing on this earth will ever be the same again. 

Quince has always been the pinnacle of the year for me although I have other fruit to pick and more than enough plums, pears, apples and hedgerow fruit to turn into jam, but I can hardly await the moment of the quince. He normally ripens at the end of an orchard year. He makes us wait until October and sometimes even November. A crowning glory of the orchard garden, if the seasons play by the books and the weather plays her part, he arrives like an ugly duckling awkward and very different! Growing in form, just like a misshapen pear, sometimes resembling that of a teardrop. He has pale yellow soft skin that covers an unusually hard fruit, but once you have managed to peel and chop into its flesh his beauty and scent will intoxicate you, but be warned once  you have cooked this remarkable, unique fruit and witness how it gives up its beauty and it shines and glows, you will be addictive, and forever under it’s spell. 

So as  I turn fruit into a jam and below I have shared my mum’s recipe with you.

For this recipe your need the usual equipment a large pan, wooden spoon, glass jars, lids, a jelly bag and stand. (if you don’t have a stand you can always tie it to an upturned stool, or chair.)

This recipe is similar to crab apple jelly, it the fact you just need to check your quinces for disease and bruises and add them to a pan and cover with enough water to boil them into a pulp.

I have given a weight but to be honest the weight of the fruit before cooking really is not important, so long as you have a fair amount of fruit to cover the bottom of your pan.

  • 1kg of quince chopped (no need to peel or core) 
  • enough water to cover the quinces
  • sugar
  • Juice of a large lemon

 

  • Brush off any dirt from the fruit and check for bruised or diseased, chop up the quinces (no need to peel or core) and place in pan with enough water to cover the fruit, cook on a low heat until the fruit has turned to mush this can take some time, especially if the fruit is very hard.
  • Once cooked place in a jelly bag and drip over night
  • Measure the juice and place in a jam pan (or heavy based pan) for each 570ml you will need add 454g of sugar.
  • Slowly dissolve the sugar and add the lemon juice.(you could add geranium leaves at this point)
  • Once the sugar is dissolved bring to the boil and check for setting point.( I have found that this sets very well and you need to have your jars ready to go)
  • Once the sugar has dissolved (about 5-8mins) bring the pan to a rolling boil
  • Remove from heat & check for setting point.
  • Carefully remove jars from oven.
  • Ladle jam into jars seal with clean lids
  • Label once cool.

If you have now fallen for the quince, and would like to try something a little more you could simply poach the fruit in a sugar syrup the same as you would do for a pear.
Peel the quinces and slice into 4 add these to a sugar syrup with a vanilla pod

  • 4 quinces peeled quartered and cored
  • 350g of sugar
  • 1 liter of water
  • 1 vanilla pod.
  • Heat the water, and vanilla sugar until it’s dissolved, add the peeled quinces and slowly bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for about 45-60 mins. ( you could always bake them in the syrup in covered on a low heat for a few hours.)
  • Serve with clotted cream.

I Love Elderberry Soup

 

The spring and summer cause great issues for foragers in the fact what do we pick first? There is so much ready all at once that it drives me mad, I work on average this time of year 18 hours, plus a day, the phone rings off the hook with many friends, family, and customers with news of a find, a new secret place to forage or they do indeed a glut of fruit that needs picking and of course (anyone who cooks will tell you this ) they all demand, new and interesting for recipes along with special tips and new ideas! I do my best and there’s the garden to tend too. Would I change it? No! Do I love it yes. 

However this year I am picking Rowan berries before elderberries that is a first for me. Elderberries need cooking before you eat them they can make you ill if uncooked.

The Leaves and stems mustn’t be used and these too can make you quite ill. So cook them first.  So yes you can make an amazing syrup, jam and jelly but here I like to tell you about a soup.

To get to the soup we first have to travel back in time to Barland Estate in Powys Wales and into Garden Cottage. In the garden the plums are ready to pick,  loganberries are ripping fast each day against the walled garden space dripping with flavour, the apples are promising a bumper crop and I am still picking raspberries, strawberries and of course, the currant cage is not giving in just yet. Our freezers are full and the larder is filling up. It’s early August and the kitchen hot from the Rayburn. A constant smell of cooking fruit fills our house.

A large bowl of water  with a small hint of wine, is on the heat, the air is filled with warm smells, first the fresh fruity aroma, then a whisper of cinnamon with undertones of  honey fill the air in between and remind me that the summer not going to last forever, my choice of school has been my undoing. I will at the end of this month get back on the bus and although my days will be busy, I not be with my mum & dad, my little brother and of  the mad dog “hop along Cassidy”  and I will miss them all so much along with the garden full of fruit and flowers, dinner will become just food.   I indeed missed them more than I ever told them. (Turn back the clock).

My mum’s storytelling was always fascinating and all the time she was passing on everything she learnt, she had a thirst for knowledge, and her desire to pass on everything she knows was so important. She was like a missionary spreading and sharing the word! Especially when she was in the kitchen, so as she cooked she told stories, and apart from cooking lessons we had, history lessons, art lessons and life lessons! Why, and how certain dishes came about why we forage and the importance of not forgetting what we once knew.

My mum was and is still my hero, she could cook anything and did indeed cook everything, and could make a meal from nothing. Her heart still beats in mine and although I miss her every single day I know she is with me every second. She made me who I am today, she taught me the love of life, passion and of course cooking.  She was outstanding at everything especially making soups, from all most anything from the garden. Even the hardened meat eater couldn’t resist her delicious green and bean soup. So as the seasons changed and slowly moved on so did the recipes and the soup. I not sure I could even to this day give you my favourite choice if I was to choose? Then I would choose them all a small tiny cup of each starting with the pea, then cold fennel, but always finishing with the Elderberry soup.

Elderberry Soup recipe 

 

1.5 litres of water

500g of Elderberries

2 tablespoons of Lemon Juice (one large lemon) 

100ml of white wine

1 stick of cinnamon

A little arrowroot to thicken or you can have this without if you would like a thin soup.

 

  1. Place on the heat water, wine, lemon juice and spice. 

Pick the elderberries off the stalks, discarding any leaves and stalks.

Add carefully to the warm water, bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and cook gently for 10-15 mins

The fruit will so mushy, Add a teaspoon of honey at this point.

  1. Strain the fruit and press out the juice. Then return the soup to the pan. (Discard the pulp)

If you would like a thicker soup, mix the arrow route with a drop of cold water and the rest of the lemon juice and pour into the soup and now season to your taste.

  1. Return to a soft heat and slowly bring to a light boil to cook the arrowroot and thicken the soup.

 

Serve with roasted ground cobnuts and sourdough bread croutons drizzled with honey.

Possible side effects (Autoimmune diseases” such as multiple sclerosis (MS), lupus (systemic lupus erythematosus, SLE), rheumatoid arthritis (RA), or other conditions: Elderberry might cause the immune system to become more active, and this could increase the symptoms of autoimmune diseases. If you have one of these conditions, it’s best to avoid using elderberry.)

Stop the morning and grab the toast!

Great Taste great jam !

Blackcurrant Extra Jam a winner , so is the Strawberry. So in 2013 I entered the great taste I won 2 * for my Lemon curd, 1* for my raspberry and in 2016 I entered again with strawberry syrup and yep it is a winner with 2 * so just when I thought I missed the enter deadline. I managed to squeeze in with 2 of my best selling products strawberry Jam and of course Blackcurrant, into 2017 awards. and……..this is what the judges said….

Strawberry jam achieved a star  the judges comments on this 
 
“Wonderful fresh summer strawberries on the nose, the set is perfect. The judges really liked the whole strawberries that still had a delightful texture and a lasting, fragrant strawberry flavour. Skillfully made”
 
and my Blackcurrant extra jam achieving 3 stars. I am feeling very proud of this achievement and I would like to thank you for the support, judges comments. 

“Beautiful deep blackcurrant flavours on the nose, a thick set, giving a deep, lasting flavour, not overly sweet, allowing the true fruit flavour to shine through. The judges loved the sheer intensity of fresh blackcurrant flavours, the quality of the fruit and gentle preservation.”

So if you fancy learning my secrets of great jam making come along to my cooking lessons at :

http://www.chewtonglen.com/the-kitchen/courses-pricing/exploring/spotted-potted-pickled/

Stop the morning and grab the toast!

Great Taste great jam !

Blackcurrant Extra Jam a winner , so so is the Strawberry. So in 2013 I entered the great taste I won 2 * for my Lemon curd, 1* for my raspberry and in 2016 I entered again with strawberry syrup and yep it is a winner with 2 * so just when I thought I missed the enter deadline. I managed to squeeze in with 2 of my best selling products strawberry Jam and of course Blackcurrant, into 2017 awards. and……..this is what the judges said….

Strawberry jam achieved a star  the judges comments on this 
 
“Wonderful fresh summer strawberries on the nose, the set is perfect. The judges really liked the whole strawberries that still had a delightful texture and a lasting, fragrant strawberry flavour. Skillfully made”
 
and my Blackcurrant extra jam achieving 3 stars. I am feeling very proud of this achievement and I would like to thank you for the support, judges comments. 

“Beautiful deep blackcurrant flavours on the nose, a thick set, giving a deep, lasting flavour, not overly sweet, allowing the true fruit flavour to shine through. The judges loved the sheer intensity of fresh blackcurrant flavours, the quality of the fruit and gentle preservation.”

So if you fancy learning my secrets of great jam making come along to my cooking lessons at :

http://www.chewtonglen.com/the-kitchen/courses-pricing/exploring/spotted-potted-pickled/

Chestnuts

 

Chestnuts

chestnuts nuts2 chestnuts

I’ve always had an instinct and natural urge for foraging, that has continued to push me outside.

As no matter where you are, no matter the time of year there always something to find to eat!. Foraging has always played a big part in my life but now it’s also instrumental to my work. Apart from the free food  there are other benefits too. Exercise and this time of year leaf kicking is a great way to feel young! I am sure that I did once hear on radio 4 that there is something fundamental and beneficial about the bacteria on the leafs. That it is good for us to breathe in when kicking up the leaves during autumn, unfortunately I can’t remember all the details!

So on a bright  afternoon, after the fog had cleared, I was off to forage for jam in the ground of the Chewton Glen, I take my usual route through the cut, across the road and then into the small woodland. I just can’t help but kick up the leaves, it’s then I notice them, little furry green husks, spiky balls and they are holding their very own crown jewels beautiful little brown chestnuts!

I’ve found treasure! wow o wow,  I had almost forgotten about these little beauties I’ve been so busy with hedgerow fruits recently, just how could I forget about the season’s best tasting nut! So without a thought for rose hips I was down on damp ground picking through the leaves and gathering chestnuts.

walkthe nuts

So while my jeans were gathering mud as I rustled in the leaves,  the moment begins to rekindles memories, and as always my memories always seem to start in the our family kitchen with my mum.  I would watch her put together some wonderful recipes and I wish now I take a pen to paper and written them all down. But the smell of these chestnuts takes me to her kitchen, while after foraging for  those angry spiky furry balls, we would pick out the nuts, and that distinct aromas of burnt ambers, almost earthy yes the chestnuts were roasting. Or we store the beauties for use later in the Christmas stuffing.

But what else did she do apart from the stuffing ? I hold still, kneeing on the wet ground trying hard to bring back “Christmas past”,  I laugh! All I think of is the exploding chestnuts in the rayburn ( I haven’t forgotten to pierce the chestnuts since!)

 I giggle and while I’m thinking, I get a message from Darren Venables, the wonderful head gardener from the Chewton Glen, he suggests a roast chestnut party just,  what I was thinking! but hey what about a Jam? There is plenty here. 

It’s not that we won’t have a party, however being a little obsessed  with jam, I just can’t help but think about making a jam,  it’s in my bones.

I dig deep and finally remember this recipe something that I made some many moons ago. So without rambling on! here’s the recipe:

 

Chestnut (Jam)

 

– 1 kg of chestnuts

– 650g of vanilla sugar (can use granulated sugar if you wish)

– one vanilla pod (optional depends how much your sugar tastes of vanilla )

– Juice of a lemon

(check last blogs for sterilising jars etc)

 

  • Chestnuts have two skins so first your need to peel the outer skin it’s a little difficult and your need a sharp knife and insert it at the top of the nut and carefully peel away the first layer.
  • Then pop them into a large pan of boiled water and simmer for about 10-15 minutes, then remove the chestnuts a little at a time and peel the second layer of skin.
  • Once you have skinned all the nuts it can take some time. (I promise if I find a faster way or a tool to do this with I’ll let you know)
  • Now the messy bit press the chestnuts though a sieve to remove the husky bits. (this is the non technical bit and other jam makers hate this bit. if you add equal amounts of sugar to the nuts as you would in jam then your get a rather sweet jam nothing wrong with it).
  • However I like more of a chestnut taste so asto be more versatile so like to use less sugar.
  • Add the rest of the ingredients and cook for about 20-30mins and bring to a rolling boil check for the set (softer than fruit jams) and pot in sterilised jars.

 

This is great in a chestnut bellini and of course on pancakes it’s heaven

Its pairs very well with whiskey so great for a cake! (or even in a whiskey)

 

Please get in touch

We'd love to hear from you

Jen

Jennifer Williams

Chief Jam Maker

To contact us please click here