5 years ago I entered the World Marmalade Awards and won a bronze for my Seville with Cacao it was an epic day it lead me to decided that this is what really makes my world go around. So I thank Dalemain House for giving me the confidence that started me on this epic journey, this road has consisted of late nights and even hospital visits as I have fallen out of a trees. So thank you. (I am giving the world marmalade awards a rest, no other reason than I didn’t post it on time yet again!)
So now I make jam and the very fact you all wanted to buy eat and enjoy it well is nothing more than fabulous. Time has flown by and I moved out of my home kitchen, to one I built, started to keep bees, planted more fruit and vegetables, teamed up with the Chewton Glen to forage sustainably. So far so good.
I’ve lived and loved every minute, every disaster, every high, every low, they have all been fantastic. Although I feel that I may have lost the plot from time to time! But you, my friends, my children and my family have been there always encouraging me, every step of the way believing in me. Which means so much to me it hard to put into words.
So thank you all for supporting me in every way be it small large for helping me forage be it picking crab apples Carol,(Daisy cake company)or for growing them Darren Venables, to believing in my wacky ideas Martyn Nail, Luke Mathews, Leckford Farm, and of course the many bar tenders who have invited me in to help develop products cocktails and use jam in ways that made toast curl !
If I was to say I love what I do, it would underestimate the passion I have and my urgent need to cook everyday. I am always up early and chomping at the bit to get into the kitchen. So as I stop and reflect on the past five years, I shall share with you a few moments below.
Antonio Carluccio at Leckford Farm shop opening
Waitrose Charimans Award 2013
BBC Children in Need Carfest
Lunch Break with the Fabulous Baker Boys
Food & Drinks Award Hampshire
Foraging with nothing but the Bear essentials
Cooking at the Hotel & Catering Show
Cooking with Luke Mathews (my hero)
Talking Foraging with Estate Manger Darren Venables
The Blackthorn (Prunus spinosa ) is found in many hedgerows and across the countryside but most importantly in the many hedgerows on the Chewton Glen Estate and recently Estate Manger Darren Venables tweeted a wonderful picture capturing the moment of this years flowering. It was beautiful. My mind heart skipped a beat. Its such an exciting time when nature starts to let you in to her little secrets and plans. And so the Blackthorn moments of glory is upon us before even his leaves appear giving this shrub a little glamour in the bare hedgerows. A perfectly formed elegant flower as white and as soft as a cloud on a beautiful blue day.
The flower is so delicate its almost a shame to pick the beauty from the bush. But crystallised they are perfect for cake decorations or simply served in a light salad.
When the leaves arrive they too can used, to be infused for making a tea. However most people tend to pick from this wonderful gift of nature when the year is almost over and the frost have given these particular berries a little coating to ensure they are perfect for your making your gin. Yes its the sloe bush, that many people can and do use in lots of recipes. However most people I know only ever make gin from them. (and why not). Yet they make a wonderful inclusion to a hedgerow jelly and a fantastic addition to an ice cream especially if they have been used to make gin first!
But before all of those recipes try this one. They would look great on a chocolate cake. Simple, perfect elegant.
An easy Recipe for crystallising flowers:
Ingredients Edible Flowers
An egg white that has been stired with a folk but not beaten.
Equipment a model paint brush ( the type yo get with an air-fix model)
If you have picked the flowers yourself be sure to check for little flies bugs etc.
Dip your paint brush n the egg white and carry fully paint the petals.
Dust with the caster sugar and leave to dry on parchment paper for a few hours.
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.
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:
– 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)
A still moment in time that I hope to be able to visualise in my heart for ever, for a photograph can only ever hold an image. It may rekindle memories but it could ever convey the my magical moment of sitting outside with a blanket and a hot cup of tea and a very confused cat!
It’s 2.15 and I am watching the sun eclipse the moon on a clear night so bright I can read the stars like a recipe. For the first time ever I looked up and without a map I knew exactly what each star in this night sky is and I was so excited, I could barely hold onto my voice and not shout out their names, at last it’s sunk in! So crystal clear and I can see everyone . I look back at the moon,and it has the appearance of someone draping a hearth rug over her while she sits by the fire, that gives her this earthly glow. Not wanting to move a muscle as not to miss a second of such beauty I stare and breath in this extraordinary moment. I have to share this time, but who dare I ring at such a late hour? I conect with a few friends, just knowing that we are together looking, dreaming and experiencing the same sight fills my heart, wondering just how they feel.
Then it begins a heartbeat so loud almost deafening, I almost jump out of my seat looking around I steady my nervous its my heart its has started to race with the excitement of the event. I breath in and smile all at the same time the air is motionless as it the world has stood still, and we watch her performance. My thoughts begins to accelerate, are you meant to wish upon the moon or do I sing a song of love or do I ?? What might my mum have done? she would have chosen a wish, then wished to see her daughter and I too would have wished to see them both.
I pour another cup of tea from my flask wondering how mad I must look in an English garden with a blanket and flask of tea a stone’s throw from my kitchen. Mrs moon how you make me laugh I look up at you above the cherry tree, where you have settled into your rug, and how very much you remind me a christmas bauble, and how surreal this all is, then without thinking my mind is in the vegetable plot! and without a moment to lose I jump up, I grow biodynamically this is perfect for planting! I plant as many winter salad seeds I can see with the world’s smallest touch and red moon light.
I laugh hoping not to wake the neighbors, they truly would then think that I was completely nuts! mmm then I start to think about Jam… wondering just how the fruit will set tomorrow, and although I have grown by biodynamic methods, I have yet to note the setting points of jams by this method, so a project begins!
So this morning at first light I picked as many blackberries as my basket could carry and set off into the kitchen to cook the delights. After a few hours my basket was bare so I was off again, finding plenty more hedgerow bounty, each fruit seemed fuller and juicier than before. The I remembered the mushrooms I picked the day before, and off course I truffle hunt biodynamically!!! why O why had I not thought of it in all of my fruit foraging !! So without fail I produced a little chart to record the results. (I Love my reserch!) So if and when I get tangible results of biodynamic setting points in jam I shall let you know. In the past I have recorded humidity measurements, it has and does affect, the jam setting point no matter the recipes. In the meantime a little blackberry jam recipe.
2kg of blackberries
2 kgs of sugar
juice of one lemon
Wash and hull the blackberries
Sit the blackberrie in the sugar over night
Pop a small plate into the fridge to check for setting point.Wash jars and place in an oven dish and turn your oven to 150C. Put your timer on for 12mins to remind you to turn off the oven.
Place the contents in a jam pan and cook on a low heat until all the sugar is dissolved
Once the sugar has dissolved and the blackberries have started to cook (about 35mins) bring the pan to a rolling boil
Recipes from BBC Radio Solent chat with Katie Martin
Mixed Garden and Hedgerow Fruit.
Mixed Garden Fruit Jam (naked jam garden mixed fruit Available at the Chewton Glen Hotel).
A mixture of all your berries, from the garden or your nearest pick your own. I used the following from the Garden.
Soft Fruit Jam
1 kg of Gooseberries( topped and tailed)
200g of Blackcurrants
200g of Cherries (de stoned)
200g of Red Currants
200g of White Currants
2kg of Sugar.
200ml of water.
I used slightly less sugar than the normal ratio of a kilo for a kilo, but i feel for those who may not be fully confident in the kitchen stick to the rule of a kilo of fruit for a kilo of sugar.
Sterilized your jars by washing them and popping them into the oven. (for about 15 mins temp 150)
pop a small plate and spoon into the fridge to use for setting point.
Place the fruit in a large malsin pan add the water and slowly start to warm the fruit through, try not to overcook your fruit, after about 15mins or just when the fruit starts to break up slowly add your sugar. Sprinkling in the sugar ensures it dissolves quickly.
As soon as you are sure all the sugar has dissolved slowly bring the pan to a gentle boil stirring all the time, this process last about 25-35 mins. But if your fruit very fresh it can be as quick as 15mins so be watchful of the pan. You will be able to feel the jam begin to thinkin with your spoon. Remove from the heat and check for setting point. (test with a cold spoon and a plate that has been cooled in the fridge). Once the jam has set to your desired consistency pour into your sterilized jars seal with a wax paper seal and lid. label and store in a cool dark place upto 12 months. You can use Gooseberry or use any other soft fruit.
1 kg of soft Fruit.
1 liter of vodka
5 tablespoons of raw white sugar
If using large fruit such as gooseberries prick and place in a large clean “kilner style” jar shake and leave for about 6 weeks. The add the sugar over a few weeks (about 2) adding a small amount at time (about half of tablespoon, each time) Every time you add the sugar shake the jar, to help it dissolve.
Once you have added the all the sugar and it has all dissolved. Filter the drink through a muslin cloth or jelly bag. Decanter into a clean sterilized bottle and leave (if possible ) for about 4 months. Shake the bottle before serving over crushed ice.Now the fruit you have been soaking in vodka all this time is too good to throw away, so i suggest you use it for a layer in a trifle
1 liter of Water
400g of Sugar
Place the fruit in a large pan with the water and slowly bring to the boil, reduce the heat and gently simmer for 20 mins when the fruit starts to lose it colour and you can smell its wonderful aroma.
Strain the fruit through a sieve and place back in the pan with the sugar, once the sugar has dissolved gently bring to a soft boil, bottle in clean sterilized jars seal and store in a cool place.
This can be used in cakes, ice creams and of course with prosecco or a buck naked matin.
Buck naked Martin
A citrus flavor vodka works with this.
Vodka, Elderflower juice,
naked Strawberry syrup or Jam,
Place all ingredients into a large glass shake and strain into a martini glass
Cocktail glass add a Strawberry and enjoy
If for some reason this all seems to much pop along to the White Buck pub in Burley and ask them for there house cocktail buck naked.