For me the Autumn arrives like the dew, heavy and light all at the same time. My wardrobe reflects the cold morning and I dance in the long shadows whilst marveling at the cobwebs and the fading colors of the lavender in the herb garden.
Knowing another season has grown into the year and soon it will lead into the winter for which seems to to as beautiful and as short lived as the spring. Where I will look forward to bright Oranges from Ave Maria Farm in Spain with anticipation of that of a child at Christmas.
In the meantime I pull out my old poetry book and read Blackberry picking by Seamus Heaney, a poet who could capture a the moment of the everyday and highlight the magic in the undervalued and neglected moments of time passing. This particular poem not only touches my pleasure to read and indulge in poetry for not nothing more than self enjoyment but he turns my head and I look back as if it were this afternoon that I was out picking blackberries before tea, managing with simple words to hold my childhood memory of foraging almost as perfect as my mum’s apple and blackberry pie recipe, it’s as if he was there. So before you collect the bounty of the Autumn and make wonderful Christmas gifts and recreate your own childhood memories of picking blackberries. Have a read of just one of his wonderful poems.
Late August, given heavy rain and sun
For a full week, the blackberries would ripen.
At first, just one, a glossy purple clot
Among others, red, green, hard as a knot.
You ate that first one and its flesh was sweet
Like thickened wine: summer’s blood was in it
Leaving stains upon the tongue and lust for
Picking. Then red ones inked up and that hunger
Sent us out with milk cans, pea tins, jam-pots
Where briars scratched and wet grass bleached our boots.
Round hayfields, cornfields and potato-drills
We trekked and picked until the cans were full,
Until the tinkling bottom had been covered
With green ones, and on top big dark blobs burned
Like a plate of eyes. Our hands were peppered
With thorn pricks, our palms sticky as Bluebeard’s.
We hoarded the fresh berries in the byre.
But when the bath was filled we found a fur,
A rat-grey fungus, glutting on our cache.
The juice was stinking too. Once off the bush
The fruit fermented, the sweet flesh would turn sour.
I always felt like crying. It wasn’t fair
That all the lovely canfuls smelt of rot
Each year I hoped they’d keep, knew they would not.
by Seamus Heaney
Source: Death of a Naturalist (1966).
What a summer and the weather been terrible?? So everyone keeps telling me, personally I thought it was fine! A typical English summer, it has been a little windy and maybe the last few days a little too wet. But to be honest at least the grass looks green.
But without the weather what would we talk about?
Has it been challenging well yes, my vegetable plot has rather lost the plot, and on top of that my produce has been either too early and lots of it, or its started too late, with little results. But isn’t the case? The very idea that the seasons change, each year and the weather is slightly different is well a welcome challenge. Each day can and is a surprise and isn’t it wicked how we cope how we change how we adapt (and by we, I mean the inhabitants of this green isle we live on). Aren’t we fortunate are we not to wake up every day to wall to wall sunshine or wall to wall rain? How boring would that be?
Well I guess for a week it would be rather nice and picnics could be planed and events schedule in without the fear for cancellation? But how boring would that be? Seriously how exciting is it when the tent still standing after a few days of rain. This morning I heard Chris Hughes on radio 2 (Still owe you a beer I haven’t forgotten) off Brand Events talking to Chris Evans on how Carfest was shaping up, in the mud, his pride and excitement of overcoming such a challenge sent tingles down my spine, he was loving it! Something he and his staff could get their teeth into, and in months to come they will be reliving laughing reminiscing how they managed in the mud the rain and what a success it has all been.
My mind wondered back to the Darren at the Chewton Glen his a gardener down and his beautiful lawn after a good soaking has had 12 cars parked on it! His challenge to restore it is going to be interesting this year and I can’t wait to hear about it! With that in mind, I shall take on the challenge of my rather bedraggled vegetable plot. Although I have no idea what I’ll be cooking today at least the jam pan does it knows no matter what the weather brings there be fruit in the pan and the challenge will be for it to set it in this damp weather! Life is never dull in the jam world; in the meantime I bring in the fairies to help with the garden!
Cocktails and Jam
Need to know more about how I make this wonderful product then join me for a Hedgerow tour and a cocktail lunch at the Chewton Glen , or for those keen to learn more and get a more hands on experience book a full day at Lainston House new cooking school for a hands on class with me Jennifer that focuses on the taste and flavour of fresh products that will help you understand and transform your preserve understanding to a new level. Click on the links below to book.
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.