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It’s something of a departure to have recipes in the Herbarium that don’t necessarily contain herbs. Why? Making food from locally sourced fruit is a nice contribution to the sort of self-reliant, eco-friendly life-style that we’re trying to foster. But we’re also mindful of Hippocrates’ edict – ‘All good foods are medicines, and all good medicines are foods‘. Herbalists are certainly proud of the nutritive virtues of herbal medicines – but the food on our table should also be good for us too. A more modern edict is to ‘eat colour‘ – and the pigments in our own homegrown berry fruits offer a fantastic range of antioxidants – there’s really no need to take exotic imported supplements when we have our own superfoods growing in our gardens and hedgerows. One of the revelations from making your own preserves and puddings is the stunning range of oranges and reds and purples, deep and glowing.

2010 has been a particularly good year for fruit – both home grown and foraged. From the garden we’ve picked strawberries, raspberries, loganberries, blackberries, apples, pears & cherries; from next door’s garden – greengages, crabapples & quinces; and foraged from the Downs – sloes, rosehips and more blackberries.

JAMS & JELLIES

Making jams and jellies can be a bit of a mission in the large quantities you usually find in recipe books. What I’ve found is that using really basic techniques and equipment it’s easy to produce a jar or two whilst cooking the evening meal! Just as important, I try hard to use whatever fruits are available on the day, so they’re nice and fresh and I can choose to mix them together as well – so every ‘recipe’ is likely to be different, but the technique is always the same.

I’ve generally speaking used imperial rather than metric measurements because most kitchen equipment (and most jam jars) are still in the ‘old’ pounds and ounces.

Like all cooking, it helps enormously to make sure you’ve assembled everything you need before you start, and that it’s all nice and clean.

Equipment

 

  • A large saucepan (jam expands a lot when boiling).
  • Measuring jug.
  • Kitchen scales.
  • Jars & lids (recycled is fine).
  • Labels.
  • Jam funnel (helpful but not essential).

 

Ingredients

  • Fruit, prepared as necessary (always unblemished & ripe).
  • Sugar: everyday white granulated is recommended, being inexpensive, but the choice is yours. Preserving sugar or invert sugar are unnecessary.
  • Lemons (to squeeze for juice). Note that lemon juice is usually added as a source of pectin (essential for the jam to set). Few home-grown fruits contain enough of their own pectin.

 

Recipes

The ‘magic proportion’ of ingredients is simplicity itself – always use equal parts of fruit and sugar and you can’t go wrong. The basic method below calls for 3lb fruit and 3lb sugar, which should yield about 5 lbs of jam (the missing 1lb is lost through evaporation). It helps to know this so that you can have the right number of sterilised jars waiting. However (and this is the whole point!) you can use any amount of fruit, however large or small, so long as you stick to the 1:1 ratio with sugar. For instance, I’ve just picked what turned out to be 9.4 oz of raspberries (that’s all there were today), so with the same weight of sugar and a dash of lemon juice, the result (rather neatly, I thought) just squeezed into a 1lb jar. It took me less than half an hour. Lovely!

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