The easiest pickle in the world*

Image

Previously I posted about my roasted aubergines, and before that, I shared a recipe about using raw aubergines. Now, I don’t want to seem obsessed with the things, but I am having a garden bonanza type glut and I’m bottling them like crazy to enjoy after the season finishes. The resulting glossy, olive oil-y pickle looks so pretty I had to share!

First take your cooked aubergine, in my case roasted on the BBQ until blackened. Scrap the insides out and discard the skins:

IMG_2998  

Admittedly not the prettiest at this stage! While they are roasting or oven cooking, sterilise a clean jam jar by ‘cooking’ on medium hot for 10 minutes in the oven. While they are still very hot (maybe leave it a couple of minutes out of the oven, so it’s the same temp as the hot food you’re putting into it) carefully add your aubergine pulp. You can also add fresh or dried herbs at this stage, maybe some chillies. Pack down to exclude as much air as possible. Mix olive oil with vinegar – red wine, white wine, cider vinegars, whatever you have available – around 1/3 vinegar to 2/3 oil. Season with salt and pepper, and pour over the packed aubergine, making sure to wiggle the contents to exclude all air pockets. Leave a good layer of the oil mix covering the top layer so nothing is uncovered:

IMG_3000

Pour boiling water over the lid for a minute – a kettle full should do – and then screw onto your still hot jar.

Simple and delicious! And I promise I won’t post any more on aubergines this season*!

*probably

Advertisements

Jammy Goodness

I like to wait until the strawbs are cheap at the end of the season, and then I pounce.

There was a deal on at the grocers and I bought a few punnets, with the intention of making jam. Jam making is incredibly easy, you need no special equipment (though if you’re keen and a regular preserver, a few time saving gadgets are useful) and it tastes way better than shop bought.

For strawberry jam you will need:

  1. Strawberries
  2. Sugar (3/4 of the weight of the fruit)
  3. Lemon juice
  4. Jam jars – approx 4x 450g for 1kg of fruit

First off, put 3 or 4 small plates into the freezer; you’ll need these nice and cold later on. Probably wouldn’t use the Wedgwood for this.

Hull (take out the green bit) the strawberries, give them a wipe with a cloth if they look especially grubby – I don’t usually bother – and weigh them. Then you can work out how much sugar you’ll need.

IMG_2336

I had 1kg of strawbs, so I used 750g of sugar and the juice of 1 lemon. Place them into a preserving pan* or a large saucepan.

If you like lumps of fruit in your jam, put the sugar onto the fruit, and leave it for several hours to draw out some of the juice from the berries. I prefer a smoother jam, so I cut up the fruit, and give it a bit of welly with a potato masher. Then I add the sugar. Personal preference; makes no difference to the taste or cooking time**.

IMG_2337

Next, bring to the boil, stirring all the time. This dissolves the sugar fully; keep going until you can’t see any crystals of sugar in the fruit mix. The idea is to reduce the likelihood of the jam crystallising later on:IMG_2339

No sugar crystals on spoon

Once the sugar crystals have disappeared, add the lemon juice. It’s purpose is to help free up the pectin in the cells of the fruit. Pectin makes things set. Pectin is your friend. Bring the jam to the boil and let it bubble away for about 10 minutes.IMG_2340

Hubble, bubble…

After 10 minutes, take a plate from the freezer, and dollop some jam on it.

IMG_2345

Thicker consistency of the drops of jam

Wait for the jam to cool a bit and give it a poke with a spoon or your finger. You’re looking for a sort of wrinkly effect on the surface of the jam, which indicates that it is at setting point. (you could use a jam thermometer but honestly, I never have and you don’t need one.)IMG_2348

Wrinkly jam skin

If it’s not wrinkly, and you can’t see a permanent line through the jam where you’ve poked it, give it another 2 or 3 minutes on the boil and try again with a fresh plate from the freezer (see why you needed 3 or 4?). Repeat until wrinkly. The jam, not you. Obviously as a reward between each test, lick the plate. It’s yummy.

Meanwhile, prepare your jars. I always have a box of empty jars kicking about, or else you can buy fancy ones if you want. Wash them in hot soapy water, rinse and pop in a preheated oven at 220ºC for 5 mins. This sterilises them. When removing them, try not to stick your tea towel inside (or perish the thought, your fingers). Do not be tempted to skip this part, it’s probably the most important. For the lids, again wash in hot soapy water, rinse and place outer side down in the sink. Pour a whole kettle of freshly boiled water over them.

Ideally, try to time the jars and lids to be finished as the jam is finishing. Don’t worry if you can’t; you can reheat the jam quickly if you have to.

Spoon jam into hot jars***. If you plan to do this more than once, it’s worth investing in a jam funnel for this bit. Saves lots of swearing and cleaning of dribbled jam.IMG_2351

Jam Funnels are handy things, but not essential

Best to leave the jars for a couple of minutes after they come out of the oven before filling, to minimise the risk of any cracking. If jar and jam are much the same temperature, you’ll be fine. Shake the lid of the jar free of excess water and screw onto the jar immediately – do not wait or you won’t get a nice vacuum seal. Hold the jar with a tea towel or you will get cross, believe me. Label once cold.IMG_2353

Now for my favourite bit. Call in the rest of the family, hand them a slice of bread each and induce a sugar related coma by wiping round the pan, spoon and funnel and scoffing noisily. Brilliant.

* A note about preserving pans. This is one of those things which is useful if you do lots of jam or chutney making, but isn’t essential. Basically, when you boil sugar it expands a lot. At least doubling the volume. Using a big pan reduces the risk of whatever you’re cooking boiling over, producing a sticky, horrid mess on your cook top and wasting all your effort. Preserving pans are usually wider at the top than the base; I think this to encourage rapid evaporation of the water content of whatever you’re cooking. I actually use a large stockpot with straight sides and a double thickness base. I haven’t had any problems with this.

**Weeeell OK; it probably does affect the setting time a teeny bit. But really, not by much.

***There will be a bit of scummy stuff on the surface of the jam in the pan. This is fine. I’m told stirring in a knob of butter makes it dissipate, but this is purely cosmetic.