So I’ve had a bit of a break from writing on here… bit longer than I expected really…. last time I posted there was thick snow on the ground!
I started a new full time job setting up a new project and my head’s been full of worky work stuff.
but now it’s summer…
I love this time of year, it always feels like a time of abundance…. when I was growing up my dad always grew lots and lots of fruits and veg and this last week of the summer holidays was devoted to harvesting and preparing things….
podding peas and beans, picking fruit, topping and tailing blackcurrants and gooseberries, whilst mum blanched things for freezing, boiled and pickled and baked…. it was a whole family affair and my grandad always used to make pots and pots of jams and jellies with the fruit and herbs that we picked. The spare bedroom had rows of jars of jam and jellies made by grandad and I’d get sent upstairs to get a fresh jar when we ran out in the kitchen.
My grandad’s best preserve was undoubtedly his ‘Bramble seedless’….. glossy and rich and totally delicious…. so when I discovered a big area of brambles hidden away in the park a few years ago I immediately wanted to try and make a delicious jelly just like grandad used to do.
I’ve always used this recipe and love it http://www.cottagesmallholder.com/blackberry-and-apple-jam-recipe-430/ there’s no need for added pectin as it naturally comes from the apples….
To be honest I’m not the greatest jam maker in the world…. I used to make it overly runny, more like a really thick syrup, but it still tasted beautifully rich and fruity….. the taste that you can only get from wild blackberries, deep and a bit musky, a flavour that I’ve never got from shop bought blackberries, even though they look really impressive….. I always think it’s a bit crazy buying blackberries for jam they’re so expensive and the wild ones are free and tastier and all over the place.
And then last year all my jam turned out stiff and like toffee from over boiling…. it all takes practise I suppose and has given me even more appreciation for grandad… I never knew his ‘seedless’ to be anything but perfect.
I actually find jam making really stressful and at times frankly terrifying… messing about with large amounts of boiling sugar!?…. and getting the setting point right, all the while your entire kitchen ends up looking like a major crime scene with all the staining, blackberry juice!
but it’s so satisfying and I love that you can keep tasting that beautiful, fruity, late summer goodness right through the winter.
My top tips for starting low stress jam making are:
Use relatively small amounts at first so as not to overfill the pan or have more than one pan on the go at once (1kg blackberries should be fine)
Take your time and clean up and prepare between stages
Have some gin and tonic on hand :)
Keep a sink full of hot soapy water…. there’s always lots to clean up
Don’t wear anything you value…. blackberry juice is a nightmare
Use a timer for the boiling stage (obvious! but this has made all the difference for me…. )
Treat yourself to a takeaway for tea, you’ve spent enough time cooking and clearing up! :)
Today’s jam making has seemed much less stressful than usual…. so hopefully I’m learning; and I’m hopeful that I’ve got the setting point ok this time, the half jar seems to have a definite jelly-like wobble to it!
I might have to make some scones tomorrow to give this a try…. for research purposes obviously
It’s been a funny week this week…. I’ve had a bit of the grumps, but not just that also a bit of a scatterbrain…. unable to start or get into anything.
Mid week I totally burned a pan of rice that I completely forgot about…. and a lovely vintage enamel pan too, like a Catherine Holm pan
so I was pretty gutted… and it’s been soaking in all manner of things since to get it clean (biological washing powder, vinegar, bicarbonate of soda, cola… and combinations of them all) it’s nearly there (I think biological washing powder and a little hot water has been best.) but has lost bits of enamel in the process :(
And lots of my jobs have just been left…. I even abandoned movie night in favour of my lovely bed.
But I did finish one of the outstanding commissions (Yay!!! another that I think I procrastinated over because I wanted to get it just right)…. for a lovely friend who helped me out of a tight spot. I’ll tell you more about it and show you a picture when it’s been gifted as I think it was requested as a surprise for someone else :)
And the other night I ended up selling one of the bears out of the stock pile I’m trying to build up for craft stalls…. at this rate I’ll never have enough… but it is lovely that people really want to buy them…. so I’m not complaining :)
One thing that has been really cheering me up this week are these beauties on my doorstep
they’re just gorgeous and I love the colour….
I’ve been really neglectful of the little garden this summer; with all the never ending rain we’ve been having I’ve missed my usual water, deadhead and potter before bedtime and just left it all to its own devices…. but these beauties have just quietly grown away no trouble and what a lovely welcome home they are, on my doorstep every evening :)
Today I am truly the sleepiest sleepy thing….
I did get up at 6am, had some strawberries and coffee, put a wash on, cleaned the cat litters, then had a bath and went back to bed until late afternoon….. lovely :) a guilt-free sleepy day.
When I finally got dressed and made it out of the house the little garden was looking lovely and colourful… and made me smile.
Last weekend some of my very young neighbours ‘helped’ me do some potting….. helping (amongst some actual potting) meant for two year old C, building sandcastles in the pots onto the paving :) then trampling them…. she is such a little cutie.
Five year old A has always been fascinated by my garden since he moved into the street and he loves to come and look at the flowers and ask endless questions, so I taught him about roots and showed him how to re-pot and he re-potted this beautiful blue pansy
When we’d finished and I started the long process of tidying and sweeping, little A sighed and I asked him what was wrong “I wish this was my garden.” he said. And in a way it is now that he has helped me plant it…. he’s been to visit a couple of times since then to check how ‘his’ plants are coming on :) ….. having had those little helpers has (despite the compost castles and broken garden ornaments!) got my little garden making me smile even more than usual.
Over the past week I’ve been non-stop doing stuff, I swear I’m solar-powered as when the sun’s shining bright I can’t sit still, I wake at the crack of dawn and keep going ’til I drop….. my friend S is in Norway at the moment where he says there is almost 24 hour daylight; it’s a good thing that I don’t live there or I’d been in full-blown mania :)
But for the past couple of days the rain has returned and today I slept in ’til lunch! What a slattern! Although when I’m off work I do tend towards the nocturnal too, so no wonder I’m worn out.
Anyway… this last week I’ve been happily crocheting away
I learned how to make these sweet little roses and sat on the doorstep getting sunburnt as I made them :) These are to trim a pair of slippers that I’ve been asked to make, but I’m thinking in the future maybe little rose cluster brooches, necklaces and hair bands.
I’ve also almost finished a toy cat for little baby S, his mum wanted one for his first birthday…..
He looks a bit funny at the moment, but I’m hoping he’ll be ok when he’s all put together.
I’ve also splashed out on some Baby Cashmere Marino Silk by Sublime that I fell in love with a few weeks ago….
and started on a little something just for me :) I’d love to make a big oversized scarf with this, it’s so soft and beautiful, but it would cost a small fortune; so I’m making myself a toy and if it works out I might start to sell luxury baby toys…. we’ll see how it goes.
And finally I have found some mushroom coloured yarn for a toy chicken that H’s mum asked me to make for her new bedroom
A whole house extension (including little H’s bedroom) has almost been built whilst I’ve been searching for this yarn….. and finally some turned up on eBay; so if I get a wriggle on I might just get it finished in time.
All the lovely sun we had also solar-powered my lovely Honeysuckle plant on the garden fence, I’ve never seen it looking so vital and covered with flowers, to the extent that I could cut a bunch to bring indoors and the plant is still full of lovely blooms
I’m not sure how well Honeysuckle cope as cut flowers but I hope they last ok, they look so gorgeous :)