Here in Lincolnshire the season has turned and autumn is now gracing the landscape with a rich array of golden fields, brown turned earth where the crops have been brought in and a steadily ripening bounty of berries that are smothering the hedgerows in rich reds and purples. The summer has been a time of trying lots of different things and deciding what works and what doesn’t, especially where my little business is concerned – as a result, I have realised that I’ve done far too much this year and lost sight of the things that I find are truly important to me. This basically explains the lack of chatter on the blog, twitter or on my website, and is something I definitely plan to try and do something about in future!
All that aside, I have spent a blissful few days catching up on household chores – putting away dried herbs, bottling wine (rose petal, elderflower lemon and ginger, hawthorn and mixed fruit and last but not least, rosehip) and I’ve been out rediscovering the countryside with all the glorious fruits that are currently available to play with. The latest load of cooking and experimenting I have done involved making caramelised red onion marmalade with onions from the garden, making a wonderfully rich, tart damson jelly with damsons collected on one of my foraging expeditions, experimenting with tiny golden plums and brandy, and starting off a large demi john of golden plum wine.
Red Onion Marmalade recipe
1kg red onions
220mls vinegar – I used 150mls balsamic and 70mls red wine vinegar
170g brown sugar
four or five bay leaves
A tablespoonful of olive oil
Peel and chop the onions – this is a loooong job, especially if you have rather small onions from the garden, but its worth it in the long run! Cook them slowly on a low heat until they become translucent, then increase the heat slightly and cook until they caramelise. I ended up adding a couple of teaspoons of the sugar to speed the process up a little – it took ages even so. Once the caramelising is done, add the vinegar, sugar and bay leaves, stir up thoroughly and cook on a low heat until most of the liquid has gone and you are left with onions covered in a gooey layer of sugar and vinegar. Pot into clean jars. I was amused to find that despite using 1kg of onions, I only ended up with two and a half smallish jars of marmalade – but it smells and tastes good already and I have high hopes for how good it will be in a month when it has had time to mature!
Damson Jelly recipe
Plenty of sugar
Wash the damsons and toss them into a heavy based pan – I use my cauldron. Add the water and the juice of the lemons and then cook on a low heat until they have softened and the juice has run. Put into a jelly bag and strain through into a bowl. Measure out the juice and add 500g of sugar for every half pint of liquid. I ended up with 2kg of sugar to 2pts of damson mixture and it worked out just right. Heat slowly until the sugar has dissolved, then boil furiously, testing for setting point every five minutes or so. For those who aren’t sure, put a saucer in the fridge, dot a small amount of liquid onto the plate and pop back into the fridge for a few minutes. When the jelly wrinkles when you push it with a fingertip, it has reached setting point. Skim off the scum from the top – I forgot this step this time and as a result, not all my jars of jelly are perfectly clear, though they taste delicious! Pour the jelly into clean, warm jars, and put the lid on. There’s stuff you can do with the left over fruit pulp as well, I have been informed – so the next batch of damsons I muck around with I will be experimenting further with the fruit pulp. I’m also considering making a damson and fresh ginger jelly as I suspect the flavours would work together really well!
I also made up a batch of brandy with the tiny golden plums I collected – easy enough to make, simply run a knife round the middle of the fruit, toss into a large kilner jar, add a bit of brown sugar if you want, then top up with brandy. Leave for two weeks, turning over regularly, then bottle. Keep the brandy fruit though – I’ll probably use my lot in a batch of damson jam in a couple of weeks time!