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July 07, 2011

Berry Picking for jam

It turns out you can’t pick berries for ‘jam’ in the unpaid-for sense of the word at all. I was shocked to find that after one drives 33 miles, gets down on your knees and scratches around some bushes; you end up paying more for your dusty berries than you do at the supermarket, where they come conveniently packaged and wiped down.
By the way, these are NOT supermarket berries. They were handpicked, by yours truly. 
But mine was a beautiful day for berry-picking. The sun was out but not beating down exactly. And because I  ‘picked my own’ at Hildred's, there was a 100% guarantee of no miff berries in my punnet, no pale unripe contenders, and I got to taste before I selected. Bonus! (note- I found out later that you’re not really supposed to eat-as-you-go, oops.
But honestly. As I paid 10 pounds for a minor berry mound- I didn’t feel guilty for snacking here and there on the way).
The Strawberry fields and Raspberry bushes at Hildred's Pick-you-own
My informer advised me that the best way to find the prime strawberry specimens is by getting down onto your hands and knees, and carefully pulling back the leaves to find the red rubies that other pickers have left behind. I did so. I was a purist. Only the brightest found their way into my basket. I beamed at them, even though they took me a good 45 minutes to pick. There is something awkwardly precious about nibbling the fruits of your own labour.

And nibble I did. I convinced myself that raspberries form different bushes had individual flavours. Some sour, some sweet, some a little bitter. So I sort-of… tasted a berry from each bush? Luckily I didn’t need a kilogram of berries, or my belly would have groaned at me. But my basket held only the sweetest.

And then home. With my fruit! My very succulent strawberries were destined to be changed by a very genius recipe indeed. I subscribe to Food 52’s newsletter and received an email on the morning of my venture with an enticing recipe- Rose Grey and Ruth Rodger’s Bitter lemon and strawberry sorbet.
I agree that it is a genius recipe because: We are so quick to glut ourselves on the sweet essence of berries, that we forget to complement that sweetness with something else. Something to round it up. Bitter lemon pith- the obvious answer. And the recipe is stupidly easy. You dirty only your blender and one other bowl. The result is a smooth , full flavour in the mouth- a celebration worthy of my dirty-kneed-labour.  I highly recommend it. Please click on this link to find the recipe:

The conclusion of my berry- picking day: The Genius Bitter-Lemon and Strawberry sorbet beside Raspberry and Oat slices. 
 And then on to raspberry jam. One of my favourite things on toast. On pavlova’s. On vanilla ice- cream. Baked into tarts. With greek yoghurt. In crumbles.  (I see you get my point.)

Raspberry jam

  • Raspberries
  • Granulated sugar
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1tsp butter

    1. Sterilising jars: Pop some empty jam jars in the oven at 180C for 20 minutes. When you remove them, place them carefully on a folded kitchen towel to prevent cracking. Boil up the lids in a saucepan of water for 5 minutes then leave in the cold water until you need them. (note: if you have about 300g of berries- you’ll only make about two jars- so depending on how quickly you go through jam, you might not even want to bother with this who-ha and just keep your jam in the fridge in a plastic container for a week or two)
    2. Place a small saucepan in your freezer (see more later- The Wrinkle test is coming)
    3. Weigh your raspberries and place in a deep saucepan. Add double this amount of sugar and half of the lemon juice. Place over low heat and warm up, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Add the butter (this is supposed to prevent excessive foaming, I’m not sure it really works- but it’s a nice token anyway and butter makes everything better)
    4. Increase the heat and allow to simmer gently for about 15 minutes.
    5. Use a slotted spoon to remove any scum that rises to the top. I confess that I like to eat this- scum-jam after the rest has been bottled away.
    6. The wrinkle test: Take the pan off the heat. Remove the saucer from the freezer and place a small blob of jam on. Leave for 2 minutes. Now prod it!. If it wrinkles, or looks sort of thickened, then leave the jam to cool for 5 minutes and pour into the jars. I like a bit of sourness in mine, so I add the rest of the lemon juice here.
    7. If it doesn’t wrinkle, return the pan to the heat and repeat the wrinkle test after 5 minutes. It all depends on how many berries you have.
    8. Leave the jam in the jar for about 10 minutes before placing the lids on and screwing them on tightly.

I used a jar of my jam to make the delicious Oat and Raspberry slices from The Ottolenghi Cookbook pictured next to the bitter- lemon and strawberry sorbet). They disappeared in half a day. I say it all the time: Make your belly happy: Get this book. 

And do go and pick-your-own. Take your family. Take your friends. Get your knees dusty. Don’t nibble too much, though. 

Find a 'pick-your-own' farm near you in the UK, here.


Marise said...

Brilliant blog!!

Hanna said...

Carina, I was a bit surprised by the saucepan in the freezer (point 2), but I see you meant a saucer! I hope you open some food thing in Cape Town in the not too distant future - or even better, you and Theo do a food and wine thing (we'll help!).

Carina Truyts said...

haha oh dear. Indeed, a saucepan won't really do, but it paints a funny picture so I won't fix it. Thank you for noticing!
Ah, Cape Town must know- I am coming for her. As to the nature of the 'food thing' we shall have to wait and see what life brings.But nice to know help is already volunteered- a dangerous offer, of course:)

Hanna said...

We'll be properly retired by then, so probably looking for work! Hugs, H