Triumphing over disaster

My Gooseberry & Elderflower Jam disaster of last week dented my confidence more than a little.  You see I have only just begun to embrace this whole jam making malarkey.  And as for gooseberries, well.  Not sure I have embraced them yet.  Awfully prickly for one thing.  The scratches they left up and down my forearms led one person to remark, ‘Have you taken to self-harming?’

However, I am not one to be beaten easily.  Having consulted a multitude of recipes I decided the best thing to do was combine several recipes and basically invent a new one.  So that is what I did.  I consulted my mother in this process, who is a jam making maestro.  She makes the best strawberry jam In The World.  No, make that The Universe.  Just ask my cousin Carol, she will tell you.  Anyway, between us, we decided on the recipe that follows below.

The key ingredient is elderflower.  I discovered a beautiful Elder tree today in my local park.  It was old, gnarled and twisted about another tree but had the most deliciously fragrant blooms I have yet come across.  Clearly all the local dogs thought so too and I had an unpleasant encounter in the foot department.  How I wish all dog owners would clean up after their dogs!  I digress.  The flowers were perfect.  I picked them in brilliant sunshine, just as the blooms were beginning to open.  There were so many, I helped myself to a bag full and left the tree looking like it had not been touched.

All the way home my head buzzed with ideas for recipes to use them in.  I shall be making Elderflower Jam tomorrow but today I sauntered up the garden to see if my much hated bushes had anything worth picking left on them.  This time I went armed with my new acquisition from Lakeland – a berry picker.

It was marvellous!  Saved me from a multitude of scratches.  It is my new best friend.  Especially as while at the top of the garden I noticed that the recurrent and blackcurrant bushes are ripening rapidly.

My total yield from the bushes dictated the quantities in the recipe I concocted.  I see no reason why it could not be multiplied to cope with greater amounts and when I have the opportunity I shall experiment further.

For now though, may I present:

Elderflower and Gooseberry Jam

170g small young gooseberries

10 heads elderflowers

500g Jam Sugar (with added pectin)

250mls water

Shake/tap elderflowers and check for insects before tying in a muslin bag.  Top and tail gooseberries then put into a pan with the water.  Add the elderflower bag and submerge.  Cook gently until the gooseberries are soft but still hold their shape.  Remove elderflower bag and squeeze before discarding.  Add the sugar, stirring carefully until dissolved.  Bring to the boil.  Boil rapidly for 4 mins.  Remove from heat then pour into sterilized jars and seal.  Use within 12 months.

Gooseberries – spawn of satan!

I have always disliked gooseberries.  But I am a grown up.  I make my children eat things they do not like.  It seemed only fair to make an attempt to love the nasty green spikey bushes at the top of my garden.  Besides, I have a recipe that uses the teeny tiny unripe gooseberries and mixes them with elderflowers before turning them into jam.  And I love elderflowers.  Seemed like a plan.

I snuck into the park mid morning and had to trek around three different locations in order to find real proper elder trees.  You may remember my fiasco a couple of weeks ago?  Actually there were lots everywhere but far from being over, they were inconsiderately not blooming.  I had to find some that were pointing in the right direction and in full sunshine.  Tsk.  As if I have nothing better to do.  Oh wait, I am convalescing.  Therefore I don’t.  I forgot.

Things only got worse when I began the actual picking.  I mean, have you seen the thorns on gooseberry bushes?  These are berries that were never, and I mean NEVER, designed to be picked.  I am now sporting some rather unattractive scratches the length of my forearms.  I need to get hold of total body armour.  Perhaps I could invent some specifically for foraging and then patent it?  Then again, perhaps it’s just me?  Do not answer that.

But shortly after that it all went horribly wrong.  I am not entirely sure what happened.  Except that making gooseberry jam is clearly dabbling in the black arts.  My beautiful shiny stainless steel maslin pan turned into a bubbling black cauldron containing a sticky tar like substance that bore no resemblance to the pale green jam in the recipe book.

So, gooseberries and me are not to be.