Jam, Jelly & Rellish by Ghillie James

This book was a real find in a well-known remainder bookshop.  It is still available on Amazon but I urge you to check out The Works first as it is there at a much reduced price.

Not only is it full of fabulous recipes but it is beautifully presented and would make a truly wonderful gift to any foodie.  It is a cloth-bound hardback with exquisite photos and a ribbon bookmark.  Set out in seasons, Ghillie presents a recipe for a preserve and then suggests at least one way to use it with another recipe following.  This is such sensible advice and so helpful as frequently I have found myself enthusiastically making a batch of something obscure and then wondering what on earth I am going to do with it.

It was from this book that I got the idea for making the Bloody Mary Kit for my friend’s daughter.  Then there was Raspberrycello, from our own raspberries, and most recently there has been Sweet Thai Chilli Paste which made a tasty coating for some chicken.  I have also made Ghillie’s Strawberry and Rose Petal Syrup and testify to its deliciousness.  The recipe suggestion following this is Billowy Meringues with Rippled Strawberry and Rose Filling but so far I have just used it on humble vanilla ice cream.  As a taster, I’ll leave you with the syrup recipe:

Strawberry and Rose Petal Syrup

Makes 1 litre

Keeps for up to a year

900g strawberries

juice of 2 lemons

1 tbsp rose water

450g jam sugar per 600ml juice

handful of rose petals

Put the strawberries into a pan with 350ml water and the lemon juice and simmer over a medium heat until the strawberries have collapsed and softened.  Mash using a potato masher, then transfer to a jelly bag and strain.

Measure the liquid and pour into a large pan.  Add the rose-water and 450g sugar for every 600ml of liquid and stir over a gentle heat until the sugar has dissolved.

The next stage is a tricky one to give exact timings for as it depends entirely on the strawberries you are using and how ripe they are.  I have found, after various testings, that the easiest method is to bring the liquid to a rolling boil, then continue to boil for a further 5 mins.  Remove from the heat and pour a little of the syrup onto a cold saucer.  After 30 seconds in the fridge, it should feel thicker and look like a syrup, but should not wrinkle when you run your finger through it.  If it is still too watery, heat it up again and boil for a few more minutes and then retest in the same way.  It’s best to be cautious: you want the end result to be a thickened but pourable syrup, so it must not reach setting point.  Once the syrup has reached the right consistency, remove the pan from the heat and cool for 10 mins.

Put 4-5 rose petals in the bottom of each of your warm, but not boiling hot, sterilised jars bottles and pour in the warm syrup.  Seal and cool completely.

Jammin’

Bob Marley knew a thing or two about making jam. Surprising, but there it is. What is less surprising is that my mother is the world’s best strawberry jam maker, but the world at large may not know this. She does not look much like Bob Marley though. I have spent the past couple of days learning the mysteries of her jam making. It has been a delightful experience though I somehow doubt my jam is going to be quite as delicious as hers. There seemed to be an awful lot of unmeasurable imprecision going on. Her recipe includes amounts like ‘a good knob of butter’ and times such as ‘boil until done’. I think this is why she is the world’s best strawberry jam maker. I suspect it is an instinctive art. However, she swears the key to her success is the freshness of the berries.

So, yesterday morning we went picking. It wasn’t exactly foraging as we had to pay, but it felt closer to the wild side than visiting the supermarket. The weather was perfect. Brilliant sunshine shone down onto the straw strewn aisles with dark green foliage ineffectually hiding the ruby red berries. In no time at all we had picked full baskets.

Our strawberry stained fingers carried them to be weighed and within the hour they had been turned into jam. No moonlight incantations were involved. No spitting over shoulders or running widdershins nine times around fairy rings either. Just my mother’s own particular brand of jam wizardry. Which, despite her watchful eye and careful instruction, I am not entirely sure I have mastered. Whatever it was, I am pleased to report a set. It is true, it is a soft set, but a set is a set, nevertheless.

Pleasingly, I had several strawberries left over. Enough to make some Strawberry and Rose Petal Syrup. Have I shared this recipe with you? If not, I must. It’s a good ‘un. Meanwhile, I give you my Mum’s Strawberry Jam

Mum’s Strawberry Jam

Makes about 4.5kg

2kg strawberries

Juice of one lemon

2.8kg sugar

1 bottle Certo (liquid pectin)

Wash strawberries, place in preserving pan and crush. Add lemon juice and sugar. Heat slowly until sugar is dissolved, stirring occasionally. Add a good knob of butter to reduce foaming. Bring quickly to a full rolling boiling, and boil rapidly until done (about 10 minutes ish), stirring occasionally. Remove from heat, stir in Certo, skim if necessary. Pot and seal.