Berry or Blackcurrant syrup – recipe as discussed in Jams and preserves talkback

During the talkback last Saturday on ABC radio Tasmania, there was a request for this recipe.  This is so delicious and nutritious.  It can be used over ice cream also, s a topping, or even to flavour it if you make your own.  It’s an excellent flavouring for yoghurt too.

Berry or Blackcurrant Cordial Syrup

3kg berries or blackcurrants

3 litres water

Sugar

2 level teaspoons citric or tartaric

100ml white or cider vinegar

Place the berries and water in a large saucepan and bring to the boil. Simmer very gently for 10 minutes. Strain through a colander, and the resulting liquid through a kitchen sieved lined with a layer of muslin (even a clean tea towel will do).

For each cup of the resulting liquid add 1 cup of sugar. Bring to the boil, then reduce heat immediately to a bare simmer and cook 2 minutes more. Stir in tartaric acid, pour into sterilised bottles and seal immediately.

The cordial will keep at room temperature but in warmer weather or climates it would be best to keep it in the fridge. In either case, refrigerate the bottle once it is opened.

HINT – very occasionally the cordial syrup will tend to want to set.  Therefore, it’s best to use wider mouthed bottles.  If you find when you come to use the cordial that tis has happened, simply place the bottle, lid removed, in the microwave on High is 20 second bursts.

Another trick to help prevent this happening is to use riper fruit.

 

“Ultimate Slow Cooker”

Well, look what just arrived!! My lovely publisher has sent me an advance copy of “Ultimate Slow Cooker”. The book will be available towards the end of March.

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I am very pleased with its presentation, looks amazing. This time there are photos of a great number of the recipes inside.

Speaking of which, many thanks to photographer Chris Crerar and food stylist Charlotte Bell, also to daughter Stephanie, my wonderful kitchen assistant for the entire photo shoot.

Incidentally, in “Ultimate Slow Cooker” there are more than 100 totally new recipes for your slow cooker.

It was great fun to prepare, and even more so to share (with a willing band of test tasters), the dishes that came from the cookers over those several months of experimentation

The Old Jaffle Iron

Herman the outdoor bread oven has been put through his (its) paces over the last few days. Everything from pizzas to roasts have been cooked in there. There is no oven better here, and that’s saying something – I have 7 in total.

Yesterday, with grandchildren here for a sleepover, Robert decided to pull out the old jaffle iron and cook them breakfast with Herman’s assistance. One chose creamed corn and cheese, the other chose egg, with specific instructions for a runny yolk.

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I had forgotten how good jaffles are. I long ago stopped using it because I bought an electric snack maker, the supposed modern day equivalent. No way it can compare.

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The toast on the outside is golden, light and crunchy, the free range egg in the middle, just delicious. If you can get hold of an old waffle iron, try doing this, a simple but most wonderful breakfast treat.

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Fruitful Sunday

I had promised myself that Sunday would be a gardening day and things started out very well.  I mowed the grass, pulled out all the spent Sweet Williams and generally weeded a large garden bed.

Time for a spot of lunch and then a friend arrived with four large bags of delicious fresh-picked peaches.  Not just any peaches, but the sort that, when you bite into them, the juice runs down your chin.

That was the end of gardening – you have to get your priorities right.  When such beautiful produce lands on your doorstep, it’s time to start preserving.

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As they were quite ripe, the obvious choice was to stew then preserve them, then to be at the ready for pies, tarts and crumbles over the months to come.

In the meantime I decided to start off some cultured butter, and soon after found a lonely looking lime in the crisper drawer of the fridge. That, matched to a container of Greek yoghurt, meant I could make a batch of lime infused Labna, perfect I hope for when friends come to visit this week.

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So all in all, a fruitful Sunday.  Mind you, there’s still lots of gardening to be done, but as my Nan used to say – along with housework, it will always wait for you….

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Launch of “The Little Book of Slow”

It was a wonderful evening at Fullers Bookshop yesterday with the launch of “The Little Book of Slow”, which is co-authored by Paul McIntyre and myself.

Here are photos of the tables all set out with the high tea fare that we had promised would be part of the event – a savouries table and one for sweets.

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Many varieties of tea were provided with pretty teapots, cups and saucers, and blood plum cordial was also on tap.

All the food and drinks items were based on chapters from our book.

Huge thanks to daughter Stephanie and son-in-law Nat for their cheerful and exceptional assistance in the kitchen – it couldn’t have been achieved without them.

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Thanks to everyone who came along and made this evening such a very special and enjoyable time for Paul and I.

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Apricots and Greengages

Another day of bottling – nothing to complain about there. I was able to acquire more apricots – Moor Parks of course, only 5kg but I’ll take what I can get. They are in my opinion, the best of the best and the only ones I like ton use. Here they are prettily lined up on the window ledge waiting for their syrup, lids and clips.

20170124_113606Then there were the remaining greengages to be dealt with. There was a slight red alert when we thought we’d run out of lids, but some serious rummaging under the house and in the shed turned up several dozen more, so all was well in the end.

20170124_114656Now greengages, whilst they are delicious bottled, do not normally taste like greengages after processing. I never can work out why. However this year, from this particular tree (thanks Kathy), the greengages taste just like they were fresh picked, totally representative of the fruit, with their slight hint of acidity. I am delighted!

All done and dusted, benches laden just how I like it, Robert “slayed” me with that giant-killer: “Where are you going to put all these before the class on Saturday?” Hmmm, it’s a tough one as all the pantry shelves are full, and the linen press to boot.

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I’m sure there is an answer, has to be. I will never, ever turn down seasonal produce.

By the way, in the foreground of the last photo – see how the apricots have risen in the jar? That’s because the fruit was a little too ripe. Fruit for bottling should always be just ripe for best appearance in the end product. Mind you, it doesn’t matter too much – you simply need to, in a couple of weeks’ time, turn the jars on their side and shake vigorously from side to side.

It’s like magic, the syrup moves in and around the fruit and they even themselves out in the jar.

Next to come – blood plum cordial, lots of it. Stephanie has at least a bucketful to spare for me. They make excellent jelly too…. more cupboard space to find, but absolutely worth it.

The Launch of Little Book of Slow

As already stated a blog or two ago, the launch of “the Little Book of Slow” by Paul McIntyre and myself is imminent. Everyone who reads this post is invited of course – just RSVP to Fullers so we have an idea of numbers.

The launch is to take place on February 2nd at Fullers bookshop Hobart, at 5.30pm.

Some, but not all of course, are aware that Paul and I occasionally take a day’s road trip together. Can you guess where we are here from this photo?

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These trips are always great fun, a chance to mull things over and think about future projects together.

We enjoyed a fantastic seafood lunch (another clue to our location) as well as the best lime spider I have tasted since I was a child, and Paul a similarly magnificent old-fashioned chocolate milkshake.

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On this particular day trip, we spent much time discussing the upcoming book launch. Before too long we had decided that we would make the Fullers event a little something special.

A High Tea theme seemed fitting, as this is one of the chapters in my section of the book. Paul has written a wonderful chapter on Brewing the Perfect Pot of Tea, so he will be ‘mother’, pouring from pretty teapots for all who come along on the night.

This means cups and saucers would be needed (no paper cups for perfect tea at this affair). I have a few, Paul also, but definitely we came up wanting in this department.

However, along the route of our road trip were a number of op shops, which were soon all relieved of their entire stock of cups and saucers (and purchased for a mere song I might add).

They range from delicate and delightful to somewhat retro. Great fun we had in their selection as you can imagine. We were able to find teapots too – and a milk jug or two, plus a lovely glass jug.

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As a bonus, I was able to buy a simply wonderful hat and Paul a spectacular shirt.

By the time I arrived home, my car boot resembled a jumble sale – but all to a good purpose.

20170117_173234A wonderful friend just now called in for coffee and scones. She saw our newly acquired ‘special’ collection of cups and saucers, now neatly set out on the table here. “I have some more you can borrow,” she said. Brilliant.

And so we are now set to implement our plan. Paul and I have worked out the menu, which of course we will bake with our own hands (look out for Paul’s simply sensational lemon slice and lamingtons!) There will be scones with fresh made jams and cream and other tasty little treats to sample.

For those who don’t like tea, there will be iced fruit drinks, prepared with the cordial syrups I have been making with delicious Derwent Valley berries over the past weeks.

And so to all who read this, do come and join us. Paul and I are so happy to be releasing this book together – a handy and thoughtful guide on how to live more mindfully and meaningfully in today’s busy world, with simple suggestions (and recipes) on how to do so.

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The pressure is on!

We started very early yesterday morning with quite a mess to deal with, the residual washing up and bottling off from the Preserves class of Saturday.

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This was to be the day also, to pay homage to the splendiferous Moor Park apricots that a friend had acquired for us. Bottled in halves in a little sugar syrup, some stewed and bottled for pies and crumbles, plus the inevitable jam and chutney.

20170115_104416 Meanwhile, Robert set to work to pick the jostaberries and blackcurrants. Our wonderful neighbours came to help – the two bucketfuls in the photo were just the beginning. There were almost 5 buckets in the end.

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There were tomatoes to be dealt with – chopped and bottled in their own juice for later use in preserves or everyday cooking. Plums too were in the process of conversion into Worcestershire sauce.

MIxed berry jam, lemon cordial syrup, jostaberry syrup, chutneys, chilli sauce and more – so much to do.

Friends came for lunch and Robert conscripted them into helping fill Fowlers jars with crushed tomatoes.

Then there was a hiatus while I sought out bottles and jars. I sterilised every pre-used one I could find in the shed and still not enough!

My Nan used to say her forgettery worked well, and so indeed must mine. I’d forgotten I had a box of jars in the boot of my car, brand new ones I purchased last week. I must have wasted at least an hour sterilising those old ones.

Somehow amongst the piles of washing up, Robert managed to fit in time to start off a German lager – the one he makes from scratch.

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Then at dusk as I turned to go out the door of the cooking school, with “Complete Preserves” at the ready for the next day’s currant and berry blitzing, I’m not sure the mess looks like it’s much reduced when we started.
Well, it’s different – one mess has been cleaned up, and this one reflects a busy preserving day.

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I have to say, it’s very satisfying to see the benches full of season’s produce preserves. Incidentally, some of them have found their way out to the stall at our gate – I think I can spare a few!

Morellos and such

We were able to pick some exquisite Morello cherries at a friend’s orchard on Monday, red currants also. Morellos always look like beautiful glistening jewels in the bucket as they are plucked from the tree.

They keep their colour when preserved too (bottled the water bath/Fowlers way).

20170112_07553720170113_132658Then Morello cherry cordial is very hard to beat – its colour too is absolutely amazing.

In the strainer in the photo is the pulp – you can see it has given its colour (and flavour) over to the cordial liquid.  Our chickens like the pulp though, or if there’s too much even for them, it can go the way of the compost heap.

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I will use this Morello syrup not just as a cordial, but also as a ready-made coulis, or to flavour ice cream (or drizzle over it), or yoghurt or add a little splash to a gravy or jus ….. and so on.

The red currants have been made into a jelly – best use for them I think. This will be used to glaze little fruit tarts as the year progresses, with a little kept aside for scones, toast and lovely, fresh baked bread.

While I was at it, I preserved some stewed nectarines and apricots. These are very handy to make fruit crumbles and pies. If you bottle it unsweetened, you can use it to make jam and chutney during the year as well.

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In the background of the photo below you can see the pressure canner.

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Hmmm – I have been a little apprehensive about using this, remembering from my childhood a neighbour’s issues of a pressure cooker gone wrong.

Their dinner ended up on the ceiling on more than one occasion, with her, the mother, left weeping over the sink as the dinner she had prepared for her family of six was wasted in a most horrible way.

However, daughter Stephanie assured me that this pressure canner (an entirely different beast) is fine, so with some trepidation and watching her pressure can stock, pea and ham soup and chick peas, I now have made some of my own. I am sure I will preserve by this method more often in the future.

Do you know what I think will be the best to preserve this way?

Gravy. Whenever I prepare a roast, making the gravy is that last minute chore that throws things out of kilter. So the stock with appropriate flavourings and maybe a little wine, then pressure canned and therefore shelf stable, would be wonderful to have at the ready. Pour it into the roasting pan and reduce or maybe thicken just a smidgeon with cornflour paste. What a time saver it will be.

Interesting isn’t it, that although it’s called canning (an American term I am told), it is actually done in Ball Mason glass jars (or similar) that are especially made strong enough for the task.

Now with all that done, I am pretty pleased with the look of it all sitting prettily on the benches in the cooking school. Only thing is….. I need to clear the benches for a Preserves class here tomorrow morning. It’s a tough one, but will find a solution somehow.

Meanwhile, standing at the ready are the preserving outfits, 2 Fowlers and one OzFarmer, ready to get back to the bottling tomorrow after the class.

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I think, yet hardly dare hope, that 30 kilos of Moor Park (!!) apricots are coming my way this afternoon. A little jam, several jars of chutney … summer produce is well and truly on its way.

Catmint

I’ve planted a few cuttings of catmint around the garden that have subsequently grown most enthusiastically. I thought maybe “catmint” was just a quirky name for the plant, but lately our cats have shown how much they love it.

Here is Rosie smooching the bush, and Tom acts similarly, then often sleeps for several hours underneath.

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It apparently has a soothing effect, which will be helpful you would hope with fractious Rosie’s temper. This bush is at the end of the path near the cooking school. She is shut out when we are cooking in there, pleasing her not one jot. This is obviously how she calms her nerves.

All in all, it’s very amusing to watch. As I think I might have said before, at times this place is a circus.