Category Archives: jam

Were You Dragged Through a Hedge Backwards? – How to make hedgerow jelly

One thing my ativar doesn’t tell you; I have very curly hair, which refuses to be tamed. My mother seemed to say to me most mornings “were you dragged through a hedge backwards? Go back upstairs and brush it.”

In the lane near my house I can pick sloes, bullace, hawthorns, rosehips, crab apples and blackberries; all within half a mile of the front door. If I can arrange for some people to help a couple of hours can produce quite a haul of fruit. These are taken home cleaned and picked over and weighed to create the right proportions, the actual recipe will be different each year depending on what is available but broadly it goes:

3lb crab apples (slit them)

2lb of reds (Rosehips, hawthorns)

2lb drupes & blacks (bullace, sloes and blackberries)

Juice of one lemon


The fruit without the lemon is cooked up in a pan along with water deep enough to cover all of the fruit until things are soft and the colours are flowing. Then comes the dripping, transfer everything to jelly bags; this is why cup hooks were invented. Don’t be tempted to squeeze the bags as you do not want any pulp to go through, just the juice. Ideally leave over night and the next day you will have a beautiful fruity broth.

Measure the broth and weigh an equal weight of sugar; i.e. in kilos one litre of juice needs one kilo of sugar and in pounds one pint of juice needs one pound of sugar. Bring the juice to the boil and put the sugar in a 100c oven. Also put your jam jars in the oven to sterilise. Once the juice is boiling, add the lemon juice and hot sugar, turn the oven off to let the jars cool to a bit. As the scum starts to form on the surface of your jelly skim with a spoon to remove and continue to boil until the setting point is reached. My preferred testing method is putting plates into the freezer and dropping a small amount of the jelly onto the plate, leave it for two minutes and check that the surface wrinkles when pushed with a finger. Pot and seal.

The resultant jelly is clear and has a fantastically jewel like quality. It is great with meat, as a basis for gravy like sauces and on toast.


Blackcurrants, jam, cassis and frogspawn

This time of year the soft fruits are coming in thick and fast. I love to take handfuls for breakfast and lunch; this is an ideal use for small quantities as they reach ripeness and fascinates the children who think I eat frogspawn when in fact it is white currants. I used to be fearful of jam making thinking that it was a large quantity affair with jars sitting on shelves going hard or mouldy depending on the sugar levels. However, I have changed my tack and with soft fruit and now adapt a preserve method, which works well for small quantities. The trick is to heat an oven to 110oc and put in two separate containers an equal weight of sugar and soft fruit. Leave in the oven for 20 minutes until the fruit starts to ‘bleed’.

Remove from the oven and stir the sugar into the fruit until fully dissolved. Do not underestimate the heat, the two will cook together and the resulting preserve can be put into jars at this point; this version is likely to be a soft set and only keep for four weeks in the fridge, but ideal with raspberries for scones or yogurt.

A further trick is to continue heating either in the microwave or on the hob to a more traditional setting point. The whole process is quicker than

traditional jam making and results in a fresher fruit jam. I used this technique for blackcurrant jam and a mixed summer fruit jam of gooseberries, red currants, strawberries and raspberries.

Also in production from the blackcurrants is the cassis. Based on Larousse I have used currants, a few of the leaves, a small piece of cinnamon and a clove. The pictures show progress so far, the currants are rising like the little oil bubbles in a Galileo thermometer, I anticipate straining and rebottling when they sink back down to the bottom, the colour is improving but it looks a little thin so I may add a thicker sugar syrup later.

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