Monthly Archives: September 2013

Jams and Jellies

Just to prove I do make other things with fruit apart from huge amounts of booze, I have also recently made some jam and jelly.  I have been making plum jam ever since I first got a jam pan.  If you are considering making jam for the first time I really would recommend plum, it sets nice and easily!  Again, I used Pam Corbin’s River Cottage Preserves Handbook.  I used to get my supplies from a colleague when I lived in Scotland, so when I moved to Essex I was worried about my supply chain… Luckily my Auntie has a very prolific plum tree in her garden so my popular plum jam lives on.  It’s the first handmade gift I ever gave anyone and if you invite me over for a meal around jam making time you are fairly liable to get a jar.

I also made Blackberry and Apple jelly using the blackberries I picked last week and had stashed in the freezer. It looks so beautiful and is the most incredible colour – I don’t think my jelly bag will ever be the same again…  As you can see I don’t own a jelly bag stand so I’ve improvised.  I really don’t see the need to pay for a stand when tying it to the kitchen cupboards works perfectly well.  The wooden spoons were an improvement suggested by my ever resourceful husband when he popped in to help from finishing off building his log store.  It’s totally “The Good Life” over here.  Either that or the 1950s come again. I’m planning to give one of these to a great friend to remind her of the jelly her mum used to make.

In the jam pan.

In the jam pan.

Improvisation rules!

Improvisation rules!

I had spares of all my ingredients which manifested themselves as a plum crumble (totally delicious!), blackberry and apple pie and stewed apples and blackberries with custard.  Very satisfying, and if you are thinking of making some you can’t go wrong with a recipe from Delia!

I think that absolutely my favourite part of making preserves is potting them.  As Nigella Lawson says, there is something about making preserves that makes you feel you are “putting down roots, laying down a part of the foundation for living”. Or as my mum would say, it’s very pleasing.

Pleasing pots


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Filed under In the kitchen, Preserves

Boozy Gifts part 4 and 5!

Yep, I’m still going making more boozy gifts! The hedgerows are just bursting with fruit, it turns out that our village is a total hotspot – and nobody else is picking. We were debating why this was, maybe no one else knows what to make with their hedgerow finds, or maybe people aren’t confident to identify the plants to pick anything at all.  If that’s the case, what a shame because in just a couple of hours we picked blackberries, damsons, sloes and even apples.

Using the same quantities in the recipe from Pam Corbin’s Preserves Handbook next up was Blackberry and Apple Vodka – I much prefer vodka to gin and I think this will be a really nice combination.

Blackberry apple vodka

And finally…. The original classic recipe.  Sloe Gin.

Sloe ginAnd then I made another lot of sloe gin, and another lot of damson gin.  And that’s that, all boozy gifts are done.



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Filed under Booze!, In the kitchen

Boozy Gifts part 2 and 3

It’s late summer so there is lots of free fruit to be picked in the hedgerows, one of the benefits of living and working in the countryside!  I’ve made sloe gin in the past (despite hating gin!) which turned out well so this year I am going all out.  Well, what else to get for some of the more difficult to make for people on my Christmas list?

I haven’t manage to collect quite enough sloes yet, so the stash is in the freezer and awaiting a few more.  The other day I was able to pick some damsons after work with a friend so I thought I’d make damson gin.  The recipe comes from Pam Corbin’s River Cottage Preserves book.

Damsons Damsons and sugar








We have an elder tree in the back garden so I thought I’d have a go at making elderberry vodka.  Did you know that elderberries are a traditional cold remedy as they are high in vitamin C?  So it’s almost a health drink… The recipe is based on the same quantities as the damson gin recipe.  I stripped the berries from the stalks as apparently they can be bitter – it also enabled me to find and remove a shield bug, a caterpillar and an earwig that had got into the bowl.

Elderberry vodkaOnce all the ingredients are in all you have to do is shake it once a day for a week and then once a week for 8-10 weeks and taste it occasionally.  What a hardship…



Filed under Booze!, In the kitchen

Sew Practical…

I’ve been practicing more with my new sewing machine and have actually made some progress.  It’s actually been really easy to learn how to use it, so for anyone wondering whether to have a go at sewing, do it!  First of all I had a go at making one of those things that you keep spare plastic bags in.  Everyone has loads of them tucked into a drawer somewhere so this is a much nicer way to store them and be green by reusing.

Carrier bag storerIt was easy to make, just a tube of fabric with a couple of wide hems and elastic threaded through them.  I managed to get the lines pretty straight too.  I think I’ve actually made something I could give to someone.  Ok, it’s not a glamorous present but it’s useful and I can’t be the only one who likes useful presents…

Next up I had a go at notebook covers, again from Emma Hardy’s Sewing in No Time book.  This was something I really wanted to be able to do to a good standard as I know lots of people who love pretty stationery and I have a few people lined up for these for Christmas presents.

Notebook coverNotebook cover

It was my first time using interfacing and I managed not to stick it to the ironing board.  Score.  The stitching had to be pretty close to the edge of the fabric but I only had to rip it out once.

Fabric supplier: Fabric Rehab


Filed under Sewing