Hey, some things are worth repeating. In truth, this post will reflect the season and the fresh vibrant fruits that are now in abundance. Spicy and meaty was for March… July is juicy.
We haven’t set up our small garden to grow enough crops to fill anything like the number of jars which are needed to satisfy our wants and the extras which will be given as home-made gifts through the year. Luckily, PYO signs are all over our part of Lincolnshire - and most likely wherever you are if you’re reading this in the same British summer. Last week we made our first picking trip and returned with a few kilos of strawberries and raspberries.
A journey to the loft produced enough matching jars and lids to accommodate the estimated yield. They were washed and sterilised and the fruit prepared for jam and jelly.
This is the time when I turn to a trusted friend for encouragement and advice. Diana Henry has written enough to sustain all our weekly cooking in an adventurous and delicious way through many years. I’ll admit other influences but she provides the foundation for many of my exploits in the kitchen. I naturally turned to the jam section in her ‘salt sugar smoke’ for post-strawberry-picking guidance.
I made two of the three recipes on her double-page strawberry spread.
Ah, right… you thought you were in for a spot of copyright flouting and a splendid freebie. If you think I’m going to remove those strawberries, think again. All I will add is that Diana Henry’s wisdom is readily available to you just as soon as you purchase your very own copy of her book. For balance, let it be known that I have yet to buy two of her books. Am I that terrible difference between a devotee and a fanatic?
Of course, I always have a bit of creative angst over the appearance of my labels. I refuse to resort to computerised printing and each jar ends up with a unique hand-written effort.
There will soon be further forays to fill baskets with blackberries, gooseberries and blackcurrants. The satisfaction of preserving some of an abundant but fleeting harvest is irresistible. The sugar needed to stabilise fruits can create something closer to the contents of sweetshop shelves and I use less and less of it in many recipes. The delight is that, even with a fifty/fifty mix, six months later the fruit is still clever enough to remind you of its acid but fragrant attack which greeted you in the field while you picked it. Don't waste your opportunity. Gather your harvest over the next few weeks and turn it into comfort for the year to come.
No apologies for the lack of recipes here. There are so many lovely ideas to explore in your bookshops or on the internet that I don't intend confusing the issue by pushing you in any particular direction (well, seeking out Diana Henry won't do any harm). Keep your equipment spotless and enjoy the fruits of your labour.