I think we’ve established by now that my only claim to any goddess-like levels of domesticity is my habit of making gin, jam, and chutney. Last year (2020) featured a ridiculous 6 gins but just one jelly. The year before (2019) I just did a couple of gins and three jams.
This year, the focus is back on the gins, with a bit of hedgerow jelly for completeness. I’ve done quite a lot of chutney as well, but I’ll save that for a later post.
So the gin formula is dead easy.
For 1 quantity of fruit you need half that weight in sugar and twice the volume in gin.
There, that’s it. Easiest recipe ever!
Here are this year’s gins….
Left to right we’ve got:
- Spiced blackberry
- I always think this is just really Christmassy. I added 6 cloves to add that lovely warm but gentle spiciness and it’s just delicious.
- I make this every year now, I just love it: over ice or with prosecco to make a poor man’s Kir Royale.
- A classic right? Sweet and rich and perfect for making a bramble cocktail.
Jelly baby gin
This is a new endeavour and it was a complete trial. I totally made it up as I went along. I bought two packs of Tesco jelly baby sweets and separated them by colour – this was himself’s idea to prevent the production of “brown”. I weighed the jelly babies and figured out how much I needed for the 200ml the bottles I’d got. I think I ended up with 70g jelly babies and 120ml gin. I was hoping they’re just dissolve up.
However, it turns out that the white stuff on the outside of jelly babies is not icing sugar. I think it’s probably corn starch and that doesn’t dissolve in gin. Indeed, whether the jelly babies dissolved at all depended on their colour. The purple ones went really well and greeny yellow were quite good. But the pink ones were dire! So, after 6 weeks I had to filter them all, wash and re-sterilise the bottles and re-bottle them.
The by-product was gin flavoured jelly. Yum!
I’m going to put these in little 50ml bottles and do packs of all five colours, either as Christmas presents or see if the school PTA would like to put them in their Christmas raffle (if it happens).
The exact recipe for hedgerow jelly changes every year, depending on what I have available. In desperate times I’ve been known to chuck in supermarket blueberries to have enough fruit. The sloes have been appalling this year (again), so I haven’t put any of them in, which is very unusual.
The standard and core fruits, for me at least, are blackberries and elderberries. This year, large boy was on foraging duty with me – we managed to collect over a kilogram of blackberries and I gathered a pound of elderberries in a single lunch time too. Elderberries are a pain because you have to de-stem them due to the tiny amount of cyanide in the stems, this is messy because I use my fingers. I know some people recommend a fork but I find that method brings stalks for the not-quite-ripe ones and doesn’t keep out the dry shrivelled ones, so fingers are best.
- 460g blackberries
- 390g plums (last year’s, from freezer)
- 480g elderberries
- 430g apples (windfall from himself’s colleague)
That’s a total of 1760g fruit, so you need about 30% of that quantity in volume water.
Add the fruit and water to a pan and heat up, get it bubbling but not boiling until all the fruit is soft.
Then strain the fruit and liquid through a muslin or jam bag – my heathen family doesn’t like bits so we always make jelly rather than jam and we want it to be clear. Measure how much liquid you’ve got. I had 1550ml. The maths comes in again here, you need about 90% weight sugar by volume of liquid. In this case, that came out at 1400g.
I used a mixture of jam sugar, preserving sugar and normal granulated. I had leftovers of the first two types from last year but the supermarket didn’t have any more in stock, so I made up the weight with granulated. I hate the anxiety of wondering whether it’ll set or not, and that’s why I use sugars with added pectin. Alternatively, you can be brave and use normal sugar but add one or two whole lemons – you particularly want the pips as they have lots of pectin. Sloes are great for pectin too.
So, put the liquid in a big pan, much bigger than you think because it’s going to get bubbly. Add the sugar and dissolve slowly, then bring to the boil and raise to jam point – that’s about 105C or 220F. Once it’s a jam point keep it there for 5 minutes, then bring back down to a simmer while you take a tea spoon of liquid and put it on a saucer in the fridge for 5 mins. If it’s set you’re all good to take the jam off the heat.
Cool it for a bit and meanwhile sterilise your jars. Get the jam into the jars while it’s still quite hot and cover each one with clingfilm – then as the jam cools it shrinks in volume slightly, drawing the clingfilm down and forming a nice vacuum seal.
After all that, I had pretty much 3kg of jelly – perfect for Christmas presents.
How about you?
Do you make jams, jellies, gins, or other preserves? What are you favourites?