Monday, June 18, 2007

Very berry good for you

Dark berries are full of nutrition, as they have just got around to telling us. So the blueberries, blackberries, elderberries and sloes are the ones to gather, freeze and preserve.
Elderberry Jelly - to be eaten with pork.
This can also be made with bilberries
2 lb (1 kg) cooking apples
2 lb (1 kg) elderberries
water and sugar
Wash the apples, remove any bruised pieces but leave on the peel and cores. Roughly chop. Place in a pan with just enough water to cover and barely simmer for one hour until the fruit has turned to pulp. Meanwhile, wash the berries and put them in another pan, with just enough water to cover and also simmer these for one hour until the fruit is soft and tender. Mix together the two lots of fruit with their juices.
Spoon this into a jelly bag or muslin bag suspended (the way I do it) from the legs of an upturned stool and leave to strain into a large bowl for at least 12 hours. Do not squeeze the bag if you want clear jelly.
Discard the pulp (unless you can turn it into some sort of dessert, I hate throwing anything away), measure the juice and return it to the pan with 12 oz (375g) sugar to each pint (300ml) of liquid. Heat gently until the sugar has dissolved then boil rapidly for 10 minutes by which time it should have reached setting point. If not, boil it a little longer. Remove any scum, pot up into small, clean jars, cover and store.

Blackcurrant Jelly:
4 lb (2kg) blackcurrants
about 2 1/2 (1.5lt) water
No need to remove currants from their stalks. Just put the lot in a pan with the water, and simmer for one hour until the fruit is really soft. Stir occasionally. Spoon into a jelly bag (as in above recipe) and strain for at least 12 hours. Discard the pulp (if wanting to add it to an apple pie then remove the stalks at the start), measure the juice and put into a pan with 1 lb (500g) sugar to each pint (600ml) of juice. Heat gently until the sugar has dissolved then boil for 15 minutes or until setting point. As above, remove scum and pot up.

Bilberry Jam:
2 1/2 (1.5kg) bilberries
1/4 pint (150ml) water
3 tblsp lemon juice
3 lb (1.5kg) sugar plus a knob of butter
8 fl.oz( 227ml) bottle of pectin
Wash the berries then put into a pan with the water and lemon juice. Simmer for 10 - 15 minutes or until the fruit has softenen but not turned too pulpy. Remove from heat, add the sugar and butter and rapildy boil for just 3 minutes. Remove from heat, add the pectin, return to heat and boil for a further minute. Cool slightly before potting up in the usual way.

Sloe Gin:
1 lb (500g) sloes washed and stripped
3 - 4 oz (75 - 100g) sugar
few drops of almond essence
75 cl bottle of gin
Prick the sloes all over with a thick needle or skewer, and put them in a screw topped jar. Add the sugar and essence, cover with gin and screw down tightly. Leave in a dark place for 3 months, shaking the bottle once every fortnight,. Strain through muslin until clear. Bottle the gin and enjoy.
Tip: if you don't want to discard the sloes you could try making some into sloe jelly or add some to fruit salads. Or freeze until you find a use for them.

Cassis: otherwise known as Kir
1 lb (5oog) blackcurrants washed and stripped from stalks
1 pt (600ml) gin or brandy
gran. sugar
Crush the blackcurrants and put them into a screwtopped jar with the gin or brandy. Fasten down the lid tightly then leave in a dark place for 2 months. Strain, then add 6 oz (175g) sugar to each pint (600ml) liquid. Pour into a jug, cover and stand for 2 days stirring often. When sugar has dissolved, strain through muslin, bottle and keep for 6 months before using.
To drink Cassis/Kir : put a dash of this into a wineglass with a twist of lemon peel and top up with white wine.

Blackberry Liqueur:
This can be made with or without the spices. Either way my husband just loves it.
4 lb (2 kg) blackberries, washed
1 pint (600ml) water
1 level tsp each whole cloves and grated nutmeg
1 lb (500g) sugar
1/2 pint (300ml) brandy
Place the blackberries and spices in a pan with the water. Simmer gently until for about 15 minutes until the fruit has softened. Remove from heat and leave to get cold.
Strain, measure the juice and add 1 lb (500g) sugar to every pint (600ml) water. Put into a pan and heat until the sugar has dissolved. Remove from the heat, cool slightly then add the brandy. Bottle and store until needed.

Blackberry Cheese: this can be made with other fruits
2 lb (1kg) blackberries, washed
1 lb (500g) cooking apples, peeled and cored
1 pint (600ml) water
Dice the apples and place in a pan with the blackberries and water. Bring to the boil and simmer gently for about half an hour until the berries are tender. Using a nylon sieve and a wooden spoon, press the fruit through into a bowl. Return the fruit puree to the pan and add 12 oz (375g) sugar to each pint (600ml) puree. Heat gently until the sugar has dissolved then raise the heat and boil for about 20 minutes until the mixture is very thick. It is ready when a wooden spoon can be drawn through leaving a clean line at the bottom of the pan. Pot and cover into small wide-mouth jars, leave to set and cover in the normal way - or if you prefer put the cheese into small moulds so that you can turn out the cheese onto a dish and serve it cut into wedges to be put on scones, eaten with bread and butter and even with soft chceese.

Pickled Blackberries:
2 lb (1kg) blackberries, washed
1 lb (500g) gran. sugar
1/2 pint (300ml) pickling vinegar
1/4 oz (7g) each: whole cloves, allspice, cinnamon stick
Put the sugar and vinegar in a pan. tie the spices in a musling bag and add this also. Simmer for 5 minutes then remove the spices, add the blackberries and cook for 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove the berries from the pan and place in clean hot jars and keep warm. Continue boiling the vinegar until it has turned to a syrup then pour this over the fruit. Cover with airtight and vinegar proof lids. Keep for 2.3 weeks before using.

Remember, all you pennypinching people, that bottles of gin, brandy, rum etc, can also be 'free' if you ask for them as a birthday, anniversary or Christmas gift.