Monday, 13 July 2009

Berry Picking

Summertime in the English countryside means an abundance of glorious berries. Over the past few weekends we have set off, en famille, to pick these lovely jewels of the sunshine at our local pick-your-own farm. While the supermarkets are brimming with a variety of berries right now, nothing compares with the burst of fragrance and flavour of a berry right off the bush, in the crisp morning outdoors.
After an hour or so picking (and sampling) we stop for a cup of tea and a treat in the delightful tea shop and then set off home with our bounty. Later I think up ways to use the berries, and as we have always picked so many, they find their way into sorbets, ice creams and jams.
I particularly love to combine strawberries with redcurrants to make a super vibrant soft set jam. The redcurrants provide the extra pectin that the strawberries lack on their own, as well as an intense tart flavour that really enhances the strawberries' sweet subtle fragrance. See the recipe below.

Berries Montage

Strawberry and Redcurrant Jam

1kg strawberries, hulled and left whole
300g redcurrants, all stems removed
1kg caster sugar

Makes 4 350g jars.
Heat oven to 170 centigrade. Wash and dry jars and place in oven to sterilise. Turn off oven but leave jars in warm oven until needed.
In a large, wide pan, combine the berries and sugar and heat gently, stirring occasionally until the sugar has dissolved. Boil rapidly for 10-15 minutes until setting point is reached. (105 degrees centigrade) To test if the jam will set, put a small spoonful onto a cool saucer and place in the fridge for 2 minutes. Take it out and push a spoon, or finger, through the jam. If it wrinkles, it is set. If not, return the jam pan to the heat and boil for another 2 minutes and then test again.
Ladle jam into the warm jars, and cover with clean sterilised lids. Store in cool dry place.
Picking Montage