30 July 2009
I have been making redcurrant jelly. I couldn't resist the beautiful berries and bought a punnet at the market, then could not decide what to do with them. So jelly it was. Very simple. A pound of sugar to a pint of sieved juice and pulp. Boil for around 5 minutes and put in jars. Is it cheating to use preserving sugar? I've never used it before but I had some in the cupboard from January when I was dreaming of marmalade and it made life simple.
Now I'm thinking about those mulberries. Nell Heaton's Calendar of Country Receipts (1950) includes one for mulberry and apple jam. I love reading this book. Divided into weeks of the year, with additional advice on what to do on "odd days", it is designed to keep the pantry and still room (surely you have one?) packed to the gunnels. This particular recipe starts " Mulberries are all too often wasted nowadays. Take 5lb of apples, 6lb mulberries...". On the same pages for the third week of August we have Tomato and Melon Jam, Cake That Will Keep a Year, Sage Tea for Sunburn, Damson Wine, and Prunes Made at Home. So enticing that I found myself thinking that at last I might have a home for the wild plums at the allotment. Get too carried away and there is even a recipe for Harvester's Embrocation (vinegar, turpentine, powdered camphor and an egg if you are interested.)
I'd love to be messing about with all this stuff, but the truth is I can just about manage to keep my head above water with the basics, and some of those are neglected. I want the freshly baked bread and I know how relaxing and satisfying it is to knead dough but it's all a bit beyond my powers of organisation. The dream holds me though, and after much hesitation and weighing up, I succumbed and bought a bread machine. I could not stand the idea of having what is after all a large and expensive piece of equipment for it to end up not being used. So I'm pleased that it has been a success. After a couple of months, we don't buy bread any longer, nor do we waste any. I doubt whether it will last as long as the old Kenwood Mixer I inherited but it's doing a good job and I've stopped feeling guilty.
I'm glad I've got that off my chest.