Festive cranberry and clementine curd – perfect pie filling for mincemeat haters

Cranberry and clementine curdIf you’re thinking about baking mince pies this Christmas (you’ll find my clementine and mincemeat cakey pie recipe here), we should really spare a thought for all those mincemeat haters.  When you’re popping your pies in the oven, leave a couple of the pastry shells empty (or indeed just make a whole batch of shells), scrunch up a square of greaseproof paper and pop in a handful of baking beans.

When you take your mince pies out of the oven you’ll have a few extra shells ready to fill with something non-mincemeaty.  For a festive option, why not try making my cranberry and clementine curd?  Double the quantity and buy some nice clip-top jars (I got mine from jarsandbottles-store.co.uk) and it makes a fabulous gift too.

You will need:

300g pack fresh or frozen cranberries

4 clementines

100g butter

150g caster sugar

2 large free range eggs plus 1 extra yolk

Put the whole pack of cranberries into a saucepan.  Peel a couple of big strips of zest off each of the clementines and add that in too, then squeeze them and pour in the juice.  Bring the mixture to the boil, then allow it to gently simmer for about five minutes or until the cranberries are soft.

Take it off the heat and pour it into a sieve over a bowl.  Give the mixture a good squish to get as much juice out as possible, then measure the juice back into the saucepan. You need 6 tablespoons of juice – if you don’t have enough, add a bit more clementine or lime juice.

Add in the butter and caster sugar and stir gently on a low heat until the butter is all melted and the sugar has dissolved.

Meanwhile, in a clean bowl, whisk the eggs and yolk until well combined (if you’re being restauranty here, you can sift the egg to remove any lumps of white).

Take the  juice/butter mixture and gently pour a little bit into the egg, whisking all the time, then a bit more, then a bit more, until you’ve combined about half of it with the eggs.

Pop that lot back into the saucepan and keep whisking and gently cooking until the mixture thickens enough to coat the back of the spoon. If it’s really not going to thicken, you can help it along by popping in another egg yolk and whisking again until it does. Remember it will continue to thicken as it cools.

If you’re potting it up, make sure your jars are sterilised (good sterilising advice from my friend Mammy’s Kitchen right here), but if you’re using it straight away, or pouring it into a tart case, let it cool a bit, remembering to stir it occasionally to keep it from getting a skin on. When it’s about room temperature, pour it into the pastry case and pop into the fridge to cool.

A sealed jar will keep for a good few weeks in the fridge, but opened jars should be eaten within about a week.

Cranberries and clementines

Step by step: how to make lemon curd and news of the ‘lemonster’

Lemon curd

Lemon curd

My Mum’s been on holiday to Sorrento.  While she’s been away I’ve been popping in occasionally to look after the cats and water plants, etc.  I’m always worried that people will think I’m a burglar, so I always talk really loudly to the cats: ‘hello Harreeeee!  Are you missing your mummmeeeeee?’.  It’s now dawned on me that rather than being labelled a burglar, my mother’s neighbours think I’m some sort of weird cat whisperer wannabe.  Ah well.

True to the English Mum philosophy of nothing going right if it can go wrong, I was startled awake the morning of her return at 1.30am by a phone call: ‘it’s me’, said my Mum, ‘you locked me out’.  Ah.  I’d managed to leave the key in the back door when locking it from the inside, not realising that she hadn’t taken a front door key with her.  No matter.  I drove down and let her in.  Whilst there, she handed me a suspicious, nobbly parcel.  It was obviously a good pressie as she was pretty pleased with herself.  Delving deeper, it turned out to be THE BIGGEST LEMON THAT YOU’VE EVER SEEN IN YOUR WHOLE LIFE.  One of my twitter followers named it ‘The Lemonster’.  Here it is next to a lemon from my fruit bowl:

The Lemonster

The Lemonster

During the following lemony discussions, it turned out that most people have never made lemon curd OR Limoncello.  Both of which are dead easy.  I’ll start with lemon curd.  Once you’ve got the basic recipe, you can make lots of different kinds of curd – I’ve made berry before, and you can make lime, passion fruit… basically any juice that’s nice and sharp will translate well into a lemon curd.

You will need:

2 lemons, zested and juiced (or about 6 tablespoons of sharp, fresh juice)

100g butter (I use salted as I think it brings out the flavour)

150g caster sugar

2 large free range eggs, plus 1 extra yolk

Take a saucepan and add in the juice, zest (if using citrus fruits), butter and caster sugar.  Melt it all together slowly until the sugar is all dissolved.

Meanwhile, in a bowl, whisk the eggs and yolk until well combined (if you’re being restauranty here, you can sift the egg to remove any lumps of white).

Now, take the warm juice/butter mixture and gently pour a little bit into the egg, whisking all the time, then a bit more, then a bit more, until you’ve combined about half of it with the eggs.

Pop that lot back into the saucepan and keep whisking and gently simmering until the mixture thickens enough to coat the back of the spoon.  If it’s really not going to thicken, you can help it along by popping in another egg yolk and whisking again until it does.  Remember it will continue to thicken as it cools.

If you’re potting it up, make sure your jars are sterilised (good sterilising advice from my friend Mammy’s Kitchen right here), but if you’re using it straight away, or pouring it into a tart case, let it cool a bit, remembering to stir it occasionally to keep it from getting a skin on. When it’s about room temperature, pour it into the pastry case and pop into the fridge to cool.

A sealed jar will keep for a good few months in the fridge, but opened jars should be eaten within about a week.

Sorrento sounds utterly fabulous, by the way.  Tempted to pop over and pick up a few more enormous lemons.

Apple, mint and thyme chutney

Once again, my Dad’s wonderful apple trees have provided him with buckets of fruit that he has absolutely no interest in cooking (or, indeed eating – I mean, how many apples can one man possibly eat?).  He arrived bearing massive bags of fruit (we won’t go into the missing one – my cousin Moon, visiting from Slovakia, got the blame, but he was far too busy trying to smuggle sausages out of the country, so the ‘case of the missing apples’ has now settled happily into family folklore) so I thought I’d have a go at some chutney.

This chutney is quite delicately flavoured and doesn’t contain any onions. It’s not too vinegary (the malt vinegar gives a nice rounded taste) and the fruity taste makes it an ideal accompaniment to both cheese, and roasted meats.  It’s almost more of a posh apple sauce, really.

You will need:

1.5 – 1.75kg apples

250g sugar

300ml malt vinegar

Pinch salt

Large handful of mint

1 tablespoon chopped thyme

I’m not a massive fan of raisins in this chutney, but add 50g if you fancy it.

This amount makes about three jars, but if you stick to the general ratios above, you can multiply the recipe up or down as appropriate (and use any fruit or veg you fancy… pears, pumpkin, onions…).

To make the chutney:

Basically, just peel, core and chop the apples (it helps to drop them into slightly salted water – they don’t go brown), add in the sugar and vinegar and then just bring to the boil (stir so that the sugar dissolves) then simmer uncovered until it thickens – it won’t take long, about 45 minutes to an hour.

When the chutney is at the right consistency, take if off the heat and stir in the herbs.

Make sure your bottles are sterilised, then pour in the chutney and pop on the lids.

Gorgeous port and cranberry sauce

So yes you can rush out and buy a jar of cranberry sauce, but it’s equally easy to rush out and buy  pack of cranberries, and this yummy sauce will not only adorn your Christmas plate with its gorgeousness, but also scent your home so delightfully it could put Yankee Candles to shame. You can use all port if you haven’t got any Cointreau (English Dad got a bit sniffy about me using his posh Taylor’s, hence the addition of Cointreau), but it does give a nice orangey zing.

You will need:

1 pack cranberries (or you can use frozen) – about 250g should do it

100g brown sugar

1 orange, zested then juiced

1 cinnamon stick

120ml port

60ml Cointreau (or other orange liqueur)

A pinch of dried chilli flakes

Just pop all the ingredients into a saucepan:

… and simmer away for about 20 minutes.  Remember that cranberries have VERY high pectin, so even if you think it’s not thick enough, take it off the heat as it will thicken up as it cools.  Don’t forget to fish out the cinnamon stick.

Pour into a sterilised jam jar (dishwasher cycle or a good wash up and a thorough drenching with boiling water) and pop on a lid (it should just about fill one jar).  And that’s it!  Make double and give as a present, or just use yourself on Christmas day.


Apricot, pear and apple chilli chutney

Christmas is THE time for chutney. Quite apart from the turkey leftovers, there’s all that ham, and tons of lovely cheese – a tangy chutney accompaniment is a must.

This chutney is loosely based on the cranberry and apple chutney in Nigella Christmas, but inspired by my very clever friend Katie, from Feeding Boys, who made a lovely autumnal pear chutney, I decided to pop in some pears and dried apricots as well.  Oh, and because I love a bit of spice, I’ve added a fresh red chilli too.  Leave it out if you’re not keen, or maybe deseed and just add the flesh.

A few tips:

  • Make sure you cut the apples and pears into quite small pieces.  My apples were frozen and I hadn’t chopped them that small, so quite a few large chunks remained.  Not the end of the world, admittedly, but a bit annoying.
  • If you don’t like something, substitute something else.  Like cranberries?  Then just do half the amount of sultanas and do the other 125g in cranberries.  Don’t like dried apricots?  Add some different dried fruit.
  • No pears?  Try quinces… or even veg – courgettes or butternut squash work well.
  • Feel free to double up if you’re making presents or whatever.  This recipe makes about a litre of chutney and filled two and a bit small kilners.

You will need:

1 large onion, chopped

350g apples, peeled and chopped into small chunks

250g pears, peeled and chopped into small chunks

150g dried apricots, chopped into small dice

250g sultanas

350ml bottle of cider vinegar

1 red chilli, chopped very finely

200g brown sugar

1 tsp ground ginger

1 tsp ground turmeric

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp ground coriander

1tsp ground black pepper

1 tsp salt

Bung everything into a big saucepan and stir while you bring it to the boil (see what I mean about the apple pieces?):

Once it’s boiled, turn it down to a simmer and allow to cook for 45 minutes until thick and golden brown, stirring occasionally.

Pour into sterilised jars.  Click here for a link to my buddy Mammy’s excellent advice on sterilising jars.

And as this chutney makes a perfect thrifty Christmas pressie, I’ve added it to Violet Posy’s wonderful Thrifty Christmas blog. Pop over to get more thrifty inspiration and craft ideas.

Blackberry and apple liqueur

This month I’m delighted to have been invited to join in the Irish Foodies Cookalong.  Basically, a whole bunch of Irish foodies and bloggers get together the first Friday of every month to cook their interpretation of a theme, then post their results on the Facebook page.

This month’s theme is autumn fruit, so I thought it was time to unearth all those blackberries I picked in September, now nestling in the bottom of the freezer.

There are few rules to making liqueurs – let’s face it, bung some fruit in with some alcohol and a ton of sugar and it’s never going to taste bad, but bear in mind the following:

* Store your liqueur in the dark – the beautiful colour of your blackberries will soon be destroyed if exposed to sunlight

*Don’t store in the fridge.  The delicate aroma and taste won’t truly come out if the liqueur is cold.

*Dissolve your sugar thoroughly.  Whether you’re using my recipe, or steeping fruit in alcohol and then adding a sugar syrup, make sure all the sugar crystals are completely dissolved or they’ll ruin your finished liqueur by appearing in an unpleasant and crunchy fashion in the glass.

400g fresh (or frozen) blackberries

250g cooking apples (weight is after peeling and coring)

600g caster sugar

700ml bottle vodka

Put the blackberries and apple pieces into a saucepan.  Pour in 300ml water and bring to the boil.  Add the caster sugar, turn it down low and stir just until all the sugar is dissolved and the apples are mushed (technical term).

It may seem like jam making at this point – but think about it – you need the slightly thick stickiness that all good liqueurs have, plus you want the apple to break down.

Leave to cool slightly, then stir through the vodka.  Bottle up (make sure your bottles are spotless, either from a hot dishwasher cycle, or a good wash in hot, soapy water and then a final rinse of boiling water), then leave for a couple of weeks in a dark place.

Then all you need to do is strain and rebottle and you have the perfect autumn liqueur.  As you can see, it makes enough for three bottles and I only had two, but while it’s steeping, it can live in a jam jar.

Imagine pouring a little of this into a flute and topping up with champagne for a perfect ‘Hedgerow Kir Royale’ this Christmas too!

Oh and can I just say if you’re looking for preserving jars, I highly recommend Patteson’s Glass (http://www.jarsandbottles-store.co.uk/). They sell all sorts of kilners and bottles for home preserving, and they deliver to Ireland – yay!  Sadly I discovered them too late for this recipe, but I’ll be using their lovely bottles to make some sloe gin very soon.

Grapefruit, orange and apple marmalade with English Grandma


My Mum’s a great cook.  If I ever want to try something, nine times out of ten she’ll know: cakes, casseroles, weird Australian fruit cakes, Scotch eggs… you name it, she’ll have a recipe.

I’ve been wanting to make marmalade for ages, so when Hubby appeared back from the farm shop with a big bag of Seville oranges (in season now, folks!), it seemed a good time to kidnap her and force her to show me how to make it (not really, she was quite willing, honest).

I was really rather taken with the recipe for ‘Windfall Marmalade’ from the Hairy Bikers’ Mum Knows Best series, so this was the starting point for our marmalade, although we tinkered with it quite a lot.

First things first, then, you’ll need a few bits and bobs that you might not normally have, namely:

1.  A mahoosive saucepan or preserving pan

2. A large piece of muslin

3.  Lots of clean jam jars with well-fitting lids

4.  A jam thermometer (although you can do it the old fashioned way too)

5.  A set of wax discs, cellophane covers and rubber bands

6.  A clean pair of rubber gloves, or skin like teflon

7.  Time.  Set aside a good few hours.

So, to make our rather unusual combo, you’ll need:

2 grapefruits

6 Seville oranges

About 900g Bramley apples

3 litres water

2kg granulated sugar

Sterilising the jars:

 Sterilising the jars

Wash your jars in hot, soapy water.  Rinse well, then without touching the insides, stand them on a board and put them in a very low oven to dry thoroughly.

Preparing the fruit:

For the oranges and grapefruits:

Wash and rinse the fruit well.  Peel off all the rind – just press gently , don’t take the pith (haha), then cut it into fine shreds. 

Remove rind, not pith

We found that the oranges were firm enough to grate, which was much easier:

Grated orange rind

Now, with a sharp knife, cut away all the pith and remaining outer skins of the citrus fruits (keep these separate in a bowl as you’ll need them).  In the recipe it says chop the flesh roughly, but we found there was too much tough stuff left, especially with the oranges, and it was easier to run the knife down the edge of each individual segment and just pop it out, leaving the central ‘core’ surrounded by a fan of segmenty skin (not sure what the technical term is for that bit, probably ‘segmenting’ which is boring, if accurate).  If there are any large segments, chop them into two or three pieces:

Segment grapefruits small

For the apples:

Wash and rinse the fruit well.  Peel, core and chop, chucking all the cores, pips and skin etc in with the citrus pith and stuff.

Off to the hob:

Put the chopped/grated citrus rind into your huge pan with the flesh and chopped apples, and pour in the water:

 Add rind to pan

Now, take all the yucky bits: the apple and citrus peel, the pith, the cores etc, and tie them all up tightly in the square of muslin:

Wrap peelings in muslin

Add this gently in to the top of the pan.  DON’T ADD THE SUGAR YET! (as you can see, even my mahoosive pan was not really big enough and had to be carefully watched initially so that it didn’t boil over):


 So just simmer gently until the peel is tender (make sure you test it – if you add the sugar too early the peel will remain hard) and the liquid has reduced by about half.  Don’t be too impatient with this bit.  It took a good two hours:

Liquid reducing

Now, lift out the muslin bag and, wearing a pair of clean rubber gloves (or not if you have asbestos fingers), squeeze it to ensure you get all the liquid out.  Discard.

Now, having tested the peel, you can add the sugar and stir well until it’s dissolved.  Then it’s just a case of leaving the marmalade to boil away (don’t let it boil over – you want a rolling boil) until it reaches setting point.

Setting Point:


You can test this in a number of different ways, the easiest of which are:

1.  Do it my Mum’s way, which is to put a saucer in the fridge until cold, then put a teaspoon of marmalade on the saucer – it should wrinkle when pushed with your finger.

2.  Use a jam thermometer – the mixture should reach about 104.5 degrees C

Bottling and sealing:

Once the marmalade has set, leave it to cool for about 15 minutes, then pour into the warm jars.   Add a wax disc (wax side down), then lightly moisten a cellophane circle and stretch it over the rim of the jar (moistened side up).  Add a rubber band and a funky label.

Finished jars

And that’s it.  Easy.  Should you, however, still feel that you need the help of English Grandma in order to perfect your marmalade, I’m happy to announce that I rent her out at reasonable rates. 

Just saying.

The Thursday AND Friday Photos: Dining at Disney – foodie photo alert!!!

Disney 7 logo

So I thought rather than bore you to death with one big huge enormous Walt Disney World post, I’d break it down for you into more manageable bits (I’m good like that).  Today, then, is part one of the reason that I came back from Disney looking 6 months pregnant (no, don’t get excited, Mum).  I suppose a common preconception about visiting Disney (maybe even America in general) is that you’re going to have to survive on a fast food diet of chips, burger and pizza.  But seriously, nothing is further from the truth.  In fact, when our happy band of bloggers did happen to pass a rather enormous McDonalds in the bloggerbus, we were all begging Sarah (our very own Disney Mary Poppins) to let us stop.  Happily, she had far nicer stuff in store for us:

First night, then, saw us wandering along Disney’s beautiful Boardwalk area, still dazed from our amazing upgraded flight (never EVER been upstairs in a plane before) and the fact that it was now 1am back home.  The Boardwalk is a beautiful recreation of a 1940s seaside resort, where we walked, further dazzled by the beautiful lights twinklingly reflected in the water, into the stunning and very classy Flying Fish Café.  We were even more gobsmacked when we found that Disney had created a restaurant menu just for us:

Flying Fish Café blogger menu

We started with cocktails (I had a Bay Breeze) and the chef brought us a little ‘amuse bouche’ of spiced seared tuna with a ‘carrot-coconut infusion’ (me neither but it was lubly) topped with sturgeon caviar (yellow and green – how do the Sturgeon do that?).  I adored the caviar – I love the way it pops on your tongue.  I tell you, thoughts of burgers were now seriously melting away:

Our amuse bouche at the Flying Fish Café

We moved onto our appetisers.  I chose beautifully tender crispy sesame and togarashi scented calamari, served with spiced green papaya (amazing) and an Asian dipping sauce.  For entrées (no mains here, baby) the choice was vast – from fresh yellowfin tuna… scallops… red snapper…  I went for a beautiful piece of oak-grilled North Atlantic salmon with puy lentils and American Sturgeon caviar which was fabulous, and in my eagerness to stuff it into my face, I actually forgot to take a picture of it.  I did, though take a pic (and a couple of generously proffered forkfuls – I think it was the fact that I was drooling on her shoulder that did it) of Jane‘s beautiful hand harvested Maine scallops with a pea, Pecorino, basil and mascarpone laced risotto and weird triffid things.  It tasted even better than it looked:

Maine scallops

Too stuffed for desserts, we staggered back to our beautiful Beach Club Resort for a well earned rest.

Up bright and early to breakfast with Minnie, Goofy and Donald (more of this later).  I actually still feel stuffed from the night before so settle for a reasonably ‘light’ breakfast of Mickey waffles with fruit, ignoring the vast array of bacon, sausages, fried potatoes, grits, yoghurts, and even desserts such as cobblers and crumbles:

Mickey waffles

Quick DISNEY FACT here: all around Walt Disney World there are what’s known as ‘hidden Mickeys’.  There are even proper ‘hidden Mickey’ nerds that make it their life’s work to know where they all are.  We spotted a couple, including a Mickey-shaped rivet in a manhole cover and a Mickey-shaped electricity pylon (no, honestly).  This, obviously caused me to collapse in a heap laughing every time somebody mentioned it.  Why?  Because in Ireland a Mickey is another name for a man’s erm… oh, you know.  And ‘hidden Mickey’ has all sorts of connotations to my filthy brain which prompted the snorting.  Sorry…

Off in the bloggerbus (or ovenbus as it became known) to Typhoon Lagoon (more of this later too), then to Downtown Disney (you guessed it – more later), where we have an absolutely amazing cob salad in the Earl of Sandwich.  I’ve never had one before, but it’s a rather delicious combination of chicken, cranberries, chunks of cheddar and masses of mixed leaves, all doused in a lovely dressing.  See, even the takeouts are scrummy.

The evening found us hurling ourself upside down on various rides at Walt Disney’s Hollywood Studios Resort (sorry, but I’m going to have to keep saying ‘more of this later’) where we dined at the spectacular Hollywood Brown Derby, a pretty good approximation of the original Brown Derby, frequented by the stars and decorated with signed caricatures (I spotted Bette Davis’s and Fred Astaire’s).

The service, as usual, was impeccable: friendly, helpful, discreet and informative.  The steaks were absolutely amazing (I think most of us ordered one):

Fabulous Brown Derby steak

Again, no room for dessert, but obviously we squeezed in a quick cocktail (made by the crappest cocktail waiter in the world, the lovely Craig, who took so long making our cocktails (checking his recipe every ten seconds), that we missed our showing of Fantasmic.  In fact, as one of my fellow bloggers pointed out, this photo looks misleadingly like he was moving at speed.  He wasn’t.

Craig the crap waiter

Instead, we retired back to our resort, Walt Disney’s Beach Club, to down more mojitos and get all sillly and giggly.  Poor Sarah started to look vaguely scared, especially when a competition to see who could say motherf*cker the fastest got into full swing.  We retire to bed a little tired and emotional (it’s the jet lag you see).

So that’s my first two days, then.  But brace yourself, you’ve got the other five to come, plus roundups of the main resorts, plus the parks, Disney’s Dining Plan, prices, packages, some amazing Disney facts and some rather wondrous exclusive Disney scoops.

Here’s a final DISNEY FACT to keep you on your toes: Walt Disney’s brain is widely held to be kept in a secret location, cryogenically frozen.  This is a load of horse poo.  He was just buried like everybody else.  See, you’re gagging for more now, I can tell….

Green tomato, apple and apricot chutney

So just as we all reach the depths of financial despair and can’t afford to feed ourselves, here at English Towers we’ll be okay as our self sufficiency knows no bounds.  Okay, so it wouldn’t be particularly pleasant to live on underripe tomatoes, parsley, carrots and erm… two courgettes, but hey, at least I’m trying.  Anyhoo, I finally gave up hope of any of the tomatoes going red in the greenhouse, picked them all and dug up the plants.  This left me with two huge bowls of green tomatoes.  Here’s the result of my chutney experiments, which left my kitchen looking like somebody had spontaneously combusted in there, but is pleasantly sweet, satisfyingly sour and has a kick like a seriously unhappy mule:

1.4kg green tomatoes (I know, but I had a lot of tomato plants)

450g bramley apples (3 or 4 apples)

1 large red onion

450ml malt vinegar

225g demerara sugar (use a bit more if you like a more jammy result)

125g dried apricots

100g sultanas

1 tsp cumin seeds

1 tsp chilli flakes

2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp crushed black pepper

Can I just say that if you don’t have a really sharp knife, don’t even think about making this chutney.  Chopping a mountain of green tomatoes with a blunt knife will only lead to rude words and missing fingers.  You have been warned.  So dice up all your tomatoes, peel and dice the apple and onion and chop the apricots.  Add them, along with all the rest of the ingredients, to a very large saucepan. 

Bring it all to the boil, then reduce and let it bubble away (hence the kitchen redecoration) stirring occasionally for about two hours or until there’s no excess liquid on the top.

Try and be slightly less Frank Spencer-like in your jar filling than I was – actually getting some of the chutney IN the jars would be preferable, I could really do with a funnel.  Oh and remember you need to wash them thoroughly and sterilise them first – a hot dishwasher cycle or 15 minutes in a cool oven should do it.  Shove the lid on and keep in a cool, dark cupboard to enjoy at Christmas with your coca cola baked ham and your Wexford cheddar… Savage, as #1 would say.

Food for free! Or how we made bramble jelly

So when me Ma was here, we remarked upon the sheer number of big fat blackberries we saw as we were tootling down the boat road with The Bertster ‘Ooh’, said I, ‘I could make some bramble jelly’.

And so it came to pass that I enlisted a bit of child labour and we set about spending a happy afternoon picking blackberries, getting prickled by thorns and comparing our rapidly blackening fingertips.  Every so often, one of us would yell ‘tractor!’ and we’d all have to hurl ourselves into the hedge to avoid being squished.  Much fun then ensued as we set to work in the kitchen, #1 looking fetching in the Homer apron (woo hoo!), making a big mess and a very small amount of bramble jelly.  You don’t have to ponce about with the muslin if you don’t want to (Hubby popped a curious head around the door to find out why #2 was ferreting in the linen cupboard looking for ‘a Muslim’.  Bless.) but I’m not keen on pips.  Horses for courses I guess.  Here we go, then:

1 kilo blackberries

Juice of 2 lemons

About 1lb sugar

8 fl oz water

So, firstly and most importantly, dollop your berries into the sink and add a good handful of salt and tons of fresh water.  All the nasties will die a horrible death and float to the top (one doesn’t want maggot in one’s scone, does one).  Rinse them thoroughly in loads of fresh water, then bung them all in a big saucepan (it really bubbles up so leave loads of room) with the lemon juice and water, bring to the boil then simmer for 20 to 30 minutes until the fruit is all mushy.

Let it cool a bit then strain it, either in a fine sieve, making sure you really squish it through with the back of the ladle, or you can do it the labour-intensive way and tie it up in a muslin or one of those jam strainer things, and leave it to drip overnight if you want clear jelly.  We got impatient and decided to just squeeze the muslin (although #2 did it a bit hard and it all exploded out of the top) to get out as much as possible.  We were left with exactly one pint of juice, which is handy as the jammy scribbles in my old notebook tell me that for each pint of juice you need ½ kg of sugar (by they way, generally with jam you need ½ kg sugar to ½ kg raw fruit).

Add your sugar, then, and bung it back in the saucepan and bring it to the boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar.  If you’re a flash monkey like me and have a confectionery thermometer, you need the temperature up to about 220 degrees.  Otherwise, just boil it for about five minutes, dollop a teaspoon onto a cold saucer and see if it wrinkles up when you push your finger into it.  If not, leave it another couple of minutes and try again.

Give your jars a whizz in the dishwasher, or thoroughly clean them in hot soapy water then pour boiling water over them, inverting them on clean kitchen towel to dry, then pour in your jelly and add a circle of waxed paper and pop on the lid.  Go back to the jars every five seconds to wobble them impatiently to see if they really are setting, then store somewhere cool until you bake some fantastic scones to slather it upon.  Slurp.