“You could make jam.” was Muds’ suggestion.
I’ve never actually made jam before. I’ve made piccalilli and I’ve also done cucumber relish in the past but the strawberries are normally snaffled by the Mudlets pretty much as soon as I’ve picked and washed them, so to actually have a glut was a novel experience.
“I think you need a special sort of sugar for jam making,” I replied, “With added pectin or something.”
With the idea of jam making firmly planted in my head, I hunted out the ‘Jams and Preserves’ book I had got free with a magazine a couple of years ago. I’d found my ‘Piccalilli’ recipe in there and the one for spicing the pickling vinegar. A quick peruse of the ‘Jam making’ section confirmed my notion that a special sort of sugar was needed and I could almost guarantee that it wouldn’t be available in our local Supermarket – nothing ever is available in that particular shop.
With 1 pound 12 ounces of strawberries to use up, I thumbed through the book and came across a recipe for Strawberry Conserve which used regular, granulated sugar of which I had plenty and a touch of lemon juice! Sorted.
So with my mind made up, I set about preparing the 450g of strawberries needed for the recipe, weighing out the 450g of sugar and 2 tablespoons of lemon juice. The recipe was straight forward:
- Heat the lemon juice and sugar over a gentle heat until all the sugar is melted;
- Take the pan off the heat and mix in the strawberries, ensuring that they were nicely coated in the syrup;
- Leave the mixture for 15 to 30 minutes;
- Return the pan to the heat and continue to cook for a further 5 to 7 minutes until the ‘setting’ point is reached: to see if the setting point is reached, put a teaspoon of the mixture onto a cold plate and once cool, push your finger through it. If it wrinkles then setting point has been reached. Do remember to take the pan off the heat when testing for setting point;
- Remove pan from heat and allow to cool for a few minutes, as this helps prevent fruit pieces, pips etc rising to the top once in the jars; and
- Spoon into hot, sterilised jars and seal. I sterilise my jars by standing them in my sink with their lids upturned beside them and pouring boiling water from the kettle into the jars and lids and leaving for five minutes. I empty the water out of each jar as I need it
Very simple. Straightforward. The job would be done and dusted in just over an hour. Simples.
That is to say that it would have been simple but for one thing. A weather event which unexpectedly scuppered my plans for Conserve making. That put paid to any notion I may have had of serving home made conserve, on toast, as a supper.
So what was this dreadful weather event? What could possibly have occurred to change the course of my day? Was it snow? Could we have been suffering monsoon like conditions whilst the rest of the country basked in glorious sunshine? Were we in the grip of a storm?
With the temperatures as hot as they were and the humidity levels quite low, Mud had decided that this weekend would be ideal for stripping and painting Ciggys’ bulkhead. It was the only part of the body that hadn’t been done last year because we ran out of good weather. Unlike the majority of Series Land Rover panels, the bulkhead is steel and is, therefore, prone to rust at super sonic speeds if it isn’t coated with a few dozen layers of primer, undercoat and top coat. Yesterday Mud and I had manhandled the bulkhead onto the paving slabs by the back door and Mud had managed to sand it down and primer it during the day.
The careful positioning of the bulkhead yesterday meant that I had been unable to get to and use the hosepipe to water my tubs, baskets and beds and I hadn’t been very pleased, as it took me a couple of hours, to cart two watering cans around to give everything a much needed drink, whilst trying to over see dinner, dishes and getting the Mudlets to bed.
Today Mud had planned to get at least two layers of undercoat on, in enough time to allow it to dry so that the top coat could be applied. As with yesterday, the temperatures were perfect and, first thing this morning, Mud fairly skipped outside to get on with the job at hand, only to come back in a short while later, exasperated.
“What is it with the [bleep] weather!” he exclaimed,”I just don’t [bleep] believe it!”
With pan of sugar/lemon juice in hand and about to make my way out to the gas BBQ to start my conserve making, I looked outside expecting to see and unexpected an unforecast downpour happening. Nope! Sun was still shining and it was getting hotter by the second. Baffled I looked at Mud and waited.
“The wind ‘s gotten up!” He enlightened me, “And I can’t spray out on the concrete because the wind will blow dust and all sorts of rubbish into the wet paint AND it’ll cause spray to go everywhere!” This last section was delivered in a tone of someone realising that the other person hasn’t understood the ramifications of the situation (that would be me).
“We’ll have to move the bulkhead under the gazebo,” he said, “I’ll need your help.”
Half an hour later, the table and chairs had been evicted form my outdoor kitchen and the bulkhead had taken up residence, suspended by two ropes from the gazebos metal frame and the BBQ was covered in a protective cover, out of use for the foreseeable future!
I finally got my strawberry conserve started at around 6pm and it was finished and in the jars by 7.30pm. I don’t know if it will set properly (the elusive setting point proved difficult to find) but if all else fails it’ll make a nice coulis and the bulkhead? That’s still drying under the gazebo and we may have to carry it back into the workshop yet (it’s now 10.58pm) as Mud seems to think it might just rain…………