Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Homemade preserves - you really can't beat it!

If any of you have been following me on Facebook & Twitter you would know that recently I have been experimenting and enjoying making my own preserves. It is something that I am really getting into and so far everyone who has been lucky enough to try some of them, have throughly enjoyed them, especially my B&B guests.  

I started off with the very easy to make blackberry jam.  

This all started because we have a lot of blackberry bushes growing down the side of our garden and this year was an amazing year for the amount and the size of blackberry's.  As we have always encouraged our kids to make the most of and appreciate seasonal fruits and veg that we can have fun harvesting ourselves, they were very keen to get out there and start picking this abundance of fruit.  Obviously this then resulted in a huge amount of fruit sitting in my kitchen and me wondering what to do with it all.  I hadn't made jam for about 10 years, but thought I did it then - so I can do it again now.  The first batch went really really well, it was surprisingly easy and Sophie & Isabelle helped so it was another great family activity.  The very next morning I put a jar out for the guests to try and it was an instant success, they loved it and over a few weeks ate most of it.
As the kids were still busy picking more & more blackberry's I made a second batch of this jam, but unfortunately this time I was a bit too eager and it ended up a little bit on the runny side, although the taste was still very yummy.  The guests got to try this too and finished it all, so I guess the consistancy didn't really matter as long as it tasted good. 

After realising that I had hit on something here I decided to try a different flavour so the guests had a choice. I decided to use more ingredients that we had growing in the garden and made rhubarb & strawberry jam. 
 Unfortunately the strawberry's weren't mine but the rhubarb was, and now I will never be stuck for what to make with it.  This jam was a delightful surprise, I had been a bit unsure as rhubarb can be sour but put with strawberries it was amazing.  Again another success with the guests, it didn't last long.

The great thing about making my own jam is that the guests really do appreciate that it's not shop bought, something that I have put effort into to make myself and use where possible ingredients that I have grown myself.  It's something that alot of people don't or can't do at home for one reason or another but everyone can just go to the supermarket and buy jam.  It's also been a great coversational topic as everyone is suddenly interested to hear about my homemade products.

Next I wanted to experiment with something a little more unusual, something that isn't your normal supermarket jam and I found a great recipe in a book that one of my friends lent to me - plum, orange & ginger jam.  The recipe didn't actually have ginger in it but as I was getting a bit more confident now I decided, what the hell - give it a go.  I'm not actually very good at following a recipe to the letter as I either don't read it properly and think I know what I'm doing or I might not have exactly the right ingrediants but something similar and think, it'll do.  So far - so good!  This jam is really nice but could possibly have done with slightly more orange in it, but other than that it's also been a great success.  I still have a bit left but if you want some you'll have to book up quick!

Moving on to something slightly different, my tomatoes had started to die off in the greenhouse a few weeks ago so I decided to pull them up and with all the green tomatoes I would make chutney.  Again I hadn't made this for maybe nearly 15 years but not wanting to see anything go to waste it was time to try again.  It is a lot of chopping but not really difficult.  The smell was really good while cooking but I have to say that we haven't tried any yet as it recommended that you jar it and leave it to mature for a few weeks, so we are still waiting.

So by now my confidence has been growing with every guest that has eaten my jam and complimented me on how lovely they all are, so I felt it was time to give marmalade a go.  I have never done this before and had the idea in my head that it's difficult, I don't even know why, I just did.
I was pushed into to doing it by Fred, who whilst out shopping bought a box of clementines that had been reduced as they were nearing the end of their shelf life and it would be far too many for us to just eat as fruit so I thought, right that's it - marmalade here we go.  I searched on the internet to find a clementine marmalade recipe as I wasn't sure you could even do it with clementines, but sure enough you can.  Again doing my usual trick of not reading the recipe properly jumped straight in.  Boiled them for 3 hours in water as it said, then realised that this was a 2 day process, as they then had to stand overnight in the pan before starting again.  The next morning I read on that you then have to pulp all the flesh through a sieve - bit of a faff I have to say and then alot of boiling to get to the setting point, as I was determind to make sure that this marmalade was spot on.  I have some lovely regular guests that are marmalade lovers and for them aswell as myself I wanted this to be my best effort yet.  
Well I have to say that I have amazed myself and it is delicious, it's nice and firm and the peel strands are very tasty and just the right thickness - it is most definitely my best yet :)
One of my regular workmen is staying again at the moment and he's one of the marmalade lovers that I mentioned earlier, he gave it the taste test last week and loves it, I can't ask for anymore than that. 

I have been approached now by several people asking me if I sell my preserves and have had to answer with, not at the moment as I don't have enough to sell.  My guests are busy eating it all and the whole purpose has been to give them something that they don't get at home, a bit of a treat.  Although I am now considering starting to make bigger batches and then I could sell them if there is a demand, we will see.  Maybe if enough people ask me I could be persuaded:)

The amazing popularity of my jam & marmalade with my guests has really suprised me but I am now so glad that I made that first batch.  Since I started offering my own jam, no one has used any of the bought portions that I still offer in the breakfast room, funnily enough.  I do now intend to carry on and make all my own jams for the breakfasts as you clearly, really can't beat homemade jam, I don't care what anyone says.

I know it's not rocket science but I am feeling very pleased with myself