It is that time of year again when I get into the whole making preserves thing.
I am sure I have said before, and no doubt will say again, that jam-making is not how I saw the trajectory of my middle age.
I had seen myself more doing something interesting with my life – writing a book, being a smart interim manager bringing light and general good things to despairing organisations, working for the UN and getting some trips to New York where I would broker alliances……not all of those things at once, of course.
Anyway here I am already with ten jars of Povidle. (Look it up – its an interesting Eastern European plum ‘cheese’ which can be used to go along with a cheese board or sweet Hungarian dumplings – not being a Hungarian dumpling-maker even at this stage of my housewifery, I shall substitute eggy bread made with brioche & sprinkled with sugar. And I added cinnamon sticks to the mix in case you are thinking of having a go.)
For the last two years our crab apple tree has not been forthcoming with its fruit and I was sorry – it is lovely tree – and, of course, you cannot buy crab apples in the shops so it was nice to have it in the garden – it gave me a smug feeling of nature’s bounty and all that stuff.
This year it has gone overboard, and so crab apple jelly is on the cards again – and I am alarmed at the extent of nature’s bounty.
For those of you who don’t do the preserve thing, let me say that it is a pain in the arse to make crabapple jelly.
There is no getting round it.
It is not complicated, but it is a long-winded business which starts with picking up the windfalls ( the best beloved did a bucket full today), then you have to get rid of the bruised bits – but actually I get bored with that cutting up and, after a bit, I throw whole crabapples into the pan, willy-nilly.
Then you have to cook them and then – and this is the real pain bit – you have to strain the juice.
So, you need to imagine my kitchen with broom handles resting between chairs and muslin bags strung on the handles full of crabapple mush which have to drip into containers overnight.
And then you have to start with sugar and boiling points, jam jars which need sterilising and their labels removing, etc etc etc.
By the way there are a few jars of something down in the cellar which I made earlier in the year and cannot for the life of me remember what it is – some pickle or another….but forgot to label them. I will think of some pickle name and then make up some labels – another long-winded process.
And then there are the blackberries.
My best beloved would like a good bramble jelly as made by his mum but that isn’t going to happen for two reasons – one I have tried it and it came out like jellied concrete and the other is that it needs that dripping malarky and I am not doing that twice in a year.
So, I will beg and steal some apple windfalls and then some blackberries and there will be some jam.
Of course, unless you are willing to spend every minute of your life at this time of year making preserves, you have to freeze stuff so that you can do it when you get round to it.
That means clearing out the freezer.
So we are currently eating stuff out of the freezer in strange combinations – who knew fish-fingers could go with roasted peppers, for example.
We have some people coming for meals this weekend and they will be surprised by the unusual combinations – I shall explain it is a Hungarian traditional feast, and pass them the Povidle.
I will say in my defence of preserve making for the reluctant housewife, we sell them at our winter lunch for Syrian refugees. ( Best beloved says they must be bloody fed up with jam by now but I think that this year, brandishing a jar of Hungarian preserves might be useful….)