Saturday, January 5, 2013

Berry mission

You might wonder why, having announced that I was going to stop being lazy and get some stuff done, I have not apparently done anything for the past three days. Well, I have to admit to a little residual laziness, but the real reason is that I've been on a mission to find berries.

Loganberry jam (p228) is one that has troubled me from the very beginning. I'd never seen a loganberry before and didn't know what it was. I have since discovered that it is a hybrid berry, either a cross between a raspberry and a blackberry, or raspberry and boysenberry - accounts seem to vary on this one.

Since berry season consists of only a few short weeks in Summer, I had to make sure I went loganberry hunting shortly after Christmas. I figured while I was at it, I'd grab some blackberries for blackberry and apple jelly (p225).

I spent most of Thursday touring the various berry outlets and fruit and vege shops all over Christchurch. No loganberries were forthcoming, though, tantalisingly, one place had them listed on their price board, and another said "we had some yesterday". On Friday I sat at home and rang around those places that I hadn't visited. No luck. One helpful girl thought she might be able to get some for me, but never rang back.

At this stage I figured that having made a genuine effort to find loganberries, I was justified in making a substitution. I'd simply put a mixture of raspberries and boysenberries in the pot, in the hope that the result would be similar. It had also occurred to me that I hadn't really noted any blackberries for sale at any of the berry places - it was all raspberries, strawberries and boysenberries. Could it be that the blackberry and apple jelly was going to prove even more of a hurdle than the loganberry jam?

This morning I went over to the Riccarton House farmers' market, where I picked up some raspberries for my 'loganberry' jam. To my relief, the stall also looked to have blackberries. I asked to make sure, and was told they were a hybrid of blackberry and boysenberry (she did say wheat they were called, but I can't remember, or find them on Google). They tasted the same as blackberries to me, so I got them for the jelly.

After all the faff of finding the berries, the 'loganberry' jam took no time at all to make. This is another variation of the raspberry jam recipe, a very straightforward recipe that doesn't require any testing for setting points or similar bother. I bunged the berries in the pot and heated them until the juice began to run out. Then I added sugar, and stood stirring until the sugar dissolved. After that, it's just a matter of letting it boil for a few minutes before ladelling it into sterilised jars. Easy as.

The somesortofhybridblackberry and apple jelly took a little more time and effort. The apples have to be chopped, though not peeled or cored as the pulp is going to be strained anyway. The berries go into a pot with the chopped apples, and enough water to cover. It takes a little while for these to cook down into pulp, and I'd begun writing this blog entry. Not smart, considering the splattery mess when I turned back to the stove!

There are some quite clear instructions about how to strain a jelly, in the jellymaking instructions at the beginning of the chapter. Apparently, you tie a fine cloth to the legs of an upturned kitchen chair (oops, I see here it says several layers of fine cloth. I only used one. Oh well) and place a bowl under the cloth. Then you pour the pulp into the cloth and leave it to drain. No squeezing! There's no instruction on how to attach the cloth to the chairlegs, but after a bit of experimentation, I stretched some clean hair ties around the cloth and chairleg, which seemed to work.

I wasn't particularly patient with the straining. I only left it for ten minutes or so, by which time nearly all of the liquid had drained out, but there was still the occasional drip. I probably should have left it draining for a while longer, but wanted to get the jelly finished.

I carefully removed the muslin from the chair legs, and took the bowl from underneath. There was almost exactly three cups of juice - you add 3/4 cup sugar for every cup of juice, so I returned the juice to the pan with 2 1/4 cups of sugar.

The sugar dissolved almost immediately, so I brought the jelly to the boil and let it bubble away for 15 minutes.  I tested for setting point after that, and though it still just seemed totally liquid, it passed the 'setting test' immediately. I was happy about that - no testing and re-testing. I got my prepared jars out and ladled in the jelly straight away. It'll be interesting to see if it actually sets.

So that's those two done. Perhaps I ended up using different berries, but  I did spend more time and money than I intended trying to get the right ones. The 'loganberry' mixture of raspberry and boysenberry seems like it'll be quite nice. It's very sweet, but has a richer flavour than the plain raspberry or boysenberry ones I've made. I'm not so sure about the jelly. I didn't much like the taste - it seemed more apple than berry, but the flavour may develop after a week or two.

I bet this time next year I'll be seeing loganberries everywhere I go....

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