Friday, 16 July 2010

Blackcurrant jam

Today I made some blackcurrant jam. It took me an hour (at least) last night and two hours (at least) this morning to top and tail a pound and a half of blackcurrants. I put these with a pound and a half of sugar and steeped them overnight/over the afternoon. Then I added three-quarters of a pint of water and brought it all to the boil in my new preserving pan. I then added a further pound of sugar (warmed in the oven), and boiled it until it reached setting point (220 degrees). The jam is gorgeous, though not as gorgeous as my strawberry jam, which tastes ineffable (I'm not sure what that means, but it appears in hymns when talking about God, so it seems about right).

I got the blackcurrants off Hazel's allotment, and this is the sad part. Hazel (plots 54 and 55) is so ill she can no longer do her garden, and her husband is looking after it for her. But he's not obsessed like she is, and it is going downhill. Joe (plots 56 and 58) offered to do some hoeing and watering for her, though he's got his work cut out on his own two plots, and is also looking after Angelo's plot while he's on holiday in Italy. Yesterday, when I arrived, Domenico (Joe's son) was there, and he asked me, in his slightly goofy way how to pick blackcurrants. He said Hazel's husband had told Joe to help himself, as they were going to waste. Well, I got a bucket and followed him over to Hazel's plot. He lost interest a bit when I told him you have to top and tail them if you want to stew them or anything, and after a phone call he left me to it. But not before I'd noticed her raspberry canes and gooseberry bushes, the latter laden with ripe fruit. I said to Dom, do you think she'd mind if I took some of those too? He said he didn't think she would, so I got enough raspberries for a snackette at supper time, and enough gorgeous ripe gooseberries to make a gooseberry crumble for my brother, Greg, who's coming up tomorrow (I am trying to persuade him to help me mend the shed). So I returned home in seventh heaven, while poor Hazel is probably heartbroken that she can't make any jam this year. I felt guilty about picking from her fruit bushes after Dom was gone, but I guess she intended the stuff to go to a good home, and I can't imagine Domenico doing anything much with the blackcurrants. (He didn't even know what elderberries were - he thought they were poisonous. Unless he's confusing them with ivy berries, in which case, I told him you could make an excellent wine out of them).

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