Tuesday 9 January 2007



Let’s pretend WI.

Quite a lot of produce last year was preserved in one way or another. The medlars made good jelly, the plum jam wasn’t too bad after I got the burnt bits out and the single jar of tomato ketchup only lasted a week.

There were some other efforts that didn’t get tested or tasted until the xmas break – our biggest disappointment were some brandied plums which had quite simply gone off. Doubly annoying as they were destined for xmas lunch and had taken about a bottle of brandy to make. Don’t really know what went wrong there – the method was an old one which seemed to have worked for others. We think the seal was faulty but even so with all that brandy it’s hard to understand how it could have failed. We won’t be trying to keep plums that way again.

However the Patxaran is a raging success. Made with sloes, coffee beans and vanilla steeped in Anise liqueur it is almost exactly as I remember it. For a perfect finish it could be filtered before serving to reclaim clarity but this isn’t important for most occasions so don’t worry about it.

The plum preserve made to another recipe of the Archdruid’s did survive and it’s not bad at all. A little bit sharp, I will add a touch more sugar next time but the texture is good, slightly jellied, the plums kept their shape and they have lasted in good health for three months. He recommends it with cold meat and cheeses but I couldn’t possibly comment on that. It’s nice on a piece of bread. The recipe as I made it follows:
For 1lb plums, halved and stoned use 6oz caster sugar, 4fl oz cider vinegar, a cinnamon stick and 2 star anise**. Multiply these proportions up for larger quantities of plums. Put all the ingredients except the plums into a pan and heat gently to dissolve the sugar. Bring to the boil then simmer for about 10 minutes. Add the plums and cook gently for about another 10 minutes (or less if the plums start to disintegrate). The plums should be tender but more or less intact and the liquid syrupy. Bottle when hot and seal immediately. Store at least 6 weeks. Keep in the fridge once opened. (** I didn’t have star anise and used a tablespoon of anise for the flavour but I’m sure the star anise would taste better.)

I also made blackberry jam and blackberry wine. The jam is good but we’ve yet to taste the wine. It desperately needs racking off but the weather is too miserable and the motivation is missing. It will have to wait until we attend to the cider – if indeed the cider makes it to the final hurdle. It is currently still on a very slow cool fermentation and our hopes for it are mercurial to say the least. It’s still blowing bubbles through the airlocks so our fingers remain tightly crossed.

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