21 February 2011

A Lovely Lunch, Jellies & Jam

As we head towards the end of summer I wanted to start bottling a little of it to brighten up the cooler winter months.  Last weekend I caught up with some fellow Auckland food bloggers for lunch.  Myself, Alli (Pease Pudding)and Alessandra all headed out in to the Waikato countryside to Arfi's at Homemades, place, each with a plate in hand for a little bit of a foodie lunch.  It really was a treat to spend time with these lovely ladies over some delicious food and nice to move from tweeting to actual face to face conversation.  We also got the chance to have a walk through Arfi's wonderful orchard which is just laden with all sorts of fruity delights, pears, apples, nectarines, peaches, plums and damsons.  We all left with a bag of beautiful dusky damsons and a fair amount of orchard envy.

What to with these dusky blue hued damsons that was the question.  Gin seems to be a popular choice at present but I felt the urge for some jelly. If you follow this blog you'll know I love to make jelly. The patience to just let the jewel like liquid drip, drip, drip through the jelly bag to then be boiled up with sugar to be transformed into a jelly that is completely infused with the very essence of the fruit, I just find it so appealing.

So on to the damson jelly which resulted in a jar or two of the darkest purple jelly that is full of the flavour of damson and sweet with a little tartness.  Perfect for me as not a fan of an overly sweet jelly.  A treat for breakfast on hot buttered toast with a nice cup of tea. For a more savoury version I think it would complement some roast pork instead of the usual apple. The sweet and the tart would also be a friend to a creamy Camembert or Brie.

Damson Jelly


1kg damsons
Juice of 2 lemons
150ml water
Sugar, amount dependent on juice from damson

Wash the fruit and place it in a preserving pan with the lemon juice and water.  If you don't have a preserving pan use a large heavy based saucepan.  Bring the fruit slowly to the boil and allow it to simmer for 30-40 minutes, until the fruit is soft.

Pour the fruit into a jelly bag with a large bowl placed underneath it to catch the juice.  Allow the juice to drip through for several hours or overnight. Measure the juice and pour it back into the pan and add 100g of sugar to every 100ml of juice. Stir over a low heat until the sugar has completely dissolved and then raise the heat and rapidly boil until setting point is reached.  So see if the jelly has reached setting point spoon a little on to a chilled saucer.  Let it cool a little for a moment and then push with your finger - if it wrinkles it is ready. If not return to the heat, boil for 5 more minutes and test again. Pour the jelly into warm sterilised jars* and cool before sealing. The damson jelly can be eaten straight away, but it will keep for up to a year.

*You need to make you sterilise the jars properly.  Preheat the oven 120C. Wash the jars in hot soapy water, rinse well and place on their sides in the oven for 15 minutes.

Another gift that came my way were chillies, thanks Kristen. Plump, fat, round red chillies, allegedly fiercely hot according to my Kristen's Indian neighbours who grow them.  Right enough just a tiny nibble will set your mouth all a tingle.  Quite a treat given that all that is usually available are nondescript long, relatively mild chillies and I do love a little bit of heat.  I also had a large bag of red peppers that needed using and was fortunate enough to come across a recipe for a fiery red pepper jelly. 

Red Pepper Jelly, from Jams & Chutneys - Preserving the Harvest by Thane Prince


6 large red peppers, deseeded and halved
12 red chillies, halved - or more or less depending on how much heat you are looking for.
600ml red wine vinegar
1.25kg (2.75lb)granulated sugar*
2 sachets jam setting mix*

*Next time around I will just use the pectin sugar.


Place the peppers and chillies on a food processor and give them a good whizz.  It won't take long at all and you'll have rough paste.
Place the paste in a heavy based saucepan and add the vinegar.  Bring to the boil and let boil away for 5 minutes.  Place the mixture in a jelly bag and let it drip overnight.

Pour the liquid in to a heavy based saucepan and add the sugar.  Bring the mixture slowly to a boil and stir until the sugar is completely dissolved.  Add the jam setting mix and cook at a full rolling boil for 2 minutes and test for a set.  Once the jelly has reached setting point pour it in to sterilised jars and seal.

I just couldn't get this to set quite as much as I would have liked, however taste is what really matters and this jelly is sweet with good hit of heat from the chilli and went perfectly with a little round of Camembert.

And then yesterday I came across something new to me; red tinged greengage.  Not something that I have had before so I couldn't resist grabbing some and besides they were just too pretty in their shades of green and gold with random tinges of red.

Greengage Jam, from Jams & Chutneys - Preserving the Harvest by Thane Prince


1kg / 2.25lbs greengages, stones removed and quartered
750g / 1lb 10oz granulated sugar


Place the fruit and water in preserving pan or heavy based saucepan.  Cook gently over a low heat for 10 minutes. Stir every now and then until the greengages start to soften and release some of their juices.

Add the sugar and continue to simmer until the sugar has completely dissolved.  Increase the heat and bring the mixture to a full rolling boil.  Cook for about 5 minutes and skim off any scum that rises to the surface. Once the jam reaches setting point in to hot sterilsed jars, seal and label.

This jam has a lightness and is full of sweet, mellow pluminess.  And as a result of almost burning the jam there is an after note of caramel, which I think makes this potentially a favourite jam of mine.  I do love when kitchen mishaps deliver something more than what would otherwise have been achieved.  So go on, and give bottling a little of Summer a go.



  1. I've been getting into making jams this summer, but haven't yet tried making jelly - I suppose it's the natural next step. The red pepper/chilli jelly sounds fantastic; what type of chillies were those?

  2. Oh, Mairi - you have been busy - your jams and jellies look wonderful- I haven't started any preserving this season yet, but perhaps this weekend. I'd really love to try that red pepper jelly.

    Sue :-)

  3. Have not tasted greengage jam in years my Gran used to make it every year andit was lovely,she also made damson jam which Iwasn't so keen on but will look forward to tasting yours

  4. Ciao Mairi,

    I thought of making jelly too, but when I was cooking the plums without thinking I put the sugar into the pot... ops went my jelly plans! But I didn't feel like making jam, and now I have some plum paste in moulds drying in the fridge. I will know what it tastes like in a little while.


    It was a lovely day, and was great to meet you and the other ladies :-)

  5. Sounds as if you had a fun day out in the orchard.Looking forward to sampling your jelly efforts.

  6. They look lovely. Lucky you, you got those lovely greengages as well, while our greengage tree is dead. I'm going to make damson plum sauce from the fruits left on the tree. Some ladies next door came to pick too after you left. I was quite happy that the fruits are not wasted on the ground. XO.

  7. @milliemirepoix...not sure what type of chilli...not like anything I have seen before...but fiercely hot!

    @Sue...thinking of you in Chch xx

    @alessandra & @arfi...thanks for the kind comments & hope to see you soon :)

    @Ma & @pa...thx for commenting x

  8. Ciao Mairi, just to let you know, i put your blog on my blog roll :-)

    Have a good week end



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