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Worth the Wait: Autumn Bottled
The count down to Christmas is on (well my count down.. I’m more than a little over eager I admit) and its getting cold, which means its nearly winter and its time to start bottling things…
Last year I made my first batch of home-made fruit mince and my first Christmas pudding and in February I attempted marmalade which I’m pleased to say turned out to be a success. So I’ve been waiting with fortitude for this time of year and the chance to try out some new recipes.
I started my preserving afternoon with simple raspberry jam, just to make sure the marmalade thing wasn’t a fluke you see and practice the art of patiently staring into a bubbling pot. I don’t think I can take the credit which goes to Craigie’s farm for their beautiful fresh raspberries, but according to my husband I’m not allowed to give any of it away, so I guess it must have turned out well. I love adventurous flavour combinations but there is a time and a place and in the case of raspberry jam I think anything else besides the raspberries is just frilly.
Making jam requires patience, to make sure your first batch sets and make sure it doesn’t burn, but fruit mince requires a different kind of patience. Once bottled it needs time to stew and infuse before you use it but it’s so worth the wait and I never thought I would say this but it absolutely makes a difference if you make it yourself. The main reason for this is because you can fiddle around with the basic flavours and create something a bit more exciting than the bog standard raisins and orange peel you can buy in a shop. Plus if there’s anything that puts you off… you leave it out!
Last year I made Nigella’s rhubarb and vanilla mince and I swore not to go back to the bought stuff. This year I opted for a River Cottage inspired recipe but instead of normal plums I took advantage of the delicious pile of red-black damsons nestled in amongst the raspberries at Craigie’s. The damsons are cooked down into a dark red puree and then combined with the other ingredients and slowly baked in the oven until shiny and jewel-like. Now I will have to wait until Christmas to find out just how well this recipe turned out but judging by a lick of the juices left in the empty oven dish this one will be worth waiting for.
Damson and Red Fruit Mince
Adapted from River Cottage Preserves.
- 1kg damsons
- grated zest and juice of 2-3 oranges (200ml juice)
- 500g eating apples, peeled, cored and chopped into 1cm cubes
- 200g currants
- 250g raisins
- 150g dried cranberries
- 100g orange marmalade
- 250g Demerara sugar
- ½ tsp ground cloves
- 2 tsp ground ginger
- ½ nutmeg, grated
- 50ml ginger wine
- 50ml sloe gin (or brandy)
Wash the plums and put into a saucepan with the orange juice. Cook gently until soft, about 15min, and push through a sieve. Discard the stones. Put the purée into a large bowl and add all the other ingredients, except the gin. Mix, cover and leave to stand for 12 hours.
Preheat the oven to 130ºC. Put the mincemeat in a large baking dish and bake uncovered for 2½ hours. Stir in the gin and spoon into warm, sterilised jars, making sure there aren’t any air pockets. Seal and store in a dry, dark, cool place until Christmas. Use within 12 months.
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