Tropical Curd

Tropical Curd

Wotchers!

This is a summery variation on the Honey Curd recipe published on the blog a while ago, but this time made with the pulp of fresh tropical fruits, perfect for sandwiching summer sponge cakes, filling pastry tart shells, or drizzling over Pavlovas and meringues.

There are lots of Tropical Curd recipes out there, but none that I have read have this mix of fresh fruit. The passionfruit is strong and tangy, the mango adds mellowness and the banana provides both bulk and sweetness so that only a relatively small amount of honey is required. This particular mixture allows all the flavours to be tasted: first banana, then mango and vanilla, and finishing with passionfruit. The use of fruit pulp also means that there is a generous quantity of finished curd, providing more than enough after the above serving suggestions for enjoying on scones.

Due to the moisture content of the fruits varying, you may well have some fruit pulp left over once the quantities below have been measured out. You can choose to just throw it all in together anyways, or you can just eat the mango/banana pulp, and dilute any spare passionfruit juice with cold still/sparkling water in the manner of a fruit squash (1-2cm in the bottom of a glass). Without sugar, it is a delicious and refreshingly tart drink.

Top Tip:
If you have no spare jars, I recommend purchasing jars of jam/marmalade/lemon curd from the supermarkets ‘basics’ ranges, emptying them out[1] and putting the jars through the dishwasher. The heat/soapy water will help to remove the label and for as little as 35p you have a perfectly serviceable glass jar with a self-sealing ‘button’ lid.

Tropical Curd

12 passionfruit
1 mango
2 bananas
1 vanilla pod
150g runny honey
2 large eggs
2 large yolks
60g unsalted butter

  • Wash and dry 2 x 450g jars. Put them and the lids into a cold oven and turn the temperature to 120C/100C Fan and leave for 30 minutes.
  • Cut the passionfruit in half and scrape out the seeds into a sieve. Work the pulp through the sieve to remove all of the seeds. Keep working the seeds and scraping the pulp from underneath the sieve until there is just a mass of black seeds left in the sieve, with no visible pulp. There is around 15ml of pure passionfruit juice in each fruit, so this quantity will make between 150 and 180ml of juice.
  • Cover with cling film and set the juice aside.
  • Prepare the mango. Hold the mango so the thinner side is towards you, then cut the two fleshy sides from either side of the mango pit, starting at the top of the fruit.
  • Watch this video to see how to separate the mango flesh from the skin.
  • Chop the flesh roughly and place into a jug.
  • Use a stick blender to puree the flesh.
  • Sieve the mango puree to remove any small fibres.
  • Cover with cling film and set the puree aside.
  • Peel the bananas and break them into chunks.
  • Put the chunks in a jug and use a stick blender to puree the flesh.
  • Split the vanilla bean and scrape out the seeds.
  • In a clean saucepan, put
    • the vanilla seeds
    • the scraped vanilla pod
    • 100g of passionfruit juice
    • 100g mango pulp
    • 150g banana pulp
    • 2 large eggs
    • 2 large yolks
    • 150g runny honey
    • 60g butter
  • Whisk over medium-low heat until the eggs have thickened the mixture. If you have a thermometer, the temperature needs only to get to 72°C.
  • Fish out the vanilla pod and then sieve the curd whilst hot to remove any pieces of pod that have become detached during the whisking.
  • Balancing the curd: This is where your own personal taste comes into play. The ripeness of the fruits you use to make the curd will also determine the finished flavour, which means that you might need to tweak the finished curd so that the flavours are balanced. Personally, I whisk in about 3 tablespoons of passionfruit juice at this stage, because the necessary heating has a dulling effect on the fresh burst of flavour that passionfruit has. If your bananas are very ripe, for eample, you might feel they are too dominant, and thus need to add in additional mango and passionfruit. It’s your decision. Remember: the flavour will change again as it cools/chills, so feel free to re-tweak the cold curd in order to get that perfect mix. Be sure to cover the curd with cling film as it cools, ensuring the film is in contact with the curd itself, to prevent a skin from forming.
  • When you’re happy with the flavour, pot in the sterilised jars and store in the fridge.

Variation
For a lighter, less indulgent-tasting curd, omit the vanilla.

If your idea of tropical requires the appearance of coconut, feel free to slosh in a tablespoon or two of Malibu once the curd has been removed from the heat. Make further additions to taste once it has cooled.

 

 

[1] Having read the list of ingredients on a ‘basic’ jar of lemon curd, I have neither qualms nor guilt disposing of the contents down the sink.


Courgette Relish and Pickled Cherries

Courgette Relish

Wotchers!

I love vinegar. From the literal mouth-watering crunch of a cheese and pickled onion sandwich, splashed neat over hot chips, through tangy salad dressings to salt and vinegar favoured crisps.

It’s also an amazing anti-bacterial cleaning liquid and does wonders to make windows sparkle.

But I digress.

Pickling is a great way of preserving the plenty of summer to enjoy in winter. Usually this involves allowing the pickles to mature for a while, so that the harshness of the vinegar can mellow. But not always. Here are a couple of recipes that, whilst they CAN be kept to enjoy in the cooler months, you can also enjoy straight away.

The first is a courgette relish. Wonderful on barbecued meats such as burgers and sausages and for using up a glut of produce. I have always found the relish you buy in the shops too gloopy, bordering on a jelly-like consistency and always much, much too sweet. This is a version made to my own, personal tastes; less sugar, more sharpness, bit of heat and the vegetables still crunchy.

Fair warning: it involves a LOT of chopping, because I feel the end result is much more pleasing to behold. You could just put everything through a mincer, but it tends to become a bit of a homogenous mush. Chopping everything by hand means the resulting relish is fine enough to spread and the separate ingredients retain their identity both visually and in terms of flavour. Make yourself comfortable, switch on the radio and before you know it, it will be done.

Courgette Relish

This makes about 4 x 500ml jars of relish. The amount will, of course, depend on the sizes of the vegetables you start with.

6 large courgettes
4 onions
1 red pepper
1 green pepper
2 red chillies
2 green chillies
100g salt
450g light brown sugar
400ml white wine vinegar
2 teaspoons celery seed
1.5 tsp turmeric powder

  • Cut the courgettes lengthways and, using a teaspoon, scoop out the soft, spongy centre and seeds. Discard.
  • Chop the courgettes into 5mm x 2mm-sized pieces.
  • Peel the onions and chop into 5mm x 2mm-sized pieces.
  • De-seed and chop the peppers and the chillies and chop into 5mm x 2mm-sized pieces. Add the chilli seeds if you like your relish hot.
  • Put all of the vegetables into a large bowl and sprinkle over the salt. Set aside to drain for 1-2 hours.
  • Strain the liquid from the vegetables. Rinse the bowl and return the vegetables to it.
  • Fill the bowl with water and swish the vegetables around. Drain.
  • Rinse and drain the vegetables again. Thoroughly. Then once more for good measure. It is tempting to skip this thorough rinsing, but if you do, the result will be an excessively salty relish.  Do you really want to chop another mound of vegetables quite so soon?
  • Rinse your jars with hot water and place in the oven, with their lids. Turn the temperature to 120°C, 100°C Fan.
  • Put the remaining ingredients into a large pan and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down and simmer for 5 minutes.
  • Taste the sugar/vinegar mixture and decide if it needs adjusting either with a little more sugar or a little more vinegar. You can also add more after the vegetables have cooked, but better to get it close to what you like beforehand.
  • When you are happy with the flavour, add the drained, rinsed vegetables and simmer gently until the courgettes become translucent.
  • Taste again and adjust sugar/vinegar levels as necessary.
  • Spoon into hot jars and seal.
  • Can be enjoyed immediately

Pickled Cherries

Pickled Cherries

This recipe comes from the manuscript receipt book of Lady Ann Fanshawe at The Wellcome Library -page 292 by Lady Ann’s numbering. It is very quick and straightforward and not that different to the other pickled cherry recipes around, except for the seasonings.

Lady Ann favours mace and dill which were unusual enough to tempt me to try. The recipe also calls for the very best heart cherries, which are cherries that have a soft and rounded heart shape. A bit of research into old varieties reveals that heart cherries could be both dark or pale. I’ve gone with dark, and used a little red wine in place of the original water, in order to help preserve the colour of the fruit. If you can get pale dessert cherries, then swap the red wine for white.

The original recipe contained no sugar, which was a bit much even for a vinegar-lover like myself, so I have tweaked the recipe and added a little brown sugar to soften the flavour.

Pickled Cherries

2kg dark purple cherries
540ml light fruit vinegar – I used home-made gooseberry, but you could use whatever you like, as long as it doesn’t overpower the flavour of the fruit. A white balsamic, for example
180ml red wine
6tbs dark muscovado sugar
3 blades of mace
1 tbs dried dill
½ tsp salt

  • Stone the cherries and arrange them neatly in concentric circles in the bottom of a preserving pan. There should be enough to make a full single layer covering the bottom of the pan.
  • Add the sugar, mace, dill and salt.
  • Gently pour in the vinegar and red wine. This should just cover the cherries.  If you need more liquid add it in the proportion of 3 parts vinegar, 1 part wine.
  • Put the pan on medium heat and bring to a gentle simmer.
  • Cook for 10 minutes, until the cherries are just tender but still holding their shape.
  • Gently spoon the cherries into sterilised jars and seal.
  • Can be enjoyed immediately with ham and terrines, as well as fatty meats such as roast lamb, duck and pork.

Candied Cranberries

Candied Cranberries

Wotchers!

Here’s a recipe you might want to try, now that fresh cranberries are back in the shops.

After discovering the joys of home-candied peel a few years ago, I have since tried my hand at several different fruits. With it being the season for mincemeat and fruit cake decorating, when I spotted some punnets of fresh cranberries on sale, I thought I’d givethem a try.

Hunting around on the internet, it seems many people’s idea of candied cranberries is to dip them in egg-white and roll them in caster sugar. Beautiful and festive and twinkly-frosty, but not really candied in the traditional sense.

I also found no recipes on the traditional method of candying for these particular berries, so I thought I’d make up my own.

My method is a combination of the old-fashioned method of making conserves with delicate fruit, and how to make sloe gin *hic!*

This recipe takes about a week, but your active involvement is little more than an hour. Over the week, the delicate berries will gradually exchange their juice for sugar, thereby making the cranberries becoming more robust the more sugar they absorb, and as a bonus you’ll get a beautifully coloured cranberry syrup.

For ease, select a pan you can get by without using for a week.

Candied Cranberries

1kg fresh cranberries
1kg caster sugar

  • Poke holes in each cranberry with a cocktail stick in order to let the juice out (and the sugar in). You don’t have to be too fastidious – I made about 5 or 6 holes around the middle.
  • Layer the cranberries and the caster sugar in a pan – a wide pan is better than tall saucepan, for ease of gently moving the berries around later.  Leave for 24 hours. The sugar will draw out some of the juice.
  • Next day, heat the pan very gently to melt the sugar. You’ll probably have to add a little water to get it started – about 1/2 a cup. Shake, don’t stir – or if you absolutely have to, stir very gently. Vigorous stirring and/or heating will cause the berries to burst. Some will burst anyway, but try and keep that at a minimum by being gentle.
  • Once the sugar is melted, turn off the heat, cover, and leave 24 hours. As the sugar is absorbed by the cranberries, they will gradually become more robust, but for the first day or two, you’ll need to be careful.
  • Repeat the heating gently for 5 minutes then leaving overnight for 5 days. Gradually the syrup will become redder and the cranberries more jewel-like.
  • After 5 days, warm the syrup (to make it easier to drain) and pour through a sieve to separate the cranberries from the syrup.
  • To finish, the cranberries need to dry a little, so line 2 large baking sheets with parchment and scatter the candied cranberries over. Try and get them separated, to facilitate drying, but there will be some squished ones you can’t do much about at this stage.
  • Last thing at night, put the trays in the oven and turn the heat to 170°C/150°C Fan for 5 minutes, then turn off and leave to dry overnight.
  • Repeat the drying next day – 170°C/150°C Fan for 5 minutes then turn off and leave to dry. If extremely sticky, they might need another overnight drying (I did Friday night/Saturday day/Saturday night).
  • Once only slightly tacky to the touch, they’re ready to use. I sorted mine into 3 groups: Perfect ones went back into the syrup (to keep moist) to use as decorations. I dipped a few of the not-so-perfect ones in dark chocolate, and rolled the rest in caster sugar and stored in a ziplock bag. The exploded ones I chopped and put in a jar for mincemeat.

Bacon Jam

BLT with Bacon Jam

Wotchers!

Bacon Jam has been around for a while on these here Internets, and there are numerous ways of preparing it. It is a highly savoury spread or relish that can be used in a multitude of ways. In the picture you can see a BLT toast sandwich prepared with bacon jam – much speedier than grilling bacon rashers. You can also stir it through rice or pasta for a frugal insta-meal, use it to top baked potatoes or spread over the bread of your fried egg sandwich.

This recipe is my own, and very much from the That’ll Do™ School of Cooking, in that you can be as extravagant or as miserly as you like, with the ingredients that you have.

You can also customise it to your own personal tastes – mine stretch to a few fresh red chillies to add a bit of feisty heat and to catch the eye, strong coffee, some Henderson’s Relish for sharpness and, contrary to a great many recipes, no added sugar (the kecap manis is sweet enough). Just because it’s called jam doesn’t mean you have to drown it in sugar. Call it a jam for all the things you can spread it on/in.

You can choose any cut of bacon you like: streaky rashers, back bacon, smoked or unsmoked. Personally I buy cooking bacon as it is ridiculously cheap (less than £2/kg). Some supermarkets (Sainsbury’s) occasionally have packs of cooking bacon that contain the trimmings and ends of gammon joints, and if you turn the packs over and there is a hint of orange about the meat, then you’ve got some smoked bacon in the mix. Others are just filled with chopped bacon trimmings, so it can be worthwhile rummaging around, as each batch can vary.

I cannot stress enough how much the recipe below is a rough framework. Got more bacon? Bung it in. Like caramelised onions? Add more. Garlic fiend? Shove a load in.

I prefer to blitz my bacon jam in the food processor down to the consistency of pesto. It makes it much easier, not to mention quicker, when using it in other things, but you might prefer to keep it chunky, so the individual ingredients can still be discerned.

Whilst this recipe WILL make some delicious bacon jam, it is what *I* consider delicious bacon jam, which might be quite far removed from what YOU consider delicious bacon jam. So you will probably need to tweak it to your own personal tastes. Below you will find a list of spices and relishes that you can add to find tune the basic recipe.

Important points to remember:

  • There is no right or wrong way to make bacon jam – it it totally up to you and your tastebuds.
  • Speaking of which, you HAVE to taste it as you go, and then decide firstly if it needs anything extra, and secondly, what that extra thing might be.
  • Don’t feel you have to add 101 extra ingredients – it is, first and foremost, supposed to taste of bacon. Don’t lose sight of that.
  • Another don’t – Don’t forget to write down what you add, as you might hit on a million pound winning combination and want to recreate it later!

This would make an ideal home-made gift for the upcoming festive season: just pack the finished hot jam into a hot, sterilised jar and seal with a layer of bacon grease/lard/clarified butter. It will keep for 2 weeks in the fridge if no-one knows what it tastes like. Good luck with that. 😉

This and the next few recipes are my contribution towards festive baking and making – delicious additions to your own table, delightful as presents for others. I hope you enjoy!

Suggestions for flavourings for your Bacon Jam

In addition to – or even instead of – the ingredients in the recipe below, you could add some of the following

  • Onions – brown, white, French, vidalia, red, shallots, spring onions, chives, garlic
  • Spices – chilli powder, coriander, cumin, paprika (sweet/smoked/hot), cayenne, mustard(dry, mixed, wholegrain, dijon, artisan), ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, mace
  • Sauces – Worcester sauce, anchovy essence, mushroom ketchup, walnut ketchup, light/dark soy (be careful, as v. salty, as is bacon), oyster sauce, Tabasco, hot sauce, sweet chilli
  • Sweeteners (just because I don’t like them, doesn’t mean you have to miss out – go easy, though) Maple syrup, light-brown sugar, muscovado sugar, treacle, molasses, agave nectar
  • Liquids – cider, beer ale, stout, whisky, brandy, ginger wine, bourbon, balsamic/sherry/rice/black/cider/red wine/white wine vinegar

Bacon  Jam

Bacon Jam should be warmed before use, to bring out the flavours. A quick zap in the microwave or toss in a pan is all it takes.

700g cooking bacon
2 onions, peeled and chopped – or halved & cut in semi-circles if you’re not blitzing to a pesto
4 fresh red chillies, de-seeded and finely diced.
250ml strong coffee
60ml kecap manis
2-3tbs Henderson’s Relish
1tsp coarse ground black pepper

  • Put the bacon into a pan and cook over medium heat. Use a spatula to break it up into smaller pieces. You can cook it as long or as short as you like, but I prefer well done, with specks of rusty caramelisation starting to appear, and the fat fully rendered.
  • Lift the bacon from the pan with a skimmer and drain in a metal sieve.
  • Add the onions and chillies and cook in the bacon fat ( for added flavour) until softened and caramelised. If you have a large excess of fat after the bacon has cooked, then drain some of it off, but I’ve never had that problem. Of course, this will also depend on the quantity of bacon you’re cooking.
  • Return the bacon to the pan and add the rest of the ingredients.
  • Simmer for 10 minutes.
  • Transfer to a food processor and blitz until the mixture resembles a coarse pesto.
  • If you think there is too much liquid, return to the pan and simmer gently until the excess has evaporated.
  • Taste and add further flavourings as liked.
  • Spoon into jars and seal. Add a layer of melted fat if liked, to aid preservation.
  • Store in the fridge and use on everything.

 


Honey Curd

Honey Curd

Wotchers!

This recipe was an absolute delight to discover in an old Women’s Institute recipe book. For a start, the use of honey instead of refined sugar is so much better for you, and it increases the keeping properties immensely. The original recipe claimed that it would keep a year.

I used the cheapest, runny honey to see how much the flavour of the honey impacted on the final result, and it’s not overly intrusive – just a gentle hint at the end. Whereas lemon curd is very ‘in your face’ with its OMG! I AM SO LEMONY!! TASTE MY LEMONYNESS!!!!11111, honey curd is a much gentler version with less fat and so less guilt!

The real beauty of this recipe is how you can tweak both the honey and the accompanying fruit to give an almost limitless variety – Lime Tree Honey and limes, Orange Blossom Honey and oranges are just a couple of suggestions that sprung into my mind. Update December 2013: I have now tried both these flavour combinations, and can honestly say, hand on heart, that they are two of the most sublime-tasting citrus curds I have EVER tasted. Now is the season for Seville Oranges, so try them with Orange Blossom Honey also – divine!

This recipe will make double the quantity of honey, so you’ll need just one extra jar in addition to your jar of honey. Wash both jars and lids and put them into a cold oven. Turn the oven on to 100°C, 80°C Fan until dry and hot.

As for the instructions, they couldn’t be easier. The original recipe contained just one line of instruction, but I’ve managed to pad that out to four!

Honey Curd

340g jar of runny honey[1]
2 large eggs
1 large yolk
zest and juice of 1 lemon
juice of 1 extra lemon
45g clarified butter

  • Put all of the ingredients into a small pan and whisk together over a low heat until thickened.
  • Pour into the clean, warm jars and seal.
  • Set aside to cool.
  • Use as any other curd – the original recipe recommends it as a filling for little tarts.

[1] Don’t be too precious about being exact –  I only specify 340ml because that’s how much honey was in the jar that I used. 300ml-ish is fine.


Seville Orange Curd

Seville Orange Curd

Wotchers!

So, it’s that time of year when the Seville Orange crop brings a splash of colour to the fresh produce section. It’s marmalade season, especially for those of a competitive nature, because The World’s Original Marmalade Awards are accepting jars for their annual competition. Thousands of marmalade lovers participate in this popular contest, including myself last year, where a jar I made following an 1840 hand-written recipe won a gold award. Have a bash yourself – it’s worth it for the fabulous feedback you get from the judges (yes, they send comment cards for every single jar that is entered!). There’s even a section where it doesn’t matter what the marmalade tastes like, because the prize is for the label design!

Anyhoo…

I’m not suggesting any marmalade recipes here, rather some ideas for what to do when that initial enthusiasm wears off and the sacks of Seville Oranges you gleefully purchased at the start of the season are still sitting in the fruit bowl and Stuff™ has eaten up all of your spare time and got in the way of your marmalade plans. This happened to me a few years ago, and here is my suggestion for dealing with a mound of Seville Oranges and no enthusiasm/time/jars to make marmalade.

First of all, don’t throw the oranges away. Grate the zest, then cut them open and squeeze the juice. Mix all together and pour into large ice-cube trays and freeze. When frozen, seal them in a ziplock bag. Each frozen cube is roughly equivalent to one Seville Orange, so it’s easy for later use, for flavouring curds, cakes, icing, custards, tarts, ice-creams and savoury dishes. The strong, bitter-sharp flavour packs a real punch that sweet oranges just can’t match. And, of course, they make an amazing curd. Even on the years where I make marmalade, I make sure I stock up on Seville Orange ice cubes so that I can enjoy some Seville Orange curd throughout the year.

Before moving on to the recipe, let us pause a moment and talk butter. Specifically, clarified butter.

Clarified butter is butter that has had all the imperfections and unnecessary ingredients removed so that all you are left with is the very purest form of butter. Many of us might be familiar with the Indian cooking ghee sold in distinctive green tins in the UK. The ghee from these tins has a wonderful, perfumed aroma which immediately brings to mind the warms spices of India, and I do try and ensure I always have a tin in the cupboard for spur-of-the-moment curries. However, it isn’t necessary to buy all your clarified butter because t is simplicity itself to make your own.

In the context of this post, clarified butter is definitely the only choice when making fruit curds and will extend the shelf-life of your fruit curds drastically. You might think it a faff, but if you do make a batch of clarified butter, it will keep in the fridge for weeks and is therefore on hand, not just for curd, but also for lots of other cooking uses. Melted butter separates itself into three distinct layers: the top layer consists of little pieces of casein that float on the surface, the middle layer is the butter itself, and the bottom layer is composed of all the milk solids and salt that are present in regular butter. The middle layer is the only one we want, the rest can be discarded, and without the casein and milk solids, there’s nothing left in the clarified butter to spoil or go off.

Clarified Butter

500g unsalted butter

  • Put the butter into a small saucepan and set it on the lowest possible heat.
  • Leave it until completely melted and the milk solids have sunk to the bottom. Don’t stir.
  • Turn off the heat and let it cool for 15 minutes.
  • Skim the debris from the surface, the either pour or spoon the clarified butter into either a jar or a seal-able plastic box.
  • Don’t let any of the milk solids become mixed with the clarified butter. Stop pouring when this looks like happening.
  • Cover the clarified butter and allow to cool. Store in the fridge.
  • Pour the remaining butter and milk solids into a glass and allow to solidify.
  • Cut around the disc of butter and remove.
  • Rinse the disc of butter in cold water, making sure all milk solids are removed.
  • Add the disc of washed butter to the rest of the clarified butter.

Seville Orange Curd

zest and juice from 3 Seville Oranges
200g caster sugar
112g clarified butter
3 large eggs

  • Whisk the eggs, pour into a jug and set aside.
  • Put the remaining ingredients into a bowl and place over a pan of simmering water.
  • Whisk the ingredients together until the butter has melted and the sugar has dissolved.
  • Gradually pour in the eggs, whisking the mixture vigorously so that the eggs don’t curdle on contact with the warm liquid.
  • Keep whisking until the mixture heats up and begins to thicken. Remember, the curd will thicken as it cools, so if it coats the back of a wooden spoon when hot, that’s it.
  • Pour into sterilised jars if you like, but I find a sturdy plastic box that I can keep in the fridge is simpler. And to be honest, despite its long shelf life, its demolished in days.

P.S The deliciously crunchy, wholemeal toast in the pic is cut from a Grant Loaf.


Christmas Jam

Christmas Jam

Wotchers!

Got a fab recipe for Christmas this week – for gifts, to scoff yourself, whatever takes your fancy – delish!

Bit like mincemeat, but without the suet – and can be enjoyed in a whole range of different ways – on scones, over ice-cream, Christmas tart (spoon into blind-baked cases) or spooned straight from the jar *guilty look* What? What???

Anyhoo – It’s also going to provide the opportunity to illustrate creativity, because the preserve I ended up with was not the one I intended to make, but is still absolutely delicious.

This recipe began life in the kitchen of Mme Christine Ferber, the undisputed QUEEN of preserves. She lives in Niedermorschwihr, the little Alsacian village of the borderlands with Germany and is the go-to woman for the likes of Paul Bocuse, Alain Ducasse, Pierre Herme and anyone else who demands nothing but the best. Her preserves are made from local, seasonal produce and she presides over every batch. Never working with more than 4kg of fruit at a time, she marries flavours and textures beautifully, and has created over 800 flavour combinations.

So I found this recipe on a French magazine website almost a year ago and have been dying to make it all year. When I managed to snag the last 4 quince at the local farm shop, I thought I was all set, but the further I got into the recipe, the more I found out that I lacked some of the ingredients, so I just had to improvise like a BOSS. Now don’t start flapping about not having quince, because I didn’t have enough either – so I improvised with apples. Then I couldn’t find any dried pears, so I used dried pineapple instead. And so it went on.

So what I have for you here, and in the picture above, is the recipe I made, rather than the recipe I followed. It makes about 8-9 jars – plenty for gifts and a couple to keep. For anyone who is interested, the original Christine Ferber recipe is here.

Christmas Jam

2 kg of fresh quince or Bramley apples or a mixture of both
2 litres of water
1 kg granulated sugar
200 g dried pineapple
200g dried figs
100g dates
100 g dried prunes
200g dried apricots
100g raisins [1]
50 g candied lemon peel, cut into thin strips
50 g candied orange peel cut into thin strips
50 g dried cranberries
zest and juice of 1 orange
zest and juice of 1 lemon
150g walnuts pieces
150g whole blanched almonds, roughly chopped
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 ground star anise

  • Wipe the quince/apples with a cloth and rinse in cold water.
  • Cut into quarters and place in a preserving pan and cover with 2 liters of water.
  • Bring the pan to a boil, turn the heat down and let it simmer gently for one hour, stirring occasionally.
  • Strain the juice through a colander and then strain it again through a piece of muslin to clear it of most of the pulp.
  • Discard the fruit pulp.
  • Measure out 1300ml of the hot liquid  and pour over the dried pineapple. Leave it to soak for 3-4 hours. You can leave it longer – overnight if you like, but I was in the mood to make this jam NOW! Today! 😉
  • Wash your jars and lids and put into the oven on a baking tray at 100°C, 80°C Fan. Always err on the side of caution and have more jars than you think you’ll need.
  • Cut the figs, prunes and apricots into strips 3mm wide. NB DO NOT get the ‘ready to eat’ dried fruit – it’ll just break down into a mush. Make sure you get the old-fashioned ‘tough’ dried fruit.
  • Slit the dates and remove pits. Slice into 3mm strips
  • Pour the apple liquid and the pineapple into a preserving pan with the sugar, figs, dates, prunes, apricots, raisins, lemon and orange peel, cranberries, lemon zest and juice, orange zest and juice, and the spices.
  • Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring constantly.
  • Skim any scum from the surface.
  • Keep cooking on high heat for five to ten minutes, stirring constantly.
  • Skim again if necessary.
  • When the temperature reaches 100°C, add the walnuts and almonds.
  • Bring the mixture to 104°C and test that the setting point has been reached by spooning a little of the syrup onto a cold plate and placing in the freezer for 2 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat while you check. If the surface if the jelly wrinkles when you push your finger through it, then setting point has been reached. NB This is really just to double-check – if it reaches 104°C, you’re fine. This is not a solid-set jam, it’s more ‘fruit suspended in spiced apple jelly’.
  • Ladle into the warm jars and seal whilst hot.
  • Wipe jars and label when cooled.

[1] I used Sainsbury’s snack raisins, which is a mixture of golden, flame, crimson and green raisins. Beautiful!