Wednesday, 2 September 2009

A Winter Tonic For Chilly Days Ahead....

No, I haven't got a cure for the common cold or a comedy routine to while away the dark afternoons.
Nor do I have a concept to keep Swine Flu at bay.( a little tip here, don't tell anyone - Drink Sloe Gin - I think it works!)

What I do have for you, is a recipe for the most wonderful, delicious, yummy autumn jelly that is packed full of vitamin C and scrumptiousness. Allegedly. Have to say that, otherwise I'll get letters!

However, it must have SOME Vitamin C in it as it is made with elderberries (brimming), blackcurrants (cascading), apples, (quite a lot), blackerries (I know there is some in there), damsons (gotta be a little bit), and sloes (well, see above.)

I've picked them, cooked them, jelly bagged them and steeped them in sugar and spices. Boiled the jelly and filled twenty eight jars. I'll be selling it at my Cookery School Demonstrations this Autumn and Winter.

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For those of you who can't make one of my days (shame on you!), here is the recipe. You're getting a bit of a preview. It's in my book, however since that's not out until the spring, I thought it wouldn't be fair if you missed another year without my Winter Tonic Jelly.

By the way, I wish I could say I came up with the name - but my friends Pete and Sue did. Fabulous.

Winter Tonic Jelly

1 large saucepan or preserving pan
Windfall apples - cut into quarters. Don’t peel or core, it all goes in
Damsons or plums
Blackcurrants left over from the summer
2 lemons – cut in half
3 star anise
12 cloves
2 cinnamon sticks
A small piece of muslin and some string
Granulated sugar

1. Fill a large saucepan or preserving pan two-thirds full of apples, blackberries, elderberries, damsons, plums and blackcurrants. Squeeze the juice out of the lemons and add them.
2. Fill the pan with water – enough to cover the fruit.
3. Bring up to the boil and simmer for 30-40 minutes or until all the fruit is soft and pulpy.
4. I put mine in the simmering oven of the AGA all day stirring occasionally to prevent the top drying out.
5. Cool the fruit for about 10 minutes then put through a jelly bag over-night. Don’t push it through the bag as you’ll make the jelly cloudy – just let it do its own thing.
6. The next day, measure the liquid and for every 570ml/1 pint, add 450g/1lb sugar.
7. Wrap the star anise, cloves and cinnamon sticks in the muslin and tie with string. Add to the sweetened liquid.
8. Dissolve the sugar over a gentle heat and then bring up to the boil.
9. Simmer the jelly until setting point. Use a sugar thermometer or drip some jelly onto a plate straight from the freezer. If the jelly wrinkles on the plate when you put the end of a teaspoon through it, it’s at setting point. Remove the spices; pour into some sterilised jam jars and seal.

Another wonderful addition to this jelly is a sloe berry. But not just any sloe – no, these are sloes that have been steeped in gin for a year or two. When I finally get around to straining my home made sloe gin, I add the sloe berries to my jelly at the initial cooking stage, with all the other fruit. It really does add quite a zing to the jelly and goes beautifully with the spices. I hate to see good food go to waste and even though they’ve done their job with the gin, they still have something else to offer; and that... is to make this Winter Tonic Jelly just a little bit naughty.