Welsh Witterings: The Pleasure of Preserving
This week the term lock-in has come to mean something very different to me. No longer does the term lock-in conjure up images of local boozer allowing patrons to continue drinking after the legal closing time, instead the term ‘lock-in’ now summonses sounds and images of being locked in a house with four bored children and a fed-up husband, set to the soothing sound of sibling quarrels and the cry of a young baby. What a delight!
The children and I have been indulging in our hour long walks and at home we have been busy planting seeds and planning fairy gardens. It has been hard going to keep children of different ages occupied whilst on lock-down, but life is certainly not dull with young children. Home schooling has continued as normal, except the field trips and escapades in the name of education are on hold for now. The good thing is that the amount of home education resources available online has now increased three-fold which is great.
In the midst of the chaos of five young children cooped up in a small cottage, I have been turning my attention to preserving. This is both the preserving of vegetables and of my sanity. Some years ago I wrote a book on preserving, called, ‘The Pleasure of Preserving’, I included all sorts of recipes in it from medlar jelly to marrow marmalade and everything in between. I enjoy jam and marmalade making and any sort of pickling. I’m just in the process of teaching my 10 year old daughter, Hattie, how to make my special recipe Piccalilli. Over the years I’ve won plenty of awards for my jams, marmalades and pickles and I am never short of a jar of chutney in my pantry, but this week my attention has been on low sugar preserve recipes, this is not just in consideration of the Covid19 inspired staple food shortages, but because I wish to preserve my own sanity and children cooped up with sugar rush will not be good for the nerves and longevity any of the household.
No-Added-Sugar Pear & Lemon Jam
4 llbs. pears, peeled, cored
59 ml (2 fl. Oz) white grape juice
3 teaspoons pectin powder (for jam making)
Take the peeled pears and quarter them. Cut each quarter of pear in half. Place the pear pieces into a saucepan and cook (covered) with enough water to cover the bottom of the pan for 10-12 minutes, until soft.
Cool the softened pears and then blend with a food processor, hand blender or good old fashioned potato masher if nothing else is to hand. Set the pear puree aside.
Finely slice one lemon, after removing the pithy core, to do this cut the lemon in half along the stem line and remove the pithy centre, turn each lemon half over, and slice it finely. Place the lemon slices into a small saucepan, cover them with water, and simmer for ten minutes.
In a large saucepan add the water which the lemons simmered in to the pear puree and add the squeezed juice of the remaining lemon to the mixture. Bring the pear mixture to a boil over medium heat, and then reduce to a gentle simmer, stirring regularly to prevent sticking or burning.
As the pears and lemon juice are simmering, blitz the lemon slices in a food processor. Add the lemon pulp to the simmering pears and stir well.
When the pear mixture is a soft smooth consistency remove it from the heat and add the white grape juice stirring well.
Bring the pear mixture back to a boil and quickly stir in the pectin solution. Cook the jam, stirring constantly, for exactly 1 minute. Bring it back to a boil and remove it from the heat.
Pour the jam into sterilised jars, wiping the rims clean before adding lids.
This jam will keep for 8-10 weeks in the fridge and it is delicious in its own right, but best spread on thick toast.
I think a lot of low sugar and frugal recipes will come back into fashion in the next few months. They say that flour is in short supply because of the demand of home bakers having increased during the corona virus lock down. With mills unable to keep up with the increased demand for domestic use I predict that recipes requiring little flour will soon be in demand.
Well, I’m off to plant coriander and basil seeds with my green fingered daughters, so until next time I bid you a fond farewell from a noisy and chaotic home in Mid-Wales