Bramble Jelly

So I made bramble jelly from the brambles I collected whilst foraging and, as promised, here is how I went about it. It’s really really easy and if I can make jelly anyone can ( my marmalade needs work but that’s a story for another day).

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Lovely just picked Brambles 

To start, give the brambles a wash and place them in a jam pan along with some water and the juice of a couple of lemons. I had 5lb’s of brambles so used the juice from 2 1/2 lemons and about 3/4 pint of water. I simmered on a low heat until some of the brambles had started to become mush.

Whilst the brambles are simmering you should be setting up your strainer contraption. First time I used this my hubby thought I was using a pair of tights! You can probably see why he thought that!

DSC_0434Pour the bramble mix into the strainer and leave. I tend to leave this overnight surrounded by towels as it can splatter everywhere and make your kitchen look like a crime scene.

Once all the juice has been strained place the juice in a jam pan along with sugar. I use about 1lb of sugar for every pint of juice. Brambles are low in pectin so I used jam sugar instead of just normal sugar to ensure that it set. Yup, I cheated but hey it sets every time and takes the stress out of jam making.

I simmered the brambles and sugar, stirring until the sugar had completely dissolved and I then left to simmer until it has reached setting point. I test the setting point by dropping some of the mix onto a frozen plate ( remember to place a plate in the freezer before starting to make your jam) and pressing with my finger, if it wrinkles its ready. If it runs all over the place, it’s not. You can also use a thermometer and setting point is about 105C however when I use my thermometer it never ever ever reaches 105C, so I stopped using it and use the frozen plate method… sometimes the old tips are the best! But I suppose I really should just buy a new thermometer and get rid of the old one.

Once the mix has set place into sterilised jars. I got 4 jars from 5lbs of Brambles, which is an increase on last year, so I’m pretty happy.

I would love to know if anyone else has been foraging lately, what you’ve found and what you’ve made.

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Foraging Foray – Bramble picking

Brambles

After being away from this blog for a very very long time, its seems apt that my first post would be able foraging, scrabbling about ditches and bushes looking for brambles and being stung whilst doing so. This definitely feels like what I’ve been doing with my life lately!

Brambles (or some people know them as Blackberries) are usually in season August/ September and we are lucky that were we stay there are a number of bramble bushes and also that none of our neighbours pick them!

Last year, we (hubby and I) filled two ice cream tubs full, feeling very happy with ourselves, however it only made a jar and a half of bramble jelly. This year we set off with 4 ice cream tubs, feeling very optimistic and hoping to produce a whopping 3 jars of Bramble Jelly!

Hubby had spotted a new patch between the grain shed and the paddock so we headed for this new spot first but quickly realised a lot of the brambles were not yet ripe and some were way past ripe. We filled our tubs with a mere handful.

We then walked down to the bushes near one of the boundary ditches ( a place that last year had been abundant) but unfortunately we found the same situation, not yet ripe or had already been wasted.  We have seen record temperatures this summer I wondered if this had had a impact on the rate of bramble growth.

We moved onto the patch behind one of the sheds, where there is also a huge amount of nettles. Here we hit the the mother load! Lots of brambles were ready and our hands ( (and my sleeves) quickly became stained pinkish/purplish from the bramble juice as we filled our four tubs ………….hrmmm…. we should have brought more tubs.

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Hubby came in handy at reaching the bushes out with the grasp of someone who is 5’2″ and also trampling down the nettles. Despite this, I still received many nettle stings and scratches and half of one tub ended up tipped on the ground ( or rather violently thrown) when I was stung by a wasp. Fortunately there were still plenty left on the bushes that we were able to fill the tub back up very quickly and I’m sure the birds and other animals will gobble up the brambles I had thoughtfully dropped for them.

 

This batch was ear-marked for bramble jelly however as there are still more brambles left I’m going to head out later to gather more. Although I’ll wait until my hands stop stinging!

Bramble Jelly recipe to follow.

Cranachan

Disclaimer/ Warning: Some pretty dodgy and unflattering photos. This in no way is the Cranachan’s fault but rather this blogger’s ineptitude at photography, along with lack of space and light in the kitchen! Please note I did also over whip the cream.

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As I stated in today’s ” Burns Night Supper” post I made a Scottish dessert called a Cranachan to follow the haggis, neeps and tatties.

This is such a simple and quick recipe with only 5 ingredients, of which you more than likely have three of them in your cupboard right now.  Even in my cooking-phobic years (that’s totally a thing) I would make this and not get stressed out by it because its so easy. So easy really, it probably does not need a whole blog post!

Ingredients ( Roughly 4 portions)

80 grams of porridge oats

250 grams of Raspberries ( washed)- although you can add more or less.

300 grams of double cream

3 tablespoons of honey ( clear or heather, whatever you have really will do)

3 tablespoons of good quality malt whisky -well it is a Scottish dessert after all! You may want to start with one tablespoon and add more to taste. I have found other peoples versions of Cranachan the whisky varies greatly!

Oh and please ask the whisky drinker of the house before raiding and using the whisky stash. I made the mistake before of using some of hubbies “guid” whisky in a BBQ sauce and he was very unhappy about it ( it was an amazing BBQ sauce though!)  He has since struggled to purchase any more of that particular kind which has disappointed him greatly. Ironically for the Cranachan, I used a Japanese whisky that had been languishing in the cupboard and which hubbie deemed acceptable for cooking with. Obviously one he doesn’t drink then!

Or to save any hassle you could just buy a miniature of whisky instead.

Method

Lightly toast the porridge oats for about 5 minutes or so, until you can smell them ( a nutty toasty smell… if that makes sense??). I did this on the hob using a crepe pan, however I’m sure it could be done in the oven too.

Whip the cream until it forms soft peaks and try not to over whip like I did… and I said it was easy.Maybe I should have said, yes it’s easy but don’t get distracted by other things like I did! Pay attention to the mixer.

Keep back some of the raspberries to use as decoration. Add the rest of the raspberries to the cream, add the honey, whisky  and oats and carefully fold these into the cream.

Although I had Cranachan where the raspberries and oats were omitted from the cream and instead the separate elements layered  in the glass e.g add the cream/honey/whisky  mix into a glass, then some raspberries, then oats and repeat. The layers do look really pretty in glasses done this way, but it takes a bit more time and I’m more of a clash everything together quickly kinda gal!

Decant into serving glasses, you don’t need a huge amount three – four tablespoons of the mixture into each is a nice amount after a heavy meal. Also with whisky flavoured foods, I find it can be overpowering if there is too much of it. Add raspberries on top. Maybe add some oats if you have some left over or a dribble of honey.

It does taste a lot better than it looks, but if you don’t believe me then please give it a try.

 

Burns Night Supper

“Fair fa’ your honest, sonsie face, Great chieftain o’ the puddin-race!” ( Address to a Haggis, Robert Burns, 1786)

Happy Rabbie Burns day!!!!

Unfortunately our haggis hunting was disappointing as we didn’t get so much as a glimpse of a haggis let along the opportunity to capture one. They are devious sleekit wee beasties and their different size legs enabled them to scamper and scurry quickly up the hills as soon as they heard us approach!!

As a result tonight ( to my husband’s disappointment) we had vegetarian haggis instead.

Haggis, Neeps and Tatties…..(in case anyone is unsure Neeps are Turnips and Tatties are Potatoes).

If your haggis hunting is as disappointing as ours, then buy a haggis from your local butcher shop or from your local supermarket. It doesn’t have to be veggie but I don’t particularly like haggis ( eck, my Scottish Nationality may now be questioned!) as it has lamb and beef in it.  As well as lamb and beef, haggis also contains oats, onions and spices too. Veggie haggis also contains oats, onions and spices along with veggies, seeds and pulses.

Prepare as per instructions.  In this case, I wrapped the haggis in tinfoil and placed in a oven dish with 2cm of water. This cooked for 1 hours and 10 minutes in a 180°c oven.

In the meantime make your mashed neeps and tatties. I don’t think I need to go into detail how to do this, other than I keep it simple with a bit of butter in the neeps while mashing them and some butter and milk with the tatties. Although we had one spring onion in the fridge to use up so I chopped and added to the tatties.

Then eat…..

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Hope you all have a great Burns night whether celebrating in Scotland or abroad or attending a formal Burns supper or having one in your own home.

In keeping with tonight’s theme I made and served Cranachan, a traditional Scottish dish.

Psst….Don’t tell anyone but hubbie really enjoyed the veggie haggis! This, after he wouldn’t even admit to anyone that we were having veggie haggis tonight!

TV delicacy

Whilst watching Rick Stein’s “Long Weekends” I salivated over this dish, which Rick tried whilst in a market in Palermo. Given the simplicity of the dish, having only two ingredients; bacon and spring onions, I decided to give this a go at home.

Despite being only two ingredients ( well three if you count the butter), I must stress that the bacon has got to be good quality unsmoked bacon. Cheap bacon will have too much fat and grease.

Set a griddle pan on the heat.

Wash some spring onions and cut off the root end.

Melt some butter and brush over the spring onions. Wrap a slice of bacon around the spring onion. Repeat until all spring onions and bacon have been used.

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Place on the griddle plan and cook for a few minutes until the bacon is cooked, turning over carefully. The spring onion will still be crunchy with the strong onion flavour which works well with the salt of the bacon.

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(Don’t worry the liquid you see in the photo is actually the melted butter and not grease from the bacon).

Serve, either as a starter or as part of a main meal.

 

A chunky veg soup to beat the January blues

sam_7884As I’d said in my previous blog post, I’ve been ill, suffering from the “queens cold”, named as such cos apparently her Madge suffered from it first. I’ve been told this was not a cold but not the flu but in between the two. Although, I’m not convinced this is what it was for me as I have a low immune system so it could have just been a cold that I’ve struggled to fight off.

One thing I’m sure about is when you feel rubbish you can not beat a bowl of homemade soup, of any kind. The only requirement for me is that it’s gotta be homemade, gotta be hot and full of chunky pieces of veg or lentils or barley or all of these! I love a spoonful of veg!

To be honest I probably don’t need to put up a recipe for soup, soup is so easy to make  and I’m sure everyone knows how and also has their own favourite recipe but here we go …..the soup that I’m pretty sure helped to cure me!

Ingredients

Mix of one organic leek, one onion, one carrot , 1/2 left over potato , 1/2 head of celeriac and a very non organic broccoli (1/4 of a head). Basically it was a mix of whatever veg I had left over, hence the 1/4 of a head of broccoli and 1/2 a potato along with some veg freshly dug by my lovely hubby. This is the beauty of veg soup, you can use whatever veg you want to or whatever you need to use up, but I always find the more veg the merrier.

The exact measurement of a handful of Barley ( my freakishly small hand so probably about 50 grams!)

Couple of slices of unsmoked Scottish bacon

One chicken stock cube ( or whatever stock cube you have to hand, I’ve used all types) dissolved in about 2 pints of boiling water.

In an ideal world you’ll also have saved and frozen the stock from boiling a ham or a chicken carcass or you’ll have planned ahead bought turkey legs to make a stock from. Although its rarely an ideal world for me, so bacon and stock cubes are a great alternative.

Method

Chop the bacon and fry in a wee bit of oil in a large pan. Once cooked remove from the pan and leave to one side. Do not clean the pan or pour out the bacon fat.

Whilst the bacon is cooking, prepare your veg e.g finely chop onions and leeks and chop the potatoes, celeriac and carrots into cubes.

Add the onions and leeks into the pan, saute for about 10 -15 minutes or until softened. Then add the remaining veg and continue to saute. The longer you leave the veg to saute the better flavour it will have.

Add the stock to the veg and simmer. I simmer on low heat for a long time ( about 1 hour) but carefully watch the soup as you may need to add more water/ stock depending on how thick you like your soup. If you sick ill, as in not able to eat and not able to hold much down I would recommend having fewer veg and having more of a liquid broth/ soup. But I love soup so thick that your spoon stays upright in it and every spoonful is full of lovely veg.

Add salt and pepper.

Cook the barley as per packet instructions, which in this case I had to wash them then boiled them separately before then adding to the soup pan.

I added the broccoli towards the end as it didn’t need much boiling, however the florets did break up ( as you can see in the photo above).

The soup will provide you with much needed sustenance and strength. It’s so comforting just curl up on the sofa under a warm cosy blanket and enjoy.

Oh and don’t forget the bacon, add a sprinkle on top of the soup.

 

Picture this!

16 days into 2017! Wow, this year is flying by mostly as I’ve been suffering from the “queens cold” for about 14 days  and only dragging myself to work and back to bed and not doing much else!

Hope you all had a lovely Christmas and New Year. Ours was spent with family and friends all over Scotland, hence alot of travelling in order to do so but so worth it.

I had promised a photo of my iced Christmas cake, unfortunately the photo was taken on hubbies phone and he seems to have managed to misplace or delete it. It was maybe for the best though, as I hadn’t time to finish the decoration with the 101 things I had to do so hubby took it upon himself to finish it. He’s lovely that way, it also kept him from getting under my feet. He’s very toddler like and can’t sit still for any length of time so needs tasks to occupy him. This can also be good for me as he does the housework.

Anyway, when the cake was unveiled at New Year ( not Christmas as we were too full after all the turkey, trimmings and chocolate orange cheesecake) I discovered he had decorated it with lovely snowflakes ( I had snowflake stampers) but also in the centre of the cake was a red tractor. I had a tractor stamper ( bought for decorating his birthday cake a few years ago) and he obviously decided “what says Christmas more than a tractor?” He also used a red icing pen on the tractor to convey his favourite tractor….a Massey Ferguson . I did say he was a bit like a toddler and this is obviously conveyed in his decorating  skills. Bless, he tried, he really did.

Note to self: Check when hubby decorates a cake unless I want all my cakes to have a red tractor on it. Hubby decorated it, then packed it and I didn’t see it until the grand unveiling and what an unveiling!

So you probably don’t actually need a photo to picture a white iced covered cake, with white snowflakes and a red tractor in the middle! Oh and no ribbon around the cake, as that was too ” girly”.