Beautiful Blackcurrants August 23, 2016 15:15
Pheasant Plucker would make a very good witch. After all, the concept of a sisterhood of like-minded individuals and the opportunity to concoct new recipes and potions in the company of a cat is an appealing one.
Over the past couple of weeks, we’ve spent a considerable amount of time hunkered over a heavy black cooking pot, bought for 50p at a village fete, stirring with great intensity and muttering to ourselves. In the absence of a cat, Louie the chicken has stood guard by the kitchen door and inquisitively poked her beak in from time to time.
Unfortunately we haven’t been mixing up hexes or evil spells but just making jam. This is the high season for it, and although raspberries, redcurrants and strawberries are more or less over, there is still time to turn your attention to blackcurrants, plums and damsons. A lot of people think there’s something complicated about jam making and are put off by scary-sounding recipes that use terms like ‘jam thermometers’ and ‘test for pectin’ but Pheasant Plucker has no time for any of that. We like our jam quick and easy and on a piece of toast as soon as possible.
Here then, is the easiest blackcurrant jam recipe you could think of. It contains only four ingredients and once you’ve prepared the blackcurrants, you can be done and dusted within half an hour.
800g granulated sugar
Medium size knob of butter
To prep the blackcurrants, remove the stalks and any large, dried heads where the flowers used to be and wash them thoroughly. Put a saucer in the freezer.
Place the blackcurrants in a large, heavy bottomed cauldron (or saucepan) and pour the sugar on top (it’s important to put the sugar on top of the fruit rather than the other way round, so that the sugar doesn’t burn and stick to the bottom of the pan). Then pour in the water and bring to the boil over a high heat.
As the mixture comes to the boil, skim the surface if you need to and add the butter, which will prevent it from frothing too much.
When the fruit reaches a rolling boil, so that it can’t be stirred down, look at your clock and time 10 minutes. In the meantime, sterilise some jam jars by washing them in hot soapy water and drying them in a warm oven. (You could swish them out with some boiling water out of the kettle without too many problems instead of the full sterilising method but to be honest, it’s not really that much effort).
When the jam has boiled for ten minutes, take the plate out of the freezer and pour a teaspoonful of the jam onto it. (Be careful because it will be HOT). Leave it a minute and then poke it with your finger – if it wrinkles a bit and isn’t too runny, it’s done. Use your initiative at this point, you may prefer a slightly runnier jam or you may like it really thick. If you think it needs a bit longer, continue to boil for another five minutes and then test again. I’m of the opinion that it’s better to have a slightly syrupy consistency than a jam that’s too hard and chewy (if you decide it’s too runny when you’ve put it into jars, you can decant each jar as you use it and boil it up again for a couple of minutes in the microwave. It usually does the trick).
When you’re happy with it, let it cool for 5 minutes and then very carefully ladle it into the jam jars. Let it cool further and then seal with some greaseproof paper circles and put the lids on. Once it’s cool completely, store it unopened in a cupboard for up to a year or in the fridge when you’ve opened it.
And that’s it. Delicious blackcurrant jam in the time it takes to learn to fly a broomstick.
Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness. It can only mean sloe gin. November 01, 2015 19:05
There is little Pheasant Plucker & Son enjoys more than getting snugged in by the fire on a cold, rainy evening and getting nicely toasted with a few glasses of last year’s sloe gin. Now is the time to set to and make it, with the abundance of fruits and berries ripening in the hedgerows. It’s super easy and if you can’t find sloes then damsons or plums work brilliantly too.*
1 pint gin
½ pound of sugar
Prick the sloes all over with a fork so that the juice can seep out and they can begin to break down in the liquid.
Sterilise a large jar with an airtight lid and add the sloes, the gin and the sugar. Give it all a good stir and then leave in a dark place, giving the jar a shake every once in a while.
After at least three months but no more than 12, strain it out, bottle it and leave it to mature for a few more months, if you can resist the temptation to drink it straight away.
If you’re feeling creative, you can also experiment with adding additional flavours to the original mixture. Pheasant Plucker has had various success with adding a tablespoon of vanilla sugar (yum), almond oil (floats on top, no thanks), a luxurious splash of Cointreau (yes please) and a couple of sticks of cinnamon (spicy and autumnal). Let us know how you get on.
*the premise is the same for any other fruit drink you want to make: fruit + booze + sugar left to stew = usually delicious. We've tried bramble brandy, strawberry vodka, damson gin all to great effect.