Tag Archives: jelly

{11} Almond Jam Cookies

You might have noticed that there has been a glut of almond-flavoured goodies this year, so why stop a good thing? This recipe is based on one I saw for “Italian almond cookies” in a book that suggested filling them with flaked almonds or nuts. However, I thought a nice tweak would be to make them with a jam filling, and to use what I had made during the summer and autumn. And, thankfully, this year I made a lot of jam!

almondcookies

I would love to be able to say that there was lots and lots of thought that went into the pairing of jams with these almond biscuits, with careful consideration of what would work with their nutty flavour, but the reality is that I just had a good old rummage around inside the store cupboard.

almondcookies2

I ended up using six different types – plum, raspberry, apricot and pear jams, which were all delicious. However, the real stars of the show were Seville orange marmalade, with the bitter citrus acting as a good partner to the sweet, aromatic almond, and the surprising pink grapefruit marmalade, with that little sharp twist providing a nice counter to the sweetness of the biscuits. I also left shreds of orange and grapefruit peel peeking out over the sides.

almondcookies3

All in all – I’ve very happy with how these turned out. The result was a very jaunty and colourful little selection…just in time for tomorrow’s New Year’s Eve dinner!

To make almond and jam cookies (makes around 30):

• 200g ground almonds
• 200g icing sugar
• 2 medium egg whites
• 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
• jam, marmalade or fruit paste (e.g. membrillo)
• icing sugar or flaked almonds, to roll

1. Put the almonds, icing sugar and almond extract in a bowl. Add half the egg white and mix. Add the rest of the egg white, a little at a time, until you have a smooth but fairly firm dough. If the mixture is too sticky, add an equal weight of almonds and sugar to sort it out. Wrap in cling film and chill for an hour or overnight.

2. Preheat the oven to 150°C (300°F), and line a baking tray with greaseproof paper rubbed with a dot of oil or butter.

3. Roll the dough into a sausage shape and cut into pieces (aim for around 25-30 pieces). If you are a bit obsessed, use a ruler to measure out equally-sized pieces!

4. Roll each piece into a ball, roll in icing sugar (or flaked almonds if you prefer) then place on the baking sheet and flatten slightly. Make an indent in the top and add a little jam or marmalade (be careful not to over-fill).

5. Bake the cookies for around 15 minutes until slightly puffed up and they have a golden colour.

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Rose Jam

Some challenges are just too tempting to resist.

At the back of my garden, I have a wall full of roses – three bushes which cover the space with large, dark red blooms with a lovely heady fragrance. As roses feature in a lot of Middle Eastern cuisine, this set me thinking: could I make something with them?

A few moments online suggested something very easy to try would be to make rose jam (or more precisely, rose jelly). The idea is pretty simple – just steep the roses in hot water to extract their colour and perfume, them mix the strained liquid with pectin-rich sugar and briefly boil. So rose jam it would be.

rose_jam

In working out how to make this jam, I found there were two approaches. One involved just using the rose petals and leaving it at that, while others suggest adding a few drops of rose extract at the end of the cooking process to enhance the flavour. Well, this second option seemed to me to be a little like cheating – the only reason to make rose jam in the first place is to capture their perfume, so if you’re getting that perfume from a bottle, then you might as well just boil up a sugar-pectin mixture, and throw in some flavour and not bother with the real thing. Needless to say, I opted for the “natural” approach and hoped for the best.

The first part of making rose jam is both interesting and alarming. You pop the petals into a large saucepan with hot water, then watch them wilt down and turn quite pale as their colour seeps into the water. At this point, the colour of the water can be quite surprising – either a murky brown colour is you use pale petals, while dark red petals turn the liquid almost blue. You have the scent of the roses, but the colour just is not what you would imagine. However, there is an all-natural trick which helps fix things. A simple dash of lemon juice does something to the murky rose water, and it changes, in my case from dark blue to a rich red, just like wine.

This recipe is easy, and while it is very sweet, it does have the colour and scent of roses. It’s not one to spread on fruitcake or gingerbread where the flavour would be lost. You want to serve alongside something simple, like scones with cream, so that the delicate taste is not overpowered by something else. That, or get more adventurous, and use it when making baklava, on yoghurt or in various desserts that might suggest warm evenings in Persian rose fields.

If you’re going to make this, just be sure to use natural flowers – ideally from the garden or somewhere wild, where you can be sure that they have not been sprayed with any chemical nasties. Sadly this means you will probably need to avoid the spectacular roses you can buy in your local florist. Just pop those into a vase and admire them!

To make rose jam (makes around 4 pots):

• 1 litre rose petals, lightly packed
• 1 litre boiling water
• 1 lemon, juice only
• 1 kg preserving sugar

1. Put the rose petals into a saucepan. Pour on the boiling water, bring to the boil, cover and simmer for around 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and leave to steep for another 20 minutes.

2. Add the lemon juice to the liquid, which should change the colour to pink or red. Filter the liquid into a large pot and add the sugar.

3. Put the pot onto a medium heat until the sugar has dissolved. Bring to the boil, then simmer until you reach the setting point.

4. Once the jam is ready to bottle, leave to cool slightly, then spoon into prepared, sterilised bottles.

Worth making? If your garden has only three roses, don’t bother, and just enjoy them in their natural form. However, this is a lovely way to use roses if you have dozens and dozens of them, and helps to make summer last just that little bit longer.

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What to do with windfall pears?

Last Saturday, I peeked out the window, and the lady downstairs said I could have a bag of windfall pears – if I wanted them.

There were about five on the garden table, with an open offer to get as many off the tree as I wanted and could reach. A few minutes later, we’re up a ladder, whacking the fruit off the tree using a grass edger with great comedic effect, and I managed to walk away with two kilos of fruit.

So…I had a pile of pears, but it turned out they were…rock hard. Given these were windfalls, I wasn’t sure that these would be great in a pie or make great jam. Then it struck me – I would adapt my recipe for quince jelly but using these pears.

I shredded the lot and boiled them up with some water. The result was a pale green-yellow mush. Strained overnight, I ended up with a few litres of murky pear water. But then I boiled it up with sugar, and something strange happened. Like with the quince, the colour changed and became a deep amber colour. I have no idea where this colour came from, but it looks pretty. The picture was taken with the sun shining through the glass, and as you can see, the colour is pretty amazing.

All in all, I felt rather pleased with myself. It really does not get much more local than fruit from a tree outside your back window.

This is a jelly with quite a loose set, but it tastes lovely. There is a pear flavour (of course) and is quite aromatic, so perfect to have on toast, scones, crumpets, muffins or to glaze tarts. If you are after a firm jelly, just add some pectin when you add the sugar (follow instructions on the bottle/packet!).

To make pear jelly:

• hard pears (I used 2kg)
• water (I used 2 litres)
• lemons

• granulated white sugar

Wash the pears. Remove the stalks but leave on the skin. Grate coarsely.

Put the pears into a large saucepan and add the water (1 litre for every kilo of fruit). Bring to the boil, and simmer for 50-60 minutes until the pears are tender. Mash the fruit to extract maximum flavour. If it seems a little too solid, add more water – we want the texture of soft applesauce.

Pour the mixture into a sterile tea towel or muslin cloth(*). Tie the edges together, and – being careful – use a string to attach the cloth to an upturned chair. Place a large bowl under the cloth, and leave overnight for the juice to drip through. Don’t squeeze the cloth, otherwise you end up with cloudy jelly (tastes the same, but looks less pretty), and in this recipe, you won’t be going short of juice.

Next day, measure the juice – for every 600ml of juice, add 500g of sugar, and the juice of 1/2 lemon. Add everything to a large heavy-based pan and heat gently until the sugar dissolves. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat until the setting point(**) is reached.

Finally, pour the hot jelly into sterile jam jars(***), seal, label and hide it somewhere to enjoy later.

(*) To sterilse the cloth, put into a sieve, and pour over boiling water.

(**) To test for the setting point, put a spoonful of the mixture on a very cold saucer. Let it cool, then tilt the saucer – if the jelly wrinkles, the setting point has been reached.

(***) To sterilise jam jars: wash with hot, soapy water, then rinse well. Place upside-down in a cold oven, and heat to 90°C for 15 minutes. Leave in the oven to cool down while you are making the jam . To sterilise the lids, wash with hot, soapy water, then rinse well, place in a saucepan with boiling water for 5 minutes.

Worth making? I would not make this recipe with perfect ripe, juicy pears. But with windfalls…there is not a lot you can do, and this is a great option. OK, it happens over two days, but it actually needs very little attention and the results are worth it.

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Quince Jelly

If there is one things that I really don’t need in my house, it is more jam. I have a rather mad tendency to make lots of it, all summer and autumn, and in far greater quantities than we can eat it. Bramble, apricot, cherry and quince all line my shelves. And we don’t mention the disasters involving rowan berries and sloes…but we all have mishaps in the kitchen from time to time!

So…quinces are in season…and I just couldn’t resist the lure of making quince jelly. I mean, the colour alone is amazing, right?

The reason I like preserves is they capture the flavours of otherwise ephemeral fruit. The fruit is edible right now, but if you left it sitting for a week or two, it would turn bad. But boil it up with sugar, and it will stay good for a long time. I am just finishing the last jar of bramble jelly made from with forest fruit from a trip to Epping Forest last autumn. But that is nothing – back home, my mother stored jars of jam that were several years old. Little pots of sugary Victoria plum and raspberry, all celebrating multiple birthdays in the requisite cool, dark place.

Some foodies might think that jam should be eaten within a month or so of being made, but for me, that misses the point. It is a means of preserving fruit, and as such, the longer you can make it last, the better, all the better when it brings back some happy memories of almost-forgotten warm, sunny days.

At the weekend, I got hold of quinces in a local fruit shop. I picked out eight choice specimens, and brought them home with the intention of making quince jelly. I had a successful go at quince jam at the end of spring with some Turkish quinces, but now their English cousins have appeared in the shops here, so I wanted to try making jelly.  I always think of jam and jelly as sisters. The former prim and proper, wholesome and honest, whereas the latter is louche, flashy, complex and tricky, but all the more dazzling for it. A lot more work, but a lot more fun.

I digress. Quince jelly. Actually, sourcing the fruit was not as easy as I thought. Two weekends ago, I saw them everywhere, in all the posh food shops in Shoreditch. This weekend – nada, very hard to find. My shopping companion was not quite sure what they looked like, and kept producing giant apples and pears to ask if they were quince. In desperation, we tried Wholefoods. “Is that quince?” he asked. “No, it’s a persimmon” I replied. “This one?” in a hopeful tone. “No, that’s an Asian pear“. Patience (and hope) running out. I was getting despondent, but pressed on. Then finally, a whole crate! I was initially put off by how dusty they seemed to be. Surely they had been sitting somewhere for too long? Then I remembered that quince have an odd habit of developing a strange bloom on their skin, perfectly harmless, and this natural fuzz is easily removed with a little water.

Fruit sourced, I returned home and got cooking. A boon (the only boon) in making jelly is that you don’t need to make the fruit presentable before cooking it. Just remove stalks and cores, then shred everything. Boil up with some water, then strain overnight to extract the fruit juice. In the end, our kitchen looked a little worse for wear, pans and dishes everywhere, and bits of shredded quince stuck to just about every possible surface and utensil. But by early evening, the juice extraction was underway in the corner, an upturned stool holding a bowl and two teacloths balanced on a wooden stick. All went fine until I decided to poke it with a wooden spoon, at which point lots of sticky quince juice leaked out, onto the floor and some seeped down between the floorboards. I am hoping no damage done…lesson learned: don’t poke things with sticks unless you’re prepared for the fallout.

The next day, I had ended up with 2.5 litres of quince juice, which I was pretty happy with. I did the maths to work out how much sugar I needed, and came up with the eye-popping amount of 2kg. It looks a lot when you see it in a bowl, and you think it is way too much, but remember – jam and jelly making is a bit of a science, so playing with ingredients can make things go awry. Placing my faith in science, I added the sugar and the juice of two lemons to the quince juice, and started to cook up the (by now 3.5 litre) brew.

Well, this was certainly not one of those “bring to the boil, simmer for a minutes and it’s done” recipes. No, I found myself still standing over the stove and testing jelly samples an hour after the mixture reached boiling point.

I tried using a candy thermometer to find out when we reached the magic jelling point, but my brew was having none of it. The thermometer said all was good, but it was still obviously a very runny syrup. At that stage, my blind faith in science ran out, and I went back to the good old trick of using a cold plate and seeing if a drop of jelly wrinkled when you push it. It finally got there, and I was really quite relieved, as I did think I might have to come up with a use for 2 litres of quince cordial. Hmmm…I wonder how a Quincehattan would work?

Feeling a sense of pride that me and my mixture got there in the end, I bottled it up, and was finally able to enjoy the rewarding sight of nine jars of the most beautiful deep amber jelly. Sweet and with an aromatic quince flavour. It’s going to be great for brightening up those chilly winter mornings. Hard work, but utterly worth it.

To make quince jam:

• quinces (I used 8 )
• lemons
• water
• granulated white sugar

Wash the quinces. Remove the stalks and cores, but leave on the skin. Grate coarsely.

Put the quince into a large saucepan, press down lightly, and cover with water until the level is about 2-3cm above the fruit. Bring to the boil, and simmer for 50-60 minutes until the quince is tender. Mash the fruit to extract maximum flavour. If it seems a little too solid, add more water – we want the texture of soft applesauce.

Pour the mixture into a sterile tea towel or muslin cloth(*). Tie the edges together, and – being careful – use a string to attach the cloth to an upturned chair. Place a large bowl under the cloth, and leave overnight for the juice to drip through. Don’t squeeze the cloth, otherwise you end up with cloudy jelly (tastes the same, but looks less pretty), and in this recipe, you won’t be going short of juice.

Next day, measure the juice – for every 600ml of juice, add 500g of sugar, and the juice of 1/2 lemon. Add everything to a large heavy-based pan and heat gently until the sugar dissolves. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat until the setting point(**) is reached – which can be anything from 10 minutes to an hour!

Finally, pour the hot jelly into sterile jam jars(***), seal, label and hide it somewhere to enjoy later.

(*) To sterilse the cloth, put into a sieve, and pour over boiling water.

(**) To test for the setting point, put a spoonful of the mixture on a very cold saucer. Let it cool, then tilt the saucer – if the jelly wrinkles, the setting point has been reached.

(***) To sterilise jam jars: wash with hot, soapy water, then rinse well. Place upside-down in a cold oven, and heat to 90°C for 15 minutes. Leave in the oven to cool down while you are making the jam . To sterilise the lids, wash with hot, soapy water, then rinse well, place in a saucepan with boiling water for 5 minutes.

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