I don't just make cakes and other treats. I also make the fillings to go in them, anything from buttercream and ganache to jams and curds.
As this is summertime and the fruit is ripe, I've started making jam. I have two cherry trees where I live (one is a sweet cherry tree, the other, a rather tart one), so on Tuesday, I went cherry picking. A neighbour had been given some dark red cherries from a friend's tree and he very kindly added them to my bounty, so off I went into my kitchen, with a pound and a half of cherries. (I know I ought to be using metric now and sometimes I do, but I still work in pounds and ounces!)
I have yet to invest in a cherry stoner, so armed with my trusty kitchen knife, I de-stoned all my cherries. It took me an hour. It was quite therapeutic to begin with, but I must admit, I did get bored towards the end. I hoped it would be worth it...
This year I've decided to be more experimental with jams. To date I've made lemon curd, marmalade (which I didn't leave long enough before I bottled it so the rind was only in the top half of my jars!), strawberry jam and harlequin jam, which is a mixture of strawberries, redcurrants, raspberries and gooseberries. I've acquired a few books, trawled the internet, and sought inspiration in fairs to come up with some unusual, or less mainstream perserves.
The only problem with this, is that there are hundreds of recipes for the same thing! For my cherry jam, I could add pectin (I didn't), lemon juice (I did) and sugar ranged from half the amount of fruit to 100%. I put about half a pound of sugar in and when I tasted it, it wasn't too sweet, it was probably just sweet enough.
Disappointingly, my cherries only yielded just over 2 jars of jam. They've been labelled (so I know what was made and when) and are now sitting on a shelf in my kitchen, waiting to be joined by other jars. I'm going fruit picking this weekend and will not only make jam, but chutneys as well, to sell at Christmas fairs (yes, I'm sorry, I am already thinking about Christmas!). I made some rather tasty gooseberry chutney last year, so will be repeating that this year. I have ideas of what other jams and chutneys I want to make, but I'll have to wait and see what fruit I end up with, before I get too carried away with my plans!
I already know that when the plums in my garden are ripe, I'll be making plum chutney and hopefully a plum and vanilla jam. I have an apple tree as well, so I'm thinking possibly mint jelly with that, but I've a few months to decide!
It is a shame to be in my kitchen when the sun is out, but I know that come the autumn, when the weather is miserable, I can curl up with a hunk of bread (that I will have learned how to make by then) and smother it with some home made jam. What could be better?