JAM JARS & MARMITE
Monday February 28th 2011, 2:27 pm
This is supposed to be a quick one, but in true geek style has become something more. Inspired by Kerstin Rodger aka MsMarmiteLover trailblazer and proprietor of the first underground supper club in the UK, whose blog post at The English can Cook about her love of jars and forthcoming supper club event this Friday Jar Food – Pickles, Potions and Preserves , got me thinking about …. jars. Seemed like a quick blog post to gather some of my favourite jars together, without it becoming some big deal would be a possibility. Trouble is, that when the differences in ridges on glass are something you admire, you get sort of, caught up. Anyway, here are just a few from my collection and I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.
Vintage French jam jars are such classics and feature plenty of ridges and facets in all sorts of variations. A good heavy handful and chunky lipped edge are what you want. A few nibbles around the top are OK too. You can always use them as candle holders and vases if you don’t have any confiture to fill them with. I will be selling some of my vintage French jam jars at the Selvedge Spring Fair on the 2nd April in London. Follow link for more info.
When I wrote Fruits of The Earth my preserving book, (sorry currently out of print but will be available again in paperback in June) the publisher asked me to use some Ball jars, to suit the American market. They are virtually impossible to buy here in the UK but by one means or another, I’ve acquired a few along the way. These vintage ones in beautiful turquoise glass look great when used as vases.
I always look out for interesting shaped jars and my vintage English Wye Valley Preserves jars (I’ve got 2 of them) are real favourites. They just wouldn’t make them like that these days. Finding them was sheer fluke, so sorry no tips on where to look. Just keep your eyes peeled.
Another Ball canning jar, this time with wire bale clip top. These aren’t recommended any more for canning but people do still use them. Finding new rubber seals is the problem. See the brilliant Food in Jars for more info about this.
I love Ball quilted jelly jars and again you can’t buy them in the UK. My friend Chris brought me 2 back from the US a while ago and I use them repeatedly. They are so cute and worth looking out for if you are in the States.
I’ve been given quite a few old Kilner jars by people. Often I’m given them because their owners think them now redundant but in fact you can still buy replacement seals for them. Peter Denyer at The Kilner Jar knows everything there is to know about Kilner jars, sells the seals and also reconditions the rusty tops. A real niche business. These Kilner Improved jars are great because they have a glass lid. For canning, there is something really satisfying about only natural materials, glass and natural rubber, being used here. Look out for old jars on your local Freecycle.
Weck jars and flasks have such simple lines and are great for the modern pantry. Again, just glass and rubber used here and they work so reliably. I’m a big fan of canning cordials and syrups and find the 1/4 and 1/2 litre size flasks most useful. Weck jars are really easy to open as you simply pull the rubber tongue to release the seal. Also seals are reusable.
With great 70’s style, these vintage Ravenhead Kilner jars are another favourite that I use a lot. The screw bands were made in orange, red and brown plastic, and also white apparently, but I’ve never seen one of them. Again try The Kilner Jar for replacement seals. The last canned jar I tried to open was so well sealed that I had to email Peter Denyer for advice on how to prize off the lid. In true expert fashion, he told me to carefully slide a knife under the seal and gently lever. You have to be careful when doing this as chipped edges can totally ruin a canning jar and make it unusable.
Kerstin’s Jar Food supper club is one NOT to be missed. Also her book Supper Club – Recipes and Notes from The Underground Restaurant is available to pre order on Amazon and will be published at the end of March.
THE SELVEDGE SPRING FAIR
Friday February 18th 2011, 5:51 pm
Just to let you know that I will be exhibiting at The Selvedge Spring Fair on Saturday the 2nd April 2011 at St Augustine’s Church Hall, Langdon Park Road, London N6 5QG. 10am – 5pm Entrance £2.50 I will be selling textiles from The Laundry, vintage French jam jars as well as some of my homemade preserves. My talented and creative friend Deborah Schneebeli-Morrell will also be bringing along some of her amazing papercut designs and we are working on some really special labels for labelling preserves which wont be like any others you have come across before. I will tell you more nearer the time, but in the meantime, do make a note of the date in your diary. See the Selvedge website following the link to see who else will be there.
I PUT MANURE ON MY RHUBARB
Sunday February 13th 2011, 1:10 pm
‘I prefer custard on mine’ …. I hear you reply!
Popping by the allotment, it is lovely to see the knobbly buds of rhubarb starting to push their way through. There is a rabbit nibbling problem at present, and like an arm wrestle between vegetable and animal, currently teetering in the rabbits favour, I’m confident that once the rhubarb gets a spurt on, the plants will win hands down and see off the fluffy predator.
The plot is fast beginning to resemble the national rhubarb collection, as I just can’t resist adding another variety when I come across one, conveniently forgetting that each crown will eventually take up a wacking great amount of space as it becomes established. Ho hum, who cares? All these varieties rarely mean much difference as regards taste, but for a rhubarb nerd it means you can admire the subtle variations of habit and leaf shape.
One variety I sought out especially, having grown it before on my London plot, is Livingstone, named after Red Ken. This variety is particularly useful as it has had the dormancy bred out of it, so gives a crop right through until the first frosts, unlike the others that you should stop picking in the summer months. You aren’t likely to find Livingstone for sale as it is produced under license so shouldn’t be propogated as the rights belong to the breeder, who I bought the original cultivar from, then years later tracked him down again and begged him to send me another crown (it is amazing how begging usually does the trick).
This is why there is no need to import rhubarb in the UK. We have the varieties available to harvest, virtually all year round. It always amazes me when I see rhubarb for sale in Tesco imported from New Zealand. My nearest independent greengrocers, usually sell Dutch rhubarb as the much lauded Yorkshire stuff is hard to source at the market or when found is too expensive for them. Now in my second year on the plot, I should be self sufficient in the stuff very soon, so such concerns will be for others to wrangle over.
It’s great that rhubarb is seeing a renaissance. I hadn’t eaten forced rhubarb until fairly recently, so I loved it before all the guff about not stewing it and that only the sweeter pink stems are worth having, bla-di-bla. The pinker it is the prettier it looks and you can juice it too, but for a diehard rhubarb fan brought up on stronger stuff, it is simply an hors d’oeuvres, leading the way to the main course.
Luckily, as one of my favourite flavours, when it comes to rhubarb, if you say ‘glut’ then I say ‘bring it on’. I may well become famous for my rhubarb ketchup, one day, but in the mean time here is a recipe for pink grapefuit, rhubarb and cardamom marmalade that I developed last year that usefully has a longer seasonal ‘window’ that the usual Seville orange sort and also just happens to taste great. The recipe doubles up fine if you want to make a bigger batch.
PINK GRAPEFRUIT, RHUBARB & CARDAMOM MARMALADE
Makes approx 1.3Kg (3 lbs)
0.5Kg (1.1 lb) rhubarb
1kg (2.2lbs) sugar
juice of 1 lemon
seeds from 10-13 cardamom pods, crushed
3 pink grapefruits, approx 750g (1.65 lb )
Rinse the rhubarb stems and chop into 1cm (1/2 in) evenly sized pieces. Place them in a bowl with the sugar and lemon juice. Tie the cardamom seeds in a piece of muslin and push them inbetween the rhubarb, then cover with baking paper or clingfilm and leave for a few hours or overnight, so the juices begin to soak into the sugar.
Wash the grapefruit and remove the peel with a sharp knife or potato peeler, leaving as much of the pith on the fruit as possible. Finely cut the peel into shreds. Squeeze the fruits and collect the juice and tie the remaining pulp, pith and pips together in a muslin bundle. Place the shreds, juice and bundle in a pan, add 1.4ltr (2 1/2pt) water and simmer for 1 1/2 – 2 hours until the peel is cooked through and tender. Remove the muslin bundle and, when cool enough to handle, squeeze the juice from it back into the pan, then discard. Pour the peel through a sieve and collect and measure the liquid, adding more water if necessary to make it up to 1ltr (1 3/4 pts).
Prepare the jars and canner if you plan to hot water process the marmalade, otherwise, make sure your jars and lids are clean and place them in a warm oven to heat and sterilise. Place the cooked shreds, cooking liquid and the contents of the rhubarb bowl in a preserving pan and bring slowly to the boil, stirring to make sure all the sugar is dissolved. Bring to a rolling boil and cook on a high heat until setting point is reached, that is when a small blob of the syrup on a cold plate quickly forms a skin when you run your finger across the surface. Remove the cardamom bundle.
Fill the jars, leaving the appropriate amount of headroom for canning, and seal. Hot water process for 10 minutes, then remove from the canner, leave till cold and test that the lids are sealed. Label and store. Alternatively, without canning, place waxed paper discs on the surface of the marmalade and seal. This marmalade should store safely without canning, but hot water processing will make doubly sure that your jam will keep and store without a hitch.