We went down to the PYO farm again last week, this time to pick blackcurrants and cherries. However, on arriving, we met this chap who was raving about tayberries (a cross between a black raspberry and a loganberry, which itself is a cross between a blackberry and a red raspberry….the world of berries is a seemingly confusing one, yes). He told us that they were a more flavoursome version of the raspberry, yielding deliciously tasty jam. Kitted out in a rugged sweater, ready for the wilds of the tayberry bushes, he most definitely seemed to know what he was talking about….how could we not pick some? So, after getting horribly lost amongst the apple trees, strawberry fields, cobnut orchard, loganberry bushes etc…we eventually found the tayberry patch and joined our fellow pickers in filling up our punnets. As it turned out, in addition to being avid jam-makers (and the owners of a giant, but very timid rescue greyhound), the man and his girlfriend just adore India, having recently spent two years in Varanasi, him writing a novel and her mastering the art of ayurvedic massage – the people one meets in the fruitpicking farms of East Sussex!

Finding a recipe for tayberry jam was tough as the fruit itself is quite hard to come by (it’s not sold in supermarkets or even farmshops for that matter), but after scouring the internet, I found one on a jam-making blog, Hitchhikingtoheaven. I suppose one could use the same recipe as for raspberry jam, as the fruit itself is much the same…but I wanted a tayberry-specific one. The recipe is simple, easy to follow and apparently contains less sugar, allowing the slightly tart flavour of the fruit to come through. It came out surprisingly well, not too sweet – I was rather chuffed with the finished product and unlike the strawberry jam, it set perfectly, perhaps even a little too much. Sadly, it only yielded three (and a very small fourth) bottles….meaning that we are going to be VERY selfish and keep these ones all for ourself! Greedy, yes.

Makes 4 to 5 jars (half pint) according to recipe

Ingredients

3 lbs tayberries
1 ¼ lbs sugar (2 ½ to 2 ¾ cups)
3 tablespoons lemon juice

Preparation

– Before starting with the cooking, sterilize jam jars in the oven and place a plate and a teaspoon in the freezer for the wrinkle/setting test.
– Set aside approximately 1/3 of the berries.
– Combine the rest of the ingredients (remaining berries, sugar, and lemon juice) in your jam pan.
– Bring the mixture to boil.
– After the mixture thickens a bit, add the remaining berries – this is to give the jam a slightly lumpier finish (the original recipe says ‘after 10 minutes’, but my jam didn’t start to thicken until after at least 25 minutes…so I guess this is very dependent on how your jam goes)
– Boil the jam until it sets, skim off skum as it forms. In the original recipe, she states how her jam started to reach setting point after about 20 minutes, but mine was much much later than this. I found it very liquidy and spent much time boiling it, to thicken, probably getting to that point after about 45 minutes, at least.
To test your jam: remove the pan from the heat and perform the wrinkle test – place a blob of jam onto the cooled plate, return the plate to the freezer and after a couple of minutes, the jam should have formed a skin, causing it to wrinkle when pushed.
– If no wrinkles form, return to the heat and cook for a further 2 minutes or so.
– When it has passed the wrinkle test, take off the heat and skim the skum off the surface of the jam.
– Let it cool for 10-15 minutes.
– Stir gently to distribute lumps and pour into the sterilized jam jars. Place waxed paper discs on top of the jam surface and screw lid on tightly.
– Leave and allow to set overnight.

Pick Your Own!

June 24, 2011


So, from the bustling streets of Chennai we head to the little countryside lanes of Kent, England…

Whilst reading the paper this morning over breakfast, I noticed an advert for local fruit picking (at Maynard’s Farm, Ticehurst, East Sussex) and couldn’t remember the last time I had been, well, for pleasure that is. I won’t easily forget the cherry-picking job I took on the summer I left school – it was convenient, the farm was just across the road and at the time it seemed like fairly easy money. However…I had not accounted for the abundance of earwigs that lurked within the cherry-tree branches, crawling up one’s arms, legs, bucket strings etc – I am slightly ashamed to admit that this proved too much for me; I lasted a mere three days before quitting!

Today was a pleasant day (i.e. no rain and a vague hint of summer); my mum had a rare few hours off, and being currently job-less, I am always on the lookout for activities with which to wile away the hours…so we decided to head to the farm for some strawberry-picking. There’s just something lovely about picking fruit straight off the tree/bush and popping it into your mouth (for my mum, the punnet to mouth ratio was around 1:4!) Even better though is creating something out of the fruit that you yourself have picked – you know where exactly it came from and where it ends up – it completes the whole journey of that one piece of fruit. (Strawberry jam will follow shortly…)

In the last couple of weeks we have had a fair amount of rain though (ironically arriving just as a drought was officially declared), which has sadly, destroyed a lot of the local fruit crops just as they are ripening and ready for sale. So much so that the cherry farm across the road is having to make cherry juice out of the remainder of the fruit that rapidly over-ripened due to the wet weather and subsequent moist conditions.

Despite today finding that much of the fruit was split and moldy, there were, thankfully, still strawberries to be picked. We had a fun half an hour or so of nipping from row to row, rummaging around in the plants for those gorgeous sweet, ripe and brilliantly red strawberries!


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