Friday, 13 July 2012

Strawberries....Jam time

The weather has been been so awful recently that I haven't managed to do many of the Summery things that usually take place at this time of the year. My 'store stump' needs replenishing for the Winter....(she says although if you were to look around my house you would see evidence that it is still filled with bounty from previous 'wyld' gathering sprees!).

Wednesday I joined a group of weather resilient friends for our annual stampede of the local strawberry fields. There were showers whilst we were there, but that didn't see to matter as the quaint cafe has a very large covered area this year and a large selection of delicious cakes to fill the tummies of any eager fruit and veg pickers, reasonably priced too!

Usually at this time of the year on a lovely day, the farm will be packed with eager pickers, but not on, only the serious pickers were out in force. I'll let you into a little secret......they have fruit under you don't get wet in the storms....ssshhhhuuuuu!

The weather did not stop play and we rapidly picked six punnets of strawbs and raspberries to make into jam. Little secret number two.....they sell slightly blemished strawberries in the shop at the farm that are cheaper by far for jam making.....I had intended to save the pennies and buy such fruits but got rather carried away when I got to the field with the plump heart shaped fruits hanging in abundance and simply couldn't stop myself. I ate rather many too, surprised I didn't look like one by the end of my visit!


How to make delicious jam 

Home made jam beats the shop bought stuff by miles and is really soooo easy to make. 

Right my lovelies, here goes........

You will need:

Old jars with lids (preferably ones that match)

A large saucepan

Wooden spoon

Fruit  2.2lbs (1Kg)

Jam sugar 2.2lbs (1kg)

Dollop of butter


Wash the fruit, cut out the stalks and chop into quarters, pop into a large pan, mash with a potato masher. 

Add the jam sugar (this contains pectin which is the stuff that makes it set).


Stir on a low heat until all the sugar has dissolved.

Add a dollop of butter and slowly bring to the boil, raise the temperature for this (keep stirring).

When the mixture is boiling and starts to rise up in the pan (this will be fairly obvious), time for four minutes (keep stirring) can do a little test at the end of this time by putting a little of the mixture on a cold plate, let it cool slightly and run your finger through it to see if it wrinkles and appears set. 


*It really does only take four minutes, if you keep boiling, your jam will set like jelly!!

Pour into jars and pop the lids on...ta dah!!!!  You've done it!!!!!

Grab a quick bite to eat!

  How to clean the jars

I have experimented with sterilisation of equipment over the years and have decided that the easiest and quickest way to do it is to steam them.


Firstly wash the jars in hot soapy water and rinse off the bubbles. I have one of those steamer pans (you know the sort with a pan at the bottom and several other pans with holes in the base, that you stack on top). I simply boil the water in the base pan and stand the jars upside down in the next pan so that the steam rises up through the holes into the jars. I give them about ten minutes. WATCH OUT when you remove the jars from the pan as they will be really hot. You will need about four medium sized jars (340g) for the jam you will make with this recipe. 


Look at all those lovely pots brimming with Summer love! 



And added to my store....ummm yes, rather well stocked now....but more will follow when the hedgerows are brimming!

Do let me know how you get on wont you.....Happy cooking!


Facts About Strawberries


Strawberries were cultivated in Italy as early as 200 BC. They were known to exist in ancient Rome and Italy. Virgil, Ovid, and Pliny the Elder wrote about them. They were cultivated and considered medicinal in Rome in the 1300s and throughout Europe during the Middle Ages.

The strawberry was the symbol for Venus, the Goddess of Love, because of its heart-like shape and red colour.

In ancient times, strawberries were associated with fertility because of their large number of seeds.

They have been regarded as an aphrodisiac throughout the centuries. (A must have then!)

Early American settlers found Native Americans growing strawberries as early as 1643. Native American Indians used to crush strawberries into a mortar, mixing them with cornmeal and making them into a strawberry cornbread. It is said that after the early American Colonists tried this bread, they developed their own version, and Strawberry Shortcake was invented.

In the town of Wepion, Belgium, known as strawberry capital of the world, there's a museum dedicated to the Strawberry.

There are over 20 named species of strawberries and there are many hybrids and cultivators.

The most common type of commercially grown strawberry is the cultivated Garden strawberry, which is a complex hybrid species that was developed over many years by crossing several species of wild strawberries.

Strawberries are the only fruit with seeds on the outside. Then again, whether they are truly a fruit depends on whom you ask. Botanists regard the strawberry as a multiple fruit. Others regard it as the enlarged end of the plant's stamen e.g. a swollen stem, much like a rose hip.

Strawberries are members of the rose family.

Strawberries have been found to reduce cancer. Researchers from the Salk Institute for Biological Studies have recently found that strawberries may protect the brain from the onset of Alzheimer's Disease.

The United States is largest producer of strawberries.

A cup of sliced fresh strawberries has only 43 calories

Eight strawberries contain more Vitamin C than a medium sized orange.

Friday, 6 July 2012

The web of life...weaving the values that sustain us

 'Man did not weave the web of life.
       He is merely a strand in it.
   Whatever he does to the web
           he does to himself'.
                             Chief Seattle

Oh dear, she's getting all philosophical again....! No no no, I just had a lovely weekend last weekend and wanted to share some of it with you.
My lovely friend Jenny B and I talked (some years ago) about going to a festival. I mean we felt that we had missed out on some amazing life adventure that we felt sure we must experience. Anyway it has taken until this year to get our acts together and actually go and oooh.... what fun we had!
As we have both found ourselves in rather dire financial states of recent times, we figured that if we worked at the event then we could save ourselves a bob or two and that we did.
We signed up to work as stewards in exchange for a free weekend pass, saving £150!!!!!
So Cornbury festival it was. We negotiated over the whole tent issue and it was decided that Jenny's little 'pink pop up number' would be the tent to have, small compact and not of any real value if it should get stolen! What were we thinking of? We were like a pair of little school girls (naughty ones may I add), the tent just required literally throwing out of the bag and pegging down...ta dah!!! The tent indeed had the last laugh as it was too small to even fit the double airbed glad I know Jenny B quite well!!!!! You know it did fit in but sort of folded up at either side so we couldn't actually do the door fact once we finally got into the tent having to let the airbed down considerably, we had to ask some random passing person to do it for us. What they don't tell you on these contraptions is that the tent may be a two person tent but that means two small people and no 'stuff'. Glad we took the kids beach shelter to chuck the clothes and essential rations in. The funny thing is, that between us we have 7 perfectly good tents and we chose the smallest....doh!
It was fine,we had a very squashed nights sleep and woke up to a bed shower, rain was quite literally sprinkling in on us...oh how we laughed!!

The event itself was enjoyable although not sure that I feel that I have ever 'missed out' this being my first festival. Working, definitely made the event. I met so many lovely people and thoroughly enjoyed being part of the action and the team. The acts themselves were good but not really being all that bothered by the world of 'pop' I wasn't ecstatic about the artists. I was rather more delighted about the bubbles being blown around the site and the general atmosphere of the festival community.

Community....this leads me back to the 'web of life'. I just found this lovely little book when browsing through Amazon (you know how it is) and I feel excited about it and wanted to share it with you. I've had a bit of a dream for the past few years about living as part of a community with like-minded people. I think we live rather lonely lives these days. Wouldn't it be lovely to live with others who share common values and interests, in an environment where there is always someone around to chat to, to create with, to share the chores that we have to do, friends for the children and for the dads too. I'm rather fancying  a farmers field, you know paying a little rent in exchange for a corner of land to grow veges and keep a few hens, perhaps helping on the farm during harvest, or when the need arises. Or some woodland....and perhaps creating a 'hobbit house' out of reclaimed bits and bobs. How liberating it would be to have to rid myself of the huge amounts of 'stuff' I have accumulated over the years...
Anyway, this little book, talks about our lives as little webs, and how each strand is a different area of our lives (friends, family, time, spirit, community). I'm bumbling my way through it dreaming right now...or perhaps I'm spinning a web and trying to link things together......ummmmm who knows what the future will bring?

'Although it is made of thin, delicate strands, the web is not easily broken. However, a web gets torn every day by the insects that kick around in it, and a spider must rebuild it when it gets full of holes'.
                                                                                               E.B. White

Keep building your web and enjoy it! xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx