May Bank Holiday Marmalade

4 May

So, I’m here in Galloway for 24 hours again. I love it here, especially in Spring. I probably say ‘especially in…’ every season, but it really is particularly gorgeous in Spring with the zingy lime green of the newly opened leaves on the trees, the wee calves and lambs boinging about in fields and everything just beginning to sprout. The whole countryside is full of hope, just bursting to get going. It’s almost as though it’s written itself the best list ever and now it’s ticking them off one by one: lambs – done; daffodils – done; primroses – done; magnolias – done; surprising late frost – done!

Yes, we had some lovely warm days a couple of weeks ago, fooling us into believing that we might have seen the last of the cold weather until the Autumn and then BANG! Several nights of relatively hard frost. A few of Mum’s shrubs were just beginning to poke their wee leaves out and now look as though they just might not bother at all  this year. And her magnolias had just flowered and now the flowers on them are all smooshy and ick, and the leaves haven’t appeared. So, despite it being beautiful, not everything is being ticked off on the list as it should.

So, we got here for lunchtime, which is always the best time in this house. The legendary Wolffe Lunch never disappoints. Today there was soup (of course) – a vegetable broth with barley – and then home-made bread with a choice of pates (smoked salmon, brussels or a ham hock terrine). There was green salad, olives, fresh beetroot in a delicate sweet vinegar, smoked salmon, cheese. And then coffee with madeira cake or mini pear cakes with white chocolate and gin frosting. Yes, I might have been responsible for that last element. They’re delicious. But more on them later.

After lunch I made some rhubarb marmalade. I think it’s really orangey rhubarb jam, but the recipe calls it rhubarb marmalade, so perhaps I should go with that.

The recipe is from my go-to preserves book: Jellies, Jams and Chutneys by Thane Prince. Trust me, she knows her preserves. Having said that, I often find myself boiling things for much longer than she recommends in her recipes in order to reach a set, so perhaps I just don’t boil things hard enough?

So this recipe is only slightly adapted from Thane’s original.

Rhubarb orangey jam (or rhubarb marmalade in her world)

  • 2lb 4oz rhubarb, wiped clean and cut into 1cm chunks
  • 1lb 12oz jam sugar
  • finely grated zest and the juice of the most enormous orange I have ever seen
  • about 2cm fresh ginger, grated
  • about 50ml liquid pectin
  1. Put the rhubarb, sugar, zest, juice and ginger into a heavy saucepan. Put it on a low heat and bring gently to a boil. I put mine on the low side of the rayburn and then went and put the bedding on to wash. Then I came back and stirred it a bit and put it on the hotter side of the rayburn. Then I remembered I hadn’t sterilised any jars, so I went to look for some nice jars in Mum’s cupboard under the stairs (she now lives in a bungalow, but the larder has always been called the cupboard under the stairs, so it still is). I washed the jars and then popped them on a tray and put them in the rayburn. Then I remembered I hadn’t yet put the saucer in the fridge, for testing for jamminess later. So I did that. And then I went to see what Mum was potting on: dahlias mostly. Then I went back and the pot was just about near boiling, with the sugar all dissolved and at least three times the juice there was last time I’d looked at it.
  2. Once it’s boiling, allow it to simmer for about 10 minutes. The fruit should be soft, the sugar all dissolved.
  3. Now take the pot off the heat for a minute and add the pectin and stir it all in gently. Return to the heat and boil properly for another few minutes. Thane suggested two minutes might do it. But then she didn’t use jam sugar, and used more pectin. Anyway, keep testing for a jamminess, by putting a wee teeny wee spoonful onto the cold plate from the fridge. If it wrinkles when you push it with your finger it’s ready. If it’s still runny, it’s not. Don’t do what I did. Don’t jar it up anyway, in the hope it might really be ready when it’s not. You’ll realise after a couple of jars that it wasn’t ready and that you need to boil it all up a bit further.
  4. Anyway, once it’s boiled enough and you’re sure it will set when cool, take it off the heat, and pour it into the sterilised jars. If you’re at my mother’s house you might not have a jam funnel, but you’ll find that a jug dipped into the pot of jam works almost as well. And anyway, if you don’t like sticky stuff, don’t make jam.
  5. Now, remember to put a label on the jars. It’s like sowing seeds – at the time you can’t imagine that you’ll ever forget what you planted in those wee pots on that shelf in the greenhouse. But in 4 weeks time you won’t know if it’s asters or arctotis; if it’s basque chillies or ohnivecs. And it’s better to know which is rhubarb jam and which is rhubarb chutney. I guess.

If you want the real Thane Prince recipe, with her considerably less wordy instructions buy her book. If you like making preserves you’ll be glad you did. And it’s got other delicious sounding things like spicy plum ketchup, and frozen cranberry vodka. Surprisingly, I’ve never made either so can’t vouch for them.

If you want to know what else I’ve been making, go here: Shewolffe recipes. You’ll find another version of this same recipe, which I should have checked before I started writing this one out. And rhubarb chutney. And various cheese scones, each one tastier and easier than the last. And a scrumptious millionaire’s shortbread. And so much more.

There isn’t yet a recipe for that wee pear cake with white chocolate and gin frosting. But there will be soon, so keep looking back.

Let me know what else you’d like to see here. What ingredients should I cook with next?

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