Sunday 8 December 2013

Jewellery and Jam, Jars of Jewelled Goodness


This post has been a long time coming. Four months of procrastination is about to be broken, right here, right now. As a foodie, it is not as though I have not been making food or dreaming up recipes. The opposite is true. Like some crazy lady, I've baking, cooking, eating and photographing for months. Each time I went to put up a new recipe for roasted courgette and nasturtium salad or homemade ice cream or even almond butter, something got in the way. It wasn't time. It wasn't a lack of ingredients or motivation even. It was pure, unadulterated perfectionist procrastination.

I am continually inspired by food bloggers, websites and people around me in general who seem to be able to find the time to be creative AND showcase it, either by showing their work, selling it or blogging about it. One wonderful person that falls into this category is Emma Galloway from My Darling Lemon Thyme. A chef, mother of two, wife and all round awesome individual, (she also comes from Raglan, my favourite place in the world so top marks for that) helped me out more than she could have known. Emma is a very busy lady but still took the time to answer my crazy email to her looking for advice. Insecure about all the things that weren't right about this website that oddly means so much to me, she gave me the best advice, "just do it". Don't worry, don't be a perfectionist, love it and do it. As simple as the advice sounds, I needed someone in the know to say it to me.

So here I am, typing and getting on with it. To celebrate the cooking, baking, foraging and learning that have gone on behind the scenes in the last four months, I'm sharing a beautifully simple yet very delicious jam recipe that really has been three months in the making. Blackberries were foraged from hedgerows with my Dad, Mam and two dogs as side kicks on three separate occasions down back roads by a lake near our house. Apples were taken from a very old apple tree next to an abandoned house and donated by Ger, another woman of the powerhouse group.                                                   

As the weekends passed and I escaped the city to pick berries and watch the dogs run around, talk to my Dad about life, freeze berries and wrap apples in old newspapers, I knew all these ingredients were building up for something special. In the end, they amounted to something really special. You see, my Mam had breast cancer last year and this year, she organized a coffee afternoon to raise money for the LARCC Cancer support centre nearby. She made German Christmas cookies and I made jam. Clear, glowing, ruby coloured jars of delight. I made fifty nine jars in one day and sold nearly all of them. Thanks to generous donations, between the biscuits and coffee, jam, jewellery (which I also sold) and lots of love, we raised over 800 euro!

The waiting was worth it. The timing was worth it. I guess all good things take time.
Writing a blog is a lot like making jam. Everyone makes it look so hard, as though there is so much preparation and time involved, when really making jam and learning how to do it couldn't have been easier!

I hope this jam recipe brings you as much joy as it did me and helps you realise that life is just like jam making. It seems like things would be easier without the frivolities of doing something creative and outside the box but really, it takes such a short amount of time and before you know it, that creative streak that was begging to be let loose, brings about all sorts of joy and alleviates the stress that procrastination brought about.

With that thought, here's the recipe!

This makes about 6 x 8oz jars.

Base Recipe:
500 grams cooking apples, peeled, cored and chopped into chunks
500 grams of blackberries, washed and strained
1 kg of caster sugar (no need for the added pectin sugar-apples take care of that!)
1 lemon-zest and juice
1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
100 ml cold water
Small plate

Flavour variations:
1 cup of well brewed meadowsweet tea, meadowsweet drained before adding in at end
3 tablespoons of elderflower cordial
3 tablespoons of crème de cassis (blackberry liquor) added in at end.
You could also try cinnamon, vanilla or any other fruit liquor

The Prep
Preheat oven to 100 degrees C
Put your plate in the back of the freezer
Wash your jars and lids in hot water and detergent, rinse with hot water and place on a baking tray in the oven (this disinfects them and gets them ready for all that amazing jam)

The Cooking
Place large, heavy based pot on medium heat and add apples, water and cinnamon.
Place lid on top and allow to steam or 5 minutes.
Apples should have turned to mush. Make sure to stir so that it doesn't burn
Add blackberries and stir to mix the fruit evenly.
Boil gently on medium heat for 5 minutes
Add sugar and stir through until sugar has dissolved
Add lemon zest and juice of the lemon and stir through to distribute all the ingredients equally.
Turn up heat and boil for 10 minutes with the lid off.
Stir once half way through.
Take a teaspoon amount of the jam mix and put it on the "frozen" plate.
Leave it for 1/2 minutes. If you can move the plate around (like you're moving a pancake pan around with your wrist) and it doesn't move but has turned into a jelly, it's ready.
If not, no panic, boil again for another five minutes, check the set with the plate again and it should be fine.

The Jars of Ruby Goodness
When you're happy, ladle out your jam into the jars, filling it an inch or so below the top (usually there's a curve-stop there)
Seal the lid and use a towel to really tighten it.
Use a damp cloth to wipe the jam that has (inevitably-it's messy business) gotten everywhere.
Leave the jam to cool in  dark place. These have plenty of sugar so should keep a month or more in the cupboard.
Put it in the fridge once you open it but honestly, homemade jam is usually devoured long before the expiration date! Don't forget to label them! They make great gifts and went a long way to raising money for the LARCC Centre.

My dream is to have a pantry filled with beautiful jars of preserves, jellies, cordials and grains. Maybe this is the beginning. Thank you Emma for getting me back in the game.




  1. Yay! I'm so excited to see another post on your blog. And what a wonderfully written post it is! Go you Grace!

  2. Thank you so much or the support Clare! I'm glad you like the post! X

  3. Yay Grace! I really don't know what you were so worried about, this space is beautiful and Blackberry & Ederflower jam?! YUM xx

  4. All inspired by you Em! Thanks so much for your support and confidence. Elderflower and Blackberry jam is the bomb! X