As the seasons are changing, winter duvet is now on the bed, Ive been feeling unwell and have been craving comfort food. I’ve recently been spending quality time in my kitchen and thought Id share my recipes with you!
Grapes, grapes and more grapes. I have quite an amazing grape vine that gave me approximately 30 kilos of grapes this year. More grapes than I knew what to do with, I was hoping the birds would eat them, when this failed, I realised that I needed to do something with this. The grapes are exceptionally seeded too, which made eating them impossible, as I was constantly having to spit the seeds out, which is not a pleasant look. Initially I made grape juice but it’s amazing how quickly you can go off pure grape juice. I even mixed it with honey rum, (that was an amazing combination) but again, only so much grape juice you can drink. I was then reminded of a true American classic, grape jelly! Goes amazing with peanut butter or as the sweet to a savoury sandwich.
5KGs of Red Grapes
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
1KG of jam sugar per 900grams of grape juice (please note this may differ based on the sugar you are using, I used a very specific jelly sugar)
- You need to clean the grapes. I dumped mine in the sink filled with water, got rid of the bad grapes (and bugs) and put the cleaned grapes in a large heavy bottomed pan with the juice and zest of a lemon. I didn’t bother to mash them or deseed them or really put any effort into beyond taking out the bad grapes (and bugs).
- Bring to a boil and simmer for 20 minutes. You should smell the grapes and see the bursting, it’s quite a sweet scent your kitchen will be filled with.
- Put a sieve above a large bowl and put the grapes and juice into the sieve. Then gently press the grapes against the sieve. This can be messy (I did slightly cover myself in grape juice) but gives your arms a good work out. (I forgot to take a picture of this stage, sorry!) Now you are left with pure grape juice, once cooled you can either drink it or use it as the jelly base.
- You now need to measure out your juice to know how much sugar you should use for it, as its all weight based. I had approximately 4 KGs of juice.
- At this stage I start to sterilise my jars, I put them in the oven at 180C for 30 mins, which is roughly about the amount of time to takes for the jelly/jam to cook.
- In a large heavy bottomed pot, add in the freshly strained juice and the sugar, mix well. On high heat, bring to a full rolling boil. Stir it constantly and watch it, it will start to form a foam, of which you should remove. The foam has a different texture and colour from your jam/jelly, it is simply fine air bubbles. If you don’t remove it from your jam before processing, you will have the foam on the top of your jelly/jam, taking away from the perfect finish.
- Stir the sugar all at once, bringing it back to a full rolling boil and follow the instructions of your sugar. Mine asks me to boil for X mins, whilst others may require you to use a candy thermometer to get it to a certain temperature.
- Its normally at this point that I put the lids in a bowl and cover with boiling water for 5 minutes.
- Once you have reached your desired temperature or completed the instructions, remove from heat, skim off any remaining foam and pour into the sterilised hot jars. I ladle the mixture into jars using a jam funnel, it makes life much easier!
- Then firmly put the lids on the jars, I did have a few mishaps. You should hear the lids ‘pop’ as part of the vacuum effect, which causes the lids to seal on the jars. The ‘pop’ sound indicates that the seal on the lid has closed tightly over the jar. as My sugar instructions tell me to then flip the jars upside down for the jams to set for 12-24 hours.
- Enjoy on toast, in a sandwich or with something savoury to give the sweet edge.
A few years ago I did a post on Pear Butter, this year I fancied Apple Butter (and threw in 2 pears for fun). There is just something amazing about the way your house will smell over the slow 6 hour cook of Apple Butter, truly its cinnamon and spice and all things nice! Its very homely comforting smell, if a smell could give you a hug, this is the smell! It’s a warm all consuming, everything is right with the world and relax smell, kind of Christmasy too!
Apple butter is a concentrated form of apple sauce created by a long slow cook of apples with vinegar and sugar to a point where the sugar in the apples caramelizes, turning the apple butter a deep brown. The concentration of sugar (and vinegar) gives apple butter a much longer shelf life as a preserve than apple sauce, basically its good for a very long time!
- 2 KGs/4 LBs of good cooking apples (I used a variety of Jonagold, Elstar and 2 pears)
- 1 cup/250ml apple cider vinegar
- 2 cups/500ml water
- Caster Sugar ½C/115g per cup of apple sauce ( mine was just over 4cups, see cooking instructions) I also used 1 cup of brown sugar, you can use normal white sugar or a mix of both brown and white sugar but do not use only brown sugar.
- Pinch of salt
- 1 tablespoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon allspice
- Rhind and juice of 1 lemon
- 1 teaspoon vanilla paste/extract ( I used 1 tsp of each)
1 Wash and cut the apples into quarters, without peeling or coring them. (Much of the pectin is in the cores and flavor in the peels). Remove any damaged/bruised parts of the apples.
2 Place the cut up apples into large heavy bottomed pot, add the vinegar, water, lemon juice and lemon rhind, cover, bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer, cook until the fruit is soft, approx. 20-30 minutes. I did give mine a stir a few times.
3 Purée the apples through a food mill/ chinois/sieve over a large bowl to catch the pump. Ladle apple mixture (cooked apples and liquid) into a chinois sieve (or food mill) and using a pestle/wooden spoon force pulp from the chinois into a large bowl below. I used a spatula to occasionally scrape the pulp from the bottom of the sieve into the bowl.
4 Measure out how much apple puree you have. This is vital to the much sugar you will need to add in. For every cup of apple puree you have, you need to add in ½C/115g of sugar. (Mine was 9 cps of puree, so I added in 3.5 cups of white sugar and 1 cup of brown sugar)
5 After you have measured your puree, return it to the heavy bottomed pan, adding in the sugar, salt, spices and vanilla. You can taste and adjust seasonings if required. Stir in all the spices and sugar, you will see the colour change instantly from the spices (and brown sugar if using).
6 Cook the apple mixture, stirring only occasionally, uncovered on low heat, stirring occasionally to prevent burning. Scrape the bottom of the pot while you stir to make sure a crust does not form on the bottom of the pan.
Cook until thick and smooth (2-6 hours), you will notice the colour darken over time and it become thicker. You will also see the foam form, remove it throughout the cooking process. I go for the low and slow method here, I cook on the smallest ring for the longest possible time. If you are in a rush you can do this is in 2 hours at medium/low heat, if you have the day, go low and slow, its so worth it! A small bit spooned onto a chilled (from the freezer) plate will be thick, not runny.
7 When you have approximately 30 minutes left of cook time, start to sterilise your jars, putting them in the oven at 180C/350F for 30 minutes.
8 When you have approximately 5 minutes of cook time left, put the lids in a bowl and cover with boiling water for 5 minutes to sterilise the lids.
9 Once your cook time is up, using a ladle and jam funnel pour the apple butter into the hot, sterilised jars and seal with the lids. As the jars cool, you should hear the lids “popping” as they seal the jars. (If you plan to store the apple butter un-refrigerated, make sure to follow proper canning procedures, which can be found on Google)
My 2Kgs/4lbs of apples/pears made 3 jars of apple butter.
As you can see, Ive been busy making and sharing (much to a few friends delight) jam/jellys and preserves. Im ready for winter with my jams now! Ive also made an updated version of the Comforting Spice Jam and will be updating the recipe in the days to come.
Remember to share for with your friends, family or neighbours 🙂