Blackberry Clove Jam

Sometimes Mother Nature does not gift us with what we expect but that is not to say she does not gift us at all; sometimes we just need to look elsewhere. This past year has been a challenging year for most small fruit growers with constant rain and grey skies through the spring and early summer which had a detrimental effect on the bursting fruit blossom, which, in turn, resulted in a very meagre harvest. However Mrs Dirtdigger did what she does exceptionally well and managed to forage many kilos of nature’s wonderful freebies from the hedgerows that border the allotment site, and so much so that by mid September she had harvested well over 5 kilos of blackberries which more than compensated for the gooseberry wipe-out earlier in the summer.
Blackberries are not as pectin heavy as blackcurrants, but the use of an apple to boost the pectin level in the jamming process means there should be no need to use pectin added sugar. This year we put one of the large April Queen apples into the mix; the addition of the apple not only lifts the flavour but helps the final set. A pinch of ground clove adds an autumnal wow! factor, but too much will be overpowering, so no more than a fingers pinch. Alternatively place 3-4 cloves into a little muslin sachet and put into the boiling mix for the duration of the boil and remove before jarring.

Blackberry Jam & Devon Scones

Ingredients:
1 kg of fresh picked blackberries, thoroughly washed
1 kg of granulated sugar
1 large Dessert or Bramley apple, peeled, cored and chopped
150mls of water
pinch of ground cloves
knob of butter, salted/unsalted
You will need a large stainless steel saucepan in which to boil the jam; 5-6 sterilized jars with clean lid and wax discs, a couple of saucers for the freezer, a tongs, a ladle, and a spoon or stirrer.

How to Jam it Up…
Prepare all the ingredients and utensils you’ll need before hand; use a stainless steel pot and stainless steel or wooden spoon; have your jam jars washed and pop into the oven at 100 degrees for duration of the jamming process; wash and drain the blackberries; peel, core and chop the apple; pop two saucers into the freezer to have them chilled…
1. Put the blackberries, chopped apple and water into a large pot over a medium heat for 12-15 minutes bringing to a slow boil.
2. Once the fruit in the pot has softened and noticeably reduced turn the heat up full and begin adding the sugar, stirring constantly till the sugar is dissolved; this is where the benefit of a wooden spoon allows you fell what is between the wooden spoon and end of the pot. Once the sugar is dissolved bring the jam to a rapid rolling boil. At this stage add the knob of butter and the pinch of ground cloves, and leave it to boil for at least 7-8 minutes (boil time can vary depending on the actual fruit itself).
3. Remove pot from heat, and using a clean teaspoon pour a little of the jam onto one of the chilled saucers. Leave for 1 minute before running a finger through the blob of jam. If the surface of the blob crinkles your jam has reached setting point and is ready for jarring, if however the jam on the saucer is still too thin, return the pot to the heat and continue to boil for another 5 minutes before repeating the saucer test, and if necessary repeat once more till jam has reached setting point.
4. Once satisfied jam has hit setting point remove from heat. At this point take the jars out of the oven. Leave both jam and jars sit for 5 -8 minutes before carefully ladling the jam into the sterile jars. Fill jars almost to top, leaving 2-3mm at rim. Place a wax disc on top of jar, and screw on clean lid. The hot jam going into reasonably hot sterile jars should be enough to seal completely, but at times we then place the filled jar into a preserving pot of boiling water, completely covering the jars and boiling for 10 minutes to be sure to be sure! Using a tongs lift jars from the water and set aside to cool.
5. If your prep has been thorough and fresh fruit has been used and poured into sterile jars your blackberry jam should store for 6-7 months, of course, it probably won’t last that long at all once you start to dollop it onto fresh Devon scones, with a scoop of double cream perhaps………

Pickled Red Onions

One of the monster’s major crops each year is onions. We grow both red and white and we grow from seed and set. Stuttgarter and Bedfordshire Champions would be the considered whites while Karmen and Red Baron the trusted red varieties. Experience has shown that some years almost one third of the red onions will bolt, but when you get a summer as consistently good as last year’s, well then, thing were a good deal better with little or no bolting whatsoever, and though harvested during the last week of July, the Red Barons have stored very well indeed and this third week in January we are still making some delicious pickled red onion.

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Red Baron onions

These pickled red onions are one of the quickest and easiest recipes we here at monsterinthecorner use with the monster’s bounty: they dress any beef or lamb plate, work wonderfully well with any open or slider burger, can be served with cream cheese, Cheddar cheese or with smoked fish, and their piquant zing will enliven any cold platter or meat salad.

Ingredients:
• 2 red onions, peeled and thinly sliced
• 2 tablespoons (30 ml) red wine vinegar/cider vinegar
• 1 good tablespoon of caster sugar

 

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Sliced red onions

Method:
At the outset make sure you do not create a recipe for disaster by mixing this simple but potent trio in the wrong container to begin with. Although only using three ingredients be sure to mix in a non-reactive bowl: stainless steel, glass or ceramic. This makes enough pickle to fill a good sized jar and once covered should hold in a refrigerator for up to 3 weeks
• Slice the onions as thinly as possible and toss into mixing bowl. Scatter the spoonful of caster sugar across the onions them pour the red wine vinegar into the mixture and stir it up. At this point we like to cover the bowl with some cling film and over 20-30 minutes or so invert the bowl and shake it up periodically. The onions are ready to use after about 30 minutes, or do as we do and put them into a sterilized jar and pop into the fridge where they will keep for 3-4 weeks.

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pickled red onions with creamed cheese on sourdough,,,

 

The Monster’s Mouth…

This is the first recipe that we post into the new Monster’s Mouth menu above, where we shall ( in the best of our own established traditions) make posting of those many and varied recipes in which we use the Monster’s annual bounty; jams, chutneys, sauces and salsas and a wholesome lot more besides to come.

Harissa:

One of the Monster’s favourite culinary condiments is the hot and spicy North African paste Harissa. We use our own red chilli peppers, garlic, tomatoes and coriander leaves to make this wonderfully pungent addition to our larder. We use it as a marinade for pork and chicken, and Mrs. Dirtdigger will often swirl a loving spoonful into beef casseroles and stews. Loosen a spoonful with some quality virgin olive oil and it more than serves as a bread dip, a hot salad dressing, or as a drizzle for vegetables to be roasted. It adds heat and punch to rice dishes and couscous and it works wonderfully and surprisingly well with hard-boiled eggs while transforming mackerel, salmon and tuna when used sparingly as a cooking rub or as a flavour dress for open sandwiches. We make a couple of small jars each year while our fresh ingredients allow and this hot aromatic accompaniment to our cooking reminds us of the heady summer days on our allotment and sees us through the darker days of the year.

harissa ingredients
The Monster’s harissa ingredients: garlic,peppers,tomatoes and coriander leaves

Ingredients
• 8-10 medium-hot red chilli peppers Cayenne/Serrano/Fireflame 
• 1 heaped tablespoon of purée tomato
• 1 good-sized bulb (whole bulb) or 8 cloves of garlic, cloves peeled and crushed
• 1heaped tablespoon cumin seeds, lightly toasted, ground,
• 1 heaped tablespoon coriander seeds, toasted, ground
• 80-100 ml (6-8 tablespoons) extra virgin olive oil
• Splash red wine vinegar
• 1 cup freshly chopped coriander leaves
• Sea salt, and freshly ground black and red pepper for taste
• Pinch of caster sugar (optional), if needed

Method
• Preheat oven to 200c/gas mark 7.
• Place the chilli peppers on a small tray and roast for 18- 20 minutes. The skins will blacken and begin to come away from the flesh.
• Removing from the oven place the roasted chillies in a bowl and seal completely with cling film. Allow to cool. When peppers have cooled peel off the skins and remove the seeds leaving just the roasted pepper flesh.
• Put peppers into a mortar and using a pestle work to a paste (a food processor can be used). Now add the purée tomato , garlic and ground spices and grind/pound to a paste. Add the freshly chopped coriander leaves and season for taste.
• Slowly drizzle in the olive oil and red wine vinegar splash.
• Add a full fingers pinch of sugar if you feel the flavour needs a lift.
• Put into sterilized jars, and store in a refrigerator. It should store for up to 4 months.

Harissa
Harissa, one of the Monster’s favourites