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pacing the excitement

September 25, 2012

“Don your hiking boots and make your way to the top of the hill and visit me,” insisted Boo, “and we can harvest the blackberry crop. Bring an umbrella with a hook,”  she added. So even though the sun was shining I braved ridicule and walked through town carrying the required umbrella.

The blackberries in Boo’s garden are a little high up and, I was informed, difficult to reach without standing on something. Turns out that Boo obviously thinks she’s much taller than she is – even standing on a chair (unwise given the state of her bad back) said fruit was resolutely out of her reach, and definitely out of mine.

In spite of our limitations – medical, physical – we picked some fruit although Boo resorted to cutting the better, reachable bunches off with the (blunt) secateurs. She also picked a few apples just in case we didn’t have enough fruit.

Once back in my kitchen we picked the blackberries from the ferociously prickly stalks and put them in a pan, having first allowed as many insects as possible to run free  (it doesn’t do to have too much protein in one’s jelly) added enough water for the fruit to float slightly and cooked till it looked done. We also chopped up the apples and cooked them till they were soft (in water enough to float them) and strained the juice of both fruits through a jelly bag.

You’re not supposed to squeeze the juice out because it makes a cloudy jelly apparently, but the idea of letting it drip overnight is just ridiculous – I squeezed every last bit of juice out. We had one and a half pints – 30floz – to which I added one and a half pounds of sugar – a mixture of jam sugar (with added pectin) and granulated sugar. Then it’s a simple matter to put juice and sugar in a pan, stir until the sugar’s dissolved and then boil until the setting point (105 c/220 f) is reached – or it would be a simple matter if I had a large enough pan and didn’t cook on an Aga.

There is something dangerously challenging about having to move a pan (containing boiling jelly) around, on a hot plate, so that it maintains a rolling boil, yet doesn’t overflow – and initially this is quite exciting, but after a while the excitement wears off.  By this point Boo had given up and was lying on the floor (bad backs are not conducive to too much excitement).

Eventually jelly was made. It’s a beautiful colour, has a jewel like clarity and tastes good too.

I think it would have been nice with a little bit of chilli in, but there’s only so much excitement you can have in one day. Jelly with French bread and butter is fine.

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