Peach & Ice Wine Jam | Using The Produce of Niagara-on-the-Lake

Welland’s Farmers Market in Niagara-on-the-Lake is not nearly as vast as the mind-boggling markets I visited in Montreal and Quebec but it’s plenty big enough to offer a wide selection and is a wonderful place to buy local and regional produce. Fruits, vegetables, fresh meat and dairy, cheese, honey, charcuterie, baked goods and other food and drink products are all on offer, sold by friendly, helpful and knowledgeable vendors.

Niagara-on-the-Lake Ontario Canada - Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-103102 Niagara-on-the-Lake Ontario Canada - Kavey Eats-103825
Niagara-on-the-Lake Ontario Canada - Kavey Eats-104204 Niagara-on-the-Lake Ontario Canada - Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-105952

Usually, I’d take my time and explore everything the market had to offer, but on the day of our visit I was focused on just one main ingredient – peaches!

Our hosts, chefs Anna and Michael Olson set us a challenge, giving us just 30 minutes of shopping time at the market and $15 Canadian dollars with which to buy our core ingredients to make either a sweet or savoury condiment back at Niagara College’s Canadian Food and Wine Institute where Michael is a chef professor. (The Institute is incredible, by the way, not only is there an expansive professional cookery school, the college also boasts a teaching brewery, a commercial teaching winery and a full-service training restaurant. With onsite vineyards, hop yards, and organic gardens, students can also also focus on the agricultural production of ingredients if they wish.)

Over the previous several days (in Montreal, Quebec City and here in Niagara-on-the-Lake), I had admired basket upon basket of gorgeous ripe Ontario peaches at every market and fruit store I’d visited so I quickly decided to make a peach jam.

I raced around all the stalls selling peaches to compare the taste, ripeness and prices of the many varieties on offer – Baby Gold, Flaming Fury, P24, Pierre and Redstar. I decided on Flaming Fury from Tony’s stall after a tasting that clinched the deal.

Niagara-on-the-Lake Ontario Canada - Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-120102

I had two ideas to try with my gorgeous Flaming Fury Ontario peaches – a peach and ice wine jam or a peach and honey one. In the end I decided to make both, using some ice wine kindly provided by Anna, and a locally produced honey I bought at the market. I chose a robustly flavoured buckwheat honey from Charlie bee that packed a proper punch of flavour.

We had a few challenges during our cook – an unexpected fire alarm and ensuing evacuation meant we all raced out (I stopped to turn off the stoves first) and it was a long wait (in the tasting area of the teaching brewery, plus a walk around one of the greenhouses) while the fire personnel checked the entire cooking school building before clearing us to go back in. On returning to our classroom we discovered that the gas had not yet been turned back on so had to made a quick switch to another, where we were able to use plug-in electric cookers to continue cooking our condiments!

Niagara-on-the-Lake Ontario Canada - Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-0092

Flaming Fury Peach & Niagara Ice Wine Jam

This recipe can be scaled up or down to according to how much fruit you have

750 grams peeled, cored peaches, variety of your choice
500 grams caster sugar
125 ml ice wine of your choice, divided into 50 ml + 75 ml

Note: I used a locally-made Henry of Pelham Vidal ice wine (2010). You can use any ice wine of your choice, or substitute a different sweet liqueur or fortified wine.


  • Chop the peaches, to roughly half inch sized pieces.
  • Place chopped peaches, sugar and 50 ml of the ice wine into a large, flat-bottomed pan and turn on the heat, at low to start until the sugar melts and the peaches start to release their juices, and then to medium-high.

Niagara-on-the-Lake Ontario Canada - Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-140247 Niagara-on-the-Lake Ontario Canada - Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-140232

  • Use a jam thermometer to cook the jam until it reaches 104 °C (219 °F). Alternatively, you can assess for readiness by checking the set of the jam, but I find both the wrinkle test and spoon test more of a faff than using a thermometer.
  • The timing for cooking can vary enormously depending on how ripe the peaches are and how much sugar and water content they have. Keep an eye on the pan and stir regularly to stop the jam from catching.
  • Once you have reached 104 °C or have tested successfully for set, take the jam off the heat and allow to cool for a minute before stirring in the additional 75 ml of ice wine.

Niagara-on-the-Lake Ontario Canada - Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-143713 Niagara-on-the-Lake Ontario Canada - Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-144146

  • Bottle hot into sterilised jars or serve warm over vanilla ice cream

To our surprise, after we finished cooking all our pans were set out for Anna, Michael and Anna’s right-hand helper Lisa to taste test, something they took quite seriously and which turned us all into nervous wrecks. To our relief, everything passed muster and we enjoyed the savoury creations with some local sausages, coleslaw and snacks before spooning my warm peach jam over vanilla ice cream for afters.

If you’d like to learn more about ice wine – how it’s made and some great wineries to visit – do check out my recent post on Enjoying Ice Wine in Niagara-on-the-Lake.

Kavey Eats visited Ontario as a guest of Destinations Canada. With additional thanks to Anna and Michael Olson for being our hosts, and Diane Helinski for being our tour manager and guide.

About Home Canning & Other Preservation Methods

I’m very used to making jams, jellies, chutneys, ketchups and pickles, all of which require basic sterilisation of jars, easy recipes and a straightforward process to fill and seal the jars. In these recipes boiling helps kill harmful bacteria and yeasts as well as reducing the moisture in which they thrive; sugar or acid stops regrowth and sealing in a sterilised airtight jar prevents recontamination.

But these techniques aren’t suitable for low acid foods such as fish and meat which is why we often turn to other techniques to extend their shelf life. The same goes for vegetables, when we want to preserve them without introducing the strong acidic flavours of a pickle.

Most commonly for fish and meat here in the UK, we freeze, cure or dry them.

Freezing turns moisture into ice and also inhibits the growth of most bacteria. The advantage is that the fish or meat is as fresh once it’s been defrosted. Curing with salt, sugar, nitrates or nitrites works by drawing out moisture. It changes the nature and flavours of the fish or meat, but this is often highly desirable – many of us adore cured salmon, bacon and cured hams such as Parma and Serrano. Drying, by sun, in a dehydrator or oven, or by smoking, works on a similar basis of reducing moisture. It also seals the surface of the fish or meat, which makes it difficult for bacteria to enter. Smoked fish such as salmon and mackerel are popular in the UK. Biltong, Bresaola and jerky are examples from the dried meats category.

I do know people who cure and smoke fish and meats at home. But it’s relatively rare.

Preserving by fermentation is becoming more popular here too, though it is still uncommon. As the food ferments, it produces lactic or other acids, which are themselves preserving agents. Kimchi (which is enjoying a surge of popularity amongst foodies at the moment), sauerkraut and surströmming (which my dad enjoys but I just can’t get into) are all examples of preservation by fermentation.

Of these three methods, freezing is probably the easiest for the home cook. Indeed, our freezer is full of raw home grown vegetables as well as raw meat and fish and portions of cooked food such as stews and curries.

There is another way of preserving low acid foods so that they can be stored at ambient temperatures and retain their essential flavours or textures. Known as canning, the process was first trialled by the French navy in the early 1800s, after they launched a competition seeking new methods of preserving food. Although the method was originally tested and developed using jars, when the process took off commercially, most food was preserved in tin cans rather than glass and hence the process became known as canning.

After the food is prepared and sealed in to the tin (or glass jar), a heat and pressure treatment is applied to the container to kill the bacteria within. It’s the heat, not the pressure, which destroys bacteria, but pressure provides the easiest method to achieve sufficiently high temperatures. It’s important to be thorough here, as there is no acid, sugar or salt added to the ingredients to restrict the growth of any bacteria that survives the treatment.

Canning as a commercial process took off around the world, nowhere more quickly than in the US, as did its counterpart, home canning. Indeed, judging by online content, I consider America to be the spiritual centre of home canning! Many of the other preservation methods are more popular in Europe and elsewhere in the world, but it seems to me that the Americans have taken the canning process to heart.

It’s critical to reach the correct temperature and to maintain it for a sufficient duration, which can be quite a challenge for the home cook. To that end, there are home pressure canners available, though in the UK we have access to a smaller selection, at higher prices.

Because of the risk of botulism, the toxins of which are not detectable by taste or smell, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) provides detailed guidelines for home canning. Botulinum spores are very hard to destroy at 100°C but can be eliminated at 120°C, provided the temperature is maintained for long enough. Where foods do contain enough acid, the guidelines suggest a boiling water bath will be sufficient. For lower acid foods, a pressure canner to reach the higher temperatures is recommended.

As an avid food blog reader, I’ve been bookmarking home canning recipes for several years.

Attending an event by Le Parfait, when they launched their products into the UK last year, gave me the last push to give this form of preserving a go myself, especially when they kindly provided some sample jars for me to use.

ApplePieFillingCanning-0032 ConfitBabyTangerines-0993 PearGingerChutney-4667

In the US, Ball or Kerr brand Mason jars are the most popular, featuring a two part lid – a flat disc cap that seals to the rim of the jar and a screw on band which secures the disc cap into place until the canning treatment creates a vacuum seal. Here in the UK, we’ve traditionally used hinged clip top jars with rubber sealing rings such as those made by Kilner. Indeed, like Hoover vacuum cleaners, “kilner” seems to have become shorthand for describing this style of jar regardless of manufacturer. Le Parfait is a French brand and has been going for over 80 years. They offer both styles of jar – their Super Preserve and Super Terrine both have clip top lids and their Familia Wiss have seal caps under screw-on lids.

As far as I can see, the advantage of the clip top design is that, once purchased, the costs are minimal. The rubber sealing ring lasts well, though not indefinitely, and needs replacing from time to time. That said, I find them more difficult to open and close, and awkward to sterilise, since I use the oven method for jars and boil the lids separately. The Mason style jars are much easier to use but since the disc caps are single use only, the costs of using them are higher.

At the moment, I don’t have a pressure cooker or pressure canner, so I’m using a large and ancient Indian aluminium stockpot. I mentally refer to it as a cauldron, though that does give a slightly wiccan air to it. I also don’t have a canning rack – essentially a special wire metal basket and handle which makes lowering and lifting jars from the water much simpler; it also keeps the jars from sitting directly on the base of the pan, touching the sides or rattling against each other. In my cauldron, I use several flannels and tea towels to line the pan and separate my jars and I’ve not yet discovered an easy way of lowering the jars into boiling water!

Without pressure, I can’t achieve temperatures above 100°C, so am hesitant to use the technique for fish or meat products.

Stay tuned for my first canning experiments.

Purple Pershore Plum & Port Jelly

The Pershore Plum Festival celebrates plum growing in and around the Worcestershire town of Pershore. Many varieties are grown in local orchards, including Victoria, Monarch, Greengage and many more but, of course, the varieties that are most celebrated during the festival are those named for the town, Pershore Purple, Pershore Yellow Egg and Pershore Emblem (also known as Evesham  Red). Of these, the Pershore Purple seems to be most prevalent.

Held during August bank holiday weekend, the festival sees this pretty market town celebrate plums with an expansive food and drinks market, music and family entertainment, craft exhibitions and even a large vintage and classic cars show held in abbey park. Local shops deck their windows out in purple, competing for the prize of best display of the year.

I bought my plums from the absolutely charming Ellenden Farm Shop near Harvington. Smaller than other farm shops we visited over the weekend, this one was nonetheless our favourite, firstly because it had a really appealing range of produce and secondly because of the genuinely warm and helpful welcome.


My Pershore Purples went into a simple plum jelly, with the addition of port for extra flavour.

The purple skins and yellow flesh combined to make a beautiful deep maroon pulp which I strained to 500 ml of juice. Putting the juice aside, I also pressed an additional 182 grams of thicker pulp from before discarding the remaining stones, skin and fibre. I made the jelly in two batches, one with the strained juice, which results in a clearer jelly, and a second smaller batch with the pulp, which makes a thicker and cloudier but just as tasty offering.

I used the same recipe as my previous plum jelly, made from yellow plums from our allotment, it was the colour of sunshine in a jar. It’s the recipe my mum’s been making since I was a kid and is simple and delicious.


Plum & Port Jelly Recipe

Ruby port

Note: You won’t know how much sugar you need until you’ve cooked the plums down and strained the juices. For each litre of juice, you’ll need a kilo of sugar.

Note: You can omit the port if you prefer to make a plain plum jelly.

Note: I’ve provided information about the weights and volumes produced from this batch of plums below the recipe.


  • Halve the plums. I find this quick and easy to do by drawing a sharp knife right around each plum and then twisting both halves in opposite directions; the halves come apart easily.


  • Place halved plums into a large pan, leaving the skins on and stones in.
  • Add just enough water to cover most of the plums. (It’s better to be frugal with water and add more during the cooking down process – add too much and your resulting juice will be too thin).

PershorePurplePlumPortJelly-1571 PershorePurplePlumPortJelly-1573

  • Cook down the plums until they disintegrate completely. Add more water only if the mixture is looking dry and might catch.
  • Transfer the cooked pulp into a muslin straining bag or cloth. Either tie closed and hang over a pan or place into a colander inside a pan, so that the juices can easily run down. I left mine to strain overnight, with a clean towel loosely covering everything.


  • To avoid cloudy jelly, resist the urge to squeeze the pulp to extract extra liquid.
  • Set the strained juice aside.


  • If you are feeling thrifty, as I was, squeeze more juice from the pulp, and process this separately, as it will produce a thicker, cloudier jelly than the naturally strained juice.


  • Discard the pulp (on your compost heap or into your green bin).
  • At this stage, if you think your juice may be too watered down, boil to reduce volume.
  • Measure the juice and put into a large pan, with caster sugar. Use a kilo of sugar per litre of juice, adjusting for your volume of juice.


  • Plums are naturally high in pectin, so I used regular sugar, but if you use this recipe for other fruits with lower pectin, add powdered or liquid pectin now, or use jam sugar, which has pectin added.
  • Boil the juice and sugar hard. I use a jam thermometer to make sure I reach 104 °C (219 °F).


  • When the jelly has reached temperature, do a pectin check to test that it’s ready to set. I usually just hold the spoon up and see how the jelly drips off it, or draw a line in the jelly coating the back of the spoon).
  • If the jelly is ready, turn off the heat and stir in the port.
  • Pour your hot jelly into hot sterilised jars. I sterilise my jars in the oven (and boil the lids at the same time, draining them onto a clean tea towel). Pouring the jelly into the jars while it and they are still hot minimises the risk of the glass cracking from a sudden and extreme change in temperature.
    (Actually, I ask Pete to do the pouring as holding large jugs of very hot liquid scares me!)



I started out with 1.2 kilos of plums from which I strained 500 ml of juice and squeezed an additional 180 grams of thicker, cloudier juice.

To the 500 ml of juice, I added 500 grams of sugar and about 2 tablespoons of port. This produced three 200 gram jars of dark but clear jelly.

To the 180 grams of thicker juice, I added 180 grams of sugar and a tablespoon of port. This made just over one jar of a thicker jelly, more like fruit cheese. We poured the excess into a small bowl to be eaten over the next few days.


Easy Redcurrant & Port Jelly

It’s not been a great year for growing, with plants confused by a very early faux-summer followed by months of endless rain and cold. But we did enjoy harvesting summer fruit from our allotment plot in mid July, bringing home tubs of redcurrants, blackcurrants, gooseberries and raspberries.

I’m not a huge fan of redcurrants but my sister insists on them for Christmas day, so I decided to make her some redcurrant and port jelly for this year’s Christmas feasting.

RedcurrantPortJelly-0758 AllotmentFruit-0742


Easy Redcurrant & Port Jelly


400 grams redcurrants
400 grams sugar (I used half white + half light muscovado, as that’s what I had in stock)
Approximately 20 ml port (added to 250 ml jelly)


  • Wash redcurrants, taking care not to crush, and drain well. There’s no need to remove the stalks (though I found it therapeutic to do so as I was harvesting them).

RedcurrantPortJelly-0759 RedcurrantPortJelly-0760

  • Place redcurrants and sugar into a large pan, with a jam thermometer, if you have one.
  • Bring to the boil on a medium to high heat.
  • Once the sugar has fully dissolved and the currants start to soften, use a wooden spoon or potato masher to break the currants open and mash them into the liquid.
  • Boil until the mixture reaches 104 °C.
    (If you don’t have a jam thermometer, test for a set by either dropping some jam onto a freezer-chilled plate to see if it sets enough to wrinkle to the touch after a few seconds or by lifting a wooden spoon out of the liquid and seeing whether the drops run together and fall off cleanly, which means it’s not yet reached setting point, or coagulate, form thick triangles, and fall off thickly).


  • Place a clean muslin cloth into a sieve, over a heat-resistant jug and pour the jam into the cloth.

RedcurrantPortJelly-0762 RedcurrantPortJelly-0763

  • Allow the liquid to drip through. As I am keener on maximum yield than a crystal clear jelly, I twist and squeeze the cloth to force every last drop of liquid through.
  • Add port and mix well.


  • Pour the finished jelly into sterilised jars whilst both the liquid and the jars are still hot, and seal immediately with sterilised lids.


Sheepish postscript: Sister has gently pointed out that I have confused redcurrants and cranberries, it being the latter she always has for Christmas. But she is looking forward to trying my jelly this year anyway! Oops!

The World’s Best Apricot Jam (and Other Tasty Produce)

Every time I eat some of Nidal Rayess’ apricot jam, which I’ve eked out with unusual willpower, I chide myself for not having shared the experience of our day visiting Nidal at his factory in Lebanon, last spring.

So, extremely late though it is, I am finally sharing another Lebanon highlight.


Nidal Rayess is the manager of Rayess Trading, a family business established by his grandfather Nemer Rayess in 1920, during the French occupation of Lebanon.

The business makes top quality cheese and dairy products such as labneh (strained yoghurt), halloumi and several local cheeses as well as a wide selection of mouneh, a catch-all term which describes preserves made during the harvest season and stored in the larder to be enjoyed throughout the year. Mouneh includes jams, pickles, fruits in syrup and even dried balls of labneh preserved in oil.

Lebanon-NidalRayess-0535 Lebanon-NidalRayess-0448 Lebanon-NidalRayess-0450
Lebanon-NidalRayess-0445 Lebanon-NidalRayess-0454 Lebanon-NidalRayess-0457

Before meeting Nidal, we stopped for a brief snack in his small traditional store in Chtaura, shelves stacked high with mouneh and deli counter well-stocked with fresh dairy products.

(One thing you learn very quickly is that you never go long without eating, on a Taste Lebanon tour!)

But the highlight of our day was heading to Nidal’s home and factory, where he showed us around the manufacturing premises and processes. First, we watched his staff making and branding halloumi and preserving candied orange peels.

During the First World War, Nidal’s grandfather Nemer was working in concrete construction for the French Army. Also working for the army was a Greek chef from whom Nemer learned the traditional recipe and methods for making Greek halloumi, as well as fresh and pressed ricotta.

Nidal still makes halloumi in exactly the same way, with milk from the business’ own herd of cows, pastured in the North of the country.

Lebanon-NidalRayess-0465 Lebanon-NidalRayess-0466

The halloumi is cooked in huge copper vats, which were hand made in Turkey in 1870 and formerly used to cook wheat in the Taanayel kitchens of Ottoman governors (who ruled Lebanon until the close of the First World War). Whilst many modern producers use stainless steel vats, Nidal says that copper handles a higher temperature, allowing the heat to better penetrate the halloumi during the cooking time, resulting in a difference in taste in the finished product.

Lebanon-NidalRayess-0495 Lebanon-NidalRayess-0494
Lebanon-NidalRayess-0496 Lebanon-NidalRayess-0497 Lebanon-NidalRayess-0498

Hot out of the pans, squares of halloumi are folded in half and arranged on a metal table between large wooden planks, which help them to set into the right shape.

Lebanon-NidalRayess-0501 Lebanon-NidalRayess-0502 Lebanon-NidalRayess-0504 Lebanon-NidalRayess-0508 Lebanon-NidalRayess-0510

After they’ve all been shaped, they are branded with a logo.

Lebanon-NidalRayess-0511 Lebanon-NidalRayess-0515

And then turned over to flatten the other side.


Labneh is traditionally made by straining yoghurt. Modern industrial manufacturers have switched to using centrifuges to spin out excess liquid, but the resulting labneh doesn’t have the incredibly rich and creamy texture of Nidal’s, which is still made the old-fashioned way. Nidal makes both cow and goat milk labneh, the cow milk coming from his own herd, as above.


Don’t assume that the factory is without any modern technology. Nidal doesn’t stick with the old ways unthinkingly but follows tradition where it creates a superior product. The factory uses modern equipment where and when it’s needed, such as this vacuum-packaging machine, above.

Lebanon-NidalRayess-0485 Lebanon-NidalRayess-0517 Lebanon-NidalRayess-0531

Orange peels are first prepped, then added to a hot sugar syrup, stirred regularly as they cook. They smell wonderful!


No jams are being made during our visit, but Nidal does share some of his tips for the astonishingly special apricot jam that both Aiofe and I fall head over heels for.

First, of course, is the selection of the fruit. As most jam makers know, the better the quality of the fruit you start with, the better the finished jam. But Nidal takes this to another level; for his apricot jam, he uses only the ripest half of each fruit, the half that was most bathed in sunlight, as it grew. I daren’t ask what happens to the discarded halves, though I’m sure they are used by someone to make a less magical product! There are also improvements to be made elsewhere in the recipe; Nidal uses three different types of sugar, balanced to contribute just the right flavour and consistency to the jam.

In our tasting of cheeses, labneh and jams we are blown away by the warm, fresh halloumi (better than any I’ve tasted), and the wonderfully creamy labneh (which really brings home why Nidal’s products are a favourite of the Jordanian royal family, no less). But it’s the jam that steals our hearts, and which we happily bring home with us. In fact, Pete and I bought a brand new suitcase, just to ensure we had space for our precious cargo!

Just as in the UK, the Lebanese enthusiasm for top quality artisan food continues to grow. After our day with Nidal and our visit to Abu Kassem’s za’atar farm, it’s not hard to see why.

Lebanon is a beautiful country to visit – striking landscapes, ancient history, a warm and welcoming people and some really fantastic food. Go! See you for yourself!

Herbal Happiness: Apple & Lemon Verbena Jelly

This is a beautiful jelly, both in appearance and taste. The flavours of fruit and herb come through clearly, and a gentle aroma too.

As a preserving addict, I knew I wanted to make some apple jelly with the kilo of cooking apples from our allotment tree. We also had a small handful of Cox’ Orange Pippins left from the small tree we planted in the back garden last year. We’d enjoyed a few of these sweet, crisp, richly flavoured apples every night for some weeks after harvesting them, but the last few in the fruit bowl had started to wrinkle. To these we added 2 British apples from the supermarket, also past their best.

An interview with garden designer Robert Stoutsker, during a recent visit to London Syon Park hotel, resulted in his gifting me a generous bag of lemon verbena cuttings. A few of these Pete planted (and am pleased to see some of these growing successfully) but the rest I dried and stored in a bottle in my spice and herb rack.

I’ve been thinking of making mint jelly this way for the longest time, but the lemon verbena snuck in first.

Kavey’s Apple & Lemon Verbena Jelly

Lemon verbena leaves

Note: You won’t know how much sugar you need until you’ve cooked the apples down and strained the juice. For each litre of juice, you’ll need approximately 750 grams of sugar, adjusting to taste and according to how sharp your apples are.

Note: As apples are naturally high in pectin, an apple jelly doesn’t require any added pectin. If you adapt this recipe for other fruits you may need to add lemon juice or pectin to help achieve a set.


  • Halve the smaller apples, chop the larger ones into quarters or eighths. You don’t need to peel or core them, as the skin and pips contain lots of pectin, which will help your jelly to set.


  • Place chopped apples into a large pan and add water to about two thirds of the way up the apples.
  • Cook the apples on a medium heat until they disintegrate completely. Add more water if the mixture is looking dry and might catch.
  • If some of the apples don’t break down, give them a helping hand. I used a potato masher towards the end of cooking, as some of the apples were firmer than the rest.
  • Pour the cooked pulp into a muslin straining bag or cloth. Either tie closed and hang over a pan or, as I did, place into a colander inside a pan, so that the juices can easily run down. I left mine to strain overnight, with a clean towel loosely covering everything.


  • To avoid cloudy jelly, resist the urge to squeeze the pulp to extract extra liquid. *
  • Discard the pulp (on your compost heap or into your green bin).
  • At this stage, if you think your juice may be too thin and watery, boil to reduce volume. Mine was a fairly thick but easy pouring juice, similar in consistency to single cream.
  • Measure the juice and put into a large pan, with caster sugar. Use 750 grams of sugar per litre of juice, adjusting for your volume of juice.
  • Add lemon verbena leaves. If using fresh, add a small scattering of leaves and taste after the first few minutes of boiling, adding more if the flavour isn’t coming through. I had previously dried my lemon verbena leaves, reducing their potency greatly, so ended up adding over 100 shrivelled leaves, in order to impart my desired level of flavour.
  • Boil the juice and sugar hard. I use a jam thermometer to make sure I reach 104 °C (219 °F).
  • Test for set. I put a plate into the freezer before I start cooking the jelly. When I reach the required temperature, I put a teaspoon of jelly onto the plate and pop it back into the freezer for 20 seconds. After I get it back out, I push my finger through it to see if it wrinkles. If so, the jelly is done. If not, I cook for longer.
  • Pour your hot jelly through a strainer, to remove the lemon verbena leaves. I ladle mine into a heat-resistant Pyrex jug and then pour into hot sterilised jars. I sterilise my jars in the oven (and boil the lids at the same time, draining them onto a clean tea towel). Pouring the jelly into the jars while it and they are still hot minimises the risk of the glass cracking from a sudden and extreme change in temperature.


As apples are high in pectin, the jelly achieved a great set and is a beautiful colour, with tiny flecks of lemon verbena leaves suspended throughout.

I’m looking forward to enjoying this on breakfast toast, but as it has a lovely herby flavour, I may also try it as an alternative to mint jelly next time I have roast lamb.

* I hate waste, so once the cooked apple had finished dripping through the muslin, I set the clear juice aside and then pressed and squeezed the remaining pulp to release quite a bit more juice. This was much cloudier than the rest, so I used it to make a second batch of jelly in a smaller pan. To this one I added very hot chilli powder instead of lemon verbena. Although the single jar of chilli jelly is not as clear as the lemon verbena, it’s perfectly attractive and tastes great.

Plum Jelly: Sunshine In A Jar

Although we’ve not achieved as much as we’d hoped over at the new allotment (which we took on this time last year) we have enjoyed harvesting fruits from the existing trees and bushes.

Our plum tree gave us a fair crop of juicy sweet fruit.


I’m glad we picked nearly all of them on one day as, when we returned just a few days later to collect any remaining, we found they’d been shrivelled up by brown rot.

I had a hankering to make plum jelly just like my mum makes. When I was growing up, we had plum trees in the back garden, so she’d make some every year.

Plum Jelly

Pectin or lemon juice (optional)

Note: You won’t know how much sugar you need until you’ve cooked the plums down and strained the juices. For each litre of juice, you’ll need a kilo of sugar.

Note: If your plums are a little tart, or you include some slightly unripe ones in the mix, you probably won’t need to add extra pectin. However, if all the plums are very ripe, additional pectin may be needed. This can be added in powdered or liquid form, or via lemon juice, which is naturally high in pectin, or you can use jam sugar, which has extra pectin.


  • Halve the plums. I find this quick and easy to do by drawing a sharp knife right around each plum and then twisting both halves in opposite directions; the halves come apart easily.


  • Place halved plums into a large pan, leaving the skins on and stones in.
  • Add just enough water to cover most of the plums. (It’s better to be frugal with water and add more during the cooking down process – add too much and your resulting juice will be too thin).


  • Cook down the plums until they disintegrate completely. Add more water only if the mixture is looking dry and might catch.


  • Pour the cooked pulp into a muslin straining bag or cloth. Either tie closed and hang over a pan or, as I did, place into a colander inside a pan, so that the juices can easily run down. I left mine to strain overnight, with a clean towel loosely covering everything.

PlumJelly-9767 PlumJelly-9769

  • To avoid cloudy jelly, resist the urge to squeeze the pulp to extract extra liquid.
  • Discard the pulp (on your compost heap or into your green bin).


  • At this stage, if you think your juice may be too watered down, boil to reduce volume.
  • Do a pectin test if you think you might need to boost the pectin before making the jelly.
  • Measure the juice and put into a large pan, with caster sugar. Use a kilo of sugar per litre of juice, adjusting for your volume of juice.


  • If you need to add pectin, add it now (or use jam sugar, which has extra pectin).
  • Boil the juice and sugar hard. I use a jam thermometer to make sure I reach 104 °C (219 °F).
  • Pour your hot jelly into hot sterilised jars. I sterilise my jars in the oven (and boil the lids at the same time, draining them onto a clean tea towel). Pouring the jelly into the jars while it and they are still hot minimises the risk of the glass cracking from a sudden and extreme change in temperature. Actually, I ask Pete to do the pouring as holding large jugs of very hot liquid scares me!

PlumJelly-9775 PlumJelly-9778

My finished jelly is a soft set, as I chose not to add any extra pectin.

It’s delicious, and has such a gorgeous colour, tinged pink from the skins of the fruit.

I used some recently to glaze a home-made blackberry, raspberry and banana fruit tart. It worked beautifully. And of course, it’s lovely on toast or scones. And I bet it’d be nice between two layers of soft sponge cake…


My Beautiful Fruit Tart with Blackberries, Golden Raspberries, Bananas and Chocolate

The yellow raspberries I harvested from the allotment recently were so beautiful I wanted to make something pretty enough to do them justice. Having filled a couple of tubs with blackberries too, a fruit tart seemed an ideal way of putting both to good use.

I’ve peered through the windows of countless patisseries, admiring the artful creations – fruit oh so neatly arranged over crème pâtissière, in little pastry cases. I’ve eaten a fair few too. But until now, I’ve never remotely considered making my own.


A quick Google revealed thousands of recipes, but I liked the quick and easy nature of a James Martin recipe for French fruit tart, which I used as a starting point.

Blackberry, Golden Raspberry, Banana and Chocolate Fruit Tart

Adapted from a James Martin recipe

packet ready-rolled puff pastry (approximately 400 grams)
1 egg, beaten
50 grams dark chocolate
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
170 ml double cream
170 ml fresh custard
small punnet blackberries
small punnet raspberries
1 banana, halved lengthwise and then thinly sliced
4 tablespoons plum jelly (I used some I’d made a week or so earlier, from allotment plums)

FruitTart-9824 FruitTart-9827 FruitTart-9828


  • Preheat the oven to 200 C.
  • Divide the ready rolled puff pastry according to the size and number of tarts you want to make. I divided my sheet into two.
  • Lay the puff pastry rectangles on a baking tray covered with either a silicon baking mat or baking paper.
  • Using a sharp knife, score a frame around the edge, making sure you don’t cut the pastry all the way through and prick the base of the tart (excluding the border) with a fork.


  • Brush the border with a wash of beaten egg.


  • Bake the pastry until golden brown and crisp (20-25 minutes).
  • Remove from the oven and allow to cool.


  • Once cooled, gently press the centre of the pastry down to leave a raised frame around the edge.

FruitTart-9834 FruitTart-9836

  • Melt the chocolate using short bursts of 10-20 seconds in a microwave, or using the traditional bain marie technique.
  • Brush the melted chocolate over the bottom of the pastry. Be delicate as a heavy hand will cause layers of the pastry to come loose and shift.


  • Leave to the side to allow the chocolate to set.
  • In the meantime, mix the vanilla extract into the double cream and whip to stiff peaks. Fold the custard into the whipped cream.

FruitTart-9829 FruitTart-9830

  • Spoon and spread the cream mixture over the pastry base.


  • Arrange the fruit on top as you like.


  • Heat the plum jelly and, using a pastry brush, glaze the fruit generously but gently.


  • Allow the tart to set before serving.


The tart was magnificent, if I do say so myself, and by far the prettiest thing I’ve made, even though I know it looks messy next to the work of skilled patisserie makers, amateur and professional alike.

I was particularly happy with the invisible chocolate layer which added both a thin layer of solid bite and a lovely flavour too.

And the plum jelly worked better than I could have hoped for as a thick, protective and glossy glaze.

I was a little too free-handed when adding the custard (hence the amounts above). I’d adjust the ratios slightly back in favour of the whipped double cream, to give a slightly stiffer texture to the finished cream filling. It tasted fabulous but was a touch runnier than ideal.

Other than that, I can’t wait to make these again with whatever berries and fruits I have to hand.

Jamming With Carla!

Somehow, in the space of less than a year, I’ve transformed into an earnest WI type before my own eyes. That’s not an insult to Women’s Institute members – I think local social clubs offering talks, cookery demonstrations, craft workshops and cake cook-offs are actually pretty cool*. But I have in mind here the (no doubt very out-of-date) stereotype of the diligent and industrious jam and cake maker.

It’s a shock. Who’d ever have thought I’d become so addicted that I’d start to feel the itch of withdrawal if I didn’t preserve anything for a few weeks? Not me! But that’s what’s happened!

In June last year, excluding childhood days in the kitchen helping mum make strawberry jam after a day at the PYO farm (approximately 30 years ago and I really wasn’t much help!) I had never made my own jam or chutney or marmalade or ketchup or pickle! But I started with a bang when my mum, my cousin and I got to work making a marvellous selection of goodies for my one-off market stall. And then I made numerous pickles, chutneys, ketchups and jams, mainly from produce in the garden (and a gift box of mangoes). I only blogged a couple of those!

So, now, even though market day has long since come and gone I still have a larder full of jars! Pete has reached a point where he glares at me if I suggest making anything else, especially since I tend to rope him in to help me!

But when a fellow food blogger friend of mine tweeted about making clementine and rosewater marmalade, I couldn’t help but sigh wistfully and wish I were joining her. And to my delight, Carla (who canbebribedwithfood) invited me over to hers for a Sunday of making jam and flapjacks together. Bliss! Instead of deciding in advance exactly what jams we’d make I went fruit shopping the day before to buy whatever looked lovely and was well-priced. Carla would provide brunch and the makings of (some very good) flapjacks!

On a bit of a whim, I bought a 2 kilo box of fresh lychees (thinking they’d go ever so nicely with Carla’s rosewater, even though I’d never heard of lychee jam and had no idea whether it would work). And I bought 2 kilos of apricots, seduced by the idea of a traditional French confiture d’abricot which I do so love on fresh crusty white baguette with slatherings of good butter!

After a very fine brunch indeed of freshly baked, home-made parmesan cheese muffins (it was Cheese Sunday!) and oeufs en cocotte with smoked salmon, leeks and crème fraiche we got to work.

Peeling lychees to eat is quick. I know this because I can sit and go through a bag of them in next to no time, peeling the skin in seconds, popping the whole fruit into my mouth and evicting the little brown stone moments later. Peeling and chopping lychees to go into jam, and trying to remove that dark brown tough little bit of skin on the inside, is a pain in the proverbial! But before too long we had a kilo of chopped lychee plus the juice from our chopping boards that we also poured into the pan.

Slightly alarmed, the night before Jam Sunday, by the lack of lychee jam recipes I could find on the interwebs, I’d twittered for help tracking down more recipes and gratefully received the advice to search in French on confiture de litchis, as this is a very popular jam in French-speaking places such as Réunion. Bingo! Carla and I cobbled together amounts from reading a few of the recipes I’d bookmarked and got cooking (see below for weights/ ingredients). The lychee fruits took a long time to soften, and never broke down as much as some fruits do, but the mass of fruit and sugar did, eventually, produce 4 jars of rather tasty lychee and rosewater jam. We added the rosewater in right at the end, just before bottling.

Stoning, halving and dicing the apricots was far, far quicker work. We left the skin on as it was so soft. The apricots were quite sharp – just right for jam making as we both like apricot jam with a good balance between sweet and sharp. Again, we amalgamated a number of online recipes and it wasn’t long before apricots, sugar, lemon juice and pectin were cooking away on the stove top. (Again, see below for weights/ ingredients).

Whilst the apricot jam cooked, Carla made the flapjacks and popped them into the oven. As she bottled the finished jam (which tasted just like the traditional french jam I had been dreaming of) I screwed on the lids. Unfortunately, one popped open on me just as I’d closed it, the burning jam spilled out and lead to my dropping the open jar onto the floor. Whilst it landed almost upright, globules of hot jam shot into the air and all over Carla’s worktop and washing machine, splattered my hair, my apron, my (dry-clean) cardigan sleeves, my jeans and the floor and Carla’s arms too. I was shocked to find so much jam still in the jar when I rescued it back up onto the worktop! Gah! How embarassing – first time visiting a friend’s house, being invited to share her kitchen, and splashing hot jam all over it! As anyone who has met Carla will know, she’s very sweet and gracious and she completely took it in her stride and we’d soon finished filling the rest of the jars, a whopping 14 of them!

Still, sitting in the living room and eating hot, freshly baked flapjacks made from burnt honey and dark brown sugar… oh that was wonderful! And even better, I went home with a bag of flapjacks, 7 jars of apricot jam, 2 of lychee and rosewater jam and one of Carla’s clementine and rosewater marmalade, swapped for a jar of my nectarine and amaretto jam!

Thank you, Carla, for a lovely day!

Lychee & Rosewater Jam

1 kilo lychee
600 grams sugar
juice of one orange
rosewater (to taste)

Apricot Jam

2 kilos apricot flesh
1800 grams sugar (or to taste, depending on ripeness of apricots)
juice of 2 lemons (or to taste, depending on ripeness of apricots)

*During the writing of this blog post, I’ve actually visited the WI website. I’d like to find out more with a view to potentially joining!

Mango & Lime Jam

It’s always nice when friends show both imagination and an understanding of what you’re about when choosing gifts for you, so I was touched by the gift of a box of 6 fat red-green mangoes as part of an anniversary present last weekend. (Don’t worry, these friends know us both well, the present included a bottle of Port for Pete!)

The variety of mangoes seemed best suited to preserving but, having made a green tomato and raisin chutney only last week, I decided to go for the sweeter option of jam. Lime has a wonderful affinity with mango, I find. So mango and lime jam it was!

Mango & Lime Jam
1.5 kilos of mango flesh
1.5 kilos of sugar
Juice of 6 limes
Zest of 6 limes
1 packet pectin powder

Ingredients Notes
Even with the lime juice, the jam is very sweet. You may want to reduce the sugar by up to a third.
I use a small sharp knife, not a zester, to peel the zest from citrus, so I get virtually all of the zest off each lime. If you’re using one of a zester or grater, which leaves a lot of green behind, you may want to use the zest from more limes.


  • Peel the mangoes and remove as much of the flesh as possible. Roughly dice and weigh. (Adjust the amounts of the other ingredients to match the weight of mango flesh).
  • Mix the mango and sugar in a bowl and leave in the fridge for about an hour (or longer).
    This helps draw some of the juices out of the mango flesh.
  • Zest and juice the limes.
  • Chop the zest into small pieces.
  • Place all the ingredients into a large pan and bring to the boil.
  • Continue boiling until you achieve a set.
    (Either use a jam thermometer or the cold plate wrinkle test to check for a set).
  • Bottle into hot sterilised jam jars and sterilised lids.

Note: a few months after I made this jam, we cracked open a jar (in March) and found that the lime has given the jam a really savoury flavour! It works well as a sweet-savoury condiment with cheese and I reckon it’d be nice with popadoms too!