Back in London, Second half August 2020

Back in London, meant grocery shopping. I’m completely Off the idea. Hello, Online, here I come again.

Firstly, Watts Farm, and I am in love with Watts Farm. Apart from going to a Farm shop, where else do you find, home grown Baby Gem lettuce with soil on ? And nowadays, all the fruit ( and vegetables) sold in the supermarket fits into the supermarkets set criteria, carrots of a certain length, tomatoes a certain size, no wonky apples or potatoes. So what did I find on the Watts Web site, basically windfall apricots! Joy oh Joy.

Why the Joy? I always make Jam whilst in France in the summer, but this year I failed miserably, due in part to having my three eldest grandkids and parents with us for 5 wonderful weeks. We lived in our remote family bubble and it was fun.

Why do I have to make Apricot Jam?

Well, historically soon after we were married ( like the next week) Himself decamped to work in Germany and I flew off to Hong Kong and various other places. Breakfast in his hotel consisted of Brötchen ( lovely bread rolls) along with Apricot Jam. Fast forward 3 years and He is now with a different company and is working in France and staying in the company hotel, in the wilds of Normandy. Days long before internet, days long before self dial on a telephone, I tried telephoning , via the operator. Unfortunately I did not have a telephone number, but I did have the name of the hotel, or so I thought. Operator, please connect me to the Hotel, Les Célibataires, the Bachelors. No such hotel I am told. No, the hotel was actually called, Hôtel de la Petit Campagne, but called otherwise, because the only people allowed to stay there, were the young ( male) engineers. And guess what was for breakfast? Apricot Jam this time with baguette and croissants. The rule regarding who could stay there, changed soon after, when I stayed there as well, along with two small daughters! I remember one Christmas party held at the hotel. I was very pregnant and then it was acceptable to drink, as the waiters constantly filled my glass, with the words ” Pour Le Bébé. The hotel no longer exist !

So, I had almost two kilos of the equivalent of Windfall apricots and therefore it was Jam making time.

Jam is very easy to make, just a couple of things to watch. Jam sets at 220 F, 104C.

Don’t think that you can turn the heat up high and in no time at all it will be at the right temperature, because it won’t and in the meantime you will have a burnt on mess in the bottom of your pan. A cooking thermometer is a good investment.

Basically for most fruits it is equal quantities of fruit and sugar. Again it is possible to buy preserving sugar as this has added pectin to help the jam set more easily. Some fruits contain enough pectin naturally whilst others , like strawberries need a little help, usually in the form of added lemon juice.

Wash clean and destone the fruit. Put in a sturdy pan along with the sugar, juice ( and zest if wanted ) of one or two lemons or limes. Bring to the boil slowly and let it bubble away , stirring from time to time, until the correct temperature is reached. Using a thermometer, takes away any guess work. Remove from the heat and add about 2 Oz of butter, this will get rid of any foam that might have formed.

Meanwhile you will have sterilised your jars. Using a microwave overnight is a good way to do this. Half fill one jar with water , put in a microwave on high and let the water in the jar come to the boil. Remove, being careful and tip out the water and drain the jar on paper towel, leave upside down until ready to use. For the lids, put into a bowl and cover them with boiling water until ready to use.

Making sure the jars are clean and dry, ladle the jam into the jars and seal immediately with the dry lids, wipe off any spillage and leave to cool. When cool clean the outside of the jars, label and store!So if you fancy giving it a go, combined with a walk in the countryside, go blackberrying, and make some Bramble Jam, good luck !

La Vie est Simple ( August 2020)

La vie est simple, especially when in the French Alps. We escaped to France only after Boris ( our prime minister) said we could. Unfortunately this was to be rescinded fairly quickly, but never mind. Here we were isolated living in our extended family bubble. Daughter, Son in Law and three grandchildren aged 5- 12 ( almost 13 as he reminded us constantly).

Popi was on Breakfast duty , nothing too much trouble, but usually pancakes maybe scrambled eggs or fried eggs on toast. Me, for the most part on dinner duty , feeding 7 on a daily basis long forgotten.

Son in Law worked from home, commandeered one bedroom for his office and worked 12 hour days. Willowy blond also worked from home but made the most of her credentials to do some press trips whilst here. Mountain biking, ( many bruises) trip to Les Arcs with the kids, foraging, hiking, bivouacking with the big kids deep in the forest and Paragliding. What an adventure filled summer for them. Not forgetting the lacs, for swimming, boating, paddle boarding and the socially distanced WiBit, a giant bouncy castle thing in the middle of a lake. Dave’s gym ( private) came in very useful for the parents as did long distance swimming in the beautiful Lac de Montriond or running to the top of Mont Chery

Our occupation other than grandkids was some golf, usually on the top of our mountain in which the challenge is to see how many balls one doesn’t lose !

But seriously La Vie est Simple here. A hamlet of 10 houses up 7 hairpins. Somewhere, where in times past was the norm, doors are not locked and windows left open.

Normally whilst here in the summer I would make jam of some sort. However jam stocks are fairly high and inspiration was when #1 daughter gave me the goods found on her foraging trip. Rowan Berries. Rowan trees are everywhere and at this time of year adorned in orange berries. Beautiful in the winter as well, as the berries have turned red and look stunning when the trees are snow covered.

Unbeknownst to me, these berries make a wonderful jelly which is best served with game such as venison. Consequently I had to make some with the donated berries. As with all jam making it is not difficult and a jam thermometer makes life much easier.

I used equal quantities of berries, apples and sugar , about the same amount of water and the juice of two lemons.

Pick over the berries, cut the apples but do not peel, as the peel contains pectin essential for setting. Put the fruit, juice and water into a pan and simmer gently until the fruit is really soft. Pour into a Jelly bag and let it drain. No Jelly bag, no problem and pair of clean old tights will do the job just as well. Leave the fruit draining and dripping until it drips no more. Pour the juice into a saucepans add the sugar and heat to approximately 100 C. Watch out that it doesn’t boil over, easily done!!!

Skim the jelly, and pot in sterilised jars as quickly as possible.

Then eat with either some game, or with cheese! Sounds good to me, next summer I’ll go foraging myself!