I mentioned in Monday’s post that we’ve been relocating Cyclamen hederifolium tubers from the bottom of our garden (the area from which we avert our eyes for the time being) to where we can see them and admire their dainty flowers. Autumn is the best time to move them and, as they’re undemanding little plants, they should cope with the dry, shady conditions near our boundary hedge and spread themselves around.
C. hederifolium flowers are described by the RHS as having ‘large flowers in shades of pink’. Ours are not large – they are 1.5cm at most – but they are pink. I love the way that the stems emerge from each tuber tightly wound up in coils and slowly uncurl to reveal the flowerheads. These, in turn, are folded up like miniature umbrellas and they twist to open. They really are quite beautiful little plants and a welcome sight when the rest of the garden is starting to slow down.
As well as a sprinkling of pink from the Cyclamen, there are other splashes of colour at the bottom of the garden. There’s a large Cotoneaster horizontalis heaving with berries. Is this a sign that we’re in for a very cold winter?
Totally oblivious to the possible big chill ahead, our raspberry plants continue to provide us with scrumptious fruit. I picked another colander-full at the weekend and decided to make jam. Now, I used to think that jam-making was for advanced cooks, something that involved specialist equipment, thermometers and laboratory-style working conditions. But that was before I met my friend Mary, whose passion is preserving, and she dispelled my jam-making fears.
This is Mary’s recipe and it is quite possibly the easiest jam you can make and one to try if you’ve not made jam before. Obviously, if you’re advanced at jam-making just skip the next bit and look at the lovely end result.
Work on the basis of roughly 1kg raspberries to roughly 1kg sugar (or a little less if you like a slightly less-sweet jam, like I do) and the juice of 2 lemons, and you won’t go wrong. My 600g fruit/550g sugar made three 370-g jars of jam. (1kg fruit will make about 6 jars. Have one spare just in case.) You can also make this with frozen raspberries – just cook for about 10 mins in step 2.
Three jars of easy-peasy raspberry jam
600g raspberries, washed to remove bugs etc
550g white granulated sugar
juice of 1 large lemon
a knob of butter
1. Wash your jars and lids in hot, soapy water, rinse well, place them onto a baking tray and into a cold oven. Turn the oven to 150 degrees C. Put a clean saucer into the freezer.
2. Tip your prepared fruit and the lemon juice into a large saucepan (or preserving pan if you have one). Heat gently, stirring occasionally, for about 5–7 minutes.
3. Remove from the heat, add the sugar and stir until the sugar has dissolved, then add the butter.
4. Return the pan to the hob, turn the heat up and cook at a rolling boil (see above) for 5 minutes.
5. Remove the pan from the heat while you test for a set: spoon a blob of the jam onto your cold saucer, pop it back in the freezer for a minute, then push it with your finger. If it wrinkles slightly, you’ve reached setting point. If not, boil again for a few minutes more and test again.
6. When you’ve reached setting point, remove the tray of jars from the oven (they’ll be sterilised after 15–20 minutes in the oven). Carefully ladle jam into each jar, ideally using a funnel to minimise splashes. Put the lids on loosely (you can tighten them as the jars cool). Leave to cool and set completely.
That’s it. Thirty minutes at most and you’ll have delicious, fragrant jam which you will need to hide at the back of a cupboard if you want to save it.