Tag Archives: preserving

Lemon & Juniper

IMG_0237

Six lemons from Spain, unwaxed (but treated with Imazalil, Pyrimethanil, Orthophenylphenol, which I try to scrub off, like the world’s sins, under running water).

IMG_0235

Three tablespoons of juniper berries – that smell like old libraries, venerable and hushed, until I crush them (in a bag on the floor with the wooden rolling pin) and then the scent’s of gin – heady, territorial, a smidgeon of fox.

IMG_0239

I cut the lemons into pale half moons, spoked and floating in their own juice.  Half a jug of water and a good splash of actual gin (‘distilled in London to a secret recipe’) – and a quick nip for the cook, who has this January such a longing to slice and simmer and sweeten, to preserve – keep ‘five 300 ml jars’ of the world on my pantry shelf and give it away and spoon it onto toast till my mouth sparks with hearth and hillside, the moon cooked.

IMG_0240.jpg

Forty minutes and the kitchen’s nothing if not lemony.  All my thoughts are yellow and I am singing ghazals, rinsing jars fit for a king, adding the sugar – a whole bag made from beets farmed in Bury St Edmunds.  It’s bubbling now (think cauldron), slurping and shapeshifting, a life of its own.  My kitchen smells like a factory, a distillery, as if it belongs entirely to the silver pot on the stove.

photo

And then a stillness, as the amber concoction cools before I pour it, stickily, into the jars.  Licking the spoon, my tongue tingles with citrus and another latitude entirely.  We have travelled far – but all that labour and summoning and only three scant jars.

 

Thanks to Yotam Ottolenghi for this and all his wonderful recipes.

 

 

Tagged , , , , ,

Blackberrying

photoAll stained and scarred from an afternoon picking backberries from the hedgerows hereabouts.  Last year’s crop were transformed into vodka and vinegar, still in the pantry.  This year I think I’ll make some jelly to join them.  I’m less interested in the eating and drinking than the collecting – a ritual of the season ever since we walked upright.   Jane Grigson’s wonderful Fruit Book tells us ‘when a neolithic burial was excavated at the beginning of this century on the Essex coast, there was about a pint of seeds found in the area of the stomach – with blackberry seeds predominating.’

The poems I always turn to are Sylvia Plath’s moody Blackberrying –

The high, green meadows are glowing, as if lit from within.

I come to one bush of berries so ripe it is a bush of flies,

Hanging their bluegreen bellies and their wing panes in a Chinese screen.

The honey-feast of the berries has stunned them; they believe in heaven.   

…and Seamus Heaney’s childhood evocation in Blackberry-picking – you can watch a fine reading of it here.  

You ate that first one and its flesh was sweet

Like thickened wine: summer’s blood was in it

Leaving stains upon the tongue and lust for

Picking. Then red ones inked up and that hunger

Sent us out with milk cans, pea tins, jam-pots

Where briars scratched and wet grass bleached our boots.

photo

Those two poems cast a long shadow – it’s never seemed necessary to say anything more.  But I did write a Hedgerow Jelly poem a few years ago, which some foraging friends of mine used as a recipe to make some of their own and then gave me a jar as a gift.  A perfect exchange.

Hedgerow Jelly

The morning seemed ordinary

until she lifted the sieve of fruit – each berry

plucked from the hedgerows, ‘goodly

amounts’ of hawthorn and rosehip, according to the recipe

necessary

for pectin to set the jelly,

tumbled with apples from the city –

and dripping through the muslin was ruby,

pure and concentrated autumn, fiery,

bloody,

waiting for sugar and another boiling, bubbly

and foaming, till she wanted to dive into the beautifully

maroon confection bursting into life in the shiny

saucepan, her whole kitchen rich and smelly

with harvest bounty

she skimmed and poured into jars, steamy

with anticipation, fumes rising billowy

and sweet, like the spills, sticky,

she licked from her fingers before holding her trophy –

three glinting garnet jars, lovely –

up to the light, too rosy

to seal in with a label saying its name so plainly

 

Tagged , , , , ,