Preparing for Christmas Part 1

Yes, I know. The very title could get me lynched. Yet, it is simply imperative that I tell you this now: for these are really wonderful gifts that need a few months to mature to become outstanding! I am dividing this into two posts; as I have pointed out before, I am not known for my brief, concise explanations…

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 Fruit-y Gifts:

We are very blessed with abundance in all things, and at the minute, the raspberries are really giving it welly. In the past week, we have picked over 11 kgs: two nights ago, we picked 4 and a half kgs, our best yet! (I am a jam jar snob: enabled mostly by my friend Susan who keeps lovely jars for me, so I have a super collection of Bonne Maman jars; jam just tastes nicer from a nice jar!! The non-Bonne Maman jars will be labelled very nicely and I have circles of paper or fabric to cap them off, so the non conforming shape doesn’t put me off my scones)

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I have made jam, jars and jars of it (more on that in another post) and many Victoria Sponges, filled with fruit and cream; tarts: custard and raspberry and lemon and raspberry, and we eat bowls of these ruby delights a day. I went looking for other ways to preserve, and had an epiphany. A few weeks ago I was in visiting my friend Fiona, and she made the most delicious salad dressing using raspberry vinegar. At the time I said “oh, I must remember to make some of that when the raspberries ripen” and promptly forgot. Until I was searching through my cookbooks, and came upon a super recipe for Raspberry Vinegar in Oded Schwartzs “Preserving” book. It is still soaking, so no photos of beautifully bottled vinegar yet! The process is so simple, and I’m hoping the result will be as fragrant and lovely as in my memory.

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Raspberry Vinegar (Oded Schwartz)

1.25 (2 pints) cider or white wine vinegar (I used cider: Biona Organic Apple Cider Vinegar)

1kg (2lbs) ripe raspberries (or strawberries)

Bring the vinegar to the boil in a non corrosive pan and boil rapidly for 1-2 minutes. Remove from the heat and leave to cool to 40’C (104’F)

Pour the warm vinegar over the berries (hull and finely chop strawberries in the food processor; I half crushed the raspberries in the pot)

Cover with a clean cloth and leave to stand in a warm place (like a sunny windowsill) for 2 weeks,  stirring occasionally.

Strain the vinegar through a jelly bag/ muslin, pour into sterilised bottles then seal.

This is ready to use immediately, but the flavour improves with keeping (I’m planning to leave mine for four or five weeks in the vinegar) As Oded reminds us: “Although the flavour of fruit vinegars improves with keeping, their colour will eventually fade and turn brown”

Frankly, I don’t think anyone will mind, once a bottle of this organic, matured delicacy is between their little fists! And going back to the jam: I don’t think anything can match the flavour of homemade jam (even those jars that are a little more runny than hoped) and in making preserves and vinegars now, you can be assured of a cache of excellent gifts for giving (if you haven’t eaten it all by then of course :-) )

 

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