This entire week has been a blitz of small accomplishments adding up to big accomplishments as we settle into the new place. But the highlights I am happiest with are a few small batches of preserves put up.
I baked a couple loaves of bread, which were not quite disasters but showed me some interesting points of style in this new oven. (Specifically, use only the lower heating element or the top crust will be over-browned and bottom still looking raw.) I made some bread pudding (which cooked over, naturally.)
But I also did four small batches of fruit preserves – rum peach, spiced blackberry syrup and cordial, and red raspberry preserves. We purchased the peaches at the grocer, and the berries at the farmer’s market.
Like every year I do preserves, each batch was a bit of an experiment as I never seem to have exactly the same ingredients and tools to play with. The peaches used demerara sugar instead of light brown sugar, and came out a bit too molassesy. I had enough juice for either the syrup or the cordial, so I split it into half batches which probably did not quite work – I did not have the the whole spices to work with other than the cinnamon stick, so attempted to substitute ground (there will be sediment,) and the syrup half-batch seemed awfully thin going into the jars. I will likely need to thicken later with corn syrup.
The red raspberry preserves were probably the most ‘normal’ of the bunch; I had all the usual ingredients – it is just berries, sugar, and fresh-squeezed lemon juice. The technique is a bit out-of-the-ordinary: the goal is to reduce the mixture to jam very quickly, to retain the colour and fresh taste. You put everything in a bowl and let the sugars start the juices for a few hours, with some very gentle, very occasional stirring. When the sugar is mostly dissolved, pour into a large, deep frying pan. Bring quickly to boil, stirring constantly with a flat-ended spatula or wood utensil (to attempt to avoid mushing everything, which it probably will anyway, but the goal is to try to preserve some of the berry texture/shapes), then boil hard while gently stirring until it passes a jelly test. Once boiling the wide pan surface speeds the process, and it takes only 3-5 minutes before it is thick enough.
Anyway, I have a dozen or so tiny little jars of preserves in my pantry which I put up myself, so it is beginning to feel more like we really live here.