Saturday, August 20, 2022

Jam Season

I don't know where the time is going right now. Between work, the Powder and Patch Readalong, trying to catch up on a backlog of reading, knitting, and all the other bits of life my days just disappear. I have finally got a small pile of read (instead of half-read) books sitting on my desk, but it's almost 8pm, I'd dearly love to spend the rest of the night knitting and watching The Sandman - but I've just finished simmering some damsons and apples ready for jelly making and have a couple of other kitchen jobs to tackle.

After that, I need to prep the next 3 read-along chapters because I'm at work all day tomorrow, and then I need to get to bed in good time to be woken up by the antisocial builders working on replacing cladding to the university halls of residence across the way. For reasons, they do something noisy to scaffolding every morning from around 7am. I know from days off that by about 10am it's nice and quiet again but it's too late to be useful. 

I'm not a morning person, and whilst I'm a big fan of flammable cladding being got rid of, I'd really like it if they started an hour later. The hour between 7 and 8am has never been a productive one for me - the best I can do is drink coffee and read newspaper headlines/Twitter trends. I'm really looking forward to term starting and the relative quiet of new neighbors. Say what you will about students, they're rarely a nuisance early in the day. Or at all these days outside of the excitement of freshers week. Students have genuinely made great neighbours for almost 18 years now. 

But back to my damsons - they came from a work colleague who was in no way prepared for how enthusiastic I would be about getting them, are beautifully, plumply, ripe and to my mind mark the beginning of autumn. Or perhaps more correctly the Shetland word, hairst which is more of a mix of autumn and harvest - appropriate for a place where August is very definitely the end of summer.

Apparently, we're currently having a 'false Autumn' with trees losing their leaves after the recent extreme heat, it's likely to be followed by a false spring with the possibility of finding more elderflowers (although I see a lot of dead elder trees about in this drought so maybe not) but one way or another August has always felt like the turn of the year to me and maybe this year more than most. It's a year since I got engaged, and found a new job, and the next year looks set to bring equally big changes - and how have I got this far from damsons?

I'm using Diana Henry's Damson and Juniper jelly recipe as a base, but ditching the juniper. She uses apples as well as Damsons, and it was a sign of the times that nowhere had Bramley apples for sale today, the ones I settled on (the ones on offer in Tesco, variety unclear) refused to really soften which is a pain but they'll make the damsons go a bit further anyway so it's fine. I'm going to split the juice between 2 jelly batches tomorrow - 1 will be plain, the other is going to be spiced with cinnamon, star anise, and possibly vanilla.

It's jelly rather than jam because fishing the stones out is such a nuisance and because the boil it strain it boil it approach is reassuring if you're at all squeamish about the possibility of bugs. I am. 


  1. Looks like some lovely fruit for jam/jelly. I will have to check out Henry's recipe. Sounds like you did the right thing to ditch the juniper. I have not had a Brambley apple to know if it is tart or mellow. I have been picking blackberries from my lone plant and freezing them thinking I might make some jam, but I may not have enough to make very many jars. I am disappointed in my grapes this year too. The drought this summer meant they are very small despite what I thought was a lot of watering. They also do not taste very good, so leaving them for the birds or squirrels if they want them. Maybe next year will be better. Hoping my gooseberry bush grows a bit more too. Best wishes on your jam.

    1. It sounds like your grapes might have got sunburnt. What a shame they've been a disappointment