The cookbook that captured my imagination most as a child was my mother's 1979 copy of Jocasta Innes' The Country Kitchen. I knew precisely its position on the shelf, and would pull it down often, poring over the pages, dreaming of the oh-so-soft English light in the kitchen on the cover.
Paging through the book now, with a country kitchen, an orchard (eep!) and a rambling thicket of brambles of my own, it's surprising just how much of it feels like home. Indeed, last time I was in Sydney, it found its way into my bag, and it's been beside me ever since. There's a lot to learn.
blackberry & apple jam
Based on the recipe in Innes' The Country Kitchen. Much as I like jam - jam and tahini on shaggy wholemeal toast is grand (with butter, on the weekend, it is heaven) - variety in the mix is welcomed around here. I tend to make small batches of jams and chutneys to avoid getting bored.
You'll need blackberries and apples, plenty of sugar, some clean jars and a set of scales.
Sterilise the jars first - this link offers a good set of guidelines.
Collect your fruit. More berries than apples will take longer to set. Needless to say, I like more apple than berry. Wash your fruit. Pick over your berries and cut the apples into quarters, skin and all. Place the fruit in a non-reactive saucepan, cover - just - with water, and bring to a slow simmer. Keep simmering until the apples are very soft, and their skins come away easily.
Pour, then press the contents of the saucepan through a fine sieve, extracting as much of the pulp as you can into a bowl. Innes makes a good point about berry seeds in jam being irritating for denture wearers, and even though I'm happily not in that camp, I heartily agree. It's kinda lazy to leave them in, and it's not a lot of trouble to make a really lovely, smooth batch of jam. Anyhoo, weigh the mixture you've just sieved.
Place a saucer in the freezer for set-testing. Pour the sieved fruit into a big non-reactive saucepan, and tip in an equal weight of sugar. Stir to dissolve the sugar, then bring to a rolling, volcanic boil. After 10 minutes, take a teaspoon of the mixture and tip it on to the cold saucer. Pop back into the freezer for a minute. If the liquid wrinkles when you gently push it with your fingertip, the jam is set. If not, keep going and checking every five minutes or so until it does.
Pour into hot, sterilsed jars, seal and invert. Label up, and off you go.