Mother-in-law’s Ruin and the Marrow Jam Off

There’s been some degree of performance anxiety in the house since the great marrow jam disaster of August 09.

We made a minor error of judgement when we told the whole, sorry, sloppy tale to the mother in law. Having triggered a nostalgic memory for jams of old she’s been threatening ever since to pull down her preserving pot and demonstrate culinary majesty over the humble squash.

mrs beeton

Of course I am just too stubborn to roll over and admit that I’m plain useless in the conserve department. Instead of looking forward to a xmas present of beautifully presented preserves, I’ve been hoarding marrows for a future jam off. Not wanting to play my cards too early, they’ve been sitting in the veg rack going musky while I’ve been researching alternative routes to beautifully set jam, courtesy of Mrs Beeton.

Today we got to find out how the mother in law did with her entry into the challenge.

Courgettes are obviously quite popular in her house. By the time she came to prepare them, most had already been roasted and stuffed and the recipe needed to be halved. By the time the peeling, chopping and reckoning had been done it needed to be halved yet again.

Sugar, courgetteĀ  and lemon were left to marinade overnight just as I had done a couple of months earlier. The veg was then boiled and potted and left overnight.

Having just disposed of our runny mass of lumpy syrup, Lynn knew to cut straight to the chase with her line of questioning: “Did it set?”

Did it set?
Set?!
It was like flipping concrete.

Apparently Sheila (said mother in law) couldn’t make an impact on the concrete and unable to remove it from the jar she ended up throwing the whole thing away. The pan took her 2 days to scrub clean and that was after spending the previous 3 days trying to rub away the remains of burnt beetroot.

Maybe now I can relax and consign the flaccid marrow to the compost bin, pride intact.

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Marrow Jam

Today's Veg Box

I’ve been coveting the great round marrow for at least a month, collating assorted round marrow recipes and gathering together the necessary ingredients for marrow jam.

I’ve never tried marrow jam but my Dad informs me that it’s “evocative” and the whole notion made the kids squeal with such horror that I just had to make it.

So the other evening I gathered every knife, saw and axe in the vicinity and set too with courgetty gusto.

I fought valiantly over the first slither but as it fell out onto the chopping board my crest was fallen. Deep orange fleshiness, indicative of a marrow impersonating pumpkin, threatened to scupper my child tormenting breakfast preserve plans.

I remained slumped for a while as the kids hooted and hollered but then I began to perk up some. I had a whole sack of squashy wonders that were earmarked for unsuspecting neighbours and surely a yellow courgette and patty pan jam would be at least as “evocative” as the absent marrow.

Most of the marrow jam recipes available on t’interweb require between 6 and 9lbs of deseeded and peeled squash. That’s way more torment than I required so I began to modify and combine the available combinations and techniques. This could very easily have been my undoing.

I warn all potential jam makers to skim read any recipe like instructions that slip into this post.
Do not repeat.

I started following the methodology from allotment.org.uk, chopping the squash up smallish and covering with a kg of special jam making sugar (complete with pectin) before leaving to do something over night in the fridge.

They came out pretty wet.

I then switched over to bbcgoodfood and continued with the latter stages of their instructions. This involved bagging up lemons carcasses, pips and peel in muslin and boiling away with the sugar and squash mix.

I got called away for an emergency Ikea visitation which delayed the boiling bit for a few hours but I wacked it up high on our return and let it bubble furiously in attempt to turn the courgette chunks mushy. The sugar appeared to caramelise under the assault but the courgettes remained unscathed.

By this point I’d been cooking the jam on and off for 20 hours and I was getting a bit desperate. The gloop wasn’t even remotely interested in setting and the internet suggested I may have destroyed the pectin in the special sugar by over heating. Curses!

I bottled it up regardless and it now sits in the fridge, taunting the children.

Marrow Jam

Two days later it still hasn’t set.
The yellow courgette slices spin happily in a golden yellow amniotic fluid, I think it is taunting me.

I can report that the taste is pretty good actually. Very marmaladey. A sharp gingery lemoness, that is really quite appealing. I may have another go soon but in the meantime I need to concentrate on getting rid of the pumpkin.

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Gooseberry and Rhubarb Jam

The kitchen waste bucket has been overflowing and Shakti was complaining that I haven’t collected hers for a while either and was in a similar state. Compost pressure forced me to get out of bed to go and fix the tyre on my bike so I could take the trailer on a neighbourhood sweep, collecting food waste before heading to the allotment.

It was threatening rain all day but I had a very productive afternoon on the plot. I dug up an entire row of Maris Peer so I could clear some space for another row of peas. I’m risking a late sowing of Kelvedon Wonder as I’m desperate for a taste of the sweet peas of my childhood rather than the starchy offerings I have to put up with at the moment. I’m a little worried about my glut of spuds though, I’ll probably be 3 stone heavier by the end of the summer, I seem to be eating a combination of potato salad and spinach and potato curry for breakfast, dinner and tea.

Radish not Parsnip

I took the cloche off the solitary carrot bed to remove more weeds and discovered that what I thought was lush parsnip growth was actually radish, swollen to elephantine proportions.

Shame I missed out on those, they were too hot to handle at this size and had to go on the compost heap.

I’ve found a couple more carrots in the bed and have replaced the weeds with yet another sowing of carrot seeds. I’ve taken advice from all quarters and followed the following procedure, practically guaranteed to result in a carrot bed worthy of the name:

Fresh Carrot Sowing

Prepare drill
Soak drill thoroughly
Sow the carrot seed
Top off with potting compost
Do not water for a fortnight (to prevent capping)

I like the tram line effect.

I stripped the gooseberry bush bare so I could make jam but thinking there weren’t quite enough fruits to bother with, I pulled a few sticks of rhubarb to bulk it out.

Back home, an exhaustive search of the interweb failed to reveal anything useful on the subject of Rhubarb and Gooseberry jam, although there were plenty of recipes on the individual versions. I considered the possibility that jam makers of the past had tried the combination and declared it vile and constitutionally un-jam-like but rejected the notion and proceeded to knock up my own recipe.

Gooseberry and Rhubarb Jam

It went something along the lines of, 1lb gooseberries, 1lb rhubarb both simmered in juice of 1 lemon and 1/2 pint of water. The resulting puree seemed very watery and I considered draining but didn’t. To this I added 1 bag of sugar (1kg) and then boiled for ages and ages as the damn thing refused to set. I was hoping to boil off enough excess juice to give the setting process half a chance but then I got fed up waiting and wanted my pan back so I could make yet another batch of spinach and potato curry, so just slopped it into my waiting jars.

It’s been a few hours now and it still pours like very runny honey. Tastes damn fine though.

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