autumn, blackberry picking, cordial, domesticity, foraging, free food, heart and home, jam, jam making, life lessons, memories, preserves, recipe, recipies, september, What's cooking


I love September it gives me a sense of connection at no other time of year, although it heralds the start of Autumn for me it is all about new beginnings.

I remember that excitement of walking to school again after the long summer holidays with a spring in my step the anticipation of a new class teacher or that sense of excitement when you step over the threshold of your senior school for the first time. I only have to close my eyes and I am walking through the piles of crunchy leaves smelling the crisp fresh air of September as I tread the path to school. September was a time when you were given new fresh exercise books and also where you were determined to ‘write neatly’ to preserve the beauty of the notebooks. I am sure the sheer delight I have in buying a vast and wide selection of notebooks harps back to this.

The other joy of this time of year is jam making and blackberry picking. We used to blackberry pick as children, enjoying the free food harvest and my mother would appreciate us bringing back plastic boxes laden with fruit to be made into blackberry and apple crumble. It was while I was out one day I came across an extraordinary woman, who I think influenced me more than any other. She took us back to her small victorian cottage where in her pieced together kitchen, a far cry from my Mother’s immaculate but hardly used fitted one, she taught us things like jam making, candid peel and cordials. Her garden was full of vegetables waiting to be picked sitting on her threadbare chaise long one afternoon after stirring the Christmas pudding, I think I decided this was how I wanted to live my life. It was a taste of domestic bliss. I knew she wasn’t as rich as we were as a family, her house was small and scruffy whereas ours was pristine and glossy, yet, I would have done anything to live in that small house with her. I think she was my inspiration and I do feel connected with her every time I make jam or bake a cake but especially when I pick blackberries because that was how we met.

I made both jam and raspberry syrup with my hoard, this jam is a pot full of memories spending a lovely warm sunny afternoon picking the raspberries chatting to my friend Trish. We were inspired by the talk by Rosemary Moon gave at the Blakes Belles the previous Monday. Rosemary made a couple of pounds of jam as well as apple curd and pickles within the space of an hour or so. She also told us about the Apple Festival coming up at West Dean I am really looking forward to going, not only do they do some wonderful courses, but they have the most beautiful grounds I have been told. Rosemary Moon’s website is a sheer delight and if you are looking for recipes that really do work well then I can recommend it. She really does know her stuff, and had us all giggling. I love it when we can be inspired by others.

The other joy of September is that I feel the excitement building for Christmas, I love planning and cooking and making things for the Celebration and it is a wonderful three months, but then that is another post.

Happy jam making!

domestic, heart and home, home made, jam making, lemon curd, lemons, marmalade, oranges, preserves, recipe, recipies, What's cooking

Oranges and lemons

 I love marmalade but the best bit for me is the thickly cut rind, and it seems that no matter how expensive the make of marmalade it is more jelly than fruit. 

I like to make my own marmalade, and often double up the number of oranges to make it extra fruity. Hartley’s do a  very good marmade, which makes up to 6lb and great value and usually makes it very successful, but I add my own oranges. 

Cut 8 large oranges in half, and extract the juice and then put the oranges in a large maslin pan, cover them with water and bring to the boil for around an hour and a half. Switch off then allow to cool. 

Take the orange halves and scrape out the inner segments and scrape out the white pith. Chop the rind either thinly or thickly to your preference. Using the directions on the marmade, but instead of water use the juice, it really brings out the orange flavour. You can also use jam sugar which has added pectin if you wish, this will help the marmalade set. 

I have been trying out different recipes for cheesecakes, I know the cooked cheesecake is the best for flavour, but no matter how hard I try the biscuit base ends up soggy. so I decided to try a non cook cheese cake using cream and muscapone but to bring out the real flavour of lemons I made some lemon curd. Make the usual digestive biscuit base. It really does make a great mix for a lovely lemon cheese cake, just fold into thick cream and muscapone, mix and then pour on top for a lovely lemony flavour. Home made lemon curd tastes so much nicer than commercial types. zest four lemons, add to 5 and a half ounces of melted butter. Add lemon juice and 1 lb of granulated sugar, heat gently until the sugar has melted and then add four beaten eggs. Stir constantly until the curd thickens up and then put in sterilised jars. 

Will keep up to a month, but keep in the fridge once opened. Of course the lemon cheesecake won’t last long at all!