You know how you book into a course and you’re all excited and enthusiastic and you can hardly wait to get there. And you know how sometimes you go to a course and you love every minute of it, take copious notes and you come away from it totally inspired, raring to go and you can’t wait to get started. And you know how quickly time gets away and you haven’t had a chance to use any of your skills and then the things you learnt become more and more vague and before you know it, you’ve pretty much forgotten what the course was even about let alone remember any of the little tricks you learnt. And you know how you get to that point where months later, you think back on that course and regret not using the things you learnt, then you flick through your notes desperately trying to recall information and realise that you’ve forgotten absolutely everything you learnt and you know you’re going to have to start from scratch. Well one of my promises to myself this year is that every time I do a course and spend time learning something new, I’m going to make sure I start applying those skills as soon as possible so I don’t forget what I’ve learnt, so I can develop the confidence to keep going, so I don’t waste good money attending a course I’ll never use.
Well so far this year, that’s exactly what I’ve done and after the preserving course in January I got straight into making a batch of home made tomato sauce using excess tomatoes from our Permaculture garden. It’s been a hit!
Last weekend I turned some hand-picked wild berries into blackberry jam and as I mentioned in my post last week, the blackberries were ‘scrumped’ from a reserve near my work, most of which I froze until I was ready to use them.
For the amount of blackberries I used I added the same weight of sugar (I know I know) and about a cup of lemon juice. I heated this through very slowly until the sugar had dissolved and then brought it to the boil then reduced it to a simmer. No stirring!
After about 30 minutes or so, I started the pectin test by dropping a small teaspoon of mixture onto an icy cold plate. Using the back of a cold teaspoon, you push the drop from the centre towards the outer edge and look for a crinkling effect. If it doesn’t appear, keep simmering and testing but of course like anything, the longer you cook it the more it looses it’s taste.
As soon as the jam was done, I used a small pyrex jug to carefully pour the hot jam into warm sterilised jars. The lids went straight on and I left the jars to cool until the next day. Some will be used by us and some kept as gifts.
I’ve already learnt a few things from this batch as it took much longer to reach setting point than I’d anticipated. But as suggested in the course, I hung in there until the pectin test showed that things were finally working. As I’ve learnt, berries have very low natural pectin and you have to put a bit of lemon juice into the mix to compensate but pectin can also vary depending on how ripe the fruit is. In the end I had to simmer the berries for quite a bit longer than the recipe stated otherwise I would have ended up with the runny jam that I’ve heard many inexperienced people, such as me, complain about.
Probably one of the key messages from the course was to make sure you always have enough time to make jam or preserves because if you’re in a hurry, whatever can go wrong will. Jam is not something you can just stop part way through and restart the next day so no matter how dog tired you are hang in there until it’s finished otherwise, don’t start in the first place.
You’ll be pleased to know I’ve already tracked down my next scrumping target, a ripe fig tree about a kilometre down the road. I’ll have to get in quickly though because another scrumper has already moved in – a Grey-headed Flying Fox I spotted gorging on some fruit the other night but hopefully he’ll leave enough for the two of us.
This coming weekend, Chris and I are heading back to Alexandria in the city to visit Milkwood Permaculture where we’ll be learning all about natural, sustainable bee keeping with one of Australia’s award winning apiarists – Tim Malfroy from Malfroy’s Gold. Can’t wait for that one.
So stay tuned for the next update on….bees in the Permaculture garden.