A bucket of prized red plums from Pablo meant one thing: plum jam. We have been spoiled for red plum jam ever since the gift of a single jar from a friend, Ginny. Hers was simply the best-ever plum jam we have tasted and, since then, we have always longed to make our own. So this was our chance. This is a Marguerite Patten recipe and makes 1⅔lb/750g jam. As always when making jam or chutney, pre-prepare your sterilised jar.
450g plums [weight when stoned]
Up to 4 tbsp water
Juice of one lemon [to aid setting, this is our amendment to the recipe]
Halve the fruit and carefully remove the stones. These can be cracked and the kernels added to the jam just before setting point is reach [we didn’t do this]. If the fruit is too firm to halve before cooking, allow 1¼lb/550g fruit and remove the stones once softened. If you do this, you can still use the kernels.
The final stage, recommended by our friend Ginny, is to sieve the jam to remove skin. Finally, spoon into hot sterilised jars, seal and label. About setting point: some jams reach setting point in three to five minutes, especially if you are making a small amount. Always remove the pan from the heat while testing for setting. Spoon a little boiling jam onto a cold plate. Allow the preserve to become cool, then push it with your finger. If the top has set, and the preserve wrinkles when you touch it, it is set. If it wrinkles only slightly, return the pan to the heat and boil it for another one or two minutes before re-testing. 5 to remember
un cubo – a bucket
valorado/a – prized
solo/a – single
un tarro – a jar
mermelada de ciruela – plum jam
‘The Basic Basics Jams, Preserves and Chutneys Handbook’ by Marguerite Patten [pub. Grub Street]
A promise of food to come. Apple crumble.Tarte tatin. Eve’s Pudding.Apple pie. Apple cake. Poached apples with sultanas and cinnamon… for breakfast. An apple… that crunches when I bite into it. Baked apples, core removed and filled with brown sugar and raisins… with custard.
Crusty bread, manchego, and apple chutney.
5 to remember
un pastel – a pie
la crema – the custard [hot sauce]
una pasa – a raisin
una tarta – a tart
una conserva agridulce que se come con queso – a chutney
Click here for the 10 best apple recipes, according to The Guardian.
Woke up this morning to find a present from Pablo on the coffee table on the terrace. A small, very ripe, very sweet-smelling melon. The first this year from our melon patch. Pablo is in the habit of wandering down to our veg patch early in the morning, before the sun hits the soil, to turn the irrigation goma onto the various veggie beds while the soil is cool. The skin is a beautiful yellow and scored with dots.It’s hot and humid today so we decide to try making sorbet. This recipe is adapted from one using limes [which we don’t have] from a great little book called Ice ‘n’ Easy. Makes about 4-6 servings
1 large melon
150g sugar [we used half azúcar morena and half fructosa, as that’s all we had]
Juice of a large lemon [or 2 small limes if you have them] Two to three hours in advance, put the bowl of your ice cream machine into the freezer.
Cut the melon in half and scoop out and discard the seeds. Scoop out the flesh and weigh – you will need about 450g. Tip the melon flesh into a food processor, add the sugar. Blend until smooth.
Add the lemon juice to the melon mixture, blend briefly again in the processor. Transfer to the ice cream machine and churn, according to the instructions of your machine.
Transfer to a plastic box, seal, and freeze until required. It didn’t last long in the freezer. All the adjectives that mean ‘wonderful’ can be applied: wonderful, refreshing, cooling, chilling, exhilarating, etcetera. We ate the whole lot in one day, and are waiting for the next melon to ripen.
5 to remember
el helado – ice-cream
el sorbete – sorbet
la fructosa – frustose
la azúcar morena – brown sugar
las semillas – the seeds
‘Ice ‘n’ Easy’ by Annette Yates
The elderly Spaniard who lived in this house until his death ten years or so ago grew grapes and made wine. Some of his vines survived the re-construction works by the subsequent owners, the people we bought the house from. His vineyard stood on the spot where our predecessors built the swimming pool. Today there are healthy bunches of fruit, insect-free, one of the few fruiting trees to be successful this year. The grapes are small and green, sour to eat. We are debating whether to make wine, but never having done it before we are a little intimidated. Home wine-making conjures up memories of my brother gathering elderflowers from bushes lining the lanes in East Yorkshire where we grew up, memories of cloudy slightly musty liquid in glass demijohns and one time, an explosion. Elderflower champagne sounded so grand, in the 1960s.
I guess we should leave the grapes on the vine through the summer so they can be sweetened by the sun, I have a vague idea that’s what happens with sauternes. So there is no hurry at the moment. I will ask Pablo but am pretty confident he will tell me to pick the grapes, tread them with bare feet, put them in a barrel and leave them to brew up, bugs, bits of twig and all. Pablo’s answers are always no-nonsense and usually involve non-specialist equipment comprising an ancient plastic container, a length of black twine produced from his pocket, and his mattock!
Next time we go to the agricentro, the agricultural supplies store, I will check out their winemaking section. I am sure they have one, they sell everything for the country from saddles and curry combs to workman’s boots, straw hats, rat poison, spare wheels for wheelbarrows, and miles of black irrigation piping and connectors of every conceivable dimension. It is the kind of place that has everything, but in which it is impossible to find anything thanks to their casual approach to shelf-stacking.5 to remember
mayor – elderly
las uvas – grapes
el vino – wine
la parra – vine
un racimo de uvas – a bunch of grapes
Today there is full sun after four days of drizzle. Consequently, there are bees everywhere. But, sun + rain = 3ft tall weeds. I have never known such vibrant weeds as those that grow here. Weeding on the terrace in front of the house, with the view of the valley at our feet, is a sensory explosion. Every leaf we brush releases fragrant oils. Rosemary [below], lavender above], sage [top] and orange blossom. The latter is a bit of an exaggeration as we have only one flower bud on the orange tree, our first, and very delicate. The sage is in full bloom, tall purple spikes, which for some reason makes me think of Christmas [sage and onion stuffing?]. 5 to remember
la salvia – sage
el naranjo – orange tree
la llovisna – drizzle
la abeja – bee
la mala hierba – weed