Having discovered a vintage jar of home-made marmalade in the cupboard, and having seen a jelly made from choke berries by an American friend, (we don’t get them in England), I’ve been looking again at jam and marmalade making. I wrote yesterday about marmalade having been looking at a little book, ‘Jams, jellies and preserves’, by Ethelind Fearon. In the chapter about marmalade she starts off ‘There is no very clear understanding as to where jams end and marmalades begin.’ I actually disagree – marmalade should only be made with oranges, preferably from Seville, although I would stretch a point to other citrus fruits.
The next chapter is about preserves and conserves:
The task of deciding when marmalade is a jam is absolutely nothing compared with explaining the difference between a preserve and a conserve, and I may as well confess that I really don’t know. Both are usually made from a mixture of two or more fruit, frequently being a citrus fruit, and most of them having raisins and nuts added, with or without spices.
Well, I’m sure I’ve never come across either a preserve of a con serve with raisins, nuts or spice – except the ones available at Christmas time – nor have I seen recipes for them and I used to be mad keen on making jam, curds and jellies. Ethelind goes on to write:
In fact, they (preserves and conserves) are both a rich and imaginative brew, sliced and cooked like a marmalade, in which the improvising of a good extempore cook can often invent something really sensational. Nothing is barred, providing that it tastes good and will hold together, and the mere sight of several ingredients lying on the kitchen table, superficially unrelated, will often suggest a new brew of quite outstanding success.
My own invention – plum-walnut-raisin-and-orange came about in this way, with rose petal jam, loganberry sherbet and candied violet petals, was the mainstay of my own tea-shop for many years and the first thing which recommended visitors always asked for.
Ethelind sounds such a creative and inventive cook, I would love to have visited her tea shop! Among her recipes are ones for red and white currants called Bar-le-Duc, carrot conserve (I wonder if this was a wartime recipe?) and fig and carrot, cherry and white currant, chop suey conserve (no noodles, just grapes, plums, orange, peaches and tinned pineapple rings) orange and cranberry/barberry/raspberry/red currant/ mulberry/peach, redcurrant and maraschino, “exotickal conserve” – a recipe from her grandmother made from fresh pineapple, raspberries, strawberries, and chopped walnuts… exotickal indeed!
There are four gooseberry recipes, including one entitled ‘Gooseberries preserved as hops’ at the end of which she comments the gooseberries ‘will look like hops and taste very fine’. She has a couple of grape recipes, one with nuts and one South African, Melon and peach and melon and apricot sound unusual, I wonder what sort of melon – she tells me not to use water melon! I mentioned before I tried making green tomato jams etc and they have all tasted so disgusting it was a waste of time and effort, so i won’t be bothering with her recipe even though I’m sure if I tried some she had made it would be delicious. Similarly I won’t be trying her ripe tomato conserve!
One recipe I would like to try, is her Siberian crab conserve – crab apples not crustacea. In her recipe she leaves the fruit whole – I’ve only ever made jelly and it is amongst my favourite, the flavour is just gorgeous! I know exactly where I can find crab apples, I just need to wait for them to ripen and fall!