Designed by nature for the jellying process

I seem to be on a bit of a thing about using fruit to make deliciousnesses to spread on scones, toast, bread and butter, or dollop on ice-cream or use in desserts… I’ve been writing about marmalades, jams, conserves and preserves inspired by two things, the abundance of fruit – especially blackberries, and a favourite little cookery book, by Ethelind Fearon, Jams, Jellies and Preserves. I’ve also been having various conversations with friends about crab apple jelly (I’m just waiting for a tree I know to be ready to yield its fruit) and bramble jelly which I suggest should be the marker of a Somerset cream tea. I know Cheddar strawberries are among the best in the world, but Devon and Cornwall seem to have adopted strawberry jam to go with their cream teas.

So jelly, not the wobbly stuff children of all ages love, or the controversial addition to trifles, but jelly as in that crystal clear fruit gel spread…. this is what Ethelind says:

The good setting of clear jelly seems to be a matter for greater pride than almost anything else in the kitchen and the more difficult a fruit is to jelly – such as strawberry or raspberry – the more boastful we become when we succeed.

I can understand that – although these days I guess the remnants of that pride is most on display in produce shows and village fêtes.

Some fruits were evidently designed by nature for the jellying process – full of juice, strong in flavour, slightly acid and strongly endowed with pectin, such as red currants and green apples. But the queen of all fruits is so deficient in the last quality that most people avoid any attempt to make strawberry jelly at all.

This must be true because I’ve never come across strawberry jelly and I’m always looking for unusual jams etc in farm shops, produce shows etc. Ethelind isn’t daunted, of course, she promises success:

However, if the hints which follow are strictly observed, this and the almost as difficult raspberry, pear, peach and pineapple may be jellied with pride and satisfaction, it is usually a matter of combining fruits rich in pectin and acid with those deficient in it.

I’m not sure I would bother with pear, peach or pineapple either… bramble and crab apple will do for me!


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