#397 Herb Jellies

Here’s a quickie from the Preserves part of the last chapter of English Food.

Herb jellies are apple jellies flavoured with a herb and a little vinegar for piquancy. They can be served with roast meats, cold cuts, cheese, even fish or vegetables such as peas.


You can use any herb you like. On my allotment there are vast amounts of mint, lemon thyme, chives, sage and oregano.

Here are some suggestions to give you some ideas:
Mint; lamb, duck, mushy peas, garden peas, new potatoes
Thyme; chicken and other poultry, pork, rabbit
Lemon thyme; chicken, fish
Sage; Pork
Marjoram/Oregano; pork, chicken, cheese
Chervil; game
I shan’t go on – I’m sure you get the idea!
My patch of mint needed taming so I put both the leaves and stems to good use.
It is pretty straight-forward.
First weigh, then roughly chop, some Bramley or windfall apples and place, skin core and all, in a large pan. Add 3 ½ fluid ounces of white wine vinegar to every 2 pounds of apples. Add enough water to only just cover the fruit. Amongst the apple pieces, tuck in 2 or 3 big springs of your chosen herb. Bring to a simmer and cook until the apples have become all mushy, around 20-25 minutes.


Pass the juice through a jelly bag and allow to drip overnight.

Next day, pour the juice into a preserving pan and to every pint add a pound of granulated sugar. Put on a medium heat and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Turn up the heat and bring to a boil. Keep it on a good rolling boil until setting point is reached.
To test for setting point, bring the juice to a temperature of 104⁰C. To do this, the best thing to do is invest in a sugar thermometer, failing that place a drop or two on a freezing-cold plate and push it with your finger when the jelly is cool. If it wrinkles, it is set. I actually use both methods – the thermometer so that I know I’m there, and the wrinkle test to make doubly sure.
Pour into sterilised jars.

#397 Herb Jellies. This is a great recipe, though I found it too sweet. I adapted it by adding 50% more vinegar, and some of the herb itself, finely chopped, added once the sugar dissolved. Orginal recipe gets a 6.5/0, but it was pretty easy to make it an 8/10.

#306 Mint Sauce

Ah, mint sauce. I love mint sauce, but have never actually made it myself. Mint sauce is, of course, the sauce to go with roast lamb, especially during the summer months. Though, I remember as a child when I used to go swimming with my Dad on a Sunday to Morley Swimming Baths, I always had a chip butty smothered in mint sauce straight afterwards.

The piquant sauce goes so well with fatty or rich foods. St Hildegarde, a German spiritualist nun of the early Middle Ages, said this of mint: “Like salt, when used sparingly, it tempers foods…[M]int, added to meat, fish or any other food, gives it a better taste and is a good condiment; it warms the stomach and ensures good digestion.”

I reckon that this is true, and by adding somesweetness and mild vinegar, you can get away with using it more than sparingly.
St Hildegard (1098-1179) depicted having a nice sit down
Griggers emphasizes that this sauce must be made with freshly boiled water and wine vinegar, not malt as it is far too harsh. We always used malt vinegar in our house when ‘diluting’ the thick sauce that came out of a jar. Let’s see how the proper stuff tastes like…
Chop up enough mint leaves to fill a measuring jug to the quarter-litre mark. Add three tablespoons of boiling water, stir and let the mint infuse into the water. When it is just warm, stir in three level teaspoons of sugar and four tablespoons of wine vinegar (any kind, though I went with red, as that’s all there was!). Stir to dissolve the sugar and add more sugar of vinegar if you like. I found the amounts given to be right on the button, myself.
#306 Mint Sauce. Excellent, excellent excellent! Sweet, sour and wonderfully aromatic. I am never, ever going to buy mint sauce again. Go and make some. 10/10

#178 Duck with Mint

Attempting the poultry section in English Food has been a paltry effort by me, but I intend to address this, people. I thought I’d start with one of the two duck recipes. This one, where the duck is stewed with a shed-load of mint seemed right up my summery alley. It also has the added bonus of a sauce paloise, which is very similar to a sauce béarnaise (except tarragon is substituted for mint) and uses a hollandaise sauce as its base. Now proficient in hollandaise sauce making, I was eager.

Apparently the French think it is hilarious that we have mint with our lamb, when blinking Johnny Foreigner goes around eating sauce paloise here there and everywhere with their duck! Only joking Frenchies, I loves ya really!

To make this, season a large duck inside and out with salt and pepper before stuffing its cavity with a whole bunch of mint. Next, wrap the duck in a large napkin or double-wrapped muslin. Half fill a large pot with water and add a large quartered carrot, a large onion studded with three cloves and a stick of celery. Bring it to the boil and then place the duck in and leave it to simmer, covered, for 2 ½ hours. When cooked, remove the napkin and place on a serving plate surrouded by mint leaves.

Start making the sauce around half an hour before the cooking time is up: Into a small saucepan add a tablespoon of chopped shallot, two tablespoons of chopped mint, a tablespoon of chopped chervil, a sprig of thyme, a quarter of a bay leaf and four tablespoons each of dry white wine and white wine vinegar, plus a good seasoning of salt and pepper. Boil down this mixture, until it has reduced by two-thirds. Allow to cool. Now place the mixture in a bowl and beat in three large egg yolks. Place the bowl over a pan of simmering water and beat in six ounces of unsalted butter bit by little bit. Season with lemon juice and more salt and pepper if required. Finally, stir through some freshly chopped mint leaves. Pour into a salad boat.

FYI: Chervil is tricky herb to get hold of, so instead of using it you can use the small yellow leaves from the inside of a bunch of celery, they provide a very similar flavour.

#178 Duck with Mint. If you don’t like mint, this is not the recipe for you. However, I love mint and it was just the thing for a summertime Sunday dinner. The duck was tasty, though a little dry, but the rich and tart sauce married with it perfectly well. In fact, the sauce paloise was the star of the show. I think it would go very well with lamb or even fish. The Medieval look of the birs with all the mint leave in and around it, was quite impressive too. Overall, I think this deserves 7.5/10 (though the sauce would be 9/10+ if I was marking it separately).

Recipes 2-4 – Glamorgan Sausages, Olde Worlde Mushrooms and Peas

I’ve been away from a computer for a few days – I still don’t have the internet at home and I had to go back to Leeds at the weekend because my brother Ady and his good lady wife Nads had a little boy called Harry. He’s the cutest and I’m NOT biased! Now I’ve got some catching up to do. The hat trick meal went quite well although I did get a little flustered and rushed through the making of the Glamorgan sausages – they were far too big and didn’t cook through properly. They were also a bit well done – au creole I should say – because I lost concentration when dishing up. However, they can be done well in advance, so next time I’ll be better prepared. They’re a definite veggie alternative. Doing them in the food processor makes light work of it too – although be careful, I’ve sustained my first injury on one of the blades! The fricassey of mushrooms was brilliant; the taste and aroma of the mace and nutmeg were warming and so very Medieval! The Grigson talks about the English way to cook (#4) green peas – i.e. with mint and sugar in with the water – as the only way to do them yet I had never actually eaten them this way. Well, I certainly agree and it will now be the only way I shall cook peas in the future!
For the Glamorgan sausages:

Start by mixing together 5 ounces of grated Caerphilly or Cheddar cheese, 4ounces of fresh white breadcrumbs, 2 tablespoons of finely –chopped leek or spring onion and a generous tablespoon of chopped parsley. You can quicken the whole process by simply reducing those ingredients into breadcrumbs in food processor. Now mix in 3 egg yolks, half a teaspoon of thyme, a level teaspoon each of salt and mustard powder and some pepper. Bring the mixture together and form into around 12 small sausages. Dip each one in egg white and then coat in some dried breadcrumbs. Fry gently in oil or lard until golden.

The recipe for ‘A White Fricassey of Mushrooms’ comes from Hannah Glasse and I shall simply quote it as Griggers has done:

“Take a Quart of Fresh Mushrooms, make them clean, put them into a Sauce-pan, with three spoonfuls [tablespoons] of Water and three of Milk, and a very little Salt, set them on a quick Fire and let them boil up three Times; then take them off, grate in a little Nutmeg, put in a little beaten Mace, half a Pint of thick Cream, a Piece of butter rolled well in Flour, put it all together into the Sauce-pan, and Mushrooms all together, shake the Sauce-pan well all the Time. When it is fine and thick, dish them up; be careful they don’t curdle [ don’t let them boil]. You may stir the Sauce-pan carefully with a Spoon all the time.”

The peas were simply a cop out: make sure you boil them with plenty of salt, sugar and mint!

Here’s what Greg reckons:
“13th Sept: Glamorgan sausages, mushroom fricasee, minty peas, new potatoes. As a combo it works really well. The mushrooms are creamy, reminded me of the really nice chicken supreme we used to get at school, the peas are sweet n fresh, the sausages are comforting stodge, sits together a treat. The mace was most exciting , looks like pork scratchings, smells like sarsaparilla, gives the mushrooms an exotic little edge. I’d put more in than she says, it could take it. The peas were lovely, could eat a huge bowl by themselves, it’s not quite the same as just having peas with mint sauce either, you get all the sweetness first and a rush of mintiness last, totally moreish. Sausages were grand but recipe said make 12, which the monkey reduced to 4, bit of an error as they were not quite done through so still a bit leeky. The cheese will never fully melt anyway as it’s not fatty. Potatoes perfect complement. Sausages: 3. Mushrooms: 4 (my fave). Peas: 4. (I’m saving 5 for something amazing!)”

My personal ratings are:
#2 Glamorgan sausages: 3/5 – next time I’ll do them better and hopefully they’ll graduate up to 4/5!
#3 A Fricassey of Mushrooms: 4.5/5 – a brilliant way to serve mushrooms as a veg with a Sunday roast.
#4 Green Peas: 4.5/5 – quintessential English delight