#422 Peppered Redcurrant Jelly

This is the last fruit jelly recipe in the book, and I’ve become somewhat of a seasoned jelly maker, making up my own recipes and these days cooking them up at The Buttery to go with meat and cheese platters, roast meats and the like. This is the second of two redcurrant jelly recipes from English Food.

Redcurrant jelly is considered a rather niche preserved, being served with rich meats such as lamb, venison and other game, or as an ingredient in Cumberland Sauce, but it is versatile; I like it with cheese.

Redcurrant jelly is very much the preserve of the gardener – the delicate berries do not transport well and have a short shelf life, which is why they are expensive to buy fresh. On a recent walk around nearby Chorlton Meadows I found dozens of sprays of ruby-red currants growing out of sight beneath a huge mass of thick brambles. Typically in these situations, I brought neither bag nor tub and so I ate them straight from the bush until acid reflux began. It was a shame really, as I could have made a huge amount of jelly. Hey-ho, I’ll remember this secret spot next year.

Our cultivated redcurrants are actually made up of three distinct species, and the less common whitecurrant is simply a variety of redcurrant that has lost the ability to produce the distinctive red pigment. There is also a pinkcurrant.

Country houses and kitchen gardens particularly in the 18th Century, grew vast amounts of red and white currants; their pectin-rich and tart juice used as a base for dozens of other preserves and sauces. I have never made whitecurrant jelly, and I wonder why one doesn’t see it anywhere?

This redcurrant jelly is enriched with red wine and contains cracked black peppercorns, I imagine it would work just as well using whitecurrants and white wine.

This recipe can be easily scaled up or down, depending on how many redcurrants you have, and the great thing about making a jelly is you don’t have to go through the rigmarole of stripping the berries from their stalks as they all get left behind during straining.

Put three pounds of redcurrants in a saucepan. To this, add around 2 ¼ pints of liquid; between 8 and 16 fluid ounces of it should be red wine, the remainder water. Bring to a boil and simmer until the currants are soft and pulpy. Pass through a jelly sieve or bag and allow to drip overnight.

Next day, place the juice in a saucepan or preserving pan with three pounds of granulated sugar. Put over a medium heat and stir with a wooden spoon until the sugar has dissolved. Remove the spoon and turn the heat up so that the fruity syrup boils enthusiastically. At this point put a saucer in the freezer so you can test for a set later.

After 15-20 minutes boiling, test to see if the jelly has set. There are two ways: (1) use a thermometer, pectin gels set at 105C; (2) the wrinkle test where a few drops of jelly on a cold saucer cool and wrinkle when you scrape them with a finger. I usually do both to be on the safe side. If the jelly isn’t set, boil for another 10 minutes and retest.

Finally, roughly grind about a teaspoon of black peppercorns using a pestle and mortar and stir in right at the end of cooking. Allow to sit for 15-20 minutes before potting in hot, sterilised jars.

#422 Peppered Redcurrant Jelly. This is a delicious jelly, spiked with rough spicy peppercorns giving it both interesting flavour and texture. The red wine doesn’t make it too rich, as you might expect it to, so be generous with it. I am going to use it for some future lamb dishes I think, though I did try a little sample with some good cheese, butter and bread. Very good, 8/10.

#414 Oldbury Gooseberry Tarts

The summer fruit season is pretty much done and dusted now, with just autumn raspberries and wild blackberries hanging around, but back in June at the very beginning of the season, I made these little gooseberry ‘tarts’. I’m using ‘inverted commas’ there because they are not tarts, they are pies.
In their simplest form, Oldbury fruit tarts are  hand-raised pies made from a hot-water pastry, filled with fruit and sugar and then baked. The pies, according to two of Jane’s correspondents, had links with Oldbury in Gloucestershire, and would be made by families as soon as soft fruits began to appear. In the latter half of the 19th century (and I’m sure much earlier than that too) the pies were ‘sold at fairs at a penny each’.
Below is the recipe and my review of the tarts, but it’s worth pointing out that sometimes these Oldbury pies would be made just like normal raised pies, but instead for being filled with jellied stock as you would  a pork pie, it is filled with fruit jelly preserve instead. This sounds so delicious and I may have a go at these more complex ones. I like the idea of a slice of fruit pie with jelly and some good cheese (Gloucester, of course) to round off a meal.
The hot water pastry for these pies is different to Jane’s recipe for her savoury (#282) Raised Pies in that there is both lard and butter here but no egg or icing sugar (which give crispness and an appetising brown colour to the cooked pastry). However, the method is essentially the same:
First cube 4 ounces each of butter and lard and pour over them 5 tablespoons of boiling water. Stir around until the fats have melted.  Put a pound of plain flour in a bowl, make a well in the centre and tip in the warm liquid mixture. Using a wooden spoon, and then your hands, form a dough.


At this point, I kneaded the dough until smooth – Jane says it should have ‘a waxy look’ – then popped it back in the bowl, covered it with cling film and left it to rest for a bit until it felt like it could be rolled and moulded successfully.

I found that the dough made six tarts using Jane’s method of thinly rolling out batches into circles and, then using a saucer as a template to cut out perfect shapes. I kept the trimmings for the lids.
Here’s the tricky bit: now mould the edges of each pastry circle to a height of about an inch so that they form cases – or in old English coffyns. This was a bit of a nightmare; you need a good cool stiff dough to do this, and if possible, three hands.


Now you can tumble in your topped and tailed gooseberries (about 8 ounces altogether) and a good amount of Demerara sugar (at least an ounce per tart, I’d say, but use your discretion). Roll out the lids, make a hole in the centre, and glue them in place with a brush and water, making sure you crimp the edges. Now leave the pastry to harden, this is a matter of a couple of hours in the fridge, but if leaving them in a cool larder, it’ll require an overnight wait.


Bake the ‘tarts’ for around 25-30 minutes at 200⁰C. Because of a lack of either egg , icing sugar or glaze, the pastry doesn’t turn a nice golden brown, but if the filling is happily bubbling away within, you can be pretty sure they are ready.


I served them warm with some pouring cream.

#414 Oldbury Gooseberry Tarts. Well these were not really worth the effort as the pastry was pretty disappointing in both taste and texture. Gooseberries in any form are good of course, so I did eat them. I’m looking forward to trying to make a larger pie filled with fruit jelly – that hasto be delicious. 4/10.

#381 Baked Gooseberry Pudding

I don’t know; you wait four years for a gooseberry recipe and then two come along at once. This year’s season for all soft fruits seems to be never ending, so there might be a third one yet…

The gooseberry is a strange fruit, isn’t it? It’s as lovely and tart as rhubarb, and yet very few people eat it, and it is seldom ever seen at all in countries like the USA or France. It is certainly a very British fruit. Jane Grigson points out in her Fruit Book, that the French don’t even have a name for it, or rather, a name that distinguishes it from a redcurrant. What is really interesting is that neither do we! You see, the goose-part of gooseberry has nothing to do with geese, because it comes from the French groseille, which means red currant, and that ultimately comes from the Frankish word krûsil, meaning crisp berry. Don’t say I don’t never teach you nuffink.

This is a straight-forward pudding indeed. It is a ‘good homely pudding to make when gooseberries first come in’, says Jane.

Start off by melting together 2 ounces of butter and 4 tablespoons of soft dark brown sugar in the bottom of a flameproof soufflé dish – if you don’t have one (as I don’t), melt them in a pan and then tip the resulting mixture into the dish.
Arrange enough topped-and-tailed gooseberries in the dish then spread over one batch of pound cake mixture (for the recipe, see the post #47 Pound Cake from all the way back in 2008!). Of course, you can use other fruits: I would imagine that halved apricots or sliced Cox’s orange pippins would work very well.
Bake at 180⁰C (350⁰F) for an hour.  A little before the hour is up, sprinkle over some granulated sugar and return the pudding to the oven.
‘Serve with plenty of cream, and put a bowl of sugar on the table in case the gooseberries were especially tart.’

#381 Baked Gooseberry Pudding. This was a great pudding! The layer of tart gooseberries was balanced well by the sweet cake topping that had developed a lovely dark, caramelised crust. A million times better than Eve’s pudding! 9/10
 

#380 Gooseberry Sauce for Mackerel

After the rather wet start to the summer, I was beginning to think that this year’s gooseberries were never going to arrive. Then we had that glorious stint of hot weather. Now we have so many gooseberries and other soft fruit, we barely know what to do with them. Well here’s one thing, just as mackerel is in season. I like Jane’s introduction to this recipe:
On May 26th, 1796, Parson Woodforde [we have met him in the blog before, see here] and his neice, Nancy, had for their dinner ‘a couple of maccerel boiled and stewed gooseberries and a leg of mutton roasted’. In other years, they were not so lucky; the gooseberries did not always ripen for the arrival of the first spring mackerel.
Ms Grigson’s recipe is a very simple one indeed:
Begin by topping and tailing 8 ounces of gooseberries and then melt an ounce of butter in a pan. Add the gooseberries, cover with a lid and cook until soft. I love how they go from vivid green to an almost straw-yellow when heated.
Use your wooden spoon to crush the berries on the side of the pan to form a rough purée, you could, if you are so inclined, pass them through a sieve to produce a smooth sauce. I don’t see the point in these things normally; it’s not like gooseberry seeds are particularly offensive.
The tart flavour of the gooseberries is cut with either ¼ pint of double creamor béchamel sauce. I went for the latter for health’s and money’s sake. Taste the sauce and add a little sugar, if needed, don’t make it sweet like an apple sauce for pork.
That’s it! Very simple and not just for mackerel either, but other oily fish, roast duck, pork, lamb, veal and – no surprises – goose.
#380 Gooseberry Sauce for Mackerel. A triumph of good, simple cooking. The creaminess of the béchamel did a great job of wrapping its way around those tart gooseberries, so much so that only a pinch of sugar was required. I could eat it all on its no problem! 8.5/10

#354 Passion Fruit Curd

Well there goes the Great British Summertime, but don’t worry our Griggers is at hand to give us a little bit of tropical sunshine with this rather unusual fruit curd recipe. She must have been rather ahead her time with this one – I think the first time I ever saw a passion fruit in a greengrocer’s shop it was around 1990. I love fruit curd and am always on the lookout for new recipes – especially for the stall. Jane does suggest giving all sort of fruits a go; raspberries, gooseberries, apricots – knock yourselves out, she says (I paraphrase).

This curd is unusual in that it is made in the same way as custard:

You will need 4 large, 6 medium, or – in my case – 8 small passion fruit. Halve them and scoop out the pulp, seeds and all, into a small saucepan. Stir in 4 ounces of sugar and 4 ounces of slightly salted butter that has been cut into cubes over a low heat. Meanwhile, beat 3 large eggs (or 2 large eggsand 2 egg yolks) well in a bowl. When the sugar has dissolved and the butter melted, turn up the heat until it boils then tip it into eggs , furiously whisking to prevent the egg from curdling. Pour the custardy mixture back into the pan and stir over a low heat until it becomes quite thick. If you want to err on the side of caution use a double boiler or a glass bowl over simmering water. I found you don’t need it for this recipe, though I did use a thermometer so that I could get the curd as thick as possible without it curdling – you want a temperature of 78C (though Jane gives a temperature of 80⁰C, but I always find this too high for curds).

Remove from the heat, but mind you still keep on stirring it – the residual heat of the pan may still curdle it – then pass it through a sieve, making sure you work all of the curd out. Stir in a few of the seeds and add a tablespoon or so of lime juice to sharpen it a little. Pot into sterilised jars, let them cool then seal them. It will fill two 200 ml jars.

#354 Passion Fruit Curd. This was a strange one and no mistake. The flavour of cooked passion fruit is rather different to fresh – it’s weirdly not unlike fresh bread, and it took rather a while to get used to it. I ate it on toast, but I reckon it would have been a fantastic filling to a sponge cake. Also, they coordinated very well with my kitchen decor. 6.5/10.

#297 Raspberry Pie


The tale of this pie is of personal pain and anguish. Let me tell you the tale…

It was my work-buddy Chandra’s PhD thesis defence yesterday and she requested that I made this pie rather a cake for when she came out. Great stuff, thought I, any excuse to make something out of the book, plus the raspberry is my favourite fruit so it has got to be a winner. This pie is an eighteenth century pie and requires the fruit to be cooked in the pastry casing and then in the last five minutes, a custard to be poured in through the hole in the pastry. This was the usual way to make a fruity pie in those days, apparently. Anyway, Griggers says to serve it hot or warm, so I nipped back to my apartment to make it. I popped the pie into the oven and got the custard – or caudle as it was called then – ready.

Unfortunately the raspberries were so juicy that there was no room for any caudle, so I ran over the road and bought some straws from the shop with the inspired idea that I would suck the spare juice out. Hoping the pie had cooled slightly I attempted to suck some out – I think because time was becoming an issue I didn’t notice the fact that this was 170°C fruit syrup too much, but then as I realized just how much syrup there was, my nervous system kicked in. Cue much wincing and swearing. After about 15 minutes of this, I had finally cleared enough space to pour the caudle in. Mouth pretty sore, but not major damage done. Popped the pie back in the over for its final five minutes and rushed it back to Rice University. It was only whilst driving down towards work that I noticed the skin of the roof of mouth sloughing off and dangling upon my red raw tongue. She had better bloody like this pie. Luckily it went down well. On returning home later that evening, I rinsed my mouth out with Listerine before bed. More agony. Then, in the morning, I thought I would clean my tongue as well as my teeth as it was burnt and may have had some nasty bacteria there trying to infect the poor thing. Bad idea. I left for work with bleeding tongue. Hopefully it won’t go gangrenous and I won’t have to have my face removed.

To make the pie, you need to start with the pastry. In the eighteenth century, puff pastry will have been used, but Griggers goes for the sweet rich shortcrust and gives an ingredients list for it. Sieve 12 ounces of plain flour along with 2 tablespoons of icing sugar and a pinch of salt into a large bowl. Next, add 8 ounces of cubed butter or a combination of butter and lard. Use a mixer or food processor, to rub the butter into the flour. If you like to keep it real, use your hands or one of those pastry cutters as I did. The important thing is to keep everything as cold as possible – use butter straight out of the fridge and turn that A/C as low as you can! Once the butter is rubbed in, add an egg yolk (keep the white) and two or three tablespoons of ice-cold water, enough to bring everything to a dough. Don’t worry if you add too much, you can add some more flour. Knead the dough briefly and then pop it in the fridge to rest and firm up again.

Preheat your oven to 190°C (425°F) and place a baking sheet on one of the shelves. Now roll out two-thirds of your dough and line your pie dish with it. If it is warm in the kitchen, roll it out on some cling film, this will stop it from breaking up. A top tip for you there. The dish needs to be 2 to 3 inches deep, Griggers doesn’t mention a diameter, but I went with an eight inch diameter one. Now arrange a pound of raspberries in a layer in the pie and sprinkle over 4 ounces of sugar (or less, if the raspberries are particularly sweet).

Roll out the remainder of the pastry to form a lid, gluing it on with a brushing of the reserved egg white. Trim the edges and decorate if you wish – I went with a mortar board motif, seeing as it was a PhD defence. Brush with more egg white and sprinkle with sugar. Make sure you leave a good-sized hole in the centre. Place in the oven on the hot baking tray and bake for 15 minutes before turning down the heat to 190°C (375°F). The point of the hot baking tray is so that the pastry bottom crisps up before the raspberries give up their juice, preventing a soggy pastry bottom to the pie. The pie should be cooked until the pastry is nicely browned and crisp, around 40 minutes.

Whilst it is cooking, prepare the caudle: bring 4 fluid ounces of single and 4 of double cream to a boil in a saucepan. As soon as boiling point is reached pour them over two egg yolks, whisking vigorously to prevent making scrambled eggs. In the final 5 minutes of cooking, take the pie out of the oven and slowly pour the caudle into the pie using a funnel and return to the oven so the caudle can thicken. Serve hot or warm. Oh, she makes it sound so easy. Looking back, it would have been better to pile the raspberries in the middle slightly so when it collapsed there would have been some space for the caudle. It was also suggested that instead of using a straw, I should have used a baster or a pipette or something. Retrospect is a wonderful thing.

#297 Raspberry Pie. Ah, the raspberry. There is nothing better than stumbling across some wild raspberries when walking in the woods. The pie itself was reminiscent of the French clafoutis, where fruit is cooked in custard in a pastry case, though without the lid. I love raspberries, I love custard and I love pastry, so this could not have been a disappointment. I have to say it was delicious, even though I my taste-buds were not working at their best at the time. The caudle had thickened up and mixed with the juice, and it wasn’t overly sweet either. Jane says that you can use any soft fruit for this pie – gooseberries work particularly well apparently – so I shall be definitely this again whenever there is a glut of soft fruits. Though without the second-degree burns this time. 8.5/10.

#249 Isle of Wight Pudding

Oh it HAS been a while, hasn’t it? I have been so very busy with getting ready for my move to Houston, I haven’t had the time to tell you all about the food I’ve been cooking. I have arrived in Texas now, by the way but haven’t really had much of a chance to explore the place, in fact I still have a bit of jet-lag. I shall fill you in about Houston soon, I’m sure.

Back in England it is blackberry season and those brambles that are so annoying and prickly for the rest of the year finally earn their keep. This recipe uses them, and so it was a great chance to try something that isn’t blackberry and apple pie (nice though it is). I made this in Derby visiting Simon and Rachel and the farm they are trying to set up as a cooperative eventually. They also keep bees and I used some of their delicious honey for this recipe too. If it isn’t blackberry season any soft fruit will do.


First make a shortcrust pastry with 8 ounces of flour and 4 of fat (butter, lard, or a mixture) plus cold water and roll it out into an oblong shape. Spread 4 fluid ounces of runny honey over the pastry and then sprinkle 8 ounces of blackberries over it. Roll up the dough so that it makes a sort-of Swiss roll, tucking the pastry under at the edges. Place in a small ovenproof dish and pour over 4 fluid ounces of single cream. Bake at 200⁰C for 45 minutes. Serve with thick cream.

#249 Isle of Wight Pudding. A really good pud this one, and cheap too! The best thing about it was that the juices from the berries plus the honey and cream heat up to form a delicious toffee sauce. The top goes very dark and forms a good crust, though it doesn’t make the dessert look very pretty. Give it a go – quick and simple. 7/10