August 23, 2010


This weekend, in between painting the front of the house (picture soon! Still finishing the second coat!) Organizing Briton's Birthday, playing board games, finishing up another back to school sewing project and hitting the pool, I canned. A lot. I didn't really intend to have a canning bonanza, it just that, well, while one thing was cooking away, I'd start flipping through my books and think, "oh I have everything to make that too!" and away I went.

Most of the things I made were based on recipes from the River Cottage Handbook no. 2:Preserves, which is one of the best canning books I've ever seen. For most recipes it offers ideas for variations or explains how to substitute pretty much whatever is ripe in your garden or the farmers market at the moment. So instead of making the Hedgerow Jelly with crab apples and mixed wild berries, I used apples and blackberries from the Fruit Share I ordered from a local CSA to make probably the yummiest jelly ever. I know Will will argue and say strawberry is still the best, but I really think this might be my new favorite. I also made Passata, a roasted tomato, onion and garlic puree that you use to add to soups and stews and a vegetable bouillon mix from the squash, carrots, parsnips and shallots we had in the garden (including one giant carrot that Briton pulled up) and parsley from the farmers Market. The figs I had started for drying weren't, unlike those from the neighbors tree, holding together, so I finished off the mashing and turned them into fig jam.

I've still got some chutney in the works and want to make another batch of Passata, and if I can get enough seed pods from my Nasturtiums, I'd love to try to make Nasturtium Capers. But the thing that was the biggest hit this weekend was a batch of Plum/Apple/Pear Squash which Briton is calling Grimmbena. Ribena has been a staple in our house since Briton was two. It's a juice concentrate, or squash, made from Black Currents and is the go to drink for kids in the UK. Sort of like their TreeTop Apple Juice. It's handy for us because you just keep it in the cupboard and pour a little into a glass of water when you want some juice. Which means it doesn't take up any room in the fridge. Great for us since we have limited refrigerator space. So when I noticed the recipe for whatever fruit squash, I couldn't resist. The kids picked out super ripe plums and apples at the farmer's market and I had some pears form the fruit share so we chopped them all up, added some water and let it cook away till the fruit was mushy. Once it was strained and the sugar was added and we had it bottled up we tried it out and wowzers was it yummy. Addicting yummy. I need to go back to the farmers market for some more plums and apples and make more yummy.

Grimmbena (Or Plum-Pear-Apple Squash)
Translated roughly to US measurements from The River Cottage Handbook No. 2

2 pounds of plums
1 pound of apples
1 pound of pears
4 cups of sugar

Chop up the apples and bears roughly, leaving pips and skin. Cut the plums in half, you can pull out the stones but you don't have to. I didn't!
Add 2 and a halfish cups of water and bring slowly to a boil, cooking until the fruit is very soft, about 45 minutes. Strain through a jelly bag and colander, or if you don't have a jelly bag, use a tea towel that you have scalded in hot water. Let it drip for several hours until the juice is drained away from the pulp. Bring the juice back up to a boil and then add the sugar, stirring just until it has dissolved. Pour immediately into bottles and seal. Use 2-3 tablespoons of concentrate per 8 oz of water.

The recipe claims that just by bottling it up hot it will keep for several months in a cool, dry place but that you can process it in boiling water if you want to keep it longer. I reused a glass bottle and put the rest in a jar, sealing them both up while it was hot and leaving it at that. I'm sure we'll use it up fairly quickly. However, for the next batch I'll pick up some good bottles and do the whole processing thing. You can really use any fruit for this that's ripe. Harder fruits need 1 3/4 cup of water per 2 pounds of fruit, softer fruits need 1 cup of water per 2 pounds of fruit. The sugar can really be adjusted to taste, just remember that this is a concentrate, so you'll want it stronger than if you were drinking it straight.