Category Archives: Condiments and dressings

In a jam…

My view on jam is this: why bother making plain jam in flavours you can get at the grocery store?  This week, I’ve made two variation on strawberry jam, and it’s a real quandary which I like better.

Option 1: Strawberry-ginger:  This is a combination that I love.   The main point in making strawberry cordial is so that I can add some to my ginger beer.   This has all that concentrated summer delight in a single jar.

Option 2: Orange-infused Strawberry vanilla jam.   This was an experiment.   But seems to be Des’s favourite at the moment.

In both cases the basic recipe is the same:

4 parts strawberries

3 parts sugar

Clean and hull the strawberries then quarter them. [Tip:  If you want to make cordial, mash up the strawberries with 1/4 of the sugar and allow to sit overnight.   You can then strain them and the liquid is the cordial that you can add to drinks, etc.  Use the strawberries as normal.]

In a large-bottomed pot, combine remaining sugar (or all of it if you skipped the cordial bit] and the juice of a lemon if you are making the ginger version, or the juices of a lemon and an orange if you are making the vanilla version.

For the ginger version add a generous amount of finely minced ginger (use fresh ginger that you mince yourself.   The pre-minced version might have preservatives etc. that will react in unpredictable ways with the jam).   I used a piece that was about the length of my hand!  Before adding the fruit, run the syrup through a sieve and reserve the collected ginger while returning the syrup to the heat.    You can gradually reincorporate this at the end so that you can exactly incorporate it to your taste.  If you want very spicy jam, you could add a chili at this point.   I didn’t.

For the vanilla version, add finely chopped orange zest.   I used about 1 tablespoon of fresh zest for 1 kg of fruit.

If you want to add a thickening agent add it now. I used agar rather than gelatine because one jar is ear-marked for a vegetarian friend.    If you don’t want to use a thickening agent, then use equal weights of sugar and fruit.

Bring to a boil stirring often.  Remove the fruit, leaving the syrup and allow that to boil down by three quarters.    Return the fruit and heat through. Add the vanilla or minced ginger.

Pour into sterilised jam jars.   I can’t be bothered with wax rings etc.   I just fill the jars right to the top and seal them while they are hot, creating a vacuum.

Allow to cool then label.



Basic vinaigrette dressing

There isn’t much else that evokes childhood summers spent with my French grandmother than a simple salad with a proper, homemade vinaigrette.    There’s really no reason to buy dressing for your salads when it’s so easy to make and so lovely to adapt to a particular mood.

The most basic vinaigrette is simply an acidic base (vinegar or lemon juice, typically) and oil.    I like mine with a bit more kick so this is the recipe I usually use:

To a splash of red wine vinegar, add a pinch of salt.  Then add a dash of mustard (I only ever use Maille!), a clove of crushed garlic, and any additional seasonings you want (chopped herbs for instance).

If using shallots or onions, finely chop and add next.

Finally add the oil and whisk to mix.

Set aside for ten minutes or so.

The important thing here is to always add the oil last.    If you don’t, it will coat the other ingredients and the flavors will not blend so well.

Also, never add the vinaigrette to the salad until you are ready to serve.  (It’s fine to prepare it at the bottom of the salad bowl then toss it at the last minute.)   Otherwise, the acid will cause the leaves to wilt and may make any tomatoes mushy.