This weekend I managed to put down the sock of beauty just long enough to make some lime marmalade.Green tomato chutney was a regular feature of childhood and I can remember my first adult foray into preserving was some plum jam circa summer 2004. We moved in to a new house share to be greeted by plums overflowing every surface and house mates heading off on holiday shouting some hasty instructions over their shoulders.
Since then I've dabbled increasingly, getting over the fear that it was all a bit complicated to bother with. No more plum jam as enjoying the finished item is the major driving force behind any preserving effort which does tarnish my 'domestic goddess using up abundant produce' image a leetle bit, but wasting ingredients and effort on turning something into a preserve I'm likely to leave on the shelf until it's finally gone rotten seems like throwing too much good after bad.
We made a big batch of various chutneys, sauces and some lemon curd for Christmas gifts this year and got some really nice responses from the giftees, so preserves are going to be a continuing part of the trying to increase the giving of handmade items. So far we've taken recipes mainly from the internet with mixed success. For a new year of preserving we invested in a new book and by chance seem to have hit on a great one - The River Cottage Preserves Handbook.
In a few quick reads through the preliminaries I've already learnt a lot. It quickly became apparent why our chilli jam had to be labelled as chilli sauce this year. Us novices had assumed jam sugar and preserving sugar were one and the same thing whereas jam sugar has added pectin for a firm set, preserving sugar tends to just have big grains for easy dissolving. I'm looking forward to lots more playing with the pans and jam thermometer this year with Pam as our guide.
And so we move seamlessly from preserves to bumblebees, another obsession of mine. The Bumblebee Conservation Trust are in the running for some funding for a wonderful project in Pembrokeshire introducing a wild flower habitat along a pathway linking sites that should assist in the protection of an endangered species of bumblebee - if you wanted to visit the Live for the Outdoors site and read about the projects that have been proposed and vote for whichever you most support that would be great, if you wanted to vote for the Bumblebee Conservation Trust project then that would be the greatest :)