Jam On It

01/09/2009

The summer fruit season is pretty much done and dusted, but you can hang on to it by making your own strawberry jam. It’s a piece of piss with just three ingredients, and it’s reet tasty.

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Ingredients

500g English strawberries

75g vanilla sugar

Juice of half a lemon

Method

Hull the strawberries (remove the leafy top and pale fruit) with the tip of a sharp knife and then wash. Dry off with a tea towel and place in a large pan. Add the vanilla sugar (vanilla sugar is easy to make – every time you scrape out a vanilla pod, put the remains in a jam jar with caster sugar – after a week or so the sugar will take on a lovely vanilla smell and taste) and lemon juice and stir.

Before you put the pan on the heat, get a saucer and place it in the fridge. I’ll explain why in a minute. Next, put the pan on a high heat and bring up to the boil while stirring. Before long the fruit will start to give up its juices, and the mixture will begin to resemble jam. You need to simmer the jam for about 10 minutes to bring it to setting point. A scum will probably develop on the surface of the mixture; skim this off every few minutes.

After 10 minutes take the pan off the heat, and dribble some of the mixture onto your cold saucer. Place the saucer back in the fridge. After a couple of minutes, take it out again and perform the ‘wrinkle’ test by running your finger through the mixture. If it wrinkles, the jam is at setting point and ready to store, if your finger slides through return to the heat for a few minutes and repeat the test.

If the jam is at setting point, put the mixture in a sterilised jar. You can sterilise jars by pouring in boiling water to the top or placing in the oven for a few minutes at 100ºC.

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Leave the jam to cool and then eat or refrigerate. It should keep for 3 – 4 weeks.


Hogfest ’09

03/08/2009

Hog Roast

For the past couple of years my mate Ollie has been organising a hog roast, and last weekend was what has now been dubbed as ‘Hogfest 09’.

It’s basically a gathering for friends and family at his folk’s place in Shropshire, culminating in a hog roast. I know it all sounds a bit ‘River Cottage’, but for me escaping London and getting primal with a whole pig, a big fire and bunch of booze is my idea of a good weekend.  Ollie usually lives in Cairo where this kind of pork based entertaining doesn’t go down too well, so for him I think it’s also rare opportunity to feast on pork with impunity.

The preparation process is relatively simple. The pig gets scored all over with a Stanley Knife, given a good rub down with olive oil, and then sprinkled liberally with salt and pepper. No herbs or any other ‘fancy stuff’.

Cooking is a bit more complicated. The fire gets started at 5am, and then at 6 a barbecue pit of sorts is created using 2 sheets of corrugated iron, and by spreading the fire out into a hollow rectangular shape. The hog then gets mounted on a spit (bought on ebay and imported from the States no less)  and turned a quarter rotation every 5-10 minutes.

The fire’s heat should be more intense at the start to get the skin nice and crisp, this is pretty obvious when it happens, and then the rest of the cooking is slow and methodical. I think our pig was about 70 kilos and took around 12 hours to cook.

By 7pm (after a good half an hour resting) the meat was perfectly roasted. I had the honour of carving the beast, but after seeing it cook for so long my meat lust kind of took over and I went at it a bit like a demented cavemen butcher. It tasted amazing. Lovely salty crackling on top, sweet,  smokey, tender meat underneath. Totally worth the time and effort.

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There are some more pictures of the lucky pig and the rest of the day here, and if you fancy doing it yourself there’s some ‘How To’ help here.