Bryony's Blog

It's only July and I've already started pickling...


Walking with Suzie (black rescue labradorable) across the fields I noticed that the hedges were full of ripe, red, wild cherry plums. We have a yellow cherry plum tree in the garden, but I had never seen the red variety before. Luckily I was wearing a hat, which I filled to the brim in no time at all. Stoning such a quantity was too boring for words so I thought I would experiment and make a chilli jelly. At the early stage of cooking there is no need to weigh anything. This is what I did:

You will need:

Fresh root ginger
Red chillies - up to you how hot you want them
1 green, 1 red, 1 yellow and 1 orange pepper
cider vinegar
jam sugar with pectin

Wash the fruit and discard any damaged ones and put into a large, heavy pan. Add about 1 1'2" of fresh ginger, peel on but sliced, and one or two chopped red chillies. Depending on how hot you want the jelly either leave the seeds or remove them. Add enough water to stop them sticking to the bottom and simmer gently, stirring every now and again, till the fruit is soft.

Next, carefully pour into a jelly bag and leave to drain into a large bowl.

Wash and de-seed the peppers/chillies and blitz till small but not pulverised.

Measure the strained juice and, for every pint, measure a pound of special jam sugar, which contains pectin - the setting agent. Keep the sugar to one side for the time being.

Pour the juice, peppers and chillies into a heavy pan and add the vinegar. To give you some idea, this made about 2 litres of juice and pepper mixture to which I added 350 ml of vinegar.

Bring to the boil and continue cooking for about 10 minutes. Carefully add the sugar, stirring all the while until it is dissolved and bring back to a good rolling boil. The instructions on the sugar said boil quickly for 6 minutes, remove from heat and pour into hot, sterilised jars. However, this morning the jelly hadn't set fully. I emptied the jars back into the pan, brought it to the boil for a couple of minutes and whisked in a sachet of pectin I had bought for another occasion. I let the jelly boil for a further five minutes and then poured it back into the clean, hot jars. Fingers crossed that this time it has set! I tasted what was left in the pan when it was cold enough - it had set nicely - and it was delicious. I shall enjoy it with cold meat (chicken in particular), cheese on toast and spread onto duck breasts before grilling them. It would also make a wonderful accompaniment to spring rolls.