Welcome to the new year. It's been a quiet space from me I know - I had planned to stop before Christmas but not soon enough for my body it seems - my back went (a first for me, and a first I'd rather not have had), and then Christmas doings, comings and goings on, arrived at my doorstep - much to my delight. Since Christmas I have been - can I politely say - exhausted and very much in need of quiet, doing nothing and searching for the unraveling threads of my body and soul so I can begin to be able to knit them back together again. I thought I had done a good job of that knitting earlier in the year, but it seems not. In a sense it's a clear space to see where I've been and where I want to go. But, I think I've begun to find those threads, so when we head out to our island paradise (mind you not everyone thinks Rottnest is an island paradise) next week I can begin to knit. I think that metaphorical knitting looks something like this: salty ocean water, ocean breezes, sitting with a good book and perhaps a cup of coffee (yup, I'm living dangerously here I know).
And, it's been hot. Really hot for days on end. I mean horrible hot not just hot. Luckily I have a freezer full of berries (a basic rule - when something is in season, get lots at a good price, preserve it in as many ways possible - jam, bottle, freeze etc). In my desire for doing as little as possible, I opted for the freezing option. There were very few West Australian cherries this year, but this 1kg I found at my butcher the other day for $10.00. Yes, they were in the cool room since Christmas, so going cheap. Thank you very much. Perfect for jelly. Or pie. Or jam (with scones). I've been in a cherry and ice cream mood. They are both easy and lovely to eat when it's hot and a pretty delicious way to include gelatine in the diet. Gelatine is such a good thing - soothing and healing to the gut, ensures that foods are more easily digested, great for bones to name but a few of it's benefits. But, you have to be very fussy about the brand - I wouldn't be touching the generic stuff in the supermarkets labelled ' from Australian and imported ingredients'. No way. If you are having bones, skin and cartilage, you want to know it's come from animals that are healthy and have had respect paid to them. I use either of 2 options - Bernard Jensen or the Great Lakes Grass Pastured. I've come across organic leaf gelatine in my travels also, but really quite happy to use the slightly more old fashioned powdered gelatine.
I like to make jelly from scratch, and it's a lot easier than it sounds. The commercial ones taste like the chemicals that flavour them - they don't even bother to disguise it it seems. The so called 'natural' ones - not much better as far as I'm concerned. A jelly is simply a juice of some kind, sweetened to taste and set with gelatine. That's it. You could also use agar and I'll give you the recipe for both. Gelatine will give you a more sexy, wibble wobble, smooth and flexible end result, but it will melt in the heat and take hours to set. Agar will give you a boofy, clunky end result but set in a matter of 30 minutes or so, and hold up to bullying heat.
In the void of the nothing, I am confident I will find myself and my soul again but I also know some delicious food will help. The rest of those cherries are coming with me to Rottnest for a Cherry Pie for Body and Soul and Beignet are most certainly happening for breakfast one morning (french doughnuts). You could make a cherry pie too - it's easy, and this is the pastry recipe I use. Just toss the cherries with a bit of cornstarch/flour/arrowroot to bind the juices (about 2 tablespoons for 1 kg of cherries), a bit of sweetness - taste the cherries first, and vanilla.
Mum gave me Bathers for Christmas and can I tell you they have cherries on them :) They're called Cherrylicious. May your new year be cherrylicious in every possible way.
You can happily use frozen berries here - for mine, I used a mix of strawberries, logan and blackberries. Sweetness wise, I add just a touch of golden castor sugar, a semi refined cyrstallised sugar (Billingtons) as it allows the taste of the berries to come through. Rapadura, Coconut Palm etc muddy the flavour too much for me - be careful if you are using the moscato or fruity dessert wine, as they will add sweetness also. The moscato (I used Strawberry Champagne for Christmas) etc is not necessary - you can just use more berry juice to make up the amount required. If you'd like to add a 1/2 vanilla bean to the stewing berries, do so - just a little or the vanilla takes over too much.
400gm blackberries or other moist berries such as rasp, straw, young/logan berries or cherries + extra to set in the jelly - as you can see, I used cherries for that.
1 - 2 tablespoons golden caster sugar or to taste
1 tablespoon (20 ml tablespoon) high-quality powdered gelatine
125 ml /1/2 cup moscato or fruity dessert wine *** optional see above
Place the berries, the sugar (add a bit, then taste and add more if needed a little later, remembering you might be adding the moscato) and 435 ml (1 3/4 cups) of water in a saucepan. Stir through and bring to a gentle boil [over medium heat. Continue to simmer over low heat (not too rapid a boil or you will evaporate off too much liquid) for 40 -50 minutes, I often put a lid on it to be sure.
Strain the mixture through a fine sieve, pressing ever so lightly on the solids to extract as much juice as possible (if you press too hard the liquid won't be as clear and sparkly). You should have 500ml (2 cups) of liquid; if have less, you will need to make this up with water; if you have more, set the excess aside for another use. Return the 500ml of liquid to the pan and bring to the boil. Immediately turn off the heat, sprinkle the gelatine over the juice and whisk through for about 1 minute or until it is well dissolved. Add the moscato and stir through. Place your extra berries (as many as you want) in the bowl, and pour the jelly over. Cool before placing in the fridge to set overnight.
MAKING THE JELLY WITH AGAR:
Replace the gelatine with 1 1/4 teaspoons agar powder and 1 teaspoon kudzu (kuzu).
Place the 500ml of strained berry juice in a saucepan and whisk in the agar. Return the heat and bring to a gentle simmer, whisking frequently because as the agar dissolves it likes to the bottom and stick. Gently simmer for 6 minutes from the time it comes to the boil, whisking frequently.
Meanwhile, combine the kudzu with 1 tablespoon of the moscato and mix to a smooth slurry.