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Making jams and jellies

Why not take a taste of summer into the cold, dark days of winter? Making your own jams, jellies and fruit syrups takes only a little time and effort and doesn't cost much either. The materials are ripe fruit and special sugar called jam sugar. The sugar binds free water in the fruit and so makes it difficult for bacteria to survive. The fact that jams and jellies are boiled also contributes to making sure jam keeps well.

How to make jam

First you need to wash and sterilize the jars you're planning to use for your jam, for example, by rinsing them out with boiling water. Don't dry them because the tea towel might introduce bacteria, simply turn the jars upside down to drain on a clean tea towel. Pick the fruit over to make sure there are no mouldy ones. Then wash it and chop it fairly small. The type of fruit you use will depend on your preferences. It also makes sense to use fruit that's cheap because it's in season. You can mix different fruits and also add herbs and spices. Try combining apricots with ginger or strawberries with basil. Blackberries combine well with star aniseed, while rhubarb tastes good combined with coconut or lemon balm.

Weigh out the fruit and the jam sugar according to the recipe, put them into a high saucepan (the mixture will boil up) and heat stirring frequently. The cooking time will depend on the jam sugar you use and the fruit, so follow the recipe and test for setting when you think it's ready. To test your jam, get a cold saucer (put it in the fridge when you start making a batch of jam) and drip a teaspoonful of hot jam onto the cold saucer. If a skin forms rapidly that wrinkles when you push it with a finger, then your jam is ready to bottle. Stand the jars on a damp tea towel – to make sure they don't crack – and use a cup or a ladle to fill each jar brimful. Close the jar with a – sterilized – screw-on lid. Screw the lid on tightly and stand the jar upside down on a clean cloth. Once cool, ladle the jars and store your jam in a cool, dark place.

Making jelly and fruit cordials

To make jelly, you boil the fruit without the sugar, but possibly with water or juice according to the recipe. Then you let it drip overnight through a jelly bag. Next day, you follow the same method as for jam-making. If you're planning to make large quantities, it may pay you to invest in a steam juice extractor.
To make elderflower jelly, you take 10 flower heads, add lemon slices and cover with water and stand for 24 hours. Then pour the liquid through a sieve before measuring the liquid, adding sugar according to your recipe, plus lemon juice, white wine or apple juice and boil it up, test it and fill it into jars in the same way as jam.

To make a fruit syrup or fruit cordial, extract the juice from berries such as raspberries or blackberries. Mix the juice with sugar in the ratio 1:1, add half the volume of water. Boil up briefly and fill into bottles. A dash of syrup turns a glass of sparkling water or sparkling wine into a fruity summer drink. Or pour the syrup over yoghurt or ice-cream to make a quick, delicious dessert.

Source: Heike Kreutz, www.aid.de