Tuesday, 10 December 2013

The Roman Strawberry and Chinese Cherry

It is hard to imagine that strawberries were first cultivated in Ancient Rome. The strawberry was a symbol for Venus, the goddess of love, because of its heart shaped fruit and its colour. Can you believe it is in the same family of plants as the rose?  The strawberry is the only fruit that has seeds on the outside rather than the inside. They are high in vitamin C (8 strawbs will give you more vitamin C than an orange) and anti-oxidents, so they are so good for you. Their only downfall is that one is compelled to add chocolate, ice cream or cream!

So here is a recipe which will make your heart sing. Lots of strawberries a little sugar and water, with amazing results!

Strawberry Vanilla Syrup


2 cups hulled Strawberries
1 cup water
1 cup Caster Sugar
1/2 tsp Vanilla Extract

  • Place water, vanilla and sugar in a pan on a low heat until the sugar has dissolved, stirring all the time
  • Mix in the strawberries
  • Boil for 10 mins, then lower heat for another 10 minutes until strawberries are mushy
  • Strain the syrup and bottle
  • Keep in the fridge for up to 4 weeks

You can use this syrup on ice cream, in smoothies, on waffles and pancakes and you can picture yourself in Ancient Rome, being the Goddess Venus, lying on a sun bed in a court yard being fanned by the God Pluto (God of the riches under the earth), or you can just thank goodness for strawberry farmers!

Cherry Vanilla Jam

My kitchen smells of deliciousness and I have red sticky bits around my mouth! I have just made a batch of Cherry and Vanilla Jam. I really love this combination for the taste and the aroma. This is really a conserve because I have left the cherries almost in tact except for the stones, so you can also use this as a filling for a cake - Black Forest? Add to a Goat's Cheese Tart, Pancakes, Croissants or anywhere you would normally have a sweet fruit filling. You could even get a spoon and eat it straight from the jar.

1 kilo of fruit only made 4 jars
Here is the recipe 

1 kilo cherries, cleaned, stones and stalks removed
600g Caster Sugar
1 cup Water
1 Vanilla Pod
Juice of 3 lemons

Cherries have very little pectin (that's the stuff that makes the jam set) so don't skimp on the lemons.
Place cherries, water, vanilla pod, lemon juice and sugar in a big pan on a low heat and gently dissolve the sugar. Bring to the boil and boil rapidly for about 20 - 30 minutes until the mixture thickens and setting point is reached. To test for setting, bring the pan off the heat and put a teaspoon of the jam on a cold plate. If the jam tends to wrinkle when you push it gently with a finger, then it is ready for bottling. Take out the vanilla pod and wash it and dry it for future use. 

Once you have put the jam in the jars, place a round of greaseproof paper over the jar and seal with a lid. Leave for a week or so until the flavours really develop.

If I reuse jam jars I wash them in soap and water and then put them in a low oven for about an hour.   I scrub the lids and boil them in a saucepan of water to ensure they are clean.

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