Reverse psychology for jam and jelly, and never-ending beetles

And so the saga of the green beetles continues….. I had hoped to eke out a few more jars of raspberry jam from the fruit remaining on those struggling raspberry canes. However, not content with eating the leaves, the beetles have now decided that they like raspberry juice, straight from the berry.

As we picked this morning, we had to tear the beetles off nearly every raspberry – they cling with grim determination. Nevertheless, I was hopeful. And then I started to cook the fruit and out they came from the insides of many of the berries. Not exactly appetising. Maybe I could add water and make raspberry jelly? I think not – they just kept coming. Beetlejuice takes on a whole new meaning.

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You can see Robert in the photo taking his revenge with pyrethrum spray. It’s all we can do really, not that it seems to make much difference. Mowing the grass this morning was a veritable nightmare of beetles in the air, beetles everywhere – in my hair, under my clothes, ghastly.

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However, we have had more luck on the blackcurrant front. A large bowlful made its way into jam (no bugs!) and last night’s strained off juice was made into jelly.

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Now it occurred to me today to use reverse psychology on the jelly and jam. Sometimes my jelly doesn’t set as well as I’d like. Conversely occasionally I have an issue with my cordial syrup. After adding the citric acid at the end, and especially if I boil it above a bare simmer thereafter, it starts to gel. It’s a testament to the quality of the fruit, but a little annoying nevertheless.

So, I thought, why not add citric acid to the jam or jelly at the end and then boil it for a couple of minutes more? Would this guarantee a good set? This breaks all the rules I have in my head – for instance, the cardinal principle of adding acid at the very beginning of cooking. However, it worked like a dream, both set to perfection. The science behind it eludes me, but it was successful, so that’s all that counts.

What a difference a day has made to the brined walnuts, as they blacken nicely on the trays. The sweet ones are now bottled, just need to reboil their syrup after a few days. The savoury ones can be cooked up tomorrow. Ecstatic to have such a good supply for cheese platters and to add to beef braises over winter.

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So finally, after making a double batch of labna to use in my presentation at the Taste Festival on Friday, time to call it quits in the kitchen for yet another day.

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