Weekends are for baking, slow cooking and now, it would seem, jam-making, preserving and curing. I’ve had some great successes making recipes from Salt Sugar Smoke by Diana Henry, a new book by one of Britain’s best-loved cookery writers.
The first recipe I turned to, from the opening chapter, was Purple Fig and Pomegranate Jam. Handy, as figs were on special offer, meaning I could make twice as much! I also tried making the Georgian Plum Sauce, with in-season English plums, which made an unusual addition to our Sunday roast. And lastly, I cured my first wild salmon, with beetroot, salt, sugar, vodka and dill. With only one extra cookery book addition to the shelf, that’s quite a few new skills acquired!
I am not usually one who preserves, but as soon as it arrived, Diana’s book really inspired me to get out my biggest pan, jam thermometer and some big empty jars. In Salt Sugar Smoke, Diana writes that jam-making is like capturing time, holding on to a season, a particular mood.
It actually isn’t all that hard once you know the basics, such as how certain fruits behave in different recipes and how to heat-sterilise the jars and equipment you’ll need. There are plenty of tips for the beginner in Diana’s book and once you’ve had a go at making a simple jam, you can follow Diana’s inventive and charming recipes or start experimenting with your own flavours. Raspberries meet violet syrup, pears come together with chestnuts, warm French croissants can be smothered in jams of apricot and lavender. Even mixed-coloured melons are given the flavour boosts of fresh root ginger and lime. Salt, Sugar, Smoke also explores creating marmalades of pink grapefruit, “lovely jars of jewelled colours” jellies to partner cold cuts and cheeses, and reveals the secrets behind making the perfect curd.
And this is only the very start of the adventure. Diana goes on to demystify sauces, pastes, mustard and vinegars, chutneys, relishes and pickles, and teaches us how to smoke food at home without having to convert the potting shed into a smokehouse. You can also try your hand at making homemade cordials, alcohols (my favourite is the cinnamon-spiced Polish vodka Krupnik!) and the beautifully named ‘spoon sweets’ echoing the Greek and Middle Eastern tradition of serving jams and fruits by the spoonful.
The purple fig and pomegranate jam (made in three easy steps) is as good on a buttered slab of sourdough toast for breakfast as it is mid-afternoon with a mild-tasting cheese such as Labneh. You can find the recipes here at Diana’s column for The Telegraph’s Stella Magazine.
My first solo adventure in jam making!
Beautiful purple figs, lemons, zest, cooking apples, apple juice, pomegranate juice, sugar, pomegranate molasses
Heat-sterilised jam jars – a very important step in jam-making – you can do this by boiling them, placing them into a warm (170 degrees Celsius) oven or even by putting them through a dishwasher cycle
Georgian Plum Sauce made with English plums, brown sugar, garlic, Hungarian paprika, lemon, mint and herbs – a striking addition to the dinner table!
And finally…Beetroot Gravlax, simple curing, to feed a crowd at my sister’s birthday party.
There is a short mention of Salt Sugar Smoke here, the winner of the giveaway was Michelle G.
Next week, I’ll be writing all about afternoon tea at Diana’s home to celebrate the launch of Salt Sugar Smoke.
You can also read my interview with Diana at her home here.
Who is inspiring you to pull out your pans at the moment?