Jellies, butters, foster cats and sticky messes

Aaargh, Not only did my Mum commandeer the Aga for Hours yesterday, she went and exploded apple puree all over the kitchen table, chairs and even ceiling! She said it was an accident, the scales top slipped and the weighing pan tipped over. So how come it spread quite so far? I think she is inventing some new sport. Or trying to turn me into a vegetarian by adding fruit to my dishes. Either way it was a failure and Dad had a laugh as she scrubbed the splodge off her new infra-red room heater.

Now that I do approve of. It has an Aga feeling but comes from on high (is that why humans think Heaven is up above?). She’s got them in all the rooms now, its great- just like her cattery heaters, which I know about because thats where I stayed when I first arrived at Weston. My friend and I were unfortunately bereaved at 16 years of age. Initially we stayed in the cattery while our human was in the hospital but she never returned to us. Mum fosters for PFSS when she can. She tells me we were lucky foster-girls. As we were ladies of a venerable age with medical needs we were not sent anywhere else. To tell the truth I had already decided to stay. I had given her the “hard stare” with my emerald eyes and I think she got the message. My friend went to care for another human being and I can say elderly as Lily was 101 1/2, which is even more than me, allowing for cat/human adjustments. Unfortunately for me Lily also passed on and ‘the other one’ came back. We don’t get along well at all. She keeps to Dad’s room which suits me, while I take all the amenities as Queen of the household. And I supervise all the rooms as you know.

cooked apples

apples are boiled till soft

apple puree draining

apple puree is suspended in a sieve over a bowl to drain off the juice


Our cool store room is full of apples in boxes, so Mum thought she would use a few. She usually makes marmalade at this time of year, as the bitter seville oranges are in season for just a few weeks. She really wants to make some but the cupboard is full of last year’s and Dad is growling at her. She needs to go to the story and folk clubs with her Babushka basket more often: home made jams are always welcome there. She started with a mission to use up grapefruits that were in the fruit bowl. Grapefruit, lime and glacé ginger marmalade, using apple juice for pectin and to dilute the strong grapefruit flavour a little.. Then as she had pulp and juice left over she made an apple butter, and undaunted by the puree redecoration of the ceiling incident, she took frozen garden raspberries and made raspberry and apple jelly too. So instead of just having an overload of marmalade the house is full of jams too.

Here’s what she made:

She 2/3 filled a pressure cooker with apples, added water to almost cover and cooked them till they were explosive (see above). The remaining mush went into a large sieve over a bowl to collect the juice. You can suspend doubled up net curtain or muslin or an old pillow slip over a bowl/clean food-safe bucket if you don’t have a large enough sieve. That gives you juice and pulp.

For the marmalade she cooked the citrus fruits, again just covered with water in the pressure cooker till soft. She removed the fruit and when cool enough to handle, finely chopped the rind and flesh, discarding coarse tissues. Weighing the remaining citrus juice and citrus fruit, she added equal quantity of sugar in a large pan. Then she added 2 pints of the apple juice with 1 1/2lb sugar and 4oz place ginger. She heated it to dissolve the sugar. You can split the quantity into 2 if theres too much for your pan- play safe so you don’t burn your Aga cat who will be watching from what she thinks is a safe distance. The mix is brought to a rolling boil and after 14 minutes you start to test if setting point has been reached. With a wooden spoon, lift the preserve. If its ready it will gather thickly on the spoon and 2 drops will form as it tries to flake off. Drops put on a cold plate will gel after a few minutes cooling. Mum had put clean glass jars and lids in the bottom oven already. When setting point is reached, draw the preserve off the heat and rest for 2 minutes while you get the jars out of the oven. Take your time as this ensures the peel stays suspended in the cooling jam. Bottle into the jars, covering with waxed paper and screw on the lids tightly. Label with the date of making and what it is. All marmalades look similar, we have enough of the stuff for me to know that. If you don’t like peel (why are you bothering?) use the juices only or just as many fine strips as you desire. The apple will give you a clear jelly to display the peel in.

jelly making

simmering juices, this is not hot enough yet

jelly boiling

this is a rolling boil, see the scum of protein forming? you need to skim these off at the end


Apple butter is a favourite with visiting children. Its essentially apple puree with an equal volume of sugar, simmered till its so thick, drawing a spoon across the surface leaves a trail mark. You can add extra flavours while its cooking: spices (cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg) or lemon peel, ginger root or chopped apricots. Bottle as before. Mum uses a food mill to squish the boiled drained apples to mush excluding peel core and pips. Theres hardly anything left to compost.

With more apple juice, Mum made jelly. Thats fruit juices with just less than half their weight of sugar, boiled to setting point as above. Mum took frozen raspberries, crushed them in a pan over a little heat till the juice wept out. (Try not to overcook to preserve the best colour and flavour.) She sieved them overnight like the apples, thus leaving my kitchen a real mess of fruit and pans. I hardly knew where to put my paws. Then she got out even more jars and labels and commandeered my favourite space on the Aga top again while she cooked the jelly in 2 batches. It only takes about 12-15 minutes from rolling boil till setting for a jelly and does not benefit from cooking longer, unlike the butter or even the marmalade which just darkens. So do in small batches and pay attention. No music Mum, No Facebook!

jars of jam

tighten the lids while hot and label your goodies

And thats it. Your cupboards will soon be as full as ours. Dress your jars up with paper covers and ribbons for fabby presents. If you would like more exact quantities please let us know.

The trashy jams in shops have only 45% fruit if that. Home preserves can have much more, are tastier. As a guide, 60% fruit or juice: 40% sugar by weight/volume will preserve fine. Ensure your jars are clean, sterile, with clean sterile metal tops screwed on tightly while jam is hot so a vacuum forms in the jar. Store in a cool preferably dim place and they will last a year or even two.