Venice again?

109. Me.

          If you’d already been lucky enough to go to Venice twice, if you’d first been with Eldest Daughter, travelling the length of Venice on the water bus, hopping on and off to explore first the high tourist spots, followed by the smaller stops with hidden surprises down little alleyways, then again with Hubby where the Grand canal miraculously turned into an ‘S’ shape making it possible to walk from one end of Venice to the other in less time than taking the water bus.

          If you’d spent lazy afternoons like a local squeezing in a siesta here and there or just sitting at the balcony window watching the gondolas float by, or wandered the tiny streets looking for that evermore perfect photographic memory to take home.

          If you’d enjoyed how different bolognese or carbonara can taste in a local restaurant or finally discovered a “white pizza” and eaten fresh fruit which had grown to unimaginable sizes.

          If after all this, and more, Hubby said we were going again, would you be pleased ?

          Hell yes!

          More from before : visits to “Venice” in Aug 2006 and Jul 2013.

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Brambled

          I mentioned back in September that I’d found the perfect spot to pick blackberries for making “Bramble jelly“. I picked quite a few, even though I was only using the small-sized freezer bags, fully loaded with blackberries so they only just close with the handles ties, they were still more than a large handful for even my big hands.  If I remember next time (because I don’t see why there shouldn’t be a next time), I’ll weigh them.

          I had four freezer bags full, dropped into the freezer on different days and then all defrosted at the same time into the largest pan we have.

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          The kitchen smelled wonderful.

          Now, if you’re the baking kind of lady, you might well have a large piece of muslin in your kitchen already. However, since I’m me, I was just lucky that our corner shop is a 24 hour supermarket so that I could leave my pan of resting mush to rush across the road to get some.

          Now my brain didn’t even consider going to the homeware aisle, I did give the baby aisle a seconds thought, I believe that at sometime in what almost seems like a previous existence, I had merchandised them at that location, but again, me being me, on arrival I headed straight to the ladies lingerie and picked up the largest, cheepest pair of ladies tights I could find for a mere fraction of the price of the muslin.

          If using muslin I would have carefully placed it over a bowl and poured the blood-red mixture onto it, gathering up the corners to tie above the bowl to some frame made especially for the event… Instead, I stretched one leg of the XXL tights over the jug, spooned the gloop into it, and then tied the top to the cupboard door handle with the other leg.

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          Now here is where you need to remember the tip I gave you on the “Bramble jelly” post, don’t be tempted to squeeze the bag, or to scrape the juice from the outside. It will give you a little more juice, but it will also make your jelly cloudy.

          There is always an exception to every rule, if you haven’t managed to pick enough blackberries to make it worth while turning your juice into jam, then peel and chop some apples (adding apples still gives you a seedless jam and the blackberries more than carry through with the taste) if you’re adding apples, your jam is going to be cloudy anyway so go ahead and squeeze until your heart’s content.

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          From my four pretty full, small freezer-bags of blackberries, I managed to collect just one pint of juice. Very nice juice I might add, not at all watery, the kind of juice which coats the side of the jug as you swirl it.

          And the recipe goes “one pint of juice needs one pound of sugar”.

          Just for the record, the scales have been washed well since I weighed Pollyanna last.

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          You should always pour your juice into your pan first, then add your sugar into a pile in the centre in one go.

          There’s no scientific or just simply baking reason for adding the ingredients in this way, however one of the most satisfying, but also time consuming part of making bramble jelly in this way is watching the dark juice climb to the top of the sugar mountain, one grain at a time before you stir it on a gentle heat until the sugar has melted and then simmer it until setting point.

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          In the meantime, wash your jars and dry them with kitchen towel to avoid teatowel fluff.   Then, once your jam has reached setting point, warm your jars in a shallow sink of hot water and pour in your jam.

          I need to add a few lines about setting point here, it’s not as easy as I remember. A plate placed next to the stove with a little water in it will help you to find the point where a couple of drips falling from the spoon will be jam by the time they’re cold on the plate. However, don’t be tempted to think more is better, I simmered my jelly for a little too much time and have a sweet consistency rather than a jam, now I’m going to have to re-heat it with a little water to find the right consistency again.

          Close the jars while the jam is still steaming, the science bit here says that the steam will turn back into water and create a vacuum to keep your jam alive until you’re ready for it.

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          One final point, once you’ve opened a jar, keep it in the fridge, and insist that you must have lots of big portions until it’s gone in case it goes off.