Saturday, 23 July 2011

Making Jam With Sam

Mostly this will be a post about making jam but, in homage to the several small caterpillars that I noticed in amongst the blackberries when it was rather too late to do anything about it, I'm going to slip some Samuel Palmer in too.

A railway line called the Crab and Winkle used to run along behind our back garden. There haven't been trains along since the fifties and the line is completely overgrown and abandoned. This is a source of great frustration to some people, the kind of folk who like things to be neat and tidy. Their latest plan was to put this, in their view, useless strip of land to good use as a cycle path. I am a cyclist myself and often use the Crab and Winkle cycle path to ride to Canterbury. But it gets you from A - B already and whilst the plan to run it along behind our back gardens into the harbour was logical in many ways it would have involved the inevitable destruction - yes destruction - of a valuable local resource. You see the great thing about the Crab and Winkle at this point is that it has been left alone by people for years. Even a nicely landscaped path with new planting would have upset the balance. Some people will never get it but in many ways nature is best when people just keep the fu*k out of the way! Stag Beetles thrive. We have had loads in the garden this year. There are huge numbers of small birds. The ground is strewn with snail shells that the local thrushes have smashed. The blackthorn and wild roses are stunning in spring creating mists of blossom and bright flowers. And best of all there are the blackberries...

I went picking with my son yesterday and within 15 minutes we had collected these.

 We have lived in Whitstable for two years now but I am still in that wide-eyed state of amazement the city boys get when then shift to the country. I love the idea we can just walk out the back gate, pick some blackberries and be home in 15 mins. That stash there would have cost at least a fiver on Lower Marsh market. Samuel Palmer shared the same enthusiasm for the bountiful countryside. He was a fan of food and in Rachel Campbell-Johnston's book Mysterious Wisdom she describes Palmer's wife laughing at him as he tries to stuff three onions into a duck. Palmer seems to have had a particular love for greasy fowl - on another occasion he is described with goose fat dripping off his chin. He also loved nuts and would walk around with his pockets stuffed full of them. When in Shoreham with his group of like minded friends The Ancients they would often go for long walks and keep themselves going by eating blackberries and other foraged foods. The cider the locals made from their garden apples was so good Palmer would often send bottles of it to friends in London, almost as though it were a kind of country tonic.

Well within minutes of picking the blackberries were in the pot with a load of jam sugar.

Get them boiling nicely.

Then after about 15 mins boiling you can shove it into jars like this.
Hey presto! A huge Helmann's Mayonnaise jar full of Crab & Winkle blackberry jam.
I've been eating it spread on a croissant whilst writing this post. Yum.

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