I have fond childhood memories of 'Pick Your Own' farms. I particularly remember Mum sending my brother and me to pick the strawberries because she had a bad back, so would rather pick fruit standing up. She would head off to pick raspberries while Ben and I would fill our punnets... and our faces... with strawberries! What child is going to complain about that?
So when I realised that there is a PYO farm nearby, I was quickly on the 'phone to find out what was ready for picking. It seems that it's still a little early for raspberries and currants, but I was delighted to hear that they had ripe strawberries and gooseberries, so we headed off for a picking session on Saturday.
Despite being fiendishly prickly, the gooseberries were easy to pick. They were plump and juicy, and the bushes were laden. I love their translucent, stubbly skins.
The strawberries of course necessitated scrabbling about close to the ground, but the reward of pulling back a handful of leaves to find these treasures made the aching back worthwhile.
Back at home, I was faced with the reality of nearly 3kg of soft fruit that needed using, and fast. A quick e.mail to Mum gave me the recipe for the Gooseberry and Cinnamon Flan that I remember as a result of those childhood visits to PYO farms, and I also turned some into a compote to accompany elderflower creams (like a very English pannacotta), the recipe for which I discovered in Nigella's How to Eat. (Once the elderflower season is past, these creams can easily be made using cordial, as Australian fellow-blogger Sarah discovered as she was heroically cooking her way through the entire book in a year!)
This still left me with 700g of gooseberries, so I made these into a gooseberry and elderflower jam. The recipe was very simple - equal amounts of fruit and sugar, cooked up with half the amount of water (ie 350ml of water for 700g of fruit and 700g of sugar). Instead of using water, I made up 350ml of elderflower cordial, with about 100ml of cordial and 250ml water. Gooseberries are very high in pectin, so this jam set beautifully. And I think it looks beautiful too, pinkish-orange, gooseberry seeds suspended within.
The strawberries too became jam - strawberry and rhubarb jam to be precise. I struggled to find a recipe for this, but ended up amalgamating several I had found online, one of which being a recent post on David Lebovitz's blog. I used equal weights of these fruits as I had so many strawberries. Both rhubarb and strawberry are low in pectin, so I used a cup of apple juice and the juice of a large lemon to encourage it to set. After much boiling it is still what I would describe as 'soft set' but by no means overly runny. However at one point I was beginning to wonder if I should have followed the advice found in several American versions of this recipe, and added 'Strawberry Jello' to the pan!
I think it must be time for a clotted cream tea...