Sunday, 30 August 2009

Ruby Food

Part of our recent Summer holiday was spent in Devon, staying with my parents.  It's an area that we both love, and it's great to have a base down there, with lots of family in the vicinity.  This year was also a special one, in that it was both my parents', and my aunt and uncle's Ruby Wedding Anniversaries.  40 years - impressive!  The Summer of '69 must have been a busy one for my grandparents.

I began thinking about a present as soon as heard that there was to be a family party, and soon came up with the idea of a red-themed hamper.  Sometimes I get struck by a wave of anti-consumerism, and horror at the sheer amount of 'stuff' that people seem to own nowadays (myself most definitely included), and luckily this feeling ties in neatly with the idea that home-made and edible gifts are lovely to receive. 

A quick browse through my many 'preserves' recipe books provided inspiration aplenty, but I thought I'd share one of the most successful projects with you: Ruby Fizz.  Earlier this Summer we had great success with making Elderflower 'Champagne', using this recipe, or something quite like it.  To be honest, there are a multitude of different recipes out there, each with varying quantities of elderflower, sugar, water, etc, so take your pick!  We soon got to thinking that we could use the same principle to create any kind of alcoholic (and it is alcoholic!) fruit fizz.  As we had a basket of the wild plums that I mentioned previously in this post, and a bag of foraged blackberries in the freezer from last Autumn, this seemed the perfect place to start.

Simply crush the fruit - enough to cover the base of a clean washing-up bowl - gently with a potato masher, and add about 500g of sugar.  This will seem a lot, but the fermentation process 'eats' some of the sugar, so the finished product shouldn't be too sickly-sweet.  Pour on 1 litre of boiling water and stir to dissolve the sugar, then add 2 litres of cold water.  This should create the ideal temperature to activate the yeast - add a pinch of dried yeast now.  Stir, cover with a clean tea towel, and wait...   After a day or two, you should begin to see signs of the fermentation starting.  As you can see from the first photo, ours looked rather sinister, like a bubbling swamp!  A quick taste will confirm that it is beginning to fizz.  After 3 days, scoop out the fruit (pic 2) and then strain into PLASTIC bottles (can't emphasise this enough - read what can happen if you try to use glass), leaving a few cm free at the top.  Then leave the bottles for at least a week.  Of course, plastic bottles can explode too, so every day I opened the lids very slightly just to let the excess gas escape.  You will hear a very satisfying fizzzzzzzzz when you do this.  In fact Rob and I began almost racing eachother downstairs in the mornings for the privilege of being the one to do this daily job!  You'll see the bottles begin to bulge ominously if you don't do this every day, so be sure not to go away on holiday at this point.
Et voila, Ruby Fizz ready for the hamper.  We have also kept a couple of bottles of this.  It's several weeks old now and has 'aged' well.  It's definitely worth chilling it thoroughly before serving as it remains very 'lively' when opened!  

So the fizz went into the hamper alongside the Cherry Jam, Rhubarb and Strawberry Jam, Cherry Ratafia (liqueur) and Raspberry Vinegar (all homemade, and mostly with foraged fruit), and the Ruby Port, Lindt Chocolates and bar of Bourneville Chocolate (bought, obviously) to complete the gift.

Strawberry Cheesecake Cupcakes were made for the afternoon tea, 'dressed' most beautifully once again by some gorgeous Cupcake Wrappers made by the wonderful Dani - check out the website here.  I asked Dani if she had suitable wrappers for a Ruby Wedding and she went to the trouble of ordering some new papers, and sending me several samples to choose from.  Now that's customer service!

The cupcakes were filled with macerated strawberries, and topped with cream cheese icing, much as I did with the cherry ones earlier in the Summer.
The party was a lovely occasion - many congratulations to Jenny and Bob, and Nick and Gwen!

Saturday, 29 August 2009

Back to Blogging

I haven't written anything on my blog for waaaay too long. I've been away on a few short trips over the last month, part of our 'staycation' here in England, and had a great time. However, I have also been doing some foraging and some cooking so have several things lined up to blog about.

In my absence Sarah from Sarah Cooks has presented me with the Kreativ Blogger award, which was a very lovely surprise!  Do pop over and visit Sarah's blog - her restaurant reviews make me yearn to live in Melbourne!  I first 'met' Sarah online via her amazing project to cook every recipe from Nigella Lawson's first book How to Eat in one year...  a project which she completed in style, and in the process created a fantastic online resource which I find myself returning to every time I cook a recipe from this book.  I love How to Eat, but have always wished it had pictures.  Well, now Sarah Discovers How to Eat has rectified that problem.  Sarah, you're a legend!

As part of this award I have to list 7 things about myself that people might find interesting.  Of course it's perfectly possible that you won't find them interesting at all but never mind.  Here goes...

1.  I am unhealthily obsessed with correct spelling and punctuation.  I shudder at the sight of a misplaced apostrophe.  I am managing to cope with the spelling of 'kreativ' simply because I've checked online and it's the German translation of 'creative' so that's OK.  Of course admitting this obsession of mine leaves me wide open to criticism as I'm quite sure that there are a few cases of incorrect spelling and punctuation in this blog, but no one's perfect!

2.  I always write grammatically correct text messages.  I can't bring myself to shorten words to single letters or numbers...  I h8 txt spk!

3.  I am about to start my 12th year of primary school teaching.  That makes me feel old.  However, it does allow me to indulge in my passion for spelling and punctuation.

4.  I love to read.  I keep a 'book book' which is a notebook where I list the books that I read.  I have read nearly 70 books in the last 12 months.

5.  I am a Cathedral-Spotter and would love to visit all the cathedrals in England.  I went to Guildford last week, which was another one ticked off my list.

6.  I play the piano very badly.  In fact I can only play a few primary school hymns, which can prove useful on occasion.

7.  I have just bought a CD of Jamiroquai singles and have rediscovered my love for Jay Kay.  He lives down the road from me.  I might become his stalker...

I hope you've all had a lovely Summer (or Winter of course, if you're 'down under'!).  It's good to be back.