At first glance it might seem that I am just a happy, normal girl who loves to bake and walk her dog. However, I have suffered with an eating disorder since I was 13. It was only in May 2014 when I realised that this Voice in my head was slowly but surely trying to kill me. And so began the long, hard, and painful journey which is recovery...

I want My Cocoa Stained Apron to be a special place...a place for reflection, memories, shared stories...and of course a little bit of cocoa-staining ;) Recovery might be the hardest thing you ever choose to do in this life. But it is also the bravest and best decision you will ever make.:)

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

My apron is purple-stained. :)

Apparently it's a bad year for fruit over here in Ireland. I am in two minds about this. For sure, it is a bad year for blackcurrants; as testified by my last hopeful visit to my neighbour's garden last week. Oh what a sorry, sorry sight greeted my eyes! Those lovely little bushes which, this time last year, had been absolutely laden with the little purpley fruits were scarggley and bare! Such a catastrophe! So yes, as I was saying, perhaps not such a good year for blackcurrants. But there's another black-coloured berry that is now literally taking over the hedgegrows along my lane. Yes, it's the ever-reliable, seemingly indestructible, but undeniably awesome blackberry. Has there ever been a summer in Ireland which can't categoricaly be classified as a "good" year for the blackberry? Well...not for the fifteen years I've been here, anyway. It may rain, it may hail, it might feel as if an Arctic air mass has shrouded the entire country and that buying that new pair of shades and a bikini was possibly the most impulsive and stupid decision you have ever ever made...but never mind all that; the blackberry seems to survive it all. Which is great news for cooks and jam-makers like me, of course, who, having become increasingly exasperated by the poor yield of other fruits, find much comfort, solace and yummy reassurance in the blackberry's wonderful ability to survive any kind of weather...
Now the thing is I do get rather carried away while I am picking blackberries and I end up with tubs and tubs of tubs of these gorgeous little fruits. And there's only so many apple and blackberry crumbles you can make before complaints arise about the lack of variety being offered for pudding all of a sudden...don't get me wrong, my family adore it, but variety is important in the kitchen of Ganache-Elf, and I don't approve too highly of the idea of there being nothing else being produced in the dessert line except this beloved classic. Blackberry and apple loaf cake, and apple and blackberry pie, have been made too on various occasions...but no matter how many blackberry infused cakes I make, I just always seem to be left with gram upon gram of juicy berriness which I know must be utilised for SOMETHING at all costs...
Well of course the obvious solution is to make jam...but I have had a few problems with blackberry jam in the past so I did hesitate before finally deciding to give it another try. Unlike my famous blackcurrant jam, the blackberry jam I have ever endeavoured to make has always either been too runny, too set, or just tasted...well, odd. But I made two pots of blackberry jam as an experiment the other day; and it does actually look quite promising. It's set anyway, and it's not rockhard either. I wasn't intending on opening it to see what it tasted like until I had finished off my opened jar of blackcurrant. But my curiousity as to whether it was actually edible, whether it actually tasted, well, got the better of me. And.....(drum roll.....)....
Yes, I think it is actually berry good.  ;)
Ok no more silly jokes and more about what we did to make a successful pot of blackberry jam.

Well, I was being cautious so I went for small amounts here. I had about 450 g of fresh plumpuous blackberries, which I bunged in my big green saucepan with two tablespoons of water and a tablespoon of lemon juice. The lemon I used was going mouldy at one end, and since sugar not exactly an expensive ingredient, I felt secure in the knowledge that if my jam did turn out to be a jamn-bloody mess (sorry! sorry! couldn't resist ;) ), well at least it wasn't going to be costing my pocket too much.:)
I then brought my berries to the boil on a medium heat, stirring...well, not all of the time, but a good percentage of the time, anyway - just in case. I know jam isn't as notorious for sticking to the pan as caramel and such like, but stirring is recommended and it allows you of course to keep a good eye on it as it comes to the boil. Once boiling, I lowered the heat to low-medium and simmered for about 15 minutes, no more. The memory of my rock-hard blackberry jam that I made last year still haunts me to this very day....
Now for the sugar. In the past I always kept the ratio of sugar to blackberries equal, but on this occasion I added just a wee bit more sugar than 450 g. A little bit of extra sweetness wouldn't do any harm, I was sure. ;)
Before adding the sugar to the pan, I took the pan off the heat and then tipped it in - again, being cautious I suppose, as sugar does sometimes stick and burn, and I'm quite attached to this particular saucepan - it's another one of my Mam's; and quite a relic in itself. I quickly stirred it all in and then placed over the heat once more, brought back to the boil, and simmered for 10 minutes. And now for the moment of truth...was my jam set? 
Well, a little wrinkle appeared on my saucer, just as I had prayed yes, I suppose you could say my day was jam-packed with success after all. ;) So perhaps tomorrow...I might treat myself to one of my scones out the freezer, spread thickly with plenty of my homemade blackberry jam. I might as well indulge myself after all. The hedges are yet still laden with bunch upon bunch of black glossy berries; so I suspect that this batch of blackberry jam might be the first of many. :)

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