The weather has been hot. Today is no exception. Hot, wet and humid with a wind coming from the south. The breeze brings the heady scent of hawthorn bloom through my open window. The scent of these mingling with the earthy aroma of petrichor. That deep patchouli like smell of the nearby forest in the rain. A base note to it all. It’s a smell unlike any other. It’s a smell of home. The smell of the start of summer.
It got me thinking. How I might capture this very moment? This chance in time. Soon I had on my trusty boots and out looking for what else the hedgerows might be hiding. I didn’t need to go far. Beautiful Dandelions, Crosswort, Hawthorn, Sweet Cicely, Rose blossoms, Herb Bennet, Gorse, Apple Blossom, Spruce tips just emerging from their brown paper like sheafs and the tenacious Cleavers covered the hedgerow.
Just clipping a little of each and saying thanks. I didn’t take enough for much of a remedy but just enough to add its scent and taste to the collection forming in my bag. Only taking a little here and there as the bees were busy with their work. On my way home I discovered Jasmine in bloom. Searching through my many jars I found some dried Gorse, cat mint flowers and Daisies left over from my garden.
Looking at the array in question I pondered. What to do with it all? I think this is the beauty, the art and the happy experiments in foraging and using plants. Inspiration can come at any time. However, this collection of plants to me represents my home. The place where I live and a little slice of this warm, scented heady day.
Theres a million and one things you can do with plants. Tea, decoctions, flower remedies, syrups, incense
mixes, tinctures, elixirs, rubbing salts, home-brew and jams among others. It’s really up to you. Let intuition and imagination guide you. Once you have the technique down for these you can apply it to anything.
So with the collection of little plants in front of me they just screamed out flower jam. I wanted something sweet and reminiscent of the perfume of the day.
I have no idea what this combination of plants will taste like and I’m hoping for a happy accident. I also think “what grows together goes together” and these were all within 500m of one another. So ever hopeful i got to work.
Once done place all the plant material of your choice into about a litre of water. I didn’t really pay much attention to the parts but I would say they were about one part to half a part each. There were less Spruce tips and rose petals than the other plants. Bring to a fast boil (like an infusion/decoction) with the lid on.
Take off the heat and leave to steep for about an hour (longer is fine, it will just be a bit stronger). Just beware if there are bitter parts in the plant this will be added into the taste.
Strain all through fine muslin or a coffee filter to get out those bugs that didn’t make it and the plant bits. From this you should end up with about 750ml of Strong decoction.
At this stage you can also add in any fruit juices you want, or a little hydrosol of your choosing. I had some left over lemon juice and some orange flower hydrosol so in they went with a bit of heather honey. Just experiment and see what you think/feels/smells right. Weigh the last amount.
Weigh an equal amount of sugar. Less if you like it less sweet but not too much less! As the sugar acts as a preservative and its usually a 1:1 ratio that does this but a little less wont hurt. It will reduce the shelf life though.
Here I add pectin to make it set. So you will need to follow the instructions on the particular pectin you use.
Mix the sugar and the decoction and anything else all together and wait for it to do it thing. Following the pectin instructions. Don’t let it boil.
Note whilst all this is happening you will want to sterilise your jam jars and lids. You can do this a number of ways. In the oven or in a hot water bath. Just make sure you don’t put cold glass into a hot thing as it will break.
Once this is all done do a set test. Put in a cold spoon and look at the jam once its cool. If it sets like jam then your good to go. Ladle the hot jam into the hot jars and hope that the pectin has done its business and put the jar lids on tight. The lids should depress as they cool making a seal and ensuring its sterile.
That’s it job done!
If it looks too runny you can open the jars put the jam back into a pot and evaporate some of the water out. This may or may not work.
You’ll want to keep the heat low to not burn the sugar unless you’re looking for a rolling boil in which case keep stirring. If you don’t you might get a slightly caramelised (read burnt sugar) taste to the final product. You might also be able to add more pectin again. This will depend on what brand you are using so please check.
There’s a million and one things you can do once you have the basics down. You can experiment to your heart’s content with lots of different combinations. I think a Sweet Cicely and Valerian bloom jam would be amazing!
Interestingly since posting a picture on social media about the ingredients there have been a lot of suggestion not covered such as a hair rinse, smoking mix or bath salt mix. I think this just goes to prove what an eclectic and inspirational lot you are.
I hope this wee post will serve to inspire you to get out and make things from your local area. Capture any special moment or day or feeling you wish too. In case you are interested the above jam came out beautifully. Smelling somewhat like fresh hay and having a floral hit at the start moving to sweet Mango body with a light citrus aftertaste.