Our time in London is coming to an end. Yes, in one week we will be packing all of our stuff (which is not much, really) into a small van and heading up north to Manchester, where Kristian is soon to commence his new job. Although we are sad to be leaving London, which has been home for half a year, we are very excited about our move.
We have visited Manchester several times now and each time the city has been great. It is so much smaller than London, but this is kind of nice. Whilst London has been an amazing city to live in, the sheer size of it and amount of people living here can be a little overwhelming at times. Don’t get me wrong, there are so many aspects of London that we have loved. The amount of cafes and restaurants, food markets and festivals, museums, general history and even everyday things like the convenience of the tube, has made for a wonderful experience. We are happy to be leaving the city on a high note with many beautiful memories.
For the past couple of weeks we have been doing our best to ‘tick off’ certain London experiences. We have been on multiple long distance walks (and by long, I mean looong!) taking in the atmosphere and enjoying the many different facets of our temporary home. The best thing about living here is that we have been able to enjoy so many parts of London that you would usually skip when here on a short visit. It is these experiences that have been the most enjoyable and the most memorable. Well away from Piccadilly Circus and Trafalgar Square, away from Hyde Park and High Street. Whilst it is still fun to admire Big Ben and Buckingham Palace, there is so much more to do and see.
Walking with the deer in Richmond Park, taking in the view atop Parliament Hill in Hampstead Heath, devouring many tasty morsels at countless different food markets, London really has offered us so much.
One experience that I have wanted to tick off, what Kristian refers to as ‘my very unique list’, is picking berries at one of the farms on the outskirts of the city. Yes, it may seem like a bit of a strange thing to want to do in London. Perhaps I am missing the farm life or maybe I was swayed by the though of the jam I would make from our berry bounty. Yes, that sweet, sweet jam. Whatever it was, I have been bugging not only my dear husband, but also Alex and Amy, to join me in my quest for some fresh berries since the warm weather started rolling in back in May. Amy was quite keen too, the thought of fresh jam being very appealing. Unfortunately, between our travels and work and other adventures, a group berry picking session was never to be. I was, however, able to sway my darling husband into spending a day out in the fields with me.
Kristian and I headed out to a ‘Pick your own’ or as I prefer to call it, a ‘PYO’ farm in Northern London, out in the borough of Enfield. We spent the afternoon strolling through the many different fruit and veggie crops. Although we had missed out on the strawberries, much to my dismay, the blackberries were in full swing, the plants laden with beautiful purple fruits beckoning me to make them into jam. We came home with a quite a bounty indeed.
I finally put the many jars I have been collecting for the last six months to good use. I have preserved a little bit of our London Summer, to be savoured in Manchester when the snow is several inches high and it’s too cold outside to do anything else but eat jam covered treats. Sounds like perfection to me.
MAKES APPROX. FIVE 250ml JARS OF JAM
1kg fresh blackberries (you could substitute for other berries)
1kg caster sugar
Before you begin, place two small plates in the freezer. You will use these later in the recipe to test if your jam has set.
Place the berries in a large, heavy based saucepan. Add a few tablespoons of water and cook on a high heat. Bring this to a boil and then simmer for about 8-10 minutes until the berries start to soften and release their juices.
Using a wooden spoon or potato masher, crush the berries a little so you have a more even distribution of fruit.
Add the sugar to the simmering fruit. Stir and allow the sugar to dissolve, cooking over a low heat for about 8-10 minutes.
Once the sugar has dissolved, turn up the heat and bring to a rolling boil. Cook for a further 10-12 minutes. At the 10-minute mark, take jam off the heat. Take out one of your plates from the freezer and place a little bit of the jam mixture onto the cold plate. After a few seconds, once it has cooled slightly, run your finger through the middle of the jam. If the mixture holds its shape and does not run back into itself, your jam is ready. If you think it needs a bit more time, just pop it back onto the heat for another couple of minutes and then test it again. You don’t want to over cook it because it will set far too firmly.
Once your jam is ready, pour the mixture into sterilised jars* and seal. Store at room temperature until ready to use.
*To sterilise your jars: Wash your jars well, place upright onto a tray and place in a preheated oven at 130˚C for 20 minutes. To sterilise the lids, place them in a saucepan. Cover with cold water and bring to a boil. Leave them to boil for 15-20 minutes then take them out and set them out on a clean tea towel to dry.