Gooseberry Thyme Jam

Gooseberry Thyme Jam is wonderfully tart with earthy floral notes from the thyme. Of course it’s delicious on toast, crumpets and scones but don’t dismiss its excellence nestling happily on a cheese board.

Gooseberry Thyme Jam

The summer that I decided to make a go of it with my cake stall at the local farmers’ markets I was also fully invested with homemade preserves. I was churning jams, chutneys, butters, ketchups and pickles out of my kitchen at an alarming speed. I was spending early mornings and weekends foraging and then experimenting with my preserves during the day. We still have bountiful jars of rosehip jelly from that very productive time. So when I got a place at a farmers’ market I presumed I would also be selling my preserves right alongside the cakes. This was the dream.

For almost three years that dream has been a bit wobbly. The cakes are a no brainer, they are my deep love and they will make it to a market come rain, shine, wind or hail. I have never though been able to achieve real consistency with the preserves. I still make them, not in huge quantities though. But often I don’t have time to label them or forget to bring the box with me to market.

Gooseberry Thyme Jam

It’s about this time of year when I start looking ahead to the winter markets. I know, it’s crazy! I usually do a few winter fairs selling just preserves and now is the best time for me to start stocking up. My preserves only stall is the best fun. It doesn’t have the same concern that a cake stall may have over leftover stock and it’s easier to hand a customer over a jar than to carefully cut a slice of cake, box it, clean the knives, brush the cake crumbs off the table. Plus the preserves sell like gangbusters in the winter months as people think about their Christmas cold cuts and gifting.

Having just reminded myself how much I love the preserves stall though I’m not sure whether though this is the year to let it fall by the wayside.

Gooseberry Thyme Jam

I have less time than ever. I’m so thrilled that my cake business is doing really well with the markets, bespoke commissions and other opportunities that are on the horizon which I’ll tell you about soon. There is always more I can be doing though to get my cakes out there, admin for the website, social media and do I really want to cut into that time for the preserves?

It probably seems like the sensible decision to concentrate on the cakes when I only have a couple of days a week to do business related things but I have worked hard at developing my recipes, I have a loyal winter customer base and last year I even managed to get the preserves into the local delis. Do I really want to give that up? I am in such a quandary.

Gooseberry Thyme Jam

So, whilst I’m still deciding what to do about the preserves I will continue developing recipes, maybe to sell, maybe just for home use. And meanwhile the latest addition to my collection is a Gooseberry Thyme Jam. One of the easiest jams I have ever made. It only requires three ingredients and was an hour of pleasurable work from start to finish.

I do love a good jam, especially those made with the tarter fruits so they are not overly sweet. When I was a child I was brought up on jammy toast which seems like the ultimate indulgence to our current anti-sugar fever. Now though, I enjoy my jams as part of a cheese board at the end of a meal. Jams are the most excellent accompaniment to salty cheese and if you haven’t tried it then this Gooseberry Thyme Jam is the best place to start. A match made in heaven.

Gooseberry Thyme Jam

Print Recipe
Gooseberry Thyme Jam
Gooseberry Thyme Jam is wonderfully tart with earthy floral notes from the thyme
Gooseberry Thyme Jam
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Servings
5x 200g jars
Ingredients
  • 800 g gooseberries
  • 650 g granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Servings
5x 200g jars
Ingredients
  • 800 g gooseberries
  • 650 g granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
Gooseberry Thyme Jam
Instructions
  1. Pour the gooseberries into a large preserving pan with 200ml water. Turn onto a gentle heat and cook the gooseberries until they start to go a bit pulpy.
  2. Sieve the gooseberry pulp and discard the skin and stem bits.
  3. Clean out the preserving pan and place the gooseberry pulp back in with the granulated sugar and the thyme leaves.
  4. Bring to a rolling boil, making sure to stir the bottom of the pan frequently so the fruit doesn’t stick. It should take 5-10 minutes from then to reach setting point.
  5. Once the jam reaches 104°C or passes the saucer wrinkle test* then decant into sterilised jars*.
Recipe Notes

*The saucer wrinkle test basically requires you to put about 5 saucers in your freezer when you begin making your jam. Once you think the jam might be ready then you can double check by removing a saucer from the freezer, dropping a teaspoon of jam on it then placing the saucer in the fridge. After about 30 seconds remove the saucer and push the jam with your finger. If it wrinkles up it’s ready, if it just pools back into the space your finger has left then it needs more bubbling time. Boil it a bit longer, then test again with another saucer.

*To sterilise the jars place the very clean jars you would like to use in an oven pre-heated to 140°C for 20 minutes. Sterilise the lids by dropping them into a saucepan of boiling water for 10 minutes with a splash of vinegar. I don’t sterilise my lids in the oven as they tend to ruin.

Blackcurrant, White Chocolate and Thyme Muffins

Blackcurrant White Chocolate and Thyme Muffins
Last weekend at the farmers’ market suddenly felt like summer had bloomed.  Every berry was out, loud and proud.  It was like old friends had gathered together for a yearly reunion and you wanted to talk and catch-up with each of them but you could only have time for a brief hello.  I have already made my first jam of the year when the strawberries came along but now my head is full of jellies, crumbles, tarts, messes, trifles and puddings as I panic about being able to fit in every favourite recipe for the short time they are here.  Gleaming with promise were tables of colourful raspberries, gooseberries, blackcurrants, redcurrants and whitecurrants.  I wanted to get a punnet of each but I am trying to learn the art of restraint and was asked by my husband to pick just one fruit.  It had to be the blackcurrant.

Blackcurrant White Chocolate and Thyme Muffins  |  Stroud Green Larder

Blackcurrants put a lot of people off as they are not always the most social of berries, they don’t play well with strangers and can be terribly sour.  But they remind me of my childhood.  They used to grow all over our garden when we were growing up, the funny thing is I don’t remember them being very sour then, and picking them directly from the bush was some of my first real knowledge about where food comes from.  The scent of the fruit, then plucking the little stalk from the end and the final pop of the blackcurrant in my mouth is wonderfully grounding, until the antagonistic tartness makes my lips pucker and sends me headlong into the sugar.

Blackcurrant White Chocolate and Thyme Muffins  |  Stroud Green Larder

The basis of this muffin recipe is not mine but it is one that I have made so often that it feels like my own.  I learnt it from Paul A Young, the master chocolatier, in a seminar on chocolate that he was giving.  I fell completely and utterly in love with these muffins and so does everyone I bake them for.  They take about 15 minutes to pull together and 20 minutes in the oven.  This time round I added the blackcurrants which has turned out to be such a perfect compliment to the other ingredients I think I will now reserve these muffins for this time of the year every year.  The piquant tang of the blackcurrant is soothed by the sweet white chocolate, the crunch of palm sugar and the sticky thyme syrup slicked on top of the muffin.

Blackcurrant White Chocolate and Thyme Muffins  |  Stroud Green Larder
Blackcurrant, White Chocolate and Thyme Muffins
Adapted from Paul A Young’s Adventures with Chocolate
Makes 12-14 muffins

100g caster sugar
100g soft light brown sugar
2 eggs
125ml light olive oil
250ml whole milk
20g thyme leaves
1 tsp vanilla extract
400g plain flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
150g white chocolate chips
125g blackcurrants
for the syrup:
2 tsp palm sugar
2 tbsp caster sugar
2 tbsp water
2 thyme sprigs

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 200°C.
  2. Place the sugars, eggs, olive oil, milk, thyme and vanilla in a large bowl and beat together until smooth.
  3. In a separate bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt until thoroughly combined.
  4. Add the flour mixture to the batter and beat together until smooth, do not overmix.
  5. Stir in the chocolate chips and the blackcurrants until evenly dispersed.
  6. Divide the batter into muffin cases, filling to just below the top.
  7. Sprinkle a pinch of palm sugar onto each muffin then bake in the oven for about 20 minutes until risen and the blackcurrants are bursting out.
  8. Whilst the muffins are baking make the thyme syrup by heating together the caster sugar and water until the sugar has dissolved. Add the thyme sprigs in and simmer for a couple of minutes. Turn off the heat and leave to infuse.
  9. As soon as the muffins have been taken out of the oven, brush the syrup liberally over the top of each muffin until they are glistening.

Duck Fat Roasted Parsnips with Thyme: Day 9 of Whole30

Duck Fat Roasted Parsnips with Thyme
It’s day 9 and I’m starting to get a bit jaded. There are only so many variations on meat and vegetables you can handle before you start to crave something different. This is where my parsnips came in to save the day yesterday.

Slashing a number of food groups out of your diet isn’t easy as you have to funnel all your creativity into quite a narrow focus. I am now starting to look beyond the simple salads and greenery that I have been relying on for the past 9 days and that has now led me to re-examine parsnips. This is a root vegetable I have always liked but for some reason they don’t appear in my kitchen at any other time save Christmas where they are lumped in with the roasties.

I thought I would introduce the parsnip into my diet this week in its most simple form as it is how I have always cooked them, roasted with duck fat. What the Whole30 lacks in food group variety, it makes up for in the quality of the foods you are allowed and including duck fat as part of a healthy eating plan seems a little excessive but it’s as natural a cooking agent as you will get. It was also sheer happenstance as I had a huge jar of it knocking around my fridge from a duck we had roasted for Sunday lunch a couple of weeks ago.

I accompanied the parsnips with a simple roast chicken, steamed kale and carrots. It was nice to give a bit of an occasion to the parsnips, letting their sticky sweet earthiness shine through the other humbly prepared veg. It was hardly the most summery of dishes but then as I look outside this is hardly the most summery of Mays.

Duck Fat Roasted Parsnips with Thyme  |  Stroud Green Larder

Duck Fat Roasted Parsnips with Thyme
Serves 2 as a side

4 parsnips
2 tbsp duck fat
A couple of sprigs of thyme

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C.
  2. Peel the parsnips, then cut into three pieces widthways.  Then cut the pieces in half lengthways.
  3. Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil then add the parsnips. Bring back to the boil then turn down to a simmer for 3-4 minutes.
  4. Place the duck fat on a baking dish into the oven to melt and warm it up.
  5. Drain the parsnips then tip into the baking dish with plenty of salt, black pepper and a couple of sprigs of thyme, turn so every parsnip is completely coated with the duck fat.
  6. Roast for about 45 minutes, turning the parsnips over a couple of times, until they are golden.

Lemon, Garlic and Thyme Infused Olive Oil: Day 7 of Whole30

Lemon Garlic and Thyme Olive Oil
If you cook a lot then there are a bunch of tasks which you will be doing on a regular basis like chopping onions or crushing garlic. It’s these menial jobs which can sometimes add a good few minutes onto preparing your meal and let’s be honest, those few minutes can sometimes be better spent thumbing through Grazia or hopping amongst the Sky channels.

This is why I love infused oils; garlic is such a good infused oil mainly because of garlic’s innate tendency to burn easily, so while I am very careful about using fresh garlic in the oven, if all the garlic flavour is within the oil then you don’t need to worry. Also I do get fed up of always peeling and crushing those suckers, I must do it nearly every day. So having an oil where the hard work is done for you is so useful.

This particular infusion of olive oil is brilliant for slathering over a chicken before it goes on to roast. You can also use it drizzled over barbecued meats or steamed vegetables for instant flavour or in salad dressings which cuts out mincing about with mustard and vinegar emulsions, chuck this onto your leaves and you’re golden.

So the main thing I am really trying to get across here is that for about 30 minutes of not too stressful labour of a weekend you can produce an oil that will help you cut down time on your cooking for the next couple of weeks. Just as long as you like all your meals flavoured with lemon and garlic, but who doesn’t?

Dried Thyme  |  Stroud Green Larder

Of course you can use whatever herbs you like, the woodier herbs tend to dry better than the more leafy ones so will impart flavour more easily. It is important to use dried herbs rather than ones picked fresh as mould will gather on fresh herbs floating about in oil. The same goes for the garlic and lemon but I advise you fish those out of the oil anyway then you don’t have to worry about botulism or anything. The other oil infusion I also regularly make is chilli oil. Prepare it in the same way as the garlic infusion by simmering the oil with the chilli then removing the chilli before you decant it.

As a footnote, one of the directions below calls you to peel a whole head of garlic. If you find this a bit of a nuisance then you obviously haven’t seen Martha Stewart’s excellent tutorial which explains how the job can be done in under a minute. And since I tested it out for this recipe I can confirm that it does actually work.

Lemon Garlic and Thyme Olive Oil  |  Stroud Green Larder

Lemon, Garlic and Thyme Infused Olive Oil

A few sprigs of thyme
1 head of garlic
3 strips lemon zest
500ml olive oil

  1. First of all dry the thyme by putting the herb on baking parchment on a baking tray and place in the bottom tray of an oven at the lowest setting you have. Leave the door slightly ajar and bake for about 20 minutes. Remove and set aside.
  2. Remove and peel all the garlic cloves from the head of the garlic.
  3. Then place the garlic, along with the lemon zest and olive oil in a wide bottomed saucepan.
  4. Heat the oil on a low setting, never bringing to a simmer, for about 30 minutes.
  5. Remove the lemon and garlic with a slotted spoon and leave the oil to cool before decanting into a jar along with the dried thyme.
  6. This should keep well for about 2 weeks.

Goats Cheese, Honey and Thyme Cheesecake

Goats Cheese Honey and Thyme Cheesecake
Last week we were treated to a wonderful talk on bees and beekeeping at our WI meeting.  I learnt basic bee stuff in Biology back in the day but I don’t remember them being this fascinating.  They are like little machines, programmed to do their own special job within their ecosystem.  If something breaks down in the chain then they intuitively follow through with a back-up plan, for instance if the queen dies then they just automatically make another by feeding one of the cells solely with royal jelly rather than honey and pollen.  Nature really has it in for the honey bee though and they are constantly under threat by all sorts of diseases and mite infestations.

After the talk we were encouraged to try a selection of local honey.  In the past I have never been the greatest honey monster, it always just seemed like sweet goop.  However, this honey isn’t like your Sainsburys Basic brand, surprise surpise. Instead it is so florally fragrant, you can almost see the wildflowers dancing about in the breeze and the pots of honey from two different producers had completely different tastes.  The joy of good ingredients is that they can speak directly to you and after my second taste of the honey I immediately imagined this delicate cheesecake sweetened only by the honey bouquet.

Goats Cheese Honey and Thyme Cheesecake

London honey is considered a particular delicacy would you believe due to the utter variety of flowers that the bees have access to.  It’s not cheap as the batches are made by independent beekeepers, but see if you can pick some local honey at a farmers market as it is worth it and you will be supporting your neighbourhood honey bee.  This honey should not be relegated to merely toast or crumpets, although almost certainly would pep up breakfast time no end, but use it in delicate dressings on your salad leaves, drizzled on top of a light vanilla ice cream or do what I’ve done below and create a bit of an event out of it.

If you don’t have a food processor, then you can easily prepare the digestive base by hand by placing the biscuits in a plastic food bag, tying the end off so the crumbs don’t escape and giving them a good bash with something heavy, like a rolling pin.  It’s really very satisfying.

This cheesecake would be perfect at the end of a meal in lieu of a cheese course, it’s not entirely sweet or savoury but steals pleasurably from both camps.

Goats Cheese Honey and Thyme Cheesecake

Goats Cheese, Honey and Thyme Cheesecake
Serves around 8 people

175g digestives
75g unsalted butter, melted
pinch of salt
375g soft goats cheese
150ml british wildflower honey
150g sour cream or crème fraiche
3 eggs
1 tsp thyme leaves
zest of 1 lemon
pinch of salt
Extra honey to drizzle

  1. In a food processor whizz up the digestive biscuits until they resemble breadcrumbs and then pour in the melted butter until completely combined.
  2. Press into an 18cm loose-bottomed cake tin and place in the fridge for 15 mins. Meanwhile pre-heat the oven to 150°C.
  3. Then place the digestive base in the oven to bake for 15 mins.
  4. While it’s baking, beat the goats cheese and the honey in a large bowl until smooth.
  5. Add the crème fraiche and beat again until smooth.
  6. Mix in the eggs, one at a time.
  7. Add the thyme leaves, lemon zest and a pinch of salt and stir in until everything is well incorporated.
  8. Pour the batter on top of the biscuit base and bake for 40 mins until the top has set but still has a little wobble in the centre.
  9. Remove from the oven and leave to come to room temperature in the tin. Then transfer to the fridge and leave to chill for at least 4 hours.
  10. Remove from the tin and drizzle with honey before serving.