Well, when I woke this morning at 7:00am and opened my eyes to sun streaming in through the window, my heart was suddenly lifted with the thought that the new season is nearly upon us. One of my favourite exercises, as the new season approaches, is to have a good sort out of the bottles and jars in my cupboard. It’s always a bit of a mystery to me as to how I seem to end up, every new season, with so little glassware. All the people I give my produce away to religiously return the empties, yet still I end up in deficit. Still, secretly I’m glad as it gives me an opportunity to indulge myself in looking through the Wares website and planning which bottles and jars I’m going to use for which preserves. I’m like a big kid in a candy shop truth be known.
Elderflower Champagne Bottles
And wow, what a selection to choose from. The first job of the year is to make the elderflower champagne. In my case the non-alcoholic variety, but whichever is your preference Val has a lovely selection of bottles to put it in. Last year I used the 1 litre swing top lemonade bottles which gave a real period look to the champagne. I did find however that I was wasting quite a bit as I’m the only one who drinks it in my house and it does tend to go flat a bit quick. This year I’m going to bottle the stuff for my own consumption in the screw top beer bottles Val sells. She’s got a nice selection of lids to go with them. I think with a natty label they’d look quite good and are just the right size for one person.
Early Gooseberries – Good for Bottles & Jars
Of course next on the preserving itinerary are the early gooseberries. Now I always make gooseberry and elderflower jelly, not because I like it – can’t stand gooseberries – but because it is the benchmark that tells me the new jam season is upon us. It’s a ritual for me; a bit like the druids spring solstice. Fortunately, I have plenty of gooseberry lovers around me, so it doesn’t go to waste. I personally think that it, and in fact almost any light coloured jelly, has to go in a gourmet jar. Don’t know why it’s just one of those deep seated aesthetic judgements which, I suspect knowing my artistic talents, is much misguided but nonetheless it’s one I’m wedded to.
On something more to my palates liking, another great heralder of spring is the forced rhubarb. I planted a new crown last autumn and have just removed the protective fleece to be greeted with a little eruption in the soil telling me all is well and the shoots are on their way. Early rhubarb and ginger jam is not only one of the most beautiful preserves you will ever make but also one of the tastiest. The jar dilemma – well you know it does look rather nice in a vintage style jar. Rhubarb has that old Victorian cottage garden feel about it so a jar to match is rather fun.
Finally, for all those who are lucky enough not to have already consumed their lifetime allocation alcohol, as I have, there is the ultimate early spring pleasure of laying down the rhubarb wine. There is no better than early forced spring rhubarb for flavour and colour and to ensure the colour remains it should be bottled in green glass wine bottles and stored in a cool dark place – delicious!
That’s early spring sorted, what’s next in the calendar? Hmmm, perhaps best to leave it a little while. I can already picture my wife’s face when this first order from Wares arrives. Prudence suggests I use a few bottles and jars up before thinking about late spring and early summer. The lovely thing with Val is you can do that. She gets her orders out so fast and she is so reliable, you don’t have to worry about being stuck with your fruit and no jars to put it in.