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Sticky fingers

The first Kitchen Gardeners meet of the year wasn’t about wasting any time.

We got straight into it with a session on making jam and pickling beetroot.

jam and pickles workshopThanks so much to Dave and Joan for offering their kitchen.  Luckily, they are experienced jam-makers and picklers, because I’d underestimated the number of jars I’d need and Joan had a stash.

Otherwise we’d’ve had a lot of beetroot to eat in a hurry!



We all loved Amy’s apron – that’s her to the right of Joan.

Joan and Amy We used Elizabeth’s great-nana’s failsafe jam recipe and made blood plum and kiwifruit jam, which is agreeably tart and still sweet.

As we used both of Elizabeth’s heavy stock pots to simmer out beetroot (more on that later), Joan offered her nana’s jam pot for our jam.  What a beauty!

We’re sure nana would have approved of our afternoon.

Elizabeth’s great-nana’s failsafe jam


  •  Quantity of soft fruit (plums, strawberries, apricots, peaches…)
  •  Equal quantity by mass of sugar.
  •  Juice of a lemon.
  •  Commercial pectin (quantity by weight, one packet of Jam Setta to 1.5kg fruit)


  •  Wash your fruit and cut it into equal-sized pieces, removing any stones, spots or yucky bits.
  •  Weigh your fruit.
  •  Weigh an equal amount of sugar, mix your pectin through this and set it aside.
  • At this point put your jars and lids in the oven at 100 deg to sterilise them.
  •  Put fruit in a large, heavy-bottomed pot on a very low heat.
  •  Let the fruit simmer very slowly until it is cooked.  This step is important, as once you add your sugar the fruit doesn’t cook any further.
  •  Once the fruit is cooked, add your sugar and increase the heat to a rolling boil.
  •  Boil about 10 minutes, then start to test for setting point.
  •  Once your jam has reached setting point, take if off the heat.  Let jam sit for 10 minutes or so, until the fruit no longer rises to the surface.  This will ensure that when you bottle it, the chunks of fruit are evenly distributed through the jar.
  •  Bottle, seal and label.
  •  Stand back and feel pleased with yourself.


  •  Pectin is the naturally occurring acid in fruit that aids in setting.
  •  Slightly under-ripe fruit is best for jam as it tends to contain more pectin.
  •  I usually guess with the amount of Jam Setta I use, depending on the type of fruit and its degree of ripeness.  It’s forgiving stuff.
  •  This recipe works for just about any soft fruit – the only failure I’ve ever had with it was with custard apple, and that was because it tends to be gritty.
  •  Setting point is the point at which the fruit soup changes its chemical consistency to a gel.
  • To test setting point, put a saucer in the freezer. When the fruit has been boiling for 10 minutes or so, put a smear on the cold saucer, put it back in the freezer to cool down quickly, then run your finger gently through it.   When the jam creases, it’s at setting point. You might need to do this a couple of times.  If you leave it past this you end up with toffee.

Pickled beetrootThen we pickled our beetroot.

This recipe won Elizabeth an OTT rosette at last year’s Swan View Show.

Hence the name.

President’s choice pickled beetroot


  • For about four fresh beetroots
  • 1 and ½ cup (375ml) vinegar
  • I bay leaf
  • Several peppercorns
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup sugar


  • Wash the beetroot and place them in a saucepan. Add enough cold water to cover the beetroot. Bring to the boil and cook until the beetroot are tender.
  • At this point put your jars and lids in the oven at 100 deg to sterilise them.
  • Drain beetroot reserving 1 and 1/4 cups (300ml) of the cookingliquid.
  • Once the beetroot are cool, cut off the tops and bottoms and peel. Slice the beetroot and set aside.
  • Mix together the reserved cooking liquid and the vinegar in a saucepan and bring to the boil.
  • Add the bay, pepper, salt and sugar to the saucepan. Stir occasionally and bring to the boil again. Remove from the heat.
  • Place beetroot slices in your jar and pour hot vinegar mixture over the top.
  • Use a cellophane sheet under the lid to seal, and store in a cool,
  • dark cupboard for a few days before eating.

New Format for Crafty Devils

Crafty Devils has parted ways with Transition Town Guildford and will have a new format for 2014.

To save the expense and insurance requirements of hiring Guildford Mechanics Institute, we will now be meeting at people’s houses. Our next meeting will be in the new year, probably February.

Please check out our Facebook page if you would like to keep in touch with us.

Thanks TTG and all the best!

Kitchen Gardeners’ Society November meet: Bees in the backyard

There were lots of us who wanted to talk about bees at the November Kitchen Gardeners’ Society meet.  And it is a fascinating subject.

Penny and Shane invited us all to their lovely, shiny new house where they have put in enormous amounts of work in establishing a garden before summer proper hits.  They have wonderful plans for bees and chooks and already have their fruit trees in.  It’s going to be a gorgeous, edible, shady and fragrant garden.

Rob, who first appeared at the August meet, and who is a man of many talents, offered to take us through setting up a bee hive in suburbia.  Which we did, but with many digressions and whimsical meanderings of conversation.

We were all so entranced that no-one remembered to take photographs.  Sorry about that.

However, here’s what you need to know:

  • Bee keeping starts off expensively – a hive, bees, bee suits, smoker and assorted paraphernalia will set you back in the order of $600, but this stuff lasts a long, long time and the benefits do outweigh the costs.
  • A jar of honey goes a long way to mollifying a sceptical neighbour.
  • The American hive tool is rubbish, make sure you get an Australian one.
  • You must harvest your honey (or, as Rob says: rob the hive) or the bees will seriously consider decamping and there’s not much you can do once they’ve gone.
  • Your veg patch will thank you, although the bees won’t make much different to your tomato pollination – this you can achieve by a vigorous watering or a gentle shake.
  • Suburban honey is really interesting as the bees range up to five kilometres and collect from whatever is flowering.
  • Conventional wisdom has it that paler bees are less aggressive than darker bees, but this is not necessarily the case.  Be careful around bees.

We”ll probably run another bee workshop next year.  December’s workshop will be on summerproofing your garden, and it’s at Dave and Joan’s place.  Watch your email for the address, and if you’re not on our mailing list, you’ll miss out!