Saturday, December 14, 2013

Bramble Jelly-Part 2

I know, I know, this post has been a long time coming since I actually finished the Bramble Jelly over two months ago, but I finally have the time to sit and write the rest out. 

The second half of this process was accomplished with my two good friends Ashley and Kristi. We kept scheduling and having to cancel our plans for different reasons and when we finally found the best time for us to do this I got a migraine earlier in the day but pushed on through anyway. This is all to explain why there are no pictures of us- picture me in pj bottoms and slippers with crazy sleep hair- and why I've neglected to capture most of the process by photograph. We had a good time anyway and ended up with a nice product!

Here's how:

We ended up doing 3 batches with all the juice that we had and Ashley brought some berries to make a batch that had seeds in it. We put the juice (or straight berries) and sugar (1 pint juice per 1 lb jam sugar) in a large pot on low heat and added a few squeezes of lemon juice (real lemon) to help it set better as blackberries are a low-pectin fruit. Juice and sugar was stirred until the sugar dissolved. 

At the same time we sterilized our jars and lids. The oven was heated to gas mark 1 (275°F/130°C) and we put the jars on a cookie sheet and heated them in the oven for 20 minutes. Lids were put into boiling water for 10 minutes. 

The juice and sugar mixture was then brought to a boil and simmered. We made sure to test the jelly every 5 minutes to see if it had set. This took about 10-15 minutes. The setting point is 105C/220F. Scum was skimmed from the jelly after the setting point was reached. (The pot can sit off of heat for up to 15 minutes after the setting point is reached) 
It was at this point when having three of us was very helpful as hot jelly needs to go quickly into hot jars. Ashley removed each hot jar from the oven, I filled each with jelly, and Kristi quickly closed each lid. The lids need to be closed quickly to provide a good seal and to prevent mildew! Success!!

The jars were left on the counter to cool overnight and almost all of our seals depressed leaving us with jam that could be stored at room temperature. 

I added labels to my jars and a little bit of jelly flair! Now they are all ready to be given as gifts! Don't worry, we saved some for ourselves too!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Bramble Jelly- Part 1

Blackberries are in season here in Britain and they are everywhere! It is not uncommon to see people beside the road picking and eating these sweet berries and we are no exception. Last week, Todd and I went to do some picking in a little grove near our house where the dogs could run around. Not surprisingly, there was very little dog exercise and lots of blackberry eating.  

In first one hour of picking we got over 2kg of blackberries (that’s about 3 quarts)! Its a perfect amount for making blackberry jelly (a.k.a Bramble Jelly).

Growing up, we had black raspberry bushes in our yard and I can remember summer afternoons picking berries and whining about the thorns that would prick my fingers! My mom would make black raspberry jelly every summer (in my recollection) and we loved homemade jelly! So, with my new project I called my mom for a few jelly making tips! 

One of the details she told me about jelly making is that you can juice the berries and save the juice to make your jelly at a later time! Perfect!

I took the 2 kg of berries and put them in a pot and filled the pot with roughly two inches of water. The blogs were a bit inconsistent about the amount of water to use. Some add less water and others add more to the juice in the end. It’s a bit confusing, but I went with the 2 inches and assume the water will boil off later during the cooking with sugar phase.

I brought my berries + water to a boil  and simmered for 20 minutes.

At this point, my beautiful assistant helped me to squish the berries in the hot pot.

Once the berries were adequately smashed, we let the pot sit and cool for an hour or two. After sterilizing my jam bag in boiling water for 2 minutes, we not-so-delicately poured the berries into the bag to hang and drip overnight.

A bit of a warning here that this process is really messy and most likely stains everything! I’m still finding splatters of this juice that I’m cleaning from my kitchen. In the morning, my jelly bag had stopped dripping and there was quite a lot of juice. Utilizing the sound advice from my mother, I restrained myself from squeezing the bag to get out a few more bits of juice. This, apparently, just adds more scum to the juice that needs to be skimmed off later and I’ve read that it makes your jelly cloudy. I weighed my juice and put it into freezer bags for hopefully a short stay in the freezer.
I ended up with 5.25 cups of juice from my berries!


The rest of the jelly making process I'm planning to do with two friends and their bramble juice. I'll post the rest of the project once we get together to make the final product.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

A day in St. Boswells, Scotland

Todd and I felt like getting out of Durham yesterday so we packed up the car and the pups and headed up to Scotland for a 24 hr trip to a town called St. Boswells in Scotland. The two hour drive was very pretty and we had beautiful weather throughout the day.

I have created a video of our trip to try to bring you along with us. Hope you enjoy!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Officially a Master

Newcastle University MRes Faculty

Last night was the ceremony for my Master's degree. Todd and I headed up to Newcastle University for the 5pm ceremony on a very cold night. It was nice to be a part of the official ceremony, which included the other MRes and Doctoral Students.

Before the ceremony

It was a short ceremony that included a portion of Katy Perry's Firework "Maybe you're reason why all your doors are closed so you could open one that leads you to the perfect road" sung by a classmate of mine during his closing speech.  Todd was allocated a seat in the very front row so he was able to capture my very quick moment of being hooded and shaking the hand of the vice-chancellor. It also meant no surfing the internet on his phone while waiting through the other 150+ names! Sorry Todd!

My moment to shine

I also received my degree last night. I was a little disappointed to find that it was printed in portrait. There is something about landscape that makes it feel really official. Is that silly? It is a thick paper and is officially watermarked so no complaint from me, but portrait?

My degree

After the ceremony, Todd and I headed back to Durham and out for dessert to celebrate with some friends. Overall, a great day with a yummy cherry pie finish!

Officially a Master

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Churros and Hot Chocolate

Todd and I tried our hand at making some Churros and Hot Chocolate this past weekend. We first heard of these and ate them on our trip to Barcelona. I found a super easy recipe online here and we spent the afternoon frying the dough and melting the chocolate. The result came out great and we had a nice dessert to share with some friends!

I was in charge of the pastry bag!

Todd was a great Churro flipper!

Final Result-YUM!

If you ever want an easy fried sweet, treat yourself to some of these little crowd pleasers!

Friday, October 5, 2012

Peak and Lake Districts

The view from our hostel in the Peak District. 

After our trip to Barcelona, Todd, Jonelle, and I spent two days in the Peak District and two days in the Lake District here in England. Todd found a great hostel for us with such a beautiful view and a good local pub nearby. 

We spent the first day visiting Lyme Park. The house used as the exterior of Pemberley, the fictional estate of Mr. Darcy in the 1995 BBC version of Pride and Prejudice. 

Kelly reaches Pemberley
Jonelle in front of the lake at Lyme that Mr. Darcy's I hear?
Todd and Kelly in the gardens at Lyme Hall

We toured the house, but as taking pictures was not allowed, I have no pictures to show here. The house was lovely and we had a wonderful chat with one of the volunteers here about many things British. 

Along with the house and gardens, Lyme Park has 1300 acres of land that includes some amazing views of the Peak District. The picture below shows the view and includes The Cage, that once housed the estate's gamekeepers.

View from the grounds at Lyme Hall

The second day in the Peak District we spent the entire day at Chatsworth House and Gardens. The lady at Lyme Park described Chatsworth House as a palace. It was all very impressive!

Chatsworth House

The inside of the house was really just one elaborate and overwhelming room after the next. It is hard to believe that people still live in this amazing house.

A few of the rooms in Chatsworth House

Along with the elaborate decor, the house displays many priceless pieces of art that are owned by the family.

We stopped to have a traditional tea at one of the restaurants on the grounds at Chatsworth. It was my first proper tea in England and a lot of fun to share with a friend from home. 

Traditional Tea at Chatsworth House

Outside the house, we spent a lot of time walking the grounds. The picture below I included so you could see the massive size of the "house" as seen from the garden. 

Chatsworth House

The garden includes a 300 year old water cascade that runs down a 200 foot hill, rock gardens, and a maze that I got quite lost in.

The Cascade

Jonelle and Kelly at the top of the water cascade. 
The rock garden

Overlooking the maze 

A better picture of The Maze can be seen here. Even with this picture I can't figure out how to get to the center!  

View of the gardens from inside Chatsworth House

Then, on our drive from the Peak District to the Lake District (a two hour journey) we encountered a herd of beagles. 

A HERD OF BEAGLES PEOPLE!!!!! I LOVE THIS COUNTRY!!! Forget the beautiful views of mountains, we had to sit and wait until the HERD OF BEAGLES passed us! The dogs were unphased by our high pitched calls of "PUPPIES!!!" (ok, it was only me yelling this, but the dogs were still undeterred).  

(And yes, I do know that it would actually be a pack of beagles not a herd, but they were definitely being herded down the road by what I assume was their owners/trainers, so I'm sticking with a herd of beagles.)

In the Lake District, we stayed at a very nice bed and breakfast beside a lake called "Derwent Water" in the town of Keswick. 

The town of Keswick nestled between the peaks.

In Keswick, we checked out all the cute shops in the town and had some great soup at the Dog and Gun Pub that displayed a sign saying "All Dogs Welcome". It's not uncommon for dogs to be allowed in the pubs in England, but these tired pups were taking over the joint:

Dog and Gun Pub
The second day in the Lake District we headed to a town called Penrith where we did some more shopping and bought some carrot cake!

We had a great visit with Jonelle and it gave us an excuse to go and see some beautiful sights! Jonelle and I spent the following day laying around the house and watching Bridget Jones movies (we needed some more Mr. Darcy) before she headed back to the States. 

Sunday, September 30, 2012


Casa Batllo

Todd and I recently took a trip to Barcelona with my good friend Jonelle who came for a week and a half to head to Spain and see some beautiful sights in England while she was here.

Below are a lot of pictures from our trip! First of all, Barcelona is a beautiful city. While, the weather wasn't nice enough to have some beach time, we had a great time tiring out our feet walking around this pretty city.

A beautiful side street

We stayed in a apartment just outside of the main part of the city, but close to the beach and metro. We were happy to find our little town was filled with locals and there were markets and a main street near us with shops and restaurants. It was just off the beaten path enough so we didn't feel completely "touristy" but our street was busy enough with locals stopping in at the patisseria or the small fruit markets on our street that we weren't completely isolated.

Breakfast every morning from the bakery close to our apartment

I seem to find things built by architect Frank Gehry in many of the places I visit. He built both the Dancing house in Prague and a recent Manhattan residence in NYC.  So, we walked to barcelonta from our apartment and saw the Gehry fish. I have to say that of the three things I've seen built by Gehry this is the least impressive, but since he includes fish in many of the buildings he creates this was nice to see also.  

Kelly in front of the Gehry Fish

We spent most of our time walking around the city seeing all the sites and stopping into all the shops. There was many beautiful things to see as we walked even along minor side streets.

Beautiful views around every corner

Antoni Gaudi is the resounding name of Barcelona architecture. We headed to Park Guell, a huge park Gaudi built at the top of the city with mosiac tiles incorporated into every building, seat, ceiling, and wall. The park also had a wonderful view of the rest of the city.

Park Guell
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Mosiacs of Park Guell

We also headed to the Gothic Cathedral in Barcelona with it's many shrines to saints.

Street near the Gothic Cathedral

The Gothic Cathedral

Front doors of the Gothic Cathedral

Insert a coin and your "candle" will light.
Choir stalls at the Cathedral

The Sagrada Familia was my favorite site that we saw during our five days. It is a basilica created by architect Antoni Gaudi in 1883.

Another beautiful street

The Sagrada Familia is still being built 130 years later and is not planned to be completed until 2026. The building will have three facades depicting the nativity, the passion, and the gloria. It will have 12 bell towers dedicated to the 12 apostles, 4 towers dedicated to the evangelists, and 1 tower dedicated to Jesus.

Basilica Sagrada Familia- Nativity facade.
Sagrada Familia- Passion facade.

This is what the final product will look like in 2026.

It was a cloudy day when we arrived, but stepping inside the church you see Gaudi's vision for a simple yet powerful design with natural lighting directing the eye and mind heavenward.

Inside the Sagrada Familia


Ceiling of the Sagrada Familia
Alter of the Sagrada Familia

Though it was hard on our feet, it was nice to spend time exporing the city.

Did I mention the streets were picturesque?
We found a huge cat!

Our favorite square

As Todd and I can't stand spending money on mediocre food, we did some research and found some wonderful treats!  It wouldn't be a Brewer vacation with out a few good food finds!

Churros and Hot Chocolate are a local treat!

La Boqueria is a huge market on Las Ramblas selling just about any food you could want. One night, we grabbed a different variety of fruits and cheeses along with some bread for dinner to take home, put up our feet, and watch some BBC Pride and Prejudice (for homework of course)...more on that later!

La Boqueria- the Market
La Boqueria

Todd found us a great vegetarian restaurant for dinner called Sesamo where we each had the tasting menu. Todd remarked this was one of the best meals he's ever had. I agreed! We sat right next to the open kitchen where the chef checked in on us with each course.  

Todd eating "Jonelle food".

Strawberry and basil gazpacho, cheese-filled gnocchi with beet sauce and parmesan, gouda and quince paste with macadamia nuts...yum!

Eight delicious, vegetarian taster courses

And then back to our favorite square for Jonelle and Todd to patronize my picture taking....and to share some sangria!!

Jonelle and Todd in our favorite square