blackberry and sloe gin jelly and a note about 'fasung'

i’ve not eaten much jelly in my life. i could be wrong, but i don’t remember mum ever making it, and i’ve certainly not eaten it in anyone else’s house. i suppose the obvious next question is whether you could buy jelly at all in yugo supermarkets but 1. there weren’t really any supermarkets as such and 2. you certainly didn’t buy THAT kind of thing in them. oh and 3, making stuff out of packets was sort of cheating.

what you did buy in supermarkets what my parents called ‘fasung’. i have no idea what the word ‘fasung’ means though it is evidently german. whereas turks gave us words for sleeping and eating (duvets and pillows are definitely turkish, as are many fruits and vegetables), the germans contributed with vocabulary of practical things: zips and sowing machines and screwdrivers. oh, and tights, with a word that makes no attempt to hide its origins: schtrample.

'fasung’ was for dull, bulky things: dishwasher salt, washing powder, jars of gherkins, possibly a tube of tommy mayonnaise, tins of sardines (‘eva’ ones with peppers were my favourite, in tins that sported a particularly fetching walrus in a stripey tee shirt), oil, sugar, macaroni. also raisins and little sachets of vanilla sugar, which made our pantry smell how i think all pantries should. that’s about it. you’d nip over to the deli counter and get some sliced ham and salami but the majority of fresh food you’d get from the market.

so why am i making jelly now? well, jelly is fun. it’s easy to make, you can make it in moulds shaped like pigs or rabbits, there is always a moment of terror as you turn it onto a plate and squeals of excitement both if it does and doesn’t work, AND – as a bonus - it wobbles rudely on a plate. what’s not to like? i should also say jelly can be made without the addition of sugar so it’s a pretty decent primal dessert for a special occasion.

i like jellies plain, or just with cream. i’m not entirely sure about the addition of fruit, but i am working on that one. trifle with jelly is, in my view, a complete abomination. (trifle should be: sponge soaked in sherry, raspberry jam, fresh raspberries, homemade custard, lightly whipped cream, cheesy decorations which include a christmas tree made out of candied angelica. end of.)

the basic jelly recipe that’s proved pretty failsafe for me is 500ml liquid and five of those gelatine leaves. a jelly freak, rather than an amateur like me, might consider the consistency too stiff. but having failed to deliver once (at a party, no less), i’d rather be safe than sorry. and anyway, it still wobbles, that’s the main thing.

some pointers – oil the mould very lightly. just wipe around it with an oiled kitchen towel before pouring the jelly in. if making jelly from fruit like berries or rhubarb, let the juice drain in a colander without squashing the fruit as apparently this makes for a cloudy jelly. i think life is too short to aim for this kind of perfection so i regularly squash. do add booze to your jelly – that’s what makes is good. i made a forced rhubarb and limoncello jelly the other day (second photo) but the best one i’ve ever done is blackcurrant and sloe gin bunny a la valentine warner on the first picture.


5 gelatine leaves
600g blackberries
400ml water
150ml sloe gin

soak the gelatine leaves in a bowl of cold water for about 10 minutes. the leaves need to be covered.

while that's happening, put the blackberries and water in a pan, and let simmer over a gentle heat until the fruit has totally collapsed. now place a sieve with a piece of muslin or an old cloth over a bowl, and tip the blackcurrant mix in. let in drain, until all the juice has been extracted - don't squash if you can help it. i can't and do. you're after the juice - you can throw the fruit pulp away though i'd keep it to stir into greek yoghurt.

now reheat the fruit juice gently, to just warm. take the gelatine leaves out of the water - squeeze them dry with your hands - and whisk into the juice. make sure it's all dissolved. add the sloe gin.

pour into a 700ml mould and put in the fridge - for a good few hours or overnight.

when you want to turn it out, dip the mould very briefly in hot water before doing it. emphasis on very - i did it for maybe 10 seconds and the warmth turned my jelly back to liquid.


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