In the beginning of the year when the weather is poor, either bitterly cold or grey and wet we can lift our spirits by taking full advantage of herbal plants we may brought in for extra protection from frost. Rose and lemon-scented geraniums offer particular treats, lemon verbena and pineapple sage are alternatives to make fragrant and flavoursome jellies. Adding them to an apple jelly is simple and easy. Please note not all Pelargoniums are edible. Use Pelargonium graveolens or Pelargonium limonium.
Scented geranium Jelly.
3 cups sugar, strained juice of 1 large lemon made up to 1 cup with apple juice, ½ cup of herb infusion, 100ml liquid pectin.
Pour 1 cup of boiling water over about 4 tablespoons of torn fresh leaves of lemon or rose scented geranium. This may need approx, 7 or 8 large leaves. Simmer gently to reduce the liquid by half. Do not boil or this will evaporate perfume and flavour. While this is simmering pour the sugar and fruit juices into a large pan and prepare 2 jam jars by sterilising with boiling water. Keep these warm.
Add the herb infusion to the sugar and fruit juices and bring slowly to the boil, making sure all the sugar has dissolved before turning up the heat. Once boiling, add the liquid pectin and stir well. Boil for 2 minutes and remove the pan from the heat. Skim. Set one washed, dried and torn fresh geranium leaf in each warmed jar and pour in the hot jelly. Seal and label. Makes 900g [2lb] jelly. Recipe taken from Herb Sufficient pages 19/20.
The same method can be used to make other winter jellies such as lemon verbena or pineapple sage. The jelly is delicious on scones or as a filling in a sponge cake. By lining the cake in with 2 or 3 large washed and dried lemon scented geranium leaves before pouring in the cake mix the flavour is infused into the cake as it cooks. When turned out on the rack and cooling the leaves can be gently peeled away. Slice the cake into two layers and spread with the jelly as a filling, adding whipped dairy or non-dairy cream if wished. For the finishing touch lay a large lemon scented geranium leaf on the top of the cake and dust with icing sugar so that when the leaf is removed the shape is left.
January has always been the month when I have made marmalade. Unwaxed fruits are preferable and the perfect way to be sure you have organic fruit is to grow it yourself. Last year with my lemon trees indoors for winter scenting the room with delicious perfume, it was a real treat to harvest lemons from my own tree for the grapefruit and lemon marmalade. I also add home candied elecampane root for a touch of spice. If you have not candied the root in late autumn this can still be harvested from 3 year old plants in winter, re-planting the top slice of the root for re-growth from the ‘eyes’ already formed. Pips from the fruit can be sown in citrus compost and quickly produce healthy young plants.