A Taste of Summer

Well, we haven’t really had much of a summer so far, have we? I am talking UK here – I know some of my US readers have had too much heat! But here, in the land of weather – where the best, easiest and most common topic of conversation is THE WEATHER just because it is so variable – we have had weather in spades! Floods, storms, wet, wet wet, where we had hoped for a July with balmy days, even hot here and there, especially as the school holidays come over the horizon.

So I was delighted when the husband returned from a small trip to France bearing six kilos of Apricots. To me, ripe apricots are summer on a stalk, the scent putting me firmly into a warm summer evening, the taste bursting sunshine on the tongue. We ate quite a few – but the majority I turned into jam. If there is one thing more instantly tasting of summer than a ripe apricot it is warm apricot jam. I love the aroma as the apricots simmer in the microwave, and the taste of the jam, still warm, scavenged from the last vestiges stuck to the the bowl before washing, is heavenly.

Yes, I did say microwave. I have adapted a recipe to make my apricot jam in the microwave, it means my jam is almost pure fruit and sugar, not diluted with lots of water. It also means I don’t have to be standing over the hob stirring, stirring , to prevent sticking or burning.

My recipe to make 5 lbs.  of apricot jam.

3lbs Apricots, 3 lbs sugar (half and half granulated/ jam sugar). 3 tablespoons water.

3lbs apricots – wash then stone. if you are able to find a way – crack about 6 of the stones and remove the kernels, blanch these by immersing in boiling water for a few minutes – when boiled up with the apricots they will enhance the pectin level, otherwise just use half Jam Sugar (with added pectin).  Apricots are a medium level pectin fruit and need a little help one way or another to achieve a set.

Place the apricots in a very large glass MW safe bowl with a lid (mine holds 3 litres). Add 3 tablespoons of water. Cook about 10 mins.

Stir and add 3lb sugar (half and half granulated and jam sugar stir in well) unless kernels used when it can be all granulated.

Remove lid, heat 5 mins on high,Stir well, heat 5 mins on high.

Add a piece of butter (about walnut size) to clear the jam. Simmer for 10 mins – test for set.

If not ready give 5 mins more on simmer – until set achieved. Remove kernels if used.

Pot into hot, sterilized jars and seal – Yum! Potted summer! More details under Recipes from the drop-downs

Talking about summer, I have my fingers well and truly crossed for good weather at the end of this week, as it is the Port Eliot Festival. Not some little Cornish village festival, of which we have many, but a national type festival, big, mad, eclectic and set in the beautiful grounds of Port Eliot castle on the banks of the Lynher in Cornwall. Once the site of a the wild Elephant Fayre the festival, after a long absence,  reinvented itself as a literary festival which has grown organically and shape shifted to a festival of all things, almost as eclectic as my blog – there are literary events a plenty, from serious non-fiction through to chic lit,  many with a less than reverent feel, poetry from humorous to serious, dovegreyreader, the  readers-blogger, is there in her special tent, there’s music of many varieties, food demos, food tents run by celebrity chefs, fashion in a big way with renowned milliners and fashion designers creating with weird and wonderful materials right there for you to parade around in, and absolutely amazing flower show and so much more – wandering musicians, jugglers, singers……

And I will be there, along with the rest of the Liskeard Poets, reading our work on the theme of ‘Dancing with…’ in the Round Room at 5pm on Sunday. So if any of you are lucky enough to be attending this year’s festival – do make yourself known to me then, would be great to meet some people I only know by comments or email addresses.

Lastly, don’t forget to claim your free ecopy of LEAVE TO APPEAL – a Novella as a consolation prize from my Win a Kindle Competition. All details of this and results on last week’s blog  It will come as an ecopy in your chosen format and you don’t need an ereader either – it can be easily read on the computer – I look forward to hearing from you.

What brings back memories of summer for you? Is it a photo, long forgotten, a taste, a scent? Do share – I’d love to hear from you!


More Port Eliot Festival …..

Wow! What a great festival… the weather gave showers for the Friday but they soon cleared, and I ended up leaving my wellies in the car and favouring sandals all day.  So, if you’ve never been to Port Eliot Festival you have to know that most recently it was a Literary Festival with a wild past (known as Elephant Fayre in the 80s) that has now matured into a brilliant all round, family friendly festival, something for everyone, everyone pretty laid back and in such beautiful surroundings.

There is plenty of the literary festival still there with readings, discussions, interviews etc but is combined with music, to suit many tastes, wild swimming, cinema both in the house and at night down by the river, fashion, flower arranging, poetry, food from small Cornish frozen yoghurt business to Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen, cookery demonstrations, bars, comedy, cabaret, stalls, a whole area just for children to enter into a fantasy land of making  playing play acting, dressing up and doing wonderful stuff, wandering musicians, jugglers and dancers. Dovegreyreader (blog-site) even had a tent where you could sit while she did interviews and you could knit, should you wish to.

What did I notice… well people always dress a little differently when at Port Eliot (especially if they’ve visited the Fashion tent) and the stalls selling weird and wonderful hats, (vintage and modern) and the same in clothes attract a lot of people who obviously arrived and only then realised people treat the place like a big fancy dress event. Me? Well I went wearing one of my belly dance coin belts, over layered skirt and wrap and jingled my way about…. part of my reading included words describing a belly dance and so it was also a prop! Secondly… as I said the weather really didn’t need wellies…yet all through so many people were wearing their wellies (all sorts – multi-coloured to standard green or black)… even on the stage, as did Kate Winslet when she read to the children from Mr Gum … perhaps they didn’t bring any other footwear … it being a festival and all.

Our reading in the round room went well with nearly a capacity audience – everyone in bare or stockinged feet in there as have  to take your boots off at the door …. can’t wait for next year!


Port Eliot Festival and Poetry

I’ve wanted to write a page on Poetry, but you know it has a funny effect on people. I suppose it is from forced poetry at school or something, but to me poetry has a life of its own. I know it has pursued me from about the age of nine when I realised that you could not only learn poems but you could also write stuff that had rhythm and rhyme. I blame my mother… though that should be praise, she could, and would, recite ‘The Lady of Shallot’, or great swathes of ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’ off by heart. I learnt large sections of these two and Cargoes and my long time favourite GK Chesterton’s Rolling English Road.

Poetry has got me a free weekend ticket to the Port Eliot festival these last 3 years.. that’s amazing enough. What is even better this is because we perform at this festival and people who are not related to us, nor are our friends, come and listen! How magic is that!

This year we took as our theme Elephants, from the crest of the Lords of St Germans (who own the Port Eliot estate) and Castles.

We perform in the Round room, an acoustic gem where if you stand under the central chandelier there is no need of amplification, and which is painted all round by the late Robert Lenkiewicz in a weird and wonderful montage.


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