Damn! That’s mighty fine jam

Pic courtesy browniegirlblog.com

Pic courtesy browniegirlblog.com

They say that laughter is the jam on the toast of life. It adds flavour, keeps it from being too dry, and makes it easier to swallow. Certainly, when it comes to spreading the joy it doesn’t get more gratifying then good ol’ fashioned home-made apricot jam.

Our Bulida apricots are now in full harvest and, oh boy!, are these blushing beauties something to write home about. At once sweet and enticingly tart, they’re ideal for use in purees, curries, chutneys and, of course, jam. I put some feelers out for the definitive apricot jam recipes but discovered that there seem to be as many as there are varieties of apricot. Of course, most share the standard equal fruit-to-sugar base, although farm friend Colleen Grove, aka the Browniegirl, uses less sugar and, supplements, instead, with vanilla and ginger, which lends her jam a fragrant Oriental undertone – just imagine that spread on warm crepes, topped with a dollop of mascarpone and served with a stiff espresso.

While the jury is out on the apricot-to-sugar ratio, both Colleen and fellow foodie Debra Aukett from Port Elizabeth agree that the trick to rustic farm-style chunky jam is to steep the fruit overnight in the sugar. This pre-soaking firms up the apricots, ensuring the fruit pieces stay intact when it comes to making the jam. Debra also pops in a few of the kernels from inside the apricot pips into the simmering jam as not only do these add a lovely, slightly bitter almond taste but the pectin they contain aids the setting process.

Both Joburg friend Moira Barnes and Wendy Hudson from Knysna also add a few tablespoons of lemon juice to their jam recipe – again, this is for the pectin, which, incidentally also preserves the colour of the jam, preventing it from darkening on setting.

Truth is, apricot jam is a great one for the experimental cook – people throw any number of things into the preserving pot (think orange rind, zest or juice, ground cinnamon or cardamom pods, even grated carrot or almond slivers, or, better yet, a shot of Amaretto. In our house, though, you could be lynched for messing with grandma’s tried-and-tested recipe so here follows the true unadulterated version, for you to do with what you please.

Apricot JamApricot jam

This jam is quite chunky and not too set – the way the French like it.

  1. Halve and stone the fruit, keeping back about 5 of the pips. Crack them open with a hammer or nutcracker and remove the kernels.
  2. Place the fruit and sugar into a preserving pan or your largest, deepest saucepan. Squeeze over the lemon, give everything a stir, then leave to steep overnight.
  3. Bring a small pan of water to the boil and blanch the kernels. Peel them, then break into two and add to the fruit.
  4. Place the pan of fruit over a low heat and cook, stirring, until the sugar has dissolved. Turn the heat up to high and boil for 20 minutes or until the fruit has thickened. Stir frequently to prevent the jam from burning on the bottom.
  5. Allow the jam to cool for a moment, then spoon into sterilised jars, making sure each jar gets at least one kernel. Cover and seal while still hot, then leave to cool and refrigerate until use. Once open, store in the fridge.

Makes approx 3 jars

Tip: To sterilise your jars, wash them in hot, soapy water, rinse, then place on a baking tray in a low oven to dry completely. Keep them warm until you are ready to fill them.

Note: High in vitamin B17, apricot seeds are often taken as an immunity booster by cancer sufferers. However, they also contain traces of cyanide, a poison – the Food Standards Agency (UK) advises not to consume more than two bitter apricot kernels a day.

Our Bulidas are now all harvested, so our special ‘Farm Gate’ offer has been withdrawn. However, we will let you know when the sweet big Bebeco apricots are ready in early January – they are ideal for drying and preserving. Watch our Products page for details.

Olives shine at Christmastime

Olives are the go-to ingredient this time of the year. Not only are the enticing black and green glossy fruits the hostess’s ultimate all-rounder for canapés (or for putting that final flourish to a festive martini), but olive oil adds a golding touch to the Christmas table, too. For those with a knack for crafts, olive branches make the most beautiful wreathes and table décor. And, of course, a jar of pickled olives is a gift most will happily accept.

Here, some visual inspiration for using the olive in all its wonderful incarnations for a dash of festive cheer…

Olive, Tomato, Mozarella and Rosemary Salad

Olive, Tomato, Mozarella and Rosemary Salad

Olive Branch Table Wreath

Olive Branch Table Wreath

Gift Jars of Marinated Olives

Gift Jars of Marinated Olives

Olive Santa Penguins

Olive Santa Penguins

If you fancy trying any of these fabulous ideas, don’t hesitate to drop us a line – we’ll make sure you get all the necessary olivey accoutrements you require before Santa arrives – even the leafy branches, if you’re ambitious enough.

Alternatively, see our great range of olive and olive oil products, which includes a limited offer Oil-and-Pickled Olive Hamper available at a special ‘farm gate’ price.

Watch this space for delicious festive recipes using olives and olive oil…


Do you know your good fat from your bad?

In a groundbreaking move earlier this month, US food safety officials initiated steps to ban the use of trans fats, saying they are a threat to health.

Olive Oil

Trans fats, also known as partially hydrogenated oils, are no longer “generally recognised as safe”, says the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The regulator claims that a ban could prevent 7 000 deaths and 20 000 heart attacks in the US each year.

Industrially produced trans fats – created when hydrogen is added to vegetable oil, making it a solid – are used in processed foods and in restaurants as a way to improve the shelf life or flavour. Foods commonly containing trans fat include some processed baked goods such as cakes, biscuits and pies, microwave popcorn, frozen pizza and other refrigerated dough products, some fast foods, margarine and other spreads and coffee creamer.

Not all fats are created equal

That said, not all fat is bad. Nearly every nutrition expert agrees that a moderate amount of fat consumption plays an important role in maintaining a healthy diet. It provides our bodies with energy, is essential for growth and development, and is necessary for the absorption of vitamins.

A balanced diet should contain more unsaturated fat than saturated fat (the latter is found frequently in foods like butter, lard, chocolate, cakes, pastries and meat products, including sausages and pies). Most people eat too much saturated fat: around 20% more than the recommended maximum. A diet high in saturated fat can increase low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels (otherwise known as bad cholesterol) in blood over time, increasing the risk of heart disease.

Take heart

Due to its high concentration of monounsaturated fat — the primary fat source – olive oil can actually help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol. This ‘good’ fat is, in fact, a nutrient with important functions. Among them:

  • It’s a rich source of energy. Did you know that fats produce more than double the energy acquired from carbohydrates or proteins?
  • It’s a carrier for vitamins A, D, E and K
  • It provides linoleic and alpha-linolenic acid, essential polyunsaturated fatty acids.
  • It contributes flavour and a sense of “fullness” when part of an eating healthy diet.

Aside from being naturally free of cholesterol and trans fat, olive oil is also free of salt, sugar, and gluten. This, coupled with the fact that it’s rich in monounsaturated fat (that’s the good kind), is the reason doctors tout the health benefits of olive oil: it helps protect against heart disease, aids in digestion and has been known to promote healthy ageing.

Simply put, olive oil is one of the best ways to substitute the bad fat in your diet with the good fat. So why not buy a bottle right now?

From Tree to Table

Summertime and the living is easy. This means throw-together salads and easy bakes, all of which should feature olives and olive oil in a starring role. Here are some of the ways I’ve discovered to put the fruits and oils of our various olive varietals to delicious use… all light on both calories and prep work.

Watermelon, Cucumber, Olive and Feta Salad

Watermelon, Cucumber, Olive and Feta Salad

Watermelon, Cucumber, Olive and Feta Salad

This pretty-in-pink salad is the perfect showcase for our glossy black manzanilla olives. Usually the last to ripen, this year’s early cold snap brought our manzanilla on prematurely. We press the smaller fruits for their lovely mild oil, and pickle the larger olives in brine.

For the salad:
• ½ small watermelon
• 200g feta cheese
• 2–3 radishes, thinly sliced
• ½ cucumber, cubed
• 60g manzanilla olives
• a small bunch of mint

For the dressing:
• 4T extra virgin olive oil
• 2–3T lemon juice
• 1T
• 1T toasted sesame seeds
• sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Cut the watermelon into squares or use either a melon baller or a tablespoon to create balls of the flesh.
2. Toss together the watermelon, feta, sliced radish, cucumber and olives.
3. To prepare the dressing, combine all ingredients in a jam jar. Pop the lid on and give it a good shake.
4. Drizzle the salad with the dressing and garnish with fresh mint.
Serves 4 as a starter or side

Spinach Tart with Olive Oil Crust

Spinach Tart with Olive Oil Crust

Spinach Tart with Olive Oil Crust

Our frantoio oil olives ripened early with the result this year’s is a milder oil, more mellow in flavour and not overly ‘grassy’, perfect for using in bakes. The easy-to-make olive oil-based crust of this spinach tart, which I picked up from a back issue of Martha Stewart, offers a brilliant use for a milder olive oil – it’s also a great option when entertaining vegetarian guests.

For the crust:
• ¾ cup whole-wheat flour
• ¾ cup cake flour
• 1 t coarse salt
• 2 T sesame seeds
• ⅓ cup mild extra virgin olive oil
• ⅓ cup water

For the filling:
• 700g spinach, trimmed, rinsed
• 1T extra virgin olive oil
• 1 small shallot, finely chopped
• 1 clove garlic, minced
• ¼t red-pepper flakes
• 50g feta, crumbled
• 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
• ½t coarse salt
• ½t sesame seeds

1. To make the crust, preheat the oven to 220°C. Whisk together the flours, salt and sesame seeds, then stir in the oil and water and knead to form a ball. Roll out the dough into a 30cm round and fit it into a 25cm tart tin with a removable bottom. Trim any excess dough, then prick the bottom all over using a fork and bake until the crust is golden brown and crisp, about 35 minutes. Allow to cool on a wire rack.
2. To make the filling, reduce the oven to 180°C. Place the spinach in a large pot (if spinach is dry, add ¼ cup water) and cover. Cook over a medium heat, stirring occasionally, until just wilted, about 6 minutes. Transfer to a colander to drain. When cool enough to handle, wrap in a kitchen towel and squeeze to remove the excess water. Coarsely chop and transfer to a bowl. Wipe the pot dry and heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic and red-pepper flakes and fry, stirring, until the onion has softened, about 4 minutes. Transfer to the bowl with the spinach, add the feta, eggs and salt and stir to combine.
3. Pour the filling into the crust and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake until just set, 30 to 35 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Serves 6

Green Olive, Walnut and Pomegranate Potato Salad

Green Olive, Walnut and Pomegranate Potato Salad

Green Olive, Walnut and Pomegranate Potato Salad

Manzanilla olives (the word means ‘little apple’ in Spanish) are harvested while green-yellow, then sorted by hand (our workers wear cotton gloves to minimise the risk of damaging the tender fruits) and sent for pickling. Firmer and denser than its ripe black counterpart, with a far more piquant flavour and a delicious texture, these beauties shine in a cold potato salad.

• 1kg Nicola Mediterranean potatoes, scrubbed, then halved (quartered, if large)
• 1 cup mayonnaise
• ¾ cup sour cream
• sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
3 spring onions, finely sliced
• ½ cup roughly chopped parsley
• ¼ cup torn basil leaves
• ½ cup pitted manzanilla olives
• 50g walnuts, toasted and roughly chopped
Seeds of 1 pomegranate

1. Place the potatoes in a large pot of boiling water and cook for 5 to 10 minutes or until just cooked through.
2. Drain and cool to room temperature.
3. Whisk together the mayonnaise and sour cream and season to taste.
4. Spread half of the mayonnaise onto the base of a serving platter. Top with cooled potatoes, half the spring onions, half the parsley, half the basil, half the olives, half the walnuts and half the pomegranate seeds, then spoon over the remaining mayonnaise. Top with remaining ingredients and serve.
Serves 4 as a starter or side

All aboard

PICT0010JackyBird Enterprises was incredibly proud to sponsor the annual outing enjoyed by the children of Jo’s School in Vrygrond, which this year took the little ones aboard both train and bus to see Simonstown’s famous colony of penguins. Quite beside themselves with the excitement, the 47 children hopped on board the train in Muizenburg – a first for the vast majority of them – and then choo-choo-ed their way to the Simonstown station, perched on knees and peering out the windows to see for themselves the striking False Bay coastline.

PICT0019 PICT0026PICT0034 PICT0097

PICT0115Upon their arrival in Simonstown, the children were shepherded aboard a bus to be taken to Seaforth beach, where they munched on orange and apple slices, followed by hotdogs and ice creams.PICT0132 Pic1 PICT0123

PICT0107Then they strode the Boulders boardwalk, shrieking gleefully each time they spotted one of the area’s resident Jackass Penguins in the dappled shade of the beach scrub. While they’ve learned much in class about them, none of the children had yet seen a real-life version of these peculiar birds dozing in the sun or waddling about in their starched dinner coats. What a joy it was to witness the awe and delight with which each and every child experienced the moment.PICT0137   PICT0134

PICT0146Sun-kissed, sticky and still full of smiles, it was back on the bus for the return journey to school…PICT0154

Conceived by Yvonne Brown as a living tribute to her late daughter Joanne, the charitable preschool situated in the heart of Vrygrond township in Cape Town is close to the hearts of all of us here at JackyBird Farms. By supporting the school with donations of food and sponsoring events such as this one, we feel that, in some small way, we are able to contribute to providing a safe and nurturing learning environment for these 50 Aids-affected and vulnerable 3- to 6-year-olds, helping to give them that crucial first step onto the ladder of life.

Slice of Niiiiiice…

This morning, Maria got busy in the kitchen teaching Ma how to bake gewone plaas brood. Surely there is no fragrance more delicious than that of baking bread? Eaten still warm with a generous layer of fresh butter and a cup of tea and… oh mama, life is good!

Here’s Maria’s recipe – it’s simple enough but time and patience is needed. The results are worth the wait, trust me on this!

Maria and Yvonne baking bread

Maria and Yvonne baking bread

Farm loaf

• 2 x 8g packets active dry yeast
• 2 cups warm water
• 6½ cups white, brown and nutty wheat flours mixed together
• 1t salt
• ⅓ cup butter, chilled and diced

1. In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast in the warm water. Let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes.
2. In a large bowl, combine 4 cups of the flour and the salt. Cut in the butter and stir in the yeast mixture. Beat in the remaining flour, ½ cup at a time. When the dough has pulled together, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes.
3. Butter a large bowl, place the dough in the bowl, and turn to coat. Cover with a damp cloth and let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 1 hour.
4. Preheat the oven to 200°C. Lightly grease a large baking tray. Deflate the dough and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Form the dough into a large oval loaf. Place onto the prepared tray. Cover with a damp cloth and let rise until doubled in volume, about 30 minutes. When the loaf is risen, cut a 1cm-deep cross onto the top of it. Brush the top with water and bake for 25 minutes. Reduce the heat to 170°C and bake for an additional 15 minutes, or until the base of the loaf sounds hollow when tapped. Transfer to a wire rack and allow to cool before slicing.
Makes 1 large loaf

A Class Act

Christian and his date, Madré

Christian and his date, Madré

There was great excitement this weekend as Christian ‘Shaen’ Pieterse, the first child born on the farm to reach matric, celebrated his matric-dance party. The son of Pakkies, our dependable foreman, and Pen, a dab hand in the vineyards and orchards, Christian celebrated his final-year send-off in great style, first at home in a fine preparatory event hosted by his parents, and later, in town, with his glowing date, Madré, on his arm.

Looking decidedly debonair in his turquoise jacket and bow tie, Christian was joined by his Dad in suiting up for the milestone event. Farmer Brown’s photographic services were requested at the Pieterse’s home, where a splendid pre-celebration spread had been laid on for the occasion. The couple of the moment were then transported into Montagu by way of a shiny black 4×4, hired by Christian’s parents especially for the evening.

The enormity of the event – evident not only from the excitement it generated but also the huge amount of effort and money that had gone into it on Pakkies and Pen’s part – really brought home to me how valued education is in this rural community. Parents such as these sacrifice much in order to help their kids attain higher education levels (higher than, by definition, they were themselves able to attain) and, when their hard work finally bears fruit, the moment is cause for huge celebration.

How true Nelson Mandela’s words: ‘Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.’

Christian with proud parents, Pakkies and Pen

Christian with proud parents, Pakkies and Pen

Christian and dad, Pakkies

Christian and Dad, Pakkies