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Friday, 30 August 2013

So what on earth are mirabelles?!

This week I made my first every batch of Mirabelle Jam and what a delight it is too. The fruit cooked beautifully into jam-consistency mush in just a few minutes, it came to a delightful set with ease, it had a beautiful colour and the flavour is just gorgeous. But when I proudly tell people I have made Mirabelle Jam I'm mainly met with blank expressions and queries of, "What's that?".

I have to admit that until about two years ago I didn't know what mirabelles were either. As many of you know, I'm always keen to take surplus fruit and veg off people's hands in exchange for a jar of something yummy from the Jammy Cow stores. And it was in a conversation with someone offering me plums from their tree that I was introduced to mirabelles. They lived in Loughton and said there were lots of mirabelles growing in the hedgerow and that I really should come and pick some for jam making. Unfortunately, I was away on holiday just at the critical harvesting moment and I never managed to get to Loughton to pick them. Still, I had by this point Googled mirabelles and discovered they are a member of the prunus family so related to plums, cherries, gages, peaches and apricots.

Having had mirabelles brought to my attention back in 2011, the following year I once again found myself wondering about visiting Loughton for some mirabelle picking. But with the picking season falling within the school holidays I somehow never made it out there but I did begin to wonder if the yellow fruits along gridroads could in fact be mirabelles and not some sort of weird yellow cherries after all.

This year I was determined to crack the whole mirabelle mystery and became progressively convinced that the yellow fruits I was seeing absolutely everywhere were mirabelles. Not only to be found in Loughton, I realised! So, at the weekend I took my girls out for a short cycle ride, with telescopic picking tool strapped to my crossbar, with the intention of picking mirabelles. I knew where I was going because I had seen the bright fruit from the car all week. And sure enough, there they were, glowing yellow and so ripe they jumped eagerly off the tree with the slightest touch. Soon we had a bagful and could head home, to chop and remove the stones ready for jamming.

The fruit looked beautiful before I started but I had no idea they would create such a lovely jam. I gave my girls a taste the day I made the jam and they liked it so much they requested it on their toast for breakfast the next day. I gave a friend a spoonful to try and she took a jar home with her. It looks like it should taste like marmalade but instead it is sweet and fruity and nearly plum-like but altogether different. It is fantastic on toast but I can see it would work well between sponge cakes or instead of apricot jam under marzipan or icing on a cake.

I quickly realised I needed to go out and pick some more but sadly the mirabelle season is short and is now over but be sure I shall be raiding the hedgerow again next year.

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