Some years ago I visited Jekka McVicar's Herb Farm during one of their open days.
During the walk around we tasted a leaf from a plant called Stevia. We were surprised just how sweet it tasted; Jekka told us she was using Stevia in her kitchen, although in the pure form it was rather limited.
Sometime later I bought a Stevia plant for my garden and used the leaves to sweeten fruit pies and such.
Unfortunately the plant did not survive the winter.
Stevia has been used as a herb and a sweetener in some parts of the world, namely South America, for hundreds of years, but the rest of the world has been catching up only recently (although it seems that Japanese have been taking advantage of this plant for many years now).
Opinions vary as to the benefits of it as a herb, but commercially it has been used as a sweetener for some time now and Stevia sweetener also appeared in our shops, but still wasn't really suitable for home baking.
Now at last it is available mixed with sugar, which greatly reduces the amount of sugar needed.
This is the first time I used Stevia in baking and I was curious how it would effect the recipe.
I made a cake, a variation on marble cake (without the "marble"), using only half the amount of sugar I would normally.
Success - there was no difference to the texture or taste.
Earlier in the week DH and I took a drive to our old stomping ground,
to take a walk in the forest around Stourhead.
Although we are in September now, there is no sign of autumn just yet.
There have been quite a few changes since our last visit here;
many trees have been cut down and replanted with young ones.
We used to spend lots of time here, very often walked here before breakfast,
being just few minutes down the road.
It was nice to be back.
The view across the valley, and Brewham villages.
Somewhere in the middle is our old house, which was our home for 20 years,
before our move 4 years ago. I miss this view........
Back in the kitchen, making my "Summer Jam".
I know summer is over, but actually this is a good time, because there is still summer fruit around,
but also first English plums, and this combination makes a delicious jam.
I like making jams and trying different combinations.
My method is very simple and seems to work every time.Whatever the weight of the fruit is, I use a half of that amount of sugar, no water. I mix both together in the pan and let it stand for few hours, so that the fruit can release its own juices. I then boil it slowly to cook the fruit, finish with fast boil to get the setting point. Never seems to fail.
There will be a plum jam to make yet, and before the winter comes, the quinces in our garden will be ready to be processed also.
I wonder how Stevia sugar would work in jams? I have to try it sometimes.