What I Did In My Summer Holidays

The Gee Family had planned to spend the past week in Wales, but we postponed our trip until next year after a well-placed tzores sauce source told us that there’d be sheep at the border with guns. Instead we vacationed at home. Not that there was much vacationing going on as three of the four human elements of the Gee Family, none of them me, are students involved in various sorts of advanced study. What with the first draft of my book at the publisher, that left me spinning my wheels.

I had therefore promised the world that I’d be spending the week just elapsed making music, jam, and a nuisance of myself.

First, the Music. My beat combo having been temporarily derailed because, you know, the THING, I have set up a small recording studio at home, and have been busily recording things. I have so far recorded five six things, and you can listen to them on this Soundcloud Playlist, Locked Down & Blue. I’ll be adding to this list as and when I record more material, so do check back. Some of the things are covers of old blues, folk and Americana: others are originals, either written myself or along with members of the aforesaid Beat Combo, in particular the Main Man, D. C. Wilson.

Second, the Jam. The Lockdown has turned me into quite the countryman. Mrs Gee and I have been growing our own crops, or as much as we can in our small garden. We have our hens for eggs, of course, and I have been baking the family’s bread for some months now. It was only natural for me to get out the jam kettle and start preserving things. Now, I usually do a little of this each year, but this time I’ve been doing it like I really mean it. Here is a portrait of my efforts over the past week.

Jam Today

We have been growing lots of marrows (trans: oversized zucchini), and what with our apple tree, reliably cropping large numbers of cooking apples, each one as large as a baby’s head and raining down on the garden at this time of year such that it’s advisable to go outdoors with a hard hat, I made marrow and apple chutney. For the recipe I went to the tzores source sauce of All Knowledge and Wisdom, in short, my Mum. Here is her recipe:


4lbs marrow, peeled and chopped; 
2lbs cooking apples, peeled, cored and finely chopped;
1lb onions, chopped; 1lb soft brown sugar; 
2 pints vinegar ; 
1 teasp. ground ginger;
1/2 oz pickling spice;
3 oz salt 

METHOD: put the marrow pieces into a large bowl in layers with the salt and leave for 12 hours or overnight. Next day, rinse the marrow pieces and drain well. Put into a preserving pan. ADD the apples, onions, sugar and spices. Cook gently UNCOVERED for about 2 hours, stirring from time to time, until the chutney is thick with no excess liquid. Pour into warm sterilised jars and cover with vinegar proof tops.

My Mum said that these days she tends to ‘free wheel’ with the spices, so, as I couldn’t find the pickling spice that Mrs Gee swears she’d ordered from InSainsbury’s, I ground up some mustard seeds, star anise, Chinese five-spice, coriander and cinnamon with a handy and mortar and pestle.  It tastes great.

A taste of childhood was my Mum’s Marrow and Ginger Jam. Nothing like those golden gingery cubes of marrow on a piece of thick white bread and butter of an autumn evening. Here’s her recipe for that, too:


2lbs marrow PREPARED WEIGHT (that is after peeling and deseeding); 
2lbs white sugar; Rind and juice of 1 and a half lemons; 
3 oz fresh ginger, grated; 

METHOD: cut the prepared marrow into smallish cubes and STEAM them until they are just tender. Put into a bowl and add the grated lemon zest, lemon juice and the ginger. Add the sugar, mix well. COVER and leave to stand for 24 hours. Put in a preserving pan, heat gently, stirring until the sugar has dissolved and cook uncovered until the marrow is transparent and syrup is thick (about 15 mins) Test for setting point and pot up in sterilised jars.

It will have escaped the notice of neither of you that the hedgerows are currently groaning with free food. Offspring#1 and I have been out collecting blackberries and with the haul I made blackberry and apple jam, using our own apples. I think I got this recipe from the intertubes:


1kg blackberries;
4 large apples (peeled, cored and chopped);
Juice of 3 lemons;
1 kg white sugar;

METHOD: Put apples, blackberries and lemon juice into the pan and set on a low heat, stirring occasionally. After 15 mins stir in the sugar and boil for 10-15 mins until set. Leave for 10 mins in the pan and then spoon into sterilised jars.

While Offspring#1 and I were foraging for blackberries, we found several bushes laden with sloes damsons bullaces very tiny plums, and picked 1200g in short order. There is some debate about the identity of the fruit, but a quick google revealed that they are all much the same things (that is, plums) and often interbreed. Anyway, I made these into jam as well, and here is the recipe, adapted from BBC Good Food. Not surprisingly, it tastes like plum jam:


A quantity of damsons/ sloes/ bullaces/ plums;
The same weight in sugar;
Water (100ml per 600g of fruit).
Knob of butter.

METHOD: Splosh the fruit and water into the pan and bring to the boil. Lower the heat and simmer until the fruit is soft. Stir in the sugar, ensuring that it is completely dissolved.  Raise once again to a rolling boil. Keep on the boil for 10 mins. Do not stir. When the jam is ready, stir vigorously. Remove from the heat. Skim off any scum, stir in a knob of butter, leave for 15 mins to settle and spoon into jars.

Third, the Nuisance. The dogs need a lot of walking, and what with our shopping largely limited to home deliveries, with few top-up shops or cheeky snacks or visits to cafes, I have been saving money and losing weight. The Offspring are also bringing me up to speed with elements of popular culture. Offspring#2 has reminded me of Torchwood — a Televisual Emission from the BBC that’s a kind of grown-up spin-off from Dr Who. Meanwhile, Offspring#1 has got me as far as the end of Series 3 of an anime called JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, which is precisely as billed – bizarre, and adventurous. Kids, eh? Without them I’d have remained in ignorance of manifestations including but not limited to Hamilton (the musical); Frozen (the magic-lantern-production) and Lady Gaga (the popular music artiste). My life has thus been enriched.

The Pandemic notwithstanding inasmuch as which, the Offspring will shortly be returning to their Institutions of Higher Learning. We’ll miss them.

About Henry Gee

Henry Gee is an author, editor and recovering palaeontologist, who lives in Cromer, Norfolk, England, with his family and numerous pets, inasmuch as which the contents of this blog and any comments therein do not reflect the opinions of anyone but myself, as they don't know where they've been.
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