Dead Bird Jam

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Friend and former visitor to our home, Alison Raynor has sent some items which I know that you will enjoy. Let me begin by saying that there are two Rosellas. One is a beautiful small parrot. The other is a rather unusual fruit. Both are native to Australia. When Ali was visiting us, she left us with a jar of her home-made Rosella Jam. The joke is, of course, that it’s not made from dead birds. It’s made from these things:

About which you shall hear more later.

Rosella Jam is not  made of this:

Which is a Rosella parrot (Platycercus elegans),  quite a different thing altogether, eh?

Ali sent an email to me which is so amusing that I think it deserves to be quoted directly here. I hope Ali agrees with me, or I am in big trouble.

I went to our local country Agricultural Show yesterday and, as always, it was a great  experience and a chance to catch up with people I have not seen since last years show. (people make their annual pilgrimage out of the hills for this one … ha ha)

There is the compulsory drinking  of beers at the “cattle bar” along with  throwing a few dollars at the local ambulance and rural fire brigade “chocolate wheels” in the hope of winning a “frozen chook” (funny how  no one ever calls it the chook wheel … ha ha?)

It is the place of huge pumpkins, giant corn cobs, funny looking chooks, heavy horses and loads of bull sh*t –  literally!

There are the  best steak sandwiches that you have ever tasted, big tractors, bigger hats, cowboy boots and belt buckles that you could  eat your Sunday lunch off.  It’s a  place to watch HUGE  men with big, sharp axes chopping their way down from ridiculously tall wooden poles … (GUTS STUFF!!! ) and then, of course, there are the chainsaw races for those brave or silly enough to take part … (we have a general saying about such boys here – “Smart like donkey …  Strong like tractor”)  You need to be brave just to watch this stuff, but we all love it just the same. (Work place health and safety would have a field day writing reports  whilst  dodging large jagged wood missiles, flying axe heads and air-born splitting wedges weighing about 2 kg’s each.) It’s great to live in the reality of the simple county life instead of the sterility of the city – I think?

Anyway enough of that stuff, I’ll get to the point.  In the Horticulture Pavilion (a hay shed) I found the prize winning “Rosellas” and thought that I would send you the picture.  They are funny looking critters indeed and very hard to peel.  You don’t see rosella jam on any commercial shelf for just that reason, they are incredibly labour intensive and are a country kitchen sort of deal and the jams are generally made by Mum or Granny and found at fetes etc.

Speaking of huge guys chopping wood, here is one doing just that:

Scary enough for you?

And, just in case someone says to you, “How would I know? I just came in on a load of pumpkins!” This is what he came in on:

Okay, okay, I don’t know the difference between a pumpkin and a squash.

However, some of these look suspiciously like pumpkins to me:

Rather large too.

Here is the jar of Rosella Jam which Ali left with us:

It is sweet, but not too sweet. It is tart, but not too tart. The flavour . . .  well, I simply can’t describe it. It is, however, not like anything I’ve ever tasted before. I have eaten only a little of it. I’m saving it carefully refrigerated until my sense of smell returns.

Here is a closer look at the clever label:

But wait. There’s more. Ali wrote a poem for us.

Rosella Jam

By Alison Raynor – 2010

The Rosella is a spiky, little crimson flower fruit
With a tarty type expression and a sour kick to boot
You must add a lot of sugar to the brew.

It is really quite a “bottler” and the darling of our jams
Never found in supermarkets, only in a grandma’s pan.
It’s a jam of love- that’s made by precious few.

A little bit like mulberries it’s a country backyard crop
And it’s only in the autumn, that the luscious fruit will drop,
You must hunt them down- if you should choose to stew.

Rosellas are related to the flowers of tropic beauty
Hibiscus might be pretty but our ugly friends are fruity
It’s in the eye of the beholder” -That is true.

It isn’t quite a flower, not a veggie or a bird,
There are no parrots in Rosella Jam…That’s simply quite absurd.
We make sure to sieve all feathers from the brew.

It’s a flavour to be savoured, a rare delicious taste,
You’ll never find it mass-produced, it’s never made in hast.
It’s a gift from nature’s garden- just for you.

– – – – – – – – – – – –

And, with my good wishes for you today, I shall say goodbye.

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5 Responses to “Dead Bird Jam”

  1. Steve Bennett Says:

    Thank you Alison. I too am privvy to the joys of Rosella Jam, my last neighbour gave me a jar before I left the suburb. Fantastic stuff on a hot English Muffin.

  2. Ali Says:

    Gosh Jan……
    Neither Bird nor Jam nor I have ever had such exotic and kindly exposure..
    Thanks and I hope the jam lasts long enough for your olfactory hallucinations to differentiate the taste and smell of feathers from fruit.

  3. MadDog Says:

    You’re welcome, Ali – one good turn deserves another. I can now faintly smell my jasmine flowers and a batch of home-made, very strong vanilla extract I am making (takes weeks!). The constant smoke smell is weaker. I’m looking forward to my first trial of Dead Bird Jam in about a month.

  4. Ali Says:

    How do you make your vanilla extract Jan? (or is it a secret recipe?)
    I have a big bag of fresh Sepik Vanilla to work with.

  5. MadDog Says:

    Hi Ali,

    First, you have to have top-quality vanilla beans. They should reek of vanilla and not be dry. I use an extremely high-proof grain alcohol called Everclear, which you can buy in the USA at bottle shops. It is as pure as alcohol can get, meaning is has no flavour and as little water as possible. This is important, as the vanillin, the good stuff, is much more soluble in pure ethyl alcohol than it is in water. If you can’t get that, you might try a Chemist and ask for the purest ethyl alcohol he can sell you. If all else fails, use a very neutral Vodka.

    I get a meat tenderised and give the beans a few stiff whacks to soften them up and make holes in them so that the alcohol can penetrate. You could do this a lot of other ways, but my way is easy and effective.
    Then I stuff a bottle about half full of beans, leaving plenty of room for the alcohol. Fill it up! Don’t leave very much air at the top. You want as little oxygen in the bottle as possible.

    Then let it set in a reasonably cool, dark place for as long as you like. The longer the better. After a couple of weeks, you can slosh it around and then leave it set some more. Give it a slosh once in a while. Open the top if you like and gauge how strong it is. It should turn dark brown – the darker the better.

    You can make it more pungent when the brew is finished (not getting any stronger) by very gently warming it to drive off some of the alcohol, but I prefer not to, as I think it also allows some of the more volatile fractions to evaporate and reduces the strength.

    There are plenty of other recopies around. I don’t like the ones that use brandy or other spirits. I want the pure vanilla.