Alcohol at Colditz Revisited

I received an interesting email from D.H. (he didn't give his full name) in the Antipodes, as follows:

....One of your articles fascinated me: "Alcohol at Colditz". Have tried to find out more; got to the original newspaper article, but can't find the recipe. Would love to give it a bash, just for the hell of it.

I sent some suggestions back, including a wine recipe based on turnip jam, which was standard fare at Colditz, and a few days later, received the following message in reply, which I reproduce more or less in full:

Turnip Jam

As the saying goes, ‘first catch your rabbit’.

Could have used a no-name red jam from the local supermarket, but thought that if I was going to do this I’d have to do it properly.

So, I need a recipe for turnip jam.

Don’t have much in the way of old cookbooks, so went surfing on the net to find a Turnip Jam.

Not even a trace of one anywhere. Try it yourself, somebody may have putup details from an old cook book by now, it's a strange world.

Started looking for jam recipes for similar root vegetables.

Found a few for carrot and sweet potato, so thought it would be worth making the jam. See separate doc for a selection from the recipes I looked at. Might try the sweet potato jam one day, sounds interesting.

This is what I ended up with as a recipe.
It's basically a variation on Mrs Beetons carrot jam recipe.

allow 450g/1lb of pounded sugar to every 450g/1lb of carrot pulp
1 lemon, the grated rind of
2 lemons, the strained juice of
Ignored the bitter almonds and brandy. Was looking for a frugal version, hopefully similar to what would have been used during the second world war years.


1. Turnips, find them.
It was Saturday night when I decided to make the jam. My local supermarket is open till midnight, but they didn’t have any on the shelves. The ‘assistant’ I talked to had no idea what they were or what they looked like. Don’t think he understood my description either, but he searched ‘out the back’ for me. Found them in another supermarket, a bit further from home. So now I am the proud owner of 1½ kg of good firm turnips, beautiful in their purple and white glory.

2. Turnips, prepare and cook.
Peeled and shredded the turnips, added enough water to the saucepan to cover them, then brought it to the boil. Simmered for about ¾ hour to reduce the amount of liquid. Wasn’t going to waste anything.
When they had cooled a bit, started forcing through a sieve to get a mash. After five minutes, got out my food processor and blended the lot. Wasn’t prepared to allocate the night to forcing turnips through a sieve.

3. Add sugar and simmer.
Had started with 1 ½ kg turnips, so assumed that there would be about three pound left. Didn’t want to wait till it cooled to weigh it properly, so decided to add three pounds of sugar to the mix. Used white castor sugar. Brought to the boil for about ten minutes, stirring and skimming all the time.

4. Add lemon.
When cool, added the rind of three lemons, then dropped the squeezed lemon juice, 6 of them, was getting pretty late by then, but I was determined to finish the jam before I went to bed. Only had the juice of one lemon to add.

Taste test one, runny, looks like apple sauce and has a sweet taste, reminiscent of a partially prepared winter vegetable soup. Not one that I would recommend.
Mixed in well, covered and left overnight.

5. Add more lemon.
Purchased more lemons in the morning, and mixed in the juice of five of them. Let sit for ½ day.

Taste test two, still runny, looks like chicken stock, tastes like an oversweet lemon marmalade (no I don’t like them) with an unpleasant aftertaste. Not recommended.

5. Reboil.
Brought mix to the boil again, simmered for 10 mins to try to remove excess liquid. Even used a cold plate from the freezer to spoon a little of the mixture on it to see if it had set. Better, but nothing like a commercial jam.

Taste test three, looks like a cloudy marmalade with very little fruit peel. Tastes like an oversweet lemon marmalade, still with that strange aftertaste. Can see why red colour and a few turned pips were added originally.

Tried some on a piece of buttered bread, just because I could. Guess you could get used to it, but will not be on my future projects list.

Placed in a sterilized glass jar for storage. Process has made approx ½ gallon of ‘jam’.

Turnip Jam

now for the wine....

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