Marmalade Gin and Jam

DSC_0059It’s that time of year again when Seville oranges appear in the shops; they are only here for a few weeks so you need to be quick (and sorry, due to my tardiness in posting you might have missed them!), but with their bitter flavour they do make the very best marmalade.

I’ve learnt my lesson not to go overboard (we’re still working our way through the last batch I made in 2012!), so I only bought 1kg and made the following:

Whisky Marmalade (about 3 jars)

500g Seville Oranges

Juice of 1/2 lemon

1 litre water

1 Kg Preserving sugar

50 ml Whisky

Ream oranges and lemon into a double layer of muslin set over a sieve, scouring shells to get as much pith as possible (or a clean tea-towel, as I used).

Tie the contents of muslin into a loose bag and put into preserving pan with 1 litres of water and the strained juice.

Discard shell of lemon.  Slice orange shells into half again,  then slice finely. Add to pan, bring to boil then reduce and simmer, uncovered, for about 2 hours, until rind completely soft. It’s important the rind really is very soft as it will harden when you add the sugar and rapid boil later and hard peel in marmalade is nasty.

I had to add more water at the above stage as it was boiling away with so little in the pan originally and it took 3 hours for the peel to be really soft. I figured I needed about litre of peel liquid before rabid boiling.

Remove muslin bag and squeeze out as much of the liquid as possible, back into the pan (this contains lots of pectin).

Add the sugar and stir over low heat until completely dissolved.  Raise heat and rapid boil for a set (15 mins).  Test small amount on a chilled plate (pop these in the freezer before you start), it should form a skin that wrinkles when pushed with a finger.  If needed boil for another 5 mins and test again. Repeat until a set is achieved.

Leave marmalade for 10 mins to cool before potting in clean warm jars, with wax discs on top and lids.

Fine-Cut Jelly Marmalade (3 jars)

500g Seville Oranges

Juice of 1 lemon

1 Kg Preserving sugar

Peel fruit with a vegetable peeler, taking the zest only and no pith.  Cut into very fine threads.  Add zest to a pan with 1 litre of water and simmer until tender (approx 1 hour) and liquid has reduced by half.

Ream the fruit and strain juice through muslin into a jug, cover and refrigerate.

Coarsely chop and pith, pips etc and add to another pan with 1 litre water.  Simmer for 1 hour then strain through double muslin.

Combine the zest and it’s liquid with reserved juice and strained pith liquid (should be about 800ml in total).  Put into a preserving pan with sugar, stir over low heat until sugar completely dissolved.  Raise heat and rapid boil for a set – approx 15 mins.  Test for a set and if needed boil for another 5 mins then test again.

Remove from heat and cool for 10mins before potting in warm, clean jars with wax discs and lids.

I almost wished I’d made my normal 2kg quantity but I know how slowly we work our way through jam.

If you have excess oranges I can recommend making some Seville gin (lots of recipes online). My last batch has been ‘brewing’ since 2012 so I sieved out the peel and decanted it into fancy bottles. For marmalade recipe suggestions I highly can recommend

Nigel Slater’s Marmalade and Chocolate Chip Ice Cream,

Bitter Orange Cardamom Martinis

Delia’s Marmalade Bread and Butter Pudding

I know there are other recipes but I can’t find the links at the moment (I’ll update later).

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Just a little note about the labels, they are original vintage ones via a museum website that I photoshopped. I was rather pleased with the results 🙂

 

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Christmas is coming!

I think it’s clear I’m a Christmas fan. I don’t need most of the excitement to start until into December (music and decorations), that’s early enough, but I do really enjoy every little detail about the festive season, including planning the foodIMG_20171125_102925It always starts with my Gran’s Christmas Pudding and the Christmas cake, in November (I like to feed my cake and the pudding lasts forever so I make it whilst I have all the dried fruit out). IMG_20171126_110626I have put charms into the larger of the two puddings (the bold text links take you to posts about the recipe), I bought two sets some years ago but never used the second, until now. I read loads online about how best to do this and in the end wrapped the charms in baking parchment to make tiny bundles before tucking them into the pudding mix. I did sterilize the charms in boiling water but this seems a bit pointless if you’re then going to wrap them in the unsterilized paper.IMG_20171206_122059I was a bit smug about a removable lid I made for the cake, so that it could be easily fed (with brandy). The boys don’t eat fruitcake so I was quite liberal with the booze and I opted for the Creole recipe by Delia, againwhich already starts with a mixture of alcohol.CakeI then did something a bit odd and cut a small circular cake out of the middle. The small cake is going somewhere else and the big one (missing its centre) will stay here for me to eat. I was explaining this to a friend and she suggested it would be a good way to split a cake where you want to feed half (for adults) and leave some for children. DoveApron6DoveApron15I did all of this whilst prancing about in one of the new aprons I’ve made for the shop, a different version of the vintage pattern I’ve used for some years, only this time with gold and white doves.DSC_0040Christmas MugsI enjoy changing things for Christmas. The shelf in the kitchen has had its Summer crockery removed and the vintage Stockholm china (by Crown Devon) has replaced it. I even just got the boys winter mugs out for a hot chocolate (we have a teeny, tiny bit of snow this morning and they got overexcited and demanded hot chocolate!)Christmas Cook BooksThe Christmas cookbooks are also out again. I predominantly use the same ones (Delia and Jamie Oliver) but I’ve fallen in love with Nigel Slater’s new book, The Christmas Chronicles. It’s a kind of diary of the festive season with recipes interspersed between and I’m really enjoying reading it a bit at a time, following the same days as those in the book.Christmas TreeI feel very organised this year. I made brandy butter, rum sauce, bread sauce and 18th Century stuffing this week, all now in the freezer (see this post for details). I make some of these regularly for our Sunday lunches anyway but they freeze so well and it saves a lot of effort on Christmas Day if you’re cooking a traditional bird roast. Let’s face it, bread sauce is easy enough to make fresh, but for regular Sundays only I eat it so I make a big batch and portion it into little bags as a roast chicken or pheasant just isn’t right, in my opinion, without some bread sauce!IMG_20171202_173346Our big tree is up in the living room, complete with its usual tat andIMG_20171209_121433 the mini tree in the hallway has the older vintage decorations on it as a memory to my Gran, who always had a similar tree in her living room. I’m amazed this tree is still alive, it’s in its third year now and desperately needs re-potting and more regular watering!

I need to go and treat the chickens so something nice, they are sulking about the cold, snowy weather and then I’ll start our Sunday roast – who said weekends were relaxing!

Chickens: What are they?

The truth is, I have no idea!!dsc_0034Two of the eggs that hatched came from Bowie and his little gang. At the time, he was kept with the ‘new’ chickens and Ava (Light Sussex), so of those two chicks (both the brown ones below) one is a Gold Laced Orpington bantam (Bowie) crossed with a Cream Crested Legbar (chick-with-no-name) and the other is crossed between Bowie and the new black Polish, Priscilla.dsc_0039The other two eggs came from Silver (also an Orpington bantam) and his little gang of Pekin girls, plus Puffles, Charlie’s little black Silkie. We’ve had a big mix up around here with the chickens as my neighbour was kind enough to take Silver for me. He kept fighting with Bowie and even though I went to great lengths to keep them apart, they kept jumping fences etc and it was a bit of a blood bath. I’m rather soft on Bowie, even though he has respiratory problems and I don’t think will have a long life, so it broke my heart to see him repeatedly bloodied and having the chicken version of a major asthma attack.  Silver was the aggressive one, Bowie used to peg it in my direction to hide whenever Silver jumped the fence. Anyhow, Silver now lives with some new girls and we can go visit if we wish. We are so lucky, we have great neighbours.DSC_0013DSC_0008So, here is one of the dark chicks (Bowie’s)…and I’m thinking (hoping) she’s a girl.DSC_0021DSC_0015And chicken two….boy, I fear.DSC_0019DSC_0003One of the Pekin/Silver chicks….girl, I think.DSC_0024And the last little one, who was the final egg to hatch…also a girl, I think. DSC_0028Let’s face it, I was totally wrong with the last chickens, but time will tell. We’re in a good position to keep one boy as I have three smaller runs, each with its own Eglu (they would be better in one run, with a Cube, but there is no way I can afford that), as long as they can all get along when they are free ranging which is why I let them all out together daily. I’m lucky that Bowie and Sargent Bilko get along quite well (SB lives with the big brown hybrid girls).DSC_0056Indoors we are drowning in eggs at the moment as Charlie has given up his daily breakfast of egg sandwich in favour of avocado on toast. I’m frantically making quiches and creme caramels. I think it might be time for some ice cream too!DSC_0055I’m also obsessed with finding new, simple supper ideas as it’s all been getting a bit same, same around here. This stack is proving its worth, especially ‘Simple’ by Diana Henry.

Right, off to get some carrot muffins out of the oven before moving onto a batch of biscuits for the boys (holiday treat). Just waiting for the rain to come now, and save me from watering the vegetable patch!

Chickens: Oops, I did it again!

IMG_20170504_133059After ending up with three cockerels and one hen last year, when we first hatched chicks, I said I wouldn’t do it again. But I have. Pretty stupid move, really.IMG_20170504_133348Ava got broody and was being very mean to the other chickens when they wanted to lay eggs in the nest. I ignored her for ages, kicking her off regularly but in the end, I moved her into the guinea pig hutch, (still in the run), so she’d stop attacking the other chickens.DSC_0023 2I removed the eggs daily. but then got soft and let her sit on four…thinking there would be a 50% survival rate. Sadly, by that point, she’d laid her ‘clutch’ and so all the eggs under her came from other chickens laying in the same nest…what I didn’t realise was they kept laying in there so actually, at day 9, when I first went to candle the eggs there were seven!DSC_0018Some weren’t fertile and on day 23, three of the chicks hatched. DSC_0021 2Sadly, Ava abandoned the last two eggs a day or so later, as she’s clearly decided they weren’t going to happen. Luckily Audrey was now also broody, so I just stuck the last two eggs under her. One hatched (actually I ‘assisted’ it as it pipped but didn’t get any further for days, and it survived – hurrah!) and the other, sadly, didn’t make it out of the egg.DSC_0001Audrey abandoned her chick as clearly she was a bit confused about it hatching only a few days after she’d started sitting!DSC_0007So I gave it back to Ava who didn’t seem to mind and she is now happy with her little clutch of four chicks.DSC_0016They are out and about most days (as I want them well-integrated with the other chickens, so any boys have a chance of not fighting) and it’s a joy to watch them learn the ropes from ‘Mum’. I’m a little sad none are Ava’s as I’d have liked a Light Sussex cross, but we’re definitely done with chicks….for now, anyway 🙂

Shed Painting…

I’ve worked like a Trojan over the holidays, in the garden; digging, planting, stripping and painting. It’s been expensive, money I don’t really have but a lot of the jobs are beyond necessary (such as power washing down the decking and giving it an oil), or it’ll cost more in the long run.DSC_0005The shed has been on my hit list for ages, as I’ve never really liked the colour (it wasn’t originally painted by me) and the wasps have stripped a lot of the stain off.DSC_0019An age ago, I stained my little tool shed in Cuprinol Garden Shades and so in order to use the left over stain (which was still in perfect condition, despite some years left on the shelf) I went for the same.DSC_0008The colour is ‘Summer Damson’ and I’m glad I did stick to something similar as it’s slightly opaque, so changing colour completely wouldn’t really have been an option. It did mean I also had to stick to something similar to the cream, which I really do dislike, but I settled on ‘Natural Stone’.DSC_0030The stain goes a long way and the half-finished tin did the side and front easily with two coats (I confess, that the other two sides still need doing!!), it’s also qutie cheap, unlike the decking oil I’m using. My top tip is to paint one coat then go over it again a short while later. Doing a second coat some hours/days afterwards doesn’t really work as the first dries semi-waterproof and so stops the second coat going on properly. I trimmed the windows with some cheap architraving to give them more definition and stained that also in the ‘Stone’. I even stained the inside of the doors so they aren’t Tango orange when open! Go me! What I’d really like to do is clad the roof in cedar shingles, but that really is expensive, so won’t happen any time soon.

I’d planned to take some proper blog worthy photos after removing all the crap from inside the windows so it looks pretty…but my garden is not a picture postcard and one of the reasons I stall on blogging is that often I feel it needs to be ‘prettier’, so I’m trying to ignore that and just post anyway. In an unintentional turn, it appears I’ve painted my shed the same colours as one of my Go Up Eglu chicken houses.DSC_0003I’ve started prepping and staining the decking, which is an enormous task and I still have to finish staining and oiling the green house as well as all the upper windows of the house. It all feels a bit endless, but I’ll get there. Planting is all on the go too, with cucumbers, melons, tomatoes, sweetcorn and many more now in the greenhouse.

Indoors, as promised, I did get a second crop of mushrooms, which I was really pleased with.DSC_0027And I’ve just put the tools down (as it’s due to rain tomorrow, all day, shame) and moved indoors to make hot cross buns using this recipe. I’m doing half, which is perfect as it leaves me with some apple for my new Craft Club gin 🙂

Cheers!

Chickens: Spring Cleaning and Legbars

I gave the chickens a full clean last weekend. Their Eglus were taken apart and power hosed down, sprayed liberally with Smite and dusted with diatomaceous earth before being put back together. I moved two of the runs onto new ground and the big walk in run floor was cleaned and disinfected.Screen Shot 2017-03-13 at 14.34.59

As we live in an area this isn’t high risk, we are allowed to now let the chickens out, as long as we follow the DEFRA guidelines above, so I created a small area along the edge of the garden, with temporary Eglu fencing for the big girls to come out of their walk in run, and the little bantams (who live in their own space) were let loose in the main garden (as they are easier to put back in and they do less damage to the flower beds).DSC_0008I got sad, though, as the big hybrid hens and their cockerel, Sergeant Bilko bully Bowie and Ave (the Light Sussex bantam, above and Bowie the boy, girl, boy cockerel) and for a while they wouldn’t let them out to play. I’ve been thinking about separating Bowie off for a bit, with his own little group, so off we went to Noddy’s Pure Breeds to pick out two new chickens (should have got three, I was miscounting in my head and included Bowie as a hen, I’d intended him and four girls together, really).DSC_0013They needed to be smaller chickens, either big bantams (like Ave) or smaller ‘big breeds’ as Bowie is a Orpington Bantam and they are chunky little things. I’ve been considering adding some Cream Crested Legbars for ages so I did have these in mind, but figured we’d end up with two bantams as I wasn’t sure how Rob had them penned up and you ideally need to take them from the same pen. I was super excited, when we arrived,  to see Legbars in the bantam pen….DSC_0008only F had obsessed the whole journey about replacing his beloved Elvis (the shoulder riding Polish frizzle) and I got persuaded (quite easily, in fact) into indulging him and we got a lovely black polish (no frizzle!) hen, and for me, a Legbar.DSC_0016I have to say, I think Crested Legbars are really pretty chickens. I saw some roaming free range, last summer, at a local National Trust house and had pretty much decided then that I’d like some. We got our first little blue egg from her today! So exciting. I love having a mixed bowl of eggs. I use the bantam ones quite a lot for when I need a half egg recipe or when Charlie wants fried eggs on toast for breakfast. I also love that I know exactly which chicken has laid which egg.DSC_0007The chickens are back inside temporarily, just whilst they get de-wormed (I use pre-mixed pellets with Flubenvet already added) but I plan to shuffle them around at the weekend to make sure they all have enough run space and can get back to free-ranging on a daily basis. I have to say, Bowie and his girls settled in amazingly well with pretty much no fuss at all.

Whilst I was in the garden I spent 10 minutes picking some of the sycamore tree saplings. This is a never-ending job, but if they aren’t pulled up whilst tiny, they are nightmare to kill off later.DSC_0021I also tidied and mulched the rhubard patch and we cut some for the first recipe of the year.DSC_0022Rhubard Crumble Cake, in this case, which was a great way of using some eggs up too, now that all the chickens are all back in lay.

Just the rest of the garden to sort out now 🙂

Merryhill Mushrooms

Two posts within six months…I think it might be a miracle!DSC_0022I have more thanks to give, this time to Merryhill Mushrooms who very kindly sent me a kit for growing their Yellow Oyster Mushrooms, after I’d mentioned the chestnut success (which, until recently, were still cropping!). It was quite good incentive to properly take a look at their website (I’d originally ordered via Amazon) and I liked the bit in the about page that reads ‘Everyone kept saying to us, that they have never managed to find a mushroom growing kit that actually works, with this in mind we developed a kit that is guaranteed to work’, as that has been repeatedly been my experience too, lots of plug kits, and ready mushroom logs, but rarely any actual mushrooms.Back CameraI’ve been picking field mushrooms for years and years (the above and below photos are from some time ago…look at the boys tiny feet in their little crocs…they are size 7 and 9 now!!).Back CameraHere we’re mushrooming on the farm, in Yorkshire, where I grew up. It’s never occurred to me to be nervous of picking field mushrooms, I’m pretty confident that I know what they look like and where they grow and I can think of nothing nicer than fried, fresh, hand-picked mushrooms….that was until my sister and I went on a mushrooming course at River Cottage. It was great…but the resounding message was don’t pick and eat anything unless you have a verified expert with you, or you will poison yourself and die a horrific death. OK, maybe it was less dramatic than that, but I think it was shortly after some famous writer and his family had all tragically eaten some fatal mushrooms they shouldn’t have. I’ll happily pick field mushrooms ‘back home’ but I would be nervous of picking anything else, or even field mushrooms from a location I don’t know. (The course was great fun, I should add, and we learnt lots about cooking mushrooms too! – very hot pan, and small batches so they fry, not steam).DSC_0029DSC_0039So it is perfect, I think, to buy kits that you absolutely know will produce fresh fungi and it was a delight to see them grow…amazingly quickly, in this case!DSC_0047The photos are taken a day apart. It’s likely they were in an area a bit too warm, as it’s important to spray them regularly with water, to for me that meant the downstairs utility room, next to the sink. DSC_0053I understand that overly warm means quick to grow (ideal is 15-18C, but mine were likely around 20 degrees).DSC_0068Look how pretty and intricate they are? The ones on the front, right, had evaded the early regular water spraying and I noticed they were a bit ‘woody’ and never really grew…DSC_0071But the rest were awesome…and the ones on the back did well too, especially considering I hadn’t noticed there was a growing hole in the back, so for the first couple of days they didn’t get sprayed – oops! (read the instructions, Beth, read the instructions).DSC_0072I cropped the lot, cutting low (I’m told, if I keep watering the ‘stump’ I’ll get a second flush of mushrooms) and spent an age debating what to cook.DSC_0009I settled on a Jamie Oliver recipe, for posh mushrooms on toast (Mushrooms sourdough bruschettas, to be exact). I used to have a thing about mushrooms on toast, since becoming addicted to them in a little cafe in Skipton, when we were allowed out of school to eat our lunch in sixth form. Back then they were cheap and creamy and from a tin and I do still often cook a version with creme fraiche and garlic, but this recipe calls for hollandaise and tarragon and it seemed worthy of my precious growing efforts.

All in all, it has been a lovely experience using these kits, super easy and with great results. Sorry any family reading that get these for gifts, but you’ll thank me in the long run 🙂