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: 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 🙂

Last weekend…

Last weekend I spent loads of time in the garden as, for once, it wasn’t frozen and the rain was mostly only drizzle.

I planted out 8 cloves of elephant garlic (5 that I’d ordered and 3 left from the bulbs grown last year), I also plated up 5 strawberry plants in one of the huge black containers that was kicking around empty in the vegetable patch. It was a good opportunity to get rid of some of the chicken manure (basically their droppings mixed in with straw from the coops and run floors) as the containers are so cavernous that they take a lot of filling so the bottom half is manure, with some bags of John Innes on top. We have always grown alpine strawberries but never ‘regular’ ones so it’ll be interesting to see how these work out for us. dsc_0047The variety I’m planting (Mount Everest) is an everbearer variety, so small flushes of fruit, over a longer period, which I think will suit us best as these will likely be for the boys to munch on direct from the plant. This variety supposedly grows really well up a teepee, so I’ll be trying that out too.

Indoors, I started:

Tomatoes Brandywine, San Marzano, Tigerella & Ildi, Rainbow Blend (from Thompson & Morgan)

Sweet Pepper Worldbeater

Artichoke Violette di Chioggia

Broad Bead Crimson Flowered

That’s all for sowing at the moment. There is still plenty more to add, but I’ve learnt to pull back from trying to grow too much, so I stick to things we know we want to eat these days.dsc_0046The mushrooms have been a great success, cropping over and over and providing the base for a number of meals. I forgot to say who and where they came from in the last post, but they were ordered via Amazon from Merryhill Mushrooms. They do taste amazing, in comparison to the shop bought equivalent, so I think it’s been worth it. I’d like to try an Oyster kit next time. In a linked comment, Felix has been doing Food Tech at school and (small miracle) has decided he can tolerate, maybe even like mushrooms after he was forced to include them in a stir fry. I just need to get Charlie (the vegetarian!) to eat them too, and then a whole new world of family meals opens up!ginLast thing I wanted to mention, my Sister kindly gave me a quarterly membership to the Craft Gin Club as a Christmas gift and I LOVE it!! It is expensive, I know; for the same price, you could buy yourself a fancy bottle of gin and some nice crisps etc, but it just wouldn’t be the same. Having someone else source an artisan gin, often difficult to get (this month’s have been shipped in from Iceland and are not on general sale in the UK), provide you with posh tonic and some snacks to go with it, plus a magazine with details explaining who made the gin, where and why, and how best to drink it (January’s, above, was good with rosemary and some orange zest) and ship it to you on the first Friday of the month is just heavenly. It’s like Christmas all over again. Do you like my amazing HUGE gin glass? That was the accompanying gift, also from my Sister, we know how to do a g+t well in our family 😉

That’s all……I really fancy a g+t now…but I’m being good until the weekend, only one more day to go and it’ll seem even nicer for the wait (or I’ll keep telling myself that, anyway).

Ding Dong Merrily…

I’ve just done my very last trip to buy food, and I don’t plan the leave the house again for at least a week! I’ve had a Ocado order booked for ages, but there were a few things I’d missed, including some cabbages to tie from the chicken runs, to try to distract the chickens from being kept indoors, for the 30 day bird flu prevention.dsc_0089It’s just me and the boys for Christmas Day this year (with guests coming Boxing Day), which I’m really looking forward to. I’ve done loads of early freezer preparation and cheated quite a bit. We’ve still gone for a proper turkey (free range Kelly Bronze) as I know we’ll eat all the left overs and make some broth from the bones, so I’m happily to cook more than we need; Charlie (who’s vegetarian) has chosen a vegan M’hanncha from Jamie Oliver’s new book (I have to restrict my Christmas book buying, but this one seems worth the space). The boys, much to my disappointment, don’t do bread sauce, or Gran’s stuffing balls, so I’ve made those ahead, separated them into small batches and frozen them for me to have whenever we cook a roast bird (recipes in this post).dsc_0092The boys don’t much like Christmas pudding either…or sprouts (sometimes I wonder if they are really mine – ha ha), so I wasn’t going to bother, but again, it isn’t Christmas for me without my Gran’s recipe pudding, so I made a small batch with a bigger pudding (for Boxing Day) and a mini one for me on Christmas Day (recipe here). The boys will be having Heston toffee puddings, which I hope are nicer than his mince pies, which we found to be far too sweet. I made a batch of homemade ginger ice cream, to this recipe, as compensation for microwave puddings!beth-apronMy apron comes out every year for the festive season, as I love wearing it (the above is Christmas Day in France a while ago…..I’m looking very rosy-cheeked so no doubt rather a lot of wine has already been opened by the time the above photo was taken!), this year was no exception and it first appeared in November, ready for making the cake and puddings. In my head, I swan around serenely in a clean kitchen, with Bing Crosby singing in the background, ideally properly dressed and in makeup. In reality, I’m usually a bit stressed and sporting my usual bag lady look and trying to rush everything, before a school run.dsc_0206I did make a new apron for this year, but never managed to get it photographed in time for the shop. Still, I have one tucked away for me to wear on the day itself, and even though it’s just me and the boys, I plan to get dressed up and maybe put some slap on, as that will make me happy 🙂freddieThat’s it really. I just didn’t want to finish the year without a Christmas post so Merry Christmas everyone!!