The solstice draws near, the days are cool and short. The mornings cold and misty. Mrs Grey Thrush is out and about celebrating this cold, cloudy, misty, drizzling morning. She flys down and serenades The Lovely with her beautiful haunting melodic song. she swoops down and continues from the verandah guttering, then up into the pine tree with her mate. They continue together for some time all around the garden with what might be some sort of call and response? It’s a shear delight on a dull morning.
During this cool, damp time It’s great to celebrate this colder weather and make the most of it while it lasts. We have had a few frosts, but only mild. Hopefully just enough to spur the older varieties of stone-fruit into fertile flower buds. I noticed the other day as I walked through the orchard, that one of the early peaches has its first blossom out! How amazing. So early.
Mid winter is the time for warm lingering breakfasts of coffee and toast with marmalade. I have been trying to keep up with the citrus fruit this year by making a batch of marmalade each day. Of course I’m not successful at this. It just can’t be done, but I hold it in my mind as an objective to aim for. There is so much to be done. Something has to give. Sometimes it’s cello practice, other times its preserving the garden excess. But the winter firing workshops must be prepared for and made to work smoothly.
This mornings breakfast involved preserved blood plums from the summer with yoghurt. These are so good. Full of flavour, sweetness and the fruity acidic tang of a good blood plum. The colour is exceptional, dark and rich, with a complex texture that is both fibrous and smooth. We have been enjoying them on and off through the year and are now down to our last three jars. It’s a wonderful thing to have a pantry full of preserved food that you have grown and bottled yourself. A great sense of reward and satisfaction just to look in there and see all the colours ,and then to imagine all the concentrated flavours, that you know and are so familiar with. What is really good, is to know that non of it came from a supermarket or chemical factory and non of it is stored in plastic. All recycled glass. our oldest bottles date back to the mid seventies, and they were bought 2nd hand even then.
This week I have been developing the recipe for my marmalade a little bit further. I use more or less the same recipe every year. the only difference being the fruit that i use. Two years ago i was given some honey mercott Mandarins. these turned out to be so sweet that the marmalade was not nice. Too sickly sweet. I like my marmalade to be a bit tangy and slightly bitter, and definitely not too sweet. it has to taste of citrus and the tangy bitterness of the peel. I aim for a nice creamy smooth texture, not too runny, but definitely not stiff and rubbery.
So to this end I did a few experiments. I have always weighed the fruit. 1 kg of whole fruit to 300g of sugar and I use only the juice of the fruit as the cooking liquid. However, the juiciness of the individual fruits varies so much. Especially in regard to when the fruit was picked. I have noticed that the fruit is easier to juice if it has been picked for a week or so beforehand. fresh picked citrus is a lot harder to juice.
I have come to the following recipe, developed from the original one above, but reduced to separate weights of each of the components. recipes That I have read that say take 4 oranges and add ‘X’ sugar and ‘Y’ water aren’t reliable, because the size and the age of the fruit varies so much. I decided that achieve the best result, it would be necessary to weight the separate ingredients; the cleaned peel, the squeezed juice and the sugar individually.
Yesterdays batch of mixed citrus fruits from the grove turned out quite well following this line of thought. I used;
1 ruby grapefruit
1 myer lemon
1 Tahitian lime
1 seville orange
1 Washington navel orange
1 tangelo and
1 Italian bitter chinnoto
I have come to the following recipe and method.
Cleaned citrus Peel = 100% = 550g
Juice 83% of the weight of the peel = 455g
Sugar 79% of the weight of the peel = 435g
1. Squeeze the juice out of the fruit and set aside
2. Strip the peel of all the spent fibrous core, to reveal the peel with a clean layer of white pith.
3. Thinly slice the peel into strips and weight it. What ever the weight of this peel, say 550g. call this amount 100%
4. Calculate 83% of 550g = 456g. Weigh the juice and make sure that it is 456g, or close to it. If the fruit is a bit dry and there isn’t enough juice, then juice another piece of fruit to make up the difference. If you have too much, drink the excess.
5. Calculate 79% of 550g. = 434g. Weight out 434g of sugar.
Place all ingredients in the bread-maker machine pan and set for ‘Jam’ setting. come back in and hour and decant into sterilised jars while still hot from the oven and seal with sterilised lids. They will make a loud ‘POP’ noise as they cool down and vacuum seal.
I am inclined to add a dash of whiskey into the hot marmalade as it comes out of the machine. Stir it through evenly, just before pouring into the jars.
Technically, sealed in this way, the marmalade should last for a few years, but never seems to last us till next season 🙂
You should end up with a creamy, smooth marmalade that isn’t too runny or stiff, and you don’t have to soak overnight or spend an hour at the stove stirring, or boil the pips in a calico bag. Marmalade for busy people!
Steve and Janine, a busy couple of people