Category Archives: preserves

Marmalade

Marmalade

I have been making marmalade. Every year I mean too, but most years it is a case of the seville orange season being over before I remember it is upon us. Some years, sevilles just aren’t easily available here. However, on Saturday I nipped into a supermarket and spotted some sevilles on display on my way out. Sometimes, things work out.

I have written about marmalade before but I did things slightly different this time. I sliced the lemons in half and popped them in the pot with the oranges to boil until tender. The flesh and pips of the lemons and the oranges were wrapped in muslin and popped in the pot to give up their pectin. The skin of the oranges and the lemons were both finely chopped (Mr OC prefers it this way, I like big thick shreds, but sometimes you have to please someone else).  If you look closely at the photo you can see the mottled appearance of the lemon skin. It looks slightly different to the orange skin. It seemed daft to pop the lemon in the bin when it could go into the marmalade. I also added three pieces of stem ginger (chopped finely) into the pot, but actually I haven’t added this in the ingredient list as I can’t detect the ginger in the finished marmalade. I think next time I will use root ginger in the muslin, and perhaps add some chopped stem ginger at the end of the boiling of the marmalade.

I like my marmalade to be quite soft, almost runny, rather than thick set. I boiled this one on a rolling boil to 106°c and tested it on a cold saucer. When it was showing the very slightest of wrinkle I fetched it off the heat and let it cool. It is perfect for me, but feel free to boil longer if you want a thicker set.

Seville oranges freeze well, so get plenty in, so that you can make some more when you get through this batch.

Makes about 8 jars
1 kg seville oranges
2 lemons cut in half
1½ litres of water
2 kg granulated or caster sugar

You will need a large pan, a piece of muslin or a clean tea towel, a sugar thermometer or a couple of saucers placed in the fridge to do the wrinkle test and about 8 sterilised jars.

To sterilise your jars wash them well, rinse with hot water and place in a low oven (100°c) for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven carefully (they will be very hot) without touching the inside of the jar or lid.

Place your oranges and cut lemons into a large pan and cover with the water. Bring to a simmer and simmer for about 2 hours until the oranges are tender. I cook mine in the simmering oven of the Aga. Take off the heat and leave to cool.

Once cool enough to handle, cut the oranges in half and scoop out the flesh and pips into a bowl lined with the muslin. Wrap the flesh up well in the muslin and pour the collected juices into the orange water and then place the muslin wrapped flesh into the water as well.  Chop the oranges and lemons to your desired thickness and place it all in the orange water. Add the sugar.

Place over a low heat and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Turn up the heat and bring the marmalade to a rolling boil. If you have a thermometer place it in the pan and wait until the marmalade reaches 106°c. Test it on a cold saucer if you don’t have a thermometer. To do this pour a teaspoonful of the marmalade onto the cold saucer. Leave to cool and then push your fingertip through it. It should wrinkle slightly. Once it reaches this stage turn off the heat and leave the marmalade to cool a little. This will help with the distribution of the skin through the marmalade. I left mine covered with a lid until completely cold and then I could test the set. If it isn’t how you like it just bring it back to boil until it wrinkles more on a cold saucer. Decant carefully into the jars and seal well.

 

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Green tomato and marrow chutney

Green Tomato and Marrow Chutney

I am sure that I normally make my chutney earlier than this, but this autumn has been so unseasonably mild that my tomatoes have just continued to give. A week or so ago I knew that it was finally time to pick the last of the tomatoes.

Last of the season's tomatoes

The tomatoes have done well this year, we have had a good harvest. I couldn’t say the same for our sweetcorn or our cabbage or our borlotti beans. But every year is different and that is part of the joy of vegetable growing. These beauties were destined for chutney, along with a marrow and some bramleys.

I made a very similar chutney last year and was very pleased with the result. This year’s seems promising. Of course, it is too early to tell what its real flavour might be once it has sat in the cupboard for a month or two and matured. At the moment it has too much vinegary  astringency to be sure. But underneath its immaturity I can sense its sweetness and the potential for a lovely chutney.

Chutney takes much longer to cook than you first imagine it might. Patience and a gentle simmer is needed and it is only ready when the vinegar has all but disappeared and in its place a thick sludge remains. It will take about three or four hours and your house will smell vinegary, spicy and fruity. I like it, the girls don’t. The Aga makes life easy because you just bring the pan to a simmer and then place it in the simmering oven for a few hours. A slow cooker might work, but I have never tried it so can’t say for sure.

Chutney cooking

The chutney nearly there and ready for potting

You can add whatever fruit and veg you have to this chutney as long as you remember that you need 1 part vinegar to three part fruit/veg. Then sugar in a similar amount, perhaps slightly less. You can use whichever spices are your favourite or you have in the cupboard, just make sure you tie them in a cloth that has been scalded in a pan of boiling water for a few minutes. That way you don’t experience an unpleasant bite into a whole spice when enjoying your chutney. I add walnuts to my chutney because I love the slight bite they retain, but feel free to not include them.

Here is what I have in mine this year.

1kg marrow
1.5kg tomatoes
400g bramley apple
350g onion
3 cloves garlic
150g sultanas
100g walnuts
15g salt
600ml vinegar (I used a mix of distilled and cider as that is what I had in the cupboard)
500g soft brown sugar
Spices to tie in a cloth bag:
1 chilli, left whole or cut in half depending how hot you want your chutney
1tsp mustard seed
4 cloves
5 cardamom seeds
1 tsp coriander seed
5 allspice berries
1 bayleaf
1 tsp cumin seed
1 tsp fresh ginger, sliced

Method

Chop all the fruit and vegetables to an even size. Slice the garlic. Place all of this in a large preserving pan. Add the sultanas and the walnuts. Tie the spices into a bag and place in the pan. Sprinkle the salt over. Add the sugar and pour the vinegar over everything. Place the pan on a medium heat and bring to a gentle simmer. Continue to simmer until the fruit and vegetables are tender and the vinegar has become a thick sauce.

Pour into warm sterilised jars. Seal and store for a few months before enjoying and bringing back memories of your summer.

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Crabapple and sloe jelly

Whilst I was picking my rosehips for the syrup I found a couple of heavily loaded sloe trees. I made my way back there a few days later and picked a kilo or two and popped them in the freezer. We are lucky enough to have a crabapple tree nearby too so I picked a couple of kilo of those too. The crabapples have sat in my kitchen looking at me accusingly for a couple of weeks, so yesterday I made myself get round to giving them a good swill and popped them in the preserving pan with some of the sloes. I cooked them slowly in just enough water to cover them until the apples were pulpy. I gave them a good mash and strained it overnight through a jelly bag. Today, I boiled them with sugar until the jelly wrinkled on a cold saucer. The finished jelly will be great with roast dinners and cold meats and stirred into gravies. I might even have it on toast like I do with my damson and rosehip jelly. This one though is a little sharper and has that sherbetty finish to it that you would expect from a jelly made with fruits that are sour before cooking.

Crabapples and sloes

The colours at the different stages are stunning. Starting with a rose pink and turning to a deep purple. It is worth making this jelly just for these colours.

Crabapple and sloe juice

The strained juice

Crabapple and sloe jelly boiling

The boiling stage

You can put in as many crabapples and sloes that you have, cover them with just enough water to almost cover and then strain the juice through a fine sieve of jelly bag. Measure out the juice and to every 600ml add 450g of granulated sugar. Here is what I did:

2kg crabapples
1kg sloes
water
1 kg granulated sugar

Method
Rinse the crabapples and the sloes well. Place in a large pan and cover with just enough water to almost cover. Cook over a gentle heat until the apples are pulpy. Mash with a potato masher and pour the purée into a jelly bag, a clean tea cloth (boil in a pan of water before use) or through a very fine sieve. Leave to strain overnight.

Measure the juice and for every 600ml add 450g of granulated sugar. I had 1,300 ml of juice so added 1 kg of sugar. Stir over a gentle heat until the sugar dissolves and then turn up the heat and boil the syrupy mixture until a teaspoonful of it wrinkles when placed onto a cold saucer and pushed with your finger. Remove any scum that rises to the surface. Pour the hot mixture into warm sterilised jars and seal.

You might also like to make crabapple jelly without the sloes or crabapple and rosehip jelly.

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Rosehip syrup

rosehip syrup

Rosehips and sugar, day 1

Update to this post (Sept 2016): My experiment did not work! Leaving them whole, as I did, meant that they just sat at the bottom of the sugar.  However, my friend made them at the same time and was much more diligent then I was and snipped off both ends of each hip. The sugar was then able to macerate the hip much more effectively. Hers did turn into a syrup. I will be trying to make it again this year with modifications to my method. 

Original post: This is an experiment. I have made rosehip syrup before (although I failed to blog about it) by using the boiling method, similar to making a jelly. When I made the crabapple and rosehip jelly Margaret wisely suggested that boiling rosehips probably defeats the object of the syrup. Rosehips are incredibly high in vitamin C and so a syrup can be very handy to have in the house during the winter months to stave off any nasty lurgies.

My wonderful friend A suggested this tactic for making the syrup. She had been to visit her Cornish uncle and he had bought out his rosehip syrup for her to try and had explained that he made it by layering the rosehips in sugar. We both wanted to give it a go.

It always makes me smile to think about my friendship with A. We have been friends since we were 17 and at college together. Back then our interests were mostly concerned with having fun and partying. Now when we get together, which is as often as we can manage, we mostly find ourselves strolling around the garden and discussing the finer points of growing vegetables and how best to cook them. How times have changed.

Anyway back to the rosehip syrup. This is not a recipe as such. You just pick as many rosehips as will fit into your jar. You give them a good wash and remove the old flower head. Dry the rosehips well. Now you pour a layer of sugar into the bottom of your jar, then a layer of rosehips, then sugar, then rosehips until the jar is full. Your rosehips should be entirely covered in sugar. As a guide I used about 400g rosehips and 450g of sugar to fill my kilner jar.

This is my jar after a week:

Rosehips and sugar Day 6

Rosehips and sugar Day 6

This is an experiment. I will report back in due course whether it has been successful. However, as you can see from the photo above it looks promising. I did not pierce the hips at all and the maceration has started. I am hopeful that we will have rosehip syrup for our porridge and to sweeten our mint tea in perhaps six weeks time. Watch this space.

UPDATE 13th October 2015

We are now about 16 days into the syrup making process. About 9 days in (a week ago) I noticed that as the sugar was liquefying the rosehips were becoming exposed at the top of the jar, so I added more sugar, enough to fill up the jar again. The photo below is one I took today. You can see that not all the sugar has liquified yet, but it is getting there. The rosehips are starting to wrinkle too.  One of my students at the bread making class last week gave me a great tip –  she keeps her damson gin in the car when it needs regular shaking. What a genius idea. This would work equally as well for your rosehip syrup. A plastic container might be more suited to that than a glass one though.

Rosehip syrup day 16

Rosehip Syrup Day 16

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Damson and rosehip jelly

damsons and rosehips

I think damsons might be my favourite fruit. Not straight off the tree; that way they have a bitter edge which makes you purse your lips. But when they are cooked with sugar they are rich, perfumed and glorious. One of the most lovely things about them is their purplish bloom which imprints itself on your fingers when you pick it from the tree. I picked these beauties on Sunday and the tree stands next to a rose that due to my lazy gardening has suckers that have naturalised. My lazy gardening of course has its benefits, in this case the beautiful rosehips that are hanging heavy. I couldn’t resist picking some to add to my damsons.

I am not sure that the rosehips add anything in terms of taste to this jelly. The damsons overwhelm their delicate taste, but maybe some of their goodness will have hung in there through the boiling process. I am glad I added them for the photo above alone. Look at those colours! Autumn on a plate.

Damson and rosehip jelly

Makes about 3 jars

1kg damsons
300g rosehips
1 litre water
Granulated sugar

Method
Wash the rosehips well and remove the old flowers and check for insects. Chop these finely (wearing gloves if you do this by hand as the hairy seeds are an irritant, I use my food processor). Add to a large pan. Wash the damsons and add to the pan with 1 litre of water. Bring to the boil and simmer away until the fruit is soft. I mashed it with my potato masher. Strain the fruit through a jelly bag or large square of muslin tied at the top and hang over a bowl. The weight of the fruit and damson stones will mean that the majority of the juice will have strained through in 1 hour, but you can leave it overnight. Don’t be tempted to squeeze the bag though as this will make the jelly cloudy.

Pop a couple of saucers into the fridge to get cold.

Measure the juice and to every 600ml of juice add 450g of sugar. Return it all to a clean large pan and bring slowly to a simmer, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Once the sugar has dissolved increase the heat to bring it to a rolling boil. Check to see if it’s set by pouring a small amount onto a cold saucer. When it’s cooled push your finger through it and if it wrinkles it’s ready. Pour into warm sterilised jars and seal.

Use it like jam on your toast or as an accompaniment to meat, cheese or anything else that you fancy.

If you like this, then you might also like my pickled damsons, stewed damsons, damson ice cream, damson vodka or damson jam.

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Crabapple and rosehip jelly

rosehip and crabapple jelly

I intended to make rowan berry and crabapple jelly this year. The rowan berries have drooped heavily this year. In fact, on our usual walk I have noticed several new rowan trees. Obviously they aren’t actually new trees I just haven’t noticed them before. Which makes me think that this year the trees must be particularly heavy with berries as I am not usually one to miss a foraging opportunity. Anyway, off I marched with my carrier bags, one for the crabapples, one for rowan berries and one just in case. You never know what you might spot.

It wasn’t until I came to actually pick the rowan berries that I noticed quite how tall each of my newly spotted trees was. Why hadn’t I noticed before that I needed to be several feet higher to get the berries? I managed a handful from a sapling growing on the side of a brook. Time for a rethink. That was when the spare carrier bag came in handy for the rosehips.

I made rosehip syrup last year in an effort to ward off any chesty coughs. So this year, we will be having crabapple and rosehip jelly by the spoonful if the common cold dares to visit. The rosehip is high in vitamin C and during World War II people were paid by the pound for rosehips so that the syrup could be made and given to children.

The apples and rosehips are bubbling as I write this draft and the scent is mesmerisingly good. I am looking forward to this jelly accompanying our winter sunday roasts and perhaps added to some herb teas. I think a spoonful might be a good addition to a sage tea to sooth sore throats.

750g crab apples
300g rosehips
water to cover
sugar, 450g for every 600ml of juice

Method

Wash the crab apples well and cut out any bruises. Chop roughly.

Wash the rosehips and remove the old flower and check for any creatures that might be hiding there. Blitz them in a food processor or chop finely. Bearing in mind that they are famed by schoolchildren everywhere for their qualities as itching powder, so you might want to wear gloves when handling them.

Place the apples and rosehips in a large pan and just cover with water. Bring to a simmer and simmer away until the fruit is soft. Put the pulp into a  jelly bag or a clean tea towel (I boil one in a pan two thirds filled with water for about ten minutes to make sure it is clean) and allow the fruit to strain over a large bowl. Don’t squeeze the bag or the jelly will be cloudy. A lot of recipes say that you need to leave it overnight, but the liquid in mine had drained through in a couple of hours, leaving a dry pulp behind.

Place a couple of saucers in the fridge for testing your jelly later. Measure your juice and pour into a large clean pan. Bring to boiling point. Add 450g sugar for every 600ml of juice and stir to dissolve. Boil rapidly once the sugar has dissolved and boil until setting point has been reached. You may have a scum come to the surface. Scoop this out. Setting point should take about ten minutes. But test for setting point after five minutes. To test for setting point take out one of the cold saucers and place a teaspoonful of the jelly onto it. Allow to cool and then push your finger through it. If it wrinkles then it is ready. Pour into hot sterile jars and seal.

I love the colour of this jelly, it’s much paler than the crabapple jelly I made two years ago. It has more of a rose blush about it. It’s well worth a try.

 

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Pickled walnuts – a tale NOT a recipe

green walnuts

The reason that this is a tale rather than a recipe is that I am not convinced that I have done this pickling of walnuts thing quite right and I don’t want you, my dear reader, making the same mistakes as I have. I have found too many conflicting recipes to make any sense of the procedure. So, please, feel free to read this and then promptly go off and do your own research and come to your own conclusions. I hope to try again next year and experience might go in my favour.

I have never pickled walnuts before, in fact I don’t think that I have ever eaten a pickled walnut. It has been on my list of things to do, though, for a long time. My generous friend, spoken of previously, has a lovely walnut tree. Walnuts wear the little green jackets that you can see in the photo above and the hard brown shell that we are all so familiar with forms underneath this jacket sometime between June and September, depending on the weather conditions and probably all sorts of other factors. A pickled walnut is the entire green seed pod and not just the nut inside. If you want to pickle your walnuts you need to get them off the tree before the hard shell starts to form. So, sometime towards the end of June or the middle of July.

Please be aware that the juices from a walnut will stain your hands decidedly yellow to dark brown depending on how much contact you have with it. Wear gloves whenever you handle them. I did and I still managed to have yellow hands when I finished pricking them.

The green pod has to be pricked with a fork or skewer several times and soaked in a salt brine for two weeks, changing the brine after the first week (or every three days, depending on whose advice you take). If your fork meets any resistance then discard this walnut as the shell has started to form and you were too late in your picking. It was at this brining  stage that I came across my first problem – a mould developed on the top of the brine. This surprised me as I didn’t think that a salt brine would attract mould. Perhaps my house in midsummer, with the Aga still pumping out at full bore, is just too warm for pickling walnuts. I have, however, ignored the mould. The walnuts submerged in the brine seem to be unaffected by this top layer of mould so I have carried on with the pickling process.  However, whilst I write this post I am considering that my salt brine was just two weak. Now that I have read Mrs Beeton’s wise words, (it didn’t occur to me to do so before brining) her salt brine at 500g salt to each litre of water is at least twice as much and sometimes four times more salt than others recommend.

The walnuts are still green, although a slightly darker green than before, when they come out of the brine. At this point you spread them on trays in a single layer and leave to go black. My walnuts went black very quickly, much quicker than I expected, in fact by the next morning. When they have turned black you pickle them. Now, my problem has been the conflicting and sometimes vague recipes that I have found online for this. One suggested that you use a sweet vinegar (malt vinegar, with the addition of brown sugar in a 2:1 ratio and spices such as cinnamon, cloves, star anise, peppercorns) bring it to a simmer and then the walnuts are added and allowed to simmer for 15 minutes. Another suggested that you just pour a spiced pickling vinegar over the walnuts in a jar and allow to marinate. Well, it seems to me that there is quite a difference there. Mrs Beeton, a woman of good sense, and surely someone that can be trusted in all things kitchen, advises that you boil the vinegar and pour it, still hot, over the walnuts in the jar, covering them completely.

I decided that as I like pickled damsons in a sweet vinegar so very much, that I would try the sweetened pickle vinegar, bringing 1 litre of malt vinegar, 500g of dark brown sugar, a piece of cinnamon, four cloves, a few peppercorns and a star anise to the boil. Add the 1 kg of brined and blackened walnuts and leave to cool for 10 minutes before placing into hot sterile jars. Covering completely with the vinegar.

There, you see, I have created a new method and probably more confusion. The walnuts are sitting in jars as I type. I will let you know how they taste in a month’s time (when they will be ready according to Mrs Beeton and not 5 days like some on the internet will tell you). Who knew that pickling walnuts would be such a minefield?

If you have pickled walnuts in the past and would like to pass on your wisdom, I would be forever grateful, that is unless you confuse me further.

Update October 2013 – Just to report we have tried the walnuts now and I can’t say I am impressed or unimpressed. They taste like something pickled but not particularly walnuty. Although we did try them with friends and one of them commented that she thought they were walnuty. Another friend suggested that they are good in a beef stew, so that’s what I shall be trying next for these little pickled things. 

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