Tag Archives: marmalade

Growing farms in the UK

Wicker basket with freshly picked produce on the ground

The day after my mother’s funeral (glitter and gold in her honour), I got my dream job, as marketing and communications manager for the Biodynamic Land Trust, a charitable community benefit society.

The Biodynamic Land Trust grows farms. Founded in 2011, it secures biodynamic and organic farmland for community-ownership, 300 acres so far.

I am excited to be with an organisation working at the grassroots. The grassroots is where it’s at.

How does a community get to own a farm? Through buying community shares.

With interest at an all-time low, many investors are thinking ‘outside the bank’. By investing  in (withdrawable) community shares in an ethical enterprise, money can do good. 

Three freshly-laid eggs in a child's hand at Huxhams Cross Farm

Take Huxhams Cross Farm in Devon. Secured by the Biodynamic Land Trust in 2015, it is achieving great things thanks to community investment. The farm is in conversion to biodynamic agriculture. Its previously-bare fields are regaining fertility through green manures and soil-nurturing biodynamic preparations. 

The fledgling farm has planted 900 orchard trees, two acres of soft fruit, and 3,500 agro-forestry trees. It has a hundred chickens and two Shetland heifers.

Run by food-growing and wellbeing experts, the Apricot Centre, it has also raised a new barn, developed access to parking and organises a weekly box delivery with fellow local farmers, offering vegetables, fruit, eggs, and spring water from Dartmoor.

Signpost at Huxhams Cross Farm

The farm needs electricity and to harvest water, and to build a training and wellbeing centre. The centre will enable cooking, on-farm processing, and on-farm therapy for children (being on a farm is incredibly de-stressing for kids and increases the therapeutic offering). 

Are you inspired to help Huxhams Cross Farm? Invest now in Huxhams Cross Farm community share offer.

Children helping with harvest at Huxhams Cross Farm

POST SCRIPT

I made marmalade on Sunday.

Preserving pan with warm marmalade

I was about to compost the pith and pips when Michael said: whoa, and now its citrusy-ness fibre goes in every smoothie.  By the way, if you can get organic Seville oranges, do. More orangey.

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For several years I have kept my mother, Fay Winkler, in marmalade.

She was my marmalade’s biggest fan.

Her testimony is below.

 

Katie Stewart: Marmalade 2013

Photo shoot in snow

Oranges snow today

The cookery writer, Katie Stewart, died earlier this month.

There was an outpouring on Twitter from those including me who had learned to cook from her cookbooks.

Then Guardian food and wine writer, Fiona Beckett, suggested a Katie Cook (#katiestewart) day and others on Twitter took up the call, followed by Alex Renton in The Times. This is my contribution.

I have been following Katie Stewart’s helpful, practical recipe for making chunky marmalade since 1980 from The Times Calendar Cookbook. Having decreased  sugar bit by bit, I now use less sugar than fruit.

Katie’s original amounts: 3 lbs/ 1.1/4 kg Seville oranges | 6lbs / 2.3/4 kg sugar | 5 pts/ 2.3/4 litres water | juice of 2 lemons.

I use organic Seville oranges. They cost twice as much this year as non-organic ones because we live in a nutty world where wholesome food is more expensive than junk food. Still, added expense worth it because:

  1. Organic oranges have more pronounced taste because they are smaller and denser (basically less watery) than non-organic oranges
  2. More nutrients in organic too: “conventional farmers (drive) down nutrient levels via their pursuit of ever-higher yields,” says Charles M. Benbrook
  3. By paying the extra, I am doing my bit for healthier soils and water, and feeding the world. Think of it as a charity donation.

Talking of which, Katie Stewart’s family has asked for donations (rather than flowers) for The Kids’ Cookery School. The charity’s mission is to give every child in the UK an unique fun cooking experience to help them make informed choices about food. You can donate online.

My marmalade 2001 blog post talks about the young US soldier, Bradley Manning, Wikileaks whistleblower. Currently in pre-trial court martial proceedings, on Thursday he was refused the whistleblower’s defence: motive.

The marmalade: Katie Stewart’s recipe for Chunky Seville Marmalade, her invaluable tips, my amounts and spin on my Marmalade 2011. Apologies not metric – any help with converting amounts welcome.

Marmalade 

5lbs organic Seville oranges

4 lbs organic cane sugar

2 lemons

4 pts of water + 1 pt for extracting pectin

Top Katie Tips

  • Place a few saucers in freezer so boiling jam can cool quickly when testing to see it has set
  • Put weighed sugar in a preserving pan in low oven to warm
  • Clean jars thoroughly with hot water and dry them in oven
  • Add lemons at preserving pan stage.

Five stages of making marmalade

1. Clean oranges + simmer to soften
Washing oranges

Scrub non-organic oranges and remove stalks. Cook in a large pan or two smaller ones – with lids – in 4 pints of water and simmer heartily for about an hour until peel is soft. Orangey aroma fills room…

Drain cooked whole oranges and preserve cooking water as if it were a precious liquid (it is).

This process can be done earlier, or even the day before.

2. Extracting pith and pips for pectin

Pith and pips

Pith and pips (left)

Pectin, extracted from the insides of the fruit, is the setting agent. Cut cooked-and-cooled oranges in half. Scoop out with spoon the oranges’ insides – the pith and pips (pith and pips pith and pips – say it quickly) .

Add pith and pips to large pan with the 1 extra pint of water. Simmer for ten minutes then drain: this pectin-rich liquid will help jam set in Stage 4.

3. Slicing peel 
Slicing peel
Flatten softened peel with your hand, and cut up peel of oranges (and lemons), thinly or thickly, as you like.

4. Sugar boiling drama 

Fast-boil for imminent set

Fast-boil for imminent set

Add the sugar (warmed from the oven) to a preserving pan. Strongly suggest a preserving pan is good investment – otherwise use two of your widest pans.

Add the precious-liquid (stage 1), drained pectin-juice (stage 2), and cut-up peel (stage 3) in with sugar in preserving pan. Start boiling…

You must not overboil or you can lose that magic-setting moment. It really is as terrifying as it sounds. But you know what they say: the other side of fear is excitement.

It takes about 20-30 minutes to get it to boiling temperature and then you have to watch it like a hawk.

Start timing your 15-20 minutes when the jam is boiling like mad i.e. not just bubbling but when liquid goes into a furious fast-boiling glucky whirl – then start timing those 15-20 minutes.

So, after 15 minutes, take the pan off the heat and drop some hot jam on one of those icy-cold plates.

Let jam-droplet cool, tilting plate to encourage cooling, then push droplet gently with your finger. You are looking for tell-tale wrinkles and jelly-like character. (The opposite of an ideal lover? My 2011 joke).

If droplet is still runny, carry on boiling the big pan for a few minutes then test again. And so on.

Stage 5. Marmalade in jars

cooling marmalade

The marmalade droplets are now unequivocally set. Let jam cool in pan until not-too-hot nor too-set for pouring . Next, the sticky bit. Use newspaper to cover kitchen surface, use a ladle or a small cup. Good luck.

Recipes say use waxed discs to keep out condensation and mould but, cutting-corners-cook that I am, I have not not done so for years, with no adverse effects. Wipe jars from stickiness and proudly label.

Marmalade in jars