Monday, February 09, 2009

Marmalade... no, not the cat!

I've always loved the colour of marmalade: gorgeous tones of orange ranging from silken yellow through vibrant ginger on to scrumptious sienna. Perhaps that's why I adore George so?!

I decided to try my hand at making some Seville Orange marmalade recently, never having made use of my preserving pan in the 4 years I've owned it, I thought it was high time. I've come across a fabulous book from the River Cottage handbook series focusing purely on preserves. This is a great source of information and recipes for all kinds of jams, pickles, sauces... and fruit liqueurs (including my beloved Sloe Gin) so I think I will need to buy my own copy of this and hand this one back to the library for somebody else to enjoy!

For my first attempt I opted for the sliced fruit method where all the chopping is done at the start of the process (squeeze the juice from 1kg of oranges and slice the peel including all the pith). The peel is then soaked overnight in the juice plus 2.5 litres of water and then simmered in the preserving pan until tender: about 2-2.5 hours (until pan contents are reduced by about a third). Add 75ml of lemon juice (I cheated and bought bottled) and 2kg of demerara sugar (although white sugar will do, I like the darkness the demerara brough to the mixture). Simmer until all the sugar has reduced - if you don't the sugar will stay granular within the marmalade I am expertley informed - then boil rapidly until setting point is reached (about 20-30 minutes but could be more). Et voila - marmalade.

And it tastes yummy :-)

I then went on to try the whole fruit method where the chopping is done after you have simmered 1kg of fruit for a couple of hours. But I made the mistake of trying to cook Sunday lunch at the same time and missed the setting point and ended up with a preserving pan of black treacle which had burnt to the bottom. Not good. I've soaked and soaked the pan, to no avail, Steve very kindly used his engineering prowess to sand it all off and regain a nice shiny bottom (the pan of course... not me!). I was going to add some whisky to this second batch but I may drink it now instead as I think I may have missed the Seville season now for this year. Well, there have to be some perks!!

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Minimalist Monochrone or Characterful Colour?

I am always surprised at how a few hours can change your outlook - here, our vista: look at how the landscape has changed in just the space of 7 hours. The picture of Carter by the dilapidated garage was taken at about 9.30 in the morning yesterday, and the following image was taken at about 4.30pm the same day. Such colour in the second one as opposed to minimalist monochrome of the first.

I'm thinking George the cat doesn't like snow! This may be the first time he has experienced it - actually, I'm pretty sure it is as he was about a year old when we homed him last April and snow hasn't been seen down this part of Devon for a few years. Poor chap, he really hates it when I launch him into the white wilderness a couple of times a day to do what he has to do... and then shut the door quickly so he doesn't come back in (bad, bad mum!!) - I'd rather that than a litter tray in the house (or worse).

This morning, much has frozen so it is becoming lethal underfoot - we may still be housebound for another day.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Striding on...

Yes, I have finally tidied the mess that is my head - aka my studio! Just didn't quite get round to posting the pics. What do you think? I certainly feel much calmer and more organised now my surroundings are less of a tsunami.

We had a little snow earlier in the week and I bemoaned the fact that it wasn't enough. Well, it is said that best you be careful of what you wish for... we've been hit four square here in our little corner of East Devon. We are well and truly snowed in as even the 4x4 cannot get up the track onto the main road (ha - the lane we call the main road is nothing like a good old council cared for A or even B road and will never see the flashing lights of a snow plough!).

Yesterday evening, driving home at around 11.30pm from work, the journey took me 50 minutes rather than the usual 20. I decided to take a different route that usual to avoid the high road from Sidmouth to Honiton and drive via West Hill and use the A30.

After spinning the car around before even getting to the A30 (and then deciding I had best lock the front hubs to get full 4x4 - doh!) I gracefully allowed a snow plough to take the slip road onto the A30 before me, being the generous soul that I am ;-) Even he had trouble. The entire 12 mile journey was done at between 10 and 20 mph from door to door and I have never been more grateful to have the old jalopy as I was last night.

Home safe and sound, thank goodness.

But it's excitement! Luckily we have electricity (better than about 22,000 homes in Devon today I gather), heating oil, wood for the stove and food in the freezer - and hiking sticks to use whilst walking the dog, who is loving every chilly minute of it!

Enjoy these images....

Looking back down our track towards the house:

Where our track meets the 'main road':

Carter loving it - and standing in the middle of the 'main road'!