vanilla rose

The first marmalade I ever made was Desert Candy’s Pink Grapefruit Marmalade. Not only is it divine, truly worth a moment of reverent silence on first tasting, it’s easy and quick and a treat for the eyes, all speckled with vanilla seeds. It’s also become my template. Not sure what to do with this bowl of fruit-becoming jam? Add vanilla bean and rosewater. It works for raspberry jam, cumquat marmalade, pear jam… strawberry and rhubarb… there’s always some new combination to experiment with.

But I keep coming back to this gorgeous creation.

Then I go talk to my pink grapefruit tree: grow please, have some seaweed and compost, let me drape this mesh tent over you to protect you from the possums and how about I polish your leaves, there’s that’s better…

Maybe one day I’ll be able to pick grapefruit to make this marmalade. Until that happy day I’ll continue trading flowers for grapefruits at the Greengrocer and make myself a batch.

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Loot the library

I read a lot – maybe too much. The only way I can keep enough books in the house and in my hot little hands is to regularly raid the library which isn’t always as pleasant a prospect as you might expect thanks to the kiddie sing-along-sessions. Yes, the wheels on the bus still go round and round and the frogs go la-di-da-di-dah. Luckily there is the online reservation system and I make full use of that. At the moment it’s rather full of the later Dick Francis novels including Gamble by Felix Francis (how very interesting) but it also features:

 

And the library didn’t have this, nor Book Depository, but Fishpond did:

All of which I’m looking forward to holding immensely but to the likely detriment of the novel-writing scheduled for this month.

hello sunshine

Every month for the last 7 months I’ve made a cocktail jam for hilbarn, some planned well in advance, others out of serendipity. So far the toughest has been apple. I hadn’t made a lot of dominantly apple preserves; they’ve always been the background note, the substance if you like, of blueberry jams and assorted chutneys. So yes, it was definitely time apples took the spotlight. After all, this is The Apple Isle. Apples are everywhere. They keep well, and they are so versatile.

For example: sauce a whole lot of apples, stir the sauce into caramel, spike it with salt and vanilla, then keep stirring for three songs… repeat 18 or so times to get 125 jars of Caramel Apple Butter which you can also dose with rum. Ohh, that’s a bit wicked.

Or: simmer with lemons and rosemary to make an Apple Marmalade that’s fabulously sharp and sunny initially but over the winter months will mellow until it matches with Cheddar. Now try that on crumpets. Or glazing a roast, lamb or pork, your choice. Then again, it’s a grey damp day today and a little pot of sunshine could be just the thing to lift the spirits.

Next up: continuing both the apple and warming themes, it’s going to be hot and a little bit sticky…

apple route

I may have blanked out much of the horror associated with the school bus but almost two decades later (Eek! That long? Really?) I can remember enough of the stops along the route and match them with rogue apple trees to guess that a lot of the trees now fruiting betray old bus stops. Haunted hedgerows, nice. Another nice aspect about these ghostly bus stops is the presence of a driveway or widened verge where it’s safe to pull over and gather a skirt-full of apples to take home. My bench is rapidly filling with jars of tremulous luminescent jellies flavoured with early blackberries or rosehips, or the herbs running rampant in the garden.

So if you hear a bustling in the hedgerow…

chill out

No wonder there isn’t much room in the fridge when I’m trying to fit in a bowl full of macerating fruit: there’s already 14 jars of jam in various stages of eating in there, plus the pickle collection. Hmmm! Ah, well, the pumpkin marmalade should make a nice batch of River Cottage style truffles which I can probably trade for honey, or apples from the Monk’s House if I use white chocolate. It’s lovely knowing the tastes of your friends/neighbours/taste testing victims! Extra lemon zest here. A non-lime fan there. White chocolate fans here and there. But a batch of truffles will only use about half of one jar. Well, the Rhubarb & Pear will be lovely dolloped on yoghurt and muselie for tomorrow’s breakfast and I don’t really have to save the last of Tigress’ Plum Noir now that plums are coming into season again… that I’m quite happy to eat straight from the jar although I wouldn’t say no to some Brie should the fridge fairies produce some.

Anyway, no more testing new recipes until the old jams have come out of the chill.

plant and just add water

I didn’t expect jam-making would become this big consuming thing complete with a webpage, an email address, an order placed for jars, and the perfectly justifiable expansion of my wardrobe to include Hell Bunny dresses as sales uniforms. I can’t even remember what my first jam was! But I do recognise, and admit, jamming has become an obsession. One symptom is purchashing plants to secure a supply of Meyer lemons, for instance, or rhubarb, or gooseberries. Well, I bought lavender yesterday solely for future Apricot & Lavender jams. I’ve also tipped all the apricot pits down the bank where I found some miraculous cherries seedlings sprouting. Who knows? Maybe there’ll be miraculous apricots in a year or two if the rain gods, possums, and wallabies are kind.

Speaking of rain gods… the clouds curdling the sky look hopeful. Better get that lavender in the ground.