Category Archives: jam making

Orange Marmalade

dscf2665Its that time of year again – marmalade time.

1 kg Seville oranges – guaranteed to have more pips than flesh and even when you think you’ve got all the little blighters they keep popping to the surface during the interminable boiling time.

1 lemon – this one came wrapped in tissue paper.  It was the only one wrapped in the crate with its little logo covered square of protection – so obviously it was the one I needed despite the fact it was virtually at the bottom of the box.

2kg of warmed granulated sugar…you know that adage about the watched pot – what it should actually say is that the warmed sugar is either stone cold or welded to the bottom of the pan.  There are no in-between stages.

A small muslin bag for all those pips. The chances of you having one of these unless you’re like me and saw them in a sale several years ago and thought they might come in useful are remote – and it turns out little muslin bags with drawer strings are very useful indeed.  They will also be exceedingly useful next time you’re shopping and see something else in the kitchen paraphernalia range that your loved one feels is excess to requirements.  Now you will be able to remind him or her of those handy little muslin bags whilst looking virtuous and highly organised.

I cup of cointreau or spirits of your choice – to add to the marmalade not to while away the time whilst the marmalade cooks.

8 X 375g sterilised jam jars.


First chop your oranges and deseed them.  Its the pith that makes the marmalade bitter but I very swiftly discovered that my marmalade wasn’t going to be delicate and ladylike – for starters the oranges had lives of their own and for seconds it turns out that I have many cuts on my fingers.  The mandolin did not work particularly well as the little device for stopping you chop your fingers off didn’t like the orange peel very much.  Any way ultimately I chopped a kilo of oranges into roughly equal strips and collected most of the pips.  The pips go in a muslin bag which as luck would have it I had (as I may already have mentioned).  The oranges and the lemon chunks go in a very large bowl and then you add 2.25 litres of water followed by the bag of orange pips and a plate to cover it all.  Go away and do something else for twenty-four hours.

Transfer the pleasantly citrus concoction to a large stainless steel pan along with the pips in their bag.  If you use copper you’ll end up with very clean copper and very dirty marmalade – take it from one who knows.  Gently heat.  You need to halve the amount of liquid.  The longer it takes the softer the peel will be.  When the kitchen is steamy because you’ve forgotten to put the extractor fan on open the window so the neighbours can share your orangy sauna and turn on the extractor fan.  Thank your lucky stars you don’t have wallpaper in the kitchen and if you do tell yourself that you needed to redecorate in any event.

Deposit 2kgs of sugar in a pan – heat gently watching it nervously for any signs of sticking.  This means you need to stir it regularly but gently because otherwise hob cleaning is going to take on a whole new meaning.

When the sugar is warm and the liquid in the other pan has halved, add the sugar to the liquid.  I took the bag of pips out before adding the sugar not he grounds that I wanted to use the bag again and knew how difficult it would be to get clean otherwise.  Put your thermometer in the pan and prepare for a long couple of hours inhaling orange steam. The setting point for marmalade is 104 degrees centigrade or 219 degrees farenheit.  One very helpful book informed me that if I went over the setting point that the marmalade would never set – a dispiriting thought.  Remove the odd rogue pip, stir to stop sticking, admire the peel shrinkage and when the temperature is close to setting point add the cup of spirit.  There will be alarming bubbling of the kind that you’d expect to see in a cauldron and the temperature will drop unexpectedly despite all the bubbles.

Don’t forget to sterilise your jam jars.

Eventually after a very long time the optimum temperature will arrive.  By that time you should have planned the next month, be able to breath through your nose and gone off making marmalade until next year.   Remove pips and any scum. Pot the marmalade up without pouring it over your hands. Seal and leave to cool.  Apparently you can enjoy it for breakfast the following morning.  Is now the time to mention that I don’t like marmalade very much? However, the Pottermeister’s jar has already got her name on it!

Now all you need to do is clean the kitchen or find a willing victim – er, sorry- helper, to do the washing up and clean the hob.


D is for…

dscf2504Disaster!  D could have been for Derwent Water; Durham; Derby Cathedral; dandelion wine; digging the garden or even divining – but no, it turns out that D stood for dropping my mobile phone down the toilet.  Lovely.

I took the battery out as soon as I’d fished it out and it’s now sitting in the airing cupboard on a towel as I didn’t have any rice in the kitchen cupboard and didn’t think that spaghetti would have quite the same effect.  I once put my wristwatch in the washing machine and after a week in the airing cupboard it was fine. It wasn’t quite the D I’d been anticipating but apparently its a common accident.

We seem to be slightly stuck on b as we picked more blackberries yesterday and bilberries today.  The Littlest Madam is our number one forager but I’m not sure that her yelling at her sisters, “Pick more!  Pick more!” is necessarily the way to go but it was glorious weather; the skies were very blue – we saw bees, butterflies and an assortment of fungi (I’m not that brave a forager). Tonight there are more jars of ruby red happiness in progress but hedgerow jelly this time.

An A-Z of little adventures

DSCF2505.jpgMy friend Ivor recently told me of another set of friends who had recently retired.  They were concerned that they might turn into the kind of couple that slowly vegetated into old age so they came up with a superb idea for keeping themselves young and enthusiastic.

We rather like their idea as it is sometimes difficult with the CFS to think large-scale and it is rather easy to get stuck in a routine which revolves around sleep. This strategy seems like a good way of helping with the pacing, trying new things whilst ensuring that they are manageable, not to mention thinking laterally and having something to look forward to which can help with the depression that can sometimes creep into the life of someone with CFS who always feels totally tired.  It should also help HWIOO to develop a repertoire of seasonal activities which again should help with the pacing.

The plan is that you work your way through the alphabet doing something each week or every couple of weeks for the letter of the alphabet that you are on.  The key is to be flexible; it could be a place or any other kind of noun for that matter, an activity, or a food etc.  For example, A could be Arundel Castle, an art course, an art gallery or arts festival, apple bobbing, acorn collecting or aubergines for that matter!  What we actually did yesterday which was to go to an agricultural show.


You continue through the alphabet  thinking creatively on as small or large a scale as you wish.  Today we went blackberry picking in order to make blackberry jelly.  Having said that HWIOO returned from his blackberry picking and took himself off for a siesta so I began the blackberry jelly which is a magical process and the end product definitely counts as happiness in a jar.

Whilst I had hoped to do a chocolate making course  or candle making I am quite happy to go to the cinema next week though Ben Hur could just as well have been the letter B.  It would have to be said that we both discounted caving and canoeing as soon as the thought entered our heads. I don’t like confined spaces and the last time I was in a canoe I sank without trace.  The Number-One-Son was mortified because I didn’t sink quietly.  I squawked rather loudly, thus causing maximum embarrassment.  It didn’t help that he and his father simply stepped out of the boat whilst, because I was sitting cross-legged, I couldn’t untangle myself swiftly enough to make a safe exit.  Certainly I don’t think Daniel Boone would have made such a hash of it.  We also decided that a cable car trip was out of the question based on the fact that HWIOO’s labyrinthitis probably wouldn’t have responded well to that particular activity – abseiling and bungee jumping were also discarded based on a similar rationale.  On the other hand HWIOO was rather pleased to suggest doing one of the Sunday newspaper crosswords as this demonstrates an improvement in the brain fog situation.  Two years ago he wouldn’t have been keen on the idea as he just couldn’t focus but now he’s back to doing the quick crossword.


I can’t help wondering what adventures the rest of the alphabet is going to bring.

Apricot jam

DSCF2337.JPGJam making is a vice that creeps up on you unawares.  One minute you’re quite happily purchasing jars of jam from your nearest purveyor of confiture and the next thing you know you’ve got homemade jams, compots and coulis lurking in every available cupboard space; are asking your friends and family to keep empty jars and are handing over jewel like filled jars with warnings such as – “I didn’t get all the stones out I’m afraid,” or “it’s a bit runny.”  Odd the way you never see labels on shop bought jam with that kind of information.

This week I made apricot jam.  They were selling apricots a pound for a pound on the market.  Home I cam with excitement in my heart.  For every pound of fruit you need a pound of sugar.  Did I have enough in the cupboard?  Of course I did.  Next to the great jam mountain there’s also sufficient sugar to withstand a siege.  I work on the principle that its better to buy it whilst its on special offer rather than to find yourself running short. My cupboards look like I might take twenty teaspoons of sugar in every mug of tea that I drink.   I also keep a large bottle of lemon juice lurking in the fridge as most jams that require additional pectin also specify lemon.

DSCF2338.JPGHaving halved the apricots and removed the stones I was left with two and half pounds of fruit which I covered with granulated sugar and four tablespoons of lemon juice.  I then covered the whole lot up and went away to worry  for fifteen minutes about the fact that one recipe specified the addition of water whilst the one I’d opted for didn’t.

DSCF2340Having made sure all the fruit was coated in sugar I put my pan over a low heat and began to dissolve the sugar.  Once the sugar  dissolved- which it isn’t so long as the potion has a whitish hue- it was a question of reaching the magic 219 degrees Fahrenheit (I have an antique thermometer) whilst stirring all the time.  An hour later I was still squinting at the red line on the thermometer willing the temperature to rise by another degree so that the jam would set and so that I could stop dodging sitting fruit/sugar mixture.

DSCF2342There is a kind of magic in watching fruit and sugar turn into jam.  There may also be a hint of masochism.  You can buy the stuff at your supermarket for a very reasonable price without running the risk of burning yourself, feeling as though you’re in the middle of a hot flush or having to wash up a rather sticky jam pan.

But there’s nothing to beat the moment when you know you have jam  and our it into its jars or indeed the moment when you take that first mouth full and know you got it right.

I do now know why the other recipe suggested water.  I have quite a firm set.  Its not overdone it’s just somewhat solid.  Next time I’ll try the other recipe.


Even as I whirling my jam in a figure eight stirring motion and then sweeping the thermometer through the whole concoction Stan and Tatiana were applying themselves to seedless raspberry jam – there having been a bumper crop this year.  There’s more jam makers out there than you realise.  Tatiana watched Stan struggling with his wooden spoon trying to push the raspberry mixture through muslin to deseed it and concluded that a more solid dome shaped tool would be helpful which is why Stan found himself using a darning mushroom for a purpose which its manufacturer never intended. It did the job rather nicely I am told.  Now, I’ve never darned the socks of HWIOO but I do have a darning mushroom.  I’m moving it from my workbox into the kitchen so that when I spot raspberries on the market I’m prepared for seedless raspberry jam.



DSCN0229-2.jpgI’ve followed my friend Naomi’s suggestion and gone along to the local WI meeting. I’d hoped for an Embroiderers’ Guild but there’s not one for miles, though I can go to a knit and natter at a nearby library should I feel the urge – I don’t. I’d much rather go to see Tatiana and Teddie when the weather and work permits.

Anyway, it was a rainy windswept night when I lurched off into the darkness. I arrived having walked through a rather large puddle so wasn’t necessarily looking my best as I tried not to squelch too noticeably. I needn’t have worried. The ladies I met were lovely and very welcoming – they certainly asked a lot of questions. The chairlady was late – there was the milking to do you see.  Then came the joy of singing Jerusalem – I sang (that’s the verb I like to use but it’s not necessarily the word other people would employ)  the bits I remembered and mimed the rest.  I hadn’t realised that learning it by heart was a mandatory requirement.


I’m not sure whether the WI is for me or not. Some of the speakers on the programme sound a tad on the soporific side but the conversation at tea and biscuit time had me sitting on the edge of my chair. I very swiftly came up to speed on four generations of farming families, their births, marriages, affairs and deaths as well as the chap who has a propensity to ring dodgy telephone numbers to listen to young ladies whispering naughtiness in his ears – I’ve no idea what his name is or what he looks like but those in the know were not surprised; apparently his grandfather was one for the ladies as well. Miss Marple was right – absolutely everything does happen in a village.


Meanwhile blackout curtains have been purchased and positioned; I’ve sent out the novel so expect that I shall probably be able to paper the downstairs toilet with rejection letters in due course; I’ve learned what to do with a ham hock – this involves cooking it at a very slow temperature for many hours with lentils or split peas- and I’ve sorted my stationery (I may be a fire hazard).

I’ve also discovered that if you have a box of homemade jam and leave the box somewhere cold then the labels will ultimately fall off if not effectively glued into position. Breakfast is sometimes a bit of an adventure as a consequence. HWIOO thought he’s chosen rhubarb and orange jam but had actually picked the last jar of greengage. I’m under instructions not to make any more jam until such time as the stock cupboard is somewhat barer. Personally I don’t think this includes mango chutney or lemon curd….