I have mentioned before – here and here – my on-going difficult relationship with cooking but I have had some success with jam, marmalade and pickles. A few weeks ago Barry reminded me that we had run out of marmalade. (I have visions of exhausted athletes hauling themselves gelatinously from a titian-coloured quagmire and staggering stickily to a finishing line – but that’s just me!)
As everyone knows, (don’t tell me you didn’t!) January is the month in which Seville oranges aavailable . I have no idea why they are on sale for a short period only but they are reputed to be superior fruits in the marmalade stakes.
Seville orange (or bigarade) is a widely-known, particularly tart orange which is now grown throughout the Mediterranean region. It has a thick, dimpled skin, and is prized for making marmalade, being higher in pectin than the sweet orange, and therefore giving a better set and a higher yield. It is also used in compotes and for orange-flavoured liqueurs. Once a year, oranges of this variety are collected from trees in Seville and shipped to Britain to be used in marmalade. However, the fruit is rarely consumed locally in Andalusia
So I bought some and started preparing them.
My marmalade would never pass an authenticity test since I tweak the recipe to accommodate my needs (basically, my laziness!) and prepare as for jam. No muslin bags with pips therein hang from the side of my Maslin pan. Once the oranges are well cooked I scoop out the flesh and drain the mixture overnight ready to boil up the next day with lemon juice, water and half the amount of sugar in any recipe I’ve ever seen.
Now, making marmalade – or jam – is not a swift process and I am easily bored. Besides, I do have other things to do, so I leave the simmering concoction, returning to the kitchen every so often to check progress. Unfortunately, I am frequently absorbed by some research or other – the sort where you open a dictionary to find the definition of a word and then discover, an hour later, that you’re seeking meanings for words you’d never previously heard of! Anyway, this time I was not thus distracted – in fact, I was in the garden doing something rather worthy – refilling the bird feeders, probably – when Barry alerted me to the fact that ‘something’ had boiled over and I might care to take a look.
Well! Was this a message from the world beyond that I needed to hone my housekeeping skills or was it the cooker itself registering a complaint? Who knows? There was a – I was going to say ‘slick’ – but it was much more than that- a lava flow of molten marmalade mixture covering half the hob. I knew I had to clean it quickly before it set rock hard so that was my job for the next half-hour. I was overjoyed! - and I neglected to take a photograph.
Notwithstanding, I decided to make a further batch of marmalade, this time with limes, oranges (not Seville) grapefruit and lemon. That was accomplished without mishap.
Around the same time I realised we had no more home-made pickles so I bought shallots to make pickled onions.
They were eschallion shallots, eschallion being the French for ‘banana shallots’ which may convey their shape and size. No, they’re not banana-sized but they are long and much bigger than ‘ordinary’ shallots (which Barry always calls, rather endearingly, ‘Charlottes’ – he was fluent in Urdu before English and was poorly taught to read)
Anyway, I duly pickled the shallots, having to cut them into halves or even thirds to achieve manageable portions – no problems there, except that I could not achieve a good seal on the rubber insert that goes between the lid and the jar. This was not a drawback until we took some to Susannah when we went to see her a couple of weeks ago. Susannah, like her brother, Gareth, and her niece, Kiri, loves pickled onions (must be an inherited gene from my father!) So, because they weren’t sealed properly, the vinegar leaked all over the boot (trunk) of the car and now, when we drive that car, we feel an urgent need to find fish and chips! The smell is dissipating – we think.
In addition, I decided to make some piccalilli. The last batch I made was rather dark because I had used malt vinegar instead of distilled. This time I had the correct vinegar, but not enough sugar, so substituted honey. The vegetables were not as specified in the recipe, either, so red peppers took the place of tomatoes and sliced onions masqueraded as their smaller cousins. I must say the finished result looks pretty and authentic – I’m not sure about the taste!
I pickled red cabbage, too - and that looks okay and doesn’t taste too disgusting, though I think I made a mistake in the quantities of cabbage and salt – too little cabbage, too much salt! Fortunately, we don’t eat pickles very often – once a month or thereabouts, so I think our blood pressure will not suffer.
Recently I have been thinking about soused herrings. I haven't made those for years!!