MARMALADE AT DALEMAIN
Wednesday January 19th 2011, 1:57 pm
The marmalade making season is now full on. I don’t need a whole cupboard full of Seville orange marmalade, just around 8-10 jars will keep me going throughout the year and a few jars for my Mum. I have a couple of other marmalade recipes I like to make as well, so there is never a shortage in my house. Last year I made my lemon, fig & lavender maramalade and pink grapefruit, rhubarb and cardamon , especially to enter in the Marmalade festival at Dalemain Mansion, Nr Penrith. The lemon, fig & lavender marmalade didn’t score too well at the festival, even though it has been a big hit elsewhere, has been chosen to be included in a canning book out later in the year in Canada, and provided the inspiration for a few other canners who tweaked the instructions to suit themselves but came back with a resounding thumbs up. It is quite a robust marmalade and perhaps just wasn’t citrussy enough for the Dalemain judges. I did receive a little scorecard back after the event but unfortunately it has become lost in the mists of time on my desk, so I can tell you no more than that.
The pink grapefruit, rhubarb & cardamon marmalade did quite well in the ‘romantic’ category and has now become a running joke in my family as the scorecard said ‘nice try’. But it is the taking part that is important and Dalemain has become such a well publicised event for all sorts of worthy reasons that I would encourage anyone to participate and if possible go there and see what an extraordinary sight it is; tables laden with more jars of glowing amber preserves than you can possibly imagine in a grand English stately home setting. The event is now so well established that jars are sent in from all over the world, with entries from Japan, Australia and the US. Last year the tally was over 650 entries from amateur makers with a third of those entries being from men.
In last years Clergy class, despite divine intervention, Mr Ingham was let down by his ‘peel slightly undercooked’.
The categories have changed this year, so alongside category 1, ‘thin cut Seville orange marmalade’, category 6 has a ‘peers & political’ theme, and category 7 a ‘military’ vibe. I imagine the titles are open to interpretation, but last years ‘B & B’ category (not included this year) was for boarding house proprietors and ‘clergy’ (included again this year) is presumably for right reverends men (and women) of the cloth or their housekeepers. Anyway, I’m fancying category 11, ‘inventive’ and perhaps some trad thin cut Seville this year. You can find my recipe for this classic here.
The Marmalade Festival at Dalemain Mansion, Nr Penrith, Cumbria takes place Saturday 12th & Sunday 13th February 2011 10am-4pm See their website here for more information and to download the form to accompany your entry, which needs to reach them by 6th February. The event is held in aid of the Hospice at Home, Carlisle and North Lakeland.
You can also find details on the website of special events taking place with Pam ‘the jam’ Corbin demonstrating how make the perfect marmalade and Dan Lepard, baker extraordinaire, showing how to make the perfect loaf to serve with it.
Dan Lepard, as country farmer amongst the aconites at Dalemain, 2010.
CULTURE CLUB - HOMEMADE YOGURT
Tuesday January 18th 2011, 6:25 pm
2010 was the year I learnt about canning, or bottling, or hot water processing stuff in jars, whatever you want to call it. Following the year through ingredients, working with the seasons and the produce that was close to hand, has given me a real feeling of connection to the food that I eat and has changed my life and my approach to preserving. Not only that, I’ve got a cupboard full of food in jars, a sort of mini pantry, as my house is too small to include a special room or larder. Granted, most people don’t have shelves of bottled comestibles in their sitting room or lined up on the sideboard! See my friend Tigress’s recent post about her pantry ( the Domestic Goddess is sooo last century, now chatelaine in the buzz word!) and Dana and Joel’s great wall of preserves, in their city apartment. So you see it isn’t necessarily about having a special room in your house or living in the country.
*From now on I am going to refer to the bottling and preservation of ingredients using a hot water bath process as ‘canning’. You’ve been told. I know that in the UK this causes some confusion as the assumption is that this infers putting food in tin cans, but I am talking about preserving food in glass jars. OK have we got that straight now?
The biggest surprise for me has been how amazing the flavours of canned food can be. I grew up thinking that only fresh was best and that bottled, tinned and stored foods were second rate and down market. What I have learnt during my first canning year has totally blown that notion out of the water.
Now the year has swung full circle and there is a feeling of beginning again, its time to take store and note the successes - the rhubarb ketchup, black grape chilli jam and lemon fig & lavender marmalade I want to always keep a stock of. But more importantly I want to plan my goals for the year ahead. Plant blueberry bushes on the allotment to produce enough fruit to preserve, thus bypassing those ridiculously expensive and tweeny-weeny cartons you get in the supermarket, and too plant an asparagus bed so that a few years hence I will be able to harvest my own crop.
It is about pacing things, their needs to be a correlation between the amount of food stored and the rate it is consumed. There will always be some experimentation going on, but as well as enjoying the satisfaction of a well stocked cupboard I love the moment the spoon scrapes the bottom of the jar, each empty jar offering the opportunity to be filled anew. In the year ahead I will be using my preserved foods as ingredients for baking and to include as part of other delicious meals.
As well as jams and chutneys, I’ve got cordials, compotes and fruit purees and pickles stacked on my shelves. Today for lunch I popped open a jar of salted caramel pear butter and another of squashed Blaisdon plums. A dollop of each plus some homemade yogurt (and a tiny sprinkling of hazelnut praline on the top just to be flash) made a really delicious snack. The important thing about these preserves is that they aren’t laden with sugar in the same way that jam usually is. This is why canning makes such sense.
Sorry! This post was supposed to be about making homemade yogurt, but it has changed into something else. I’ll do the yogurt thing later as it seems a strange diversion to go there now and I’ve got other things I need to get on with. Anyone picking this up by Googling will be well annoyed.