sliced oranges for marmalade

Diary of a Marmalade Maker

Realise it is already February and I haven’t made any marmalade. No sign of Seville oranges in local town, but foray to town twenty miles west proves more fruitful. Have noticed similar situation in past obtaining red cabbage and cold pressed rapeseed oil. Wonder if this is reflection of our neighbourhood.

Consult recipe book and forsake normal method of boiling and then cutting softened fruit in favour of cutting raw peel and then boiling as recipe promises this technique produces brighter, clearer marmalade.

Making marmalade

Catch thumbnail and skin with knife while slicing. Wish I’d used my normal recipe. Discover have bought insufficient Seville oranges and make up quantity with blood oranges. Much simmering of aforesaid peel results in glorious smell that pervades whole house. Realise recipe calls for demerara sugar of which only half a packet in pantry. Make up quanitity with granulated. Feel this can only add to the brighter, clearer marmalade.

Much boiling and checking of temperature. Marmalade refuses to rise above 102C. Saucer test confirms setting point not reached. Move pan to electric cooker. Answer phone and hear recorded message about boilers. Take some time pressing buttons to bar number. Marmalade now risen to 105C so should set well. Pour into jars. Note that marmalade looks distinctly dark and opaque. Leave to cool. Label and put on shelf next to last jar of 2016 marmalade. Which is a considerably brighter, clearer marmalade.

home made marmalade

Resolve to revert to normal recipe next year. Wonder why I am so easily seduced by new recipes that offer wondrous results when there was nothing wrong with original.

Discover an orange can keep both grandson and dog entertained for quite a long while.

Wait for both to fall asleep and eat orange.


A Rabbit for the Pot

rabbit for the pot

As you may have deduced from my last post, currently we have a plentiful supply of rabbit meat. Perhaps a little too plentiful when we’re eating it every day. Many of my friends are aghast that we eat rabbits. I’m not sure if it’s because they think of rabbits as cute, furry pets or as inedible vermin. Whichever, it seems a little irrational to shun a lean, free-range meat like wild rabbit.

If you can get hold of some wild rabbit, then I urge you to give it a try. There are plenty of places online to buy as well as butchers and some supermarkets. I like to make a few jars of confit of rabbit, potted rabbit and rabbit liver pate (using a recipe for chicken liver pate). Mostly, I use the jointed rabbits to make casseroles, pies and curries or strip the meat from the bones and mince it with bacon or belly pork to make meatballs. There are plenty of recipes around for rabbit though I find that wild rabbits often need a longer cooking time than that given for farmed rabbit.


potted rabbit recipe

Two of my favourite rabbit recipes are Delia Smith’s Old English Rabbit Pie and Roasted Wild Rabbit and Bacon. Rabbit also makes a good curry and I often use it to replace the chicken in Anjum Anand’s Black Pepper Chicken recipe in her Indian Every Day book, though I put it in a slow oven for at least two hours rather than simmer for a short while on the hob.

Mostly though I cook my Store Cupboard Game recipe, which also works well with venison and hare. This is one of those adaptable recipes where you use what’s to hand. Add a few cubes of bacon or ham or squeeze in some tomato puree. A couple of squares of dark chocolate give a little oomph or replace the herbs with spices and add some chickpeas to bring out different flavours.

Store Cupboard Rabbit Casserole

still life with rabbit and vegetables

Joint your rabbit and cut the back into two pieces or three if the rabbit is large.

Heat a large knob of butter in an ovenproof pan and fry a sliced onion (with chopped garlic, celery and carrots if available) until softened.

Add the rabbit joints and cook for five or ten minutes until they’re lightly browned.

Stir in 60ml vermouth (or 125ml of wine), a can of tomatoes and enough water (or stock) to almost cover the rabbit.

Add a scattering of thyme leaves (or dried oregano), a grinding of salt and pepper, cover with the lid and put into a low oven (150C) for at least three hours by which time the meat will be falling off the bones.

When the cooking time is up, lift the meat and vegetables onto a serving dish (discarding any loose bone) and boil the liquid on the hotplate until reduced and thickened.


The Ley

On the Farm – February 2017

Wheat growing in The Ley

The farm is looking a little drab at present. Back in the autumn, the wheat germinated and the fields turned from bare brown earth to a glorious green but now some of the fields are turning brown again. Look in one direction and the field is green.

rabbit damage in wheat field

Look the other way and the field is distinctly lacking wheat plants. The bare patch where there’s no green wheat started at the edge of the field next to the country park and each morning it gets a little larger.

The problem is rabbits. The expression ‘breed like rabbits’ is not without foundation. A rabbit becomes sexually active at four months and a female can produce 20 young in a year. That multiplies into a lot of rabbits over the year and given that seven rabbits can eat as much as a sheep, you can imagine the size of the problem. The rabbits causing us problems live in the neighbouring country park where there are plenty of undisturbed areas with banks of earth and tangled undergrowth. It must be heaven for them to have a sheltered burrow with just a quick hop across to a field of tender green wheat shoots.

The obvious (if expensive) solution would be to rabbit fence along the field boundaries but we’d have to leave gaps where the public footpaths and bridleway lead out of the field and as many people feel they have the right to walk wherever they like (which they don’t) they would soon trample the fencing. Instead, we have a team of pest controllers, who come out at night time to shoot the rabbits and Bill sets baited rabbit cage traps. A trail of carrots (cut lengthwise because that’s the tastiest way) lure the rabbit into the cage, whereupon the door closes behind them trapping them in the cage. On the plus side for the rabbit, it gets a final meal of tasty carrots but on the minus side, it’s humanely despatched in the morning.

Ducks in the garden

Ducks in the garden Spring 2016

Meanwhile, in the yard the hens, ducks and guinea fowl are still shut in as there is an Avian Influenza Prevention zone across the whole country until the end of this month. The ducks used to spend daytime on the pond or wandering about and at night were shut in an outside run with a piece of curved corrugated tin serving as a shelter in the worst of the weather. Under the rules and regulations of AI Prevention, this couldn’t carry on so we adapted the old pig shed for them using copious amounts of chicken wire to keep out wild birds. The ducks call out plaintively to anyone who passes them, they’re off their food a bit and they make an incredible mess with their water. They aren’t happy. I’m not happy. But they don’t have bird flu.

The hens seem less perturbed, though they dash for the door every time I go in and as for the guinea fowl. Who knows? They’re shut in with the hens and rush around putting everyone in a bit of a flap, with the hens jumping for the safety of the nesting box while the cockerel just stands looking perplexed.

Sometimes, I know how he feels.