Blackberry and Hibiscus Jam

This has to be one of the nicest jams I’ve ever made, and so simple. It is tangy and fruity and not too sweet, I don’t like sweet jams, which is why I don’t buy commercially prepared ones!

1 500ml jug full of blackberries
1 500ml jug of strong hibiscus infusion
1/2 a 500ml jug of sugar ( preferably raw organic)
Couple of teaspoons of lemon juice.

Throw it all in the pan on a medium heat until the sugar has dissolved, and then turn up the heat to a rolling boil until it starts to thicken, about 30 minutes.

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The hibiscus infusion gives it a lovely deep red colour.

I also added in a handful of black currants that I’d had left over from breakfast, so the final colour came out quite dark, but lovely.

Blackberry jam can quickly go beyond setting point, and becomes as hard as rock. You think it hasn’t reached setting point, and the minute you’re convinced it has, it’s too late. I know this from bitter experience. I once made about a dozen jars of the stuff and it was inedible. Great flavour, just couldn’t get it out of the jars!

The trick is, when it’s reduced to the point that it’s spitting out of the pan, do the frozen plate test. Leave the jam to cool on the frozen plate for about a minute and then run your finger through the splodge, if the two halves don’t join back together it’s done. If it has already formed a crinkly skin when you try to push your finger through, it may be too late 😦

The above recipe made 2 x 250ml jars, with a little bit left over for eating immediately with some warm crusty bread, nom nom!

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Tangerine Marmalade

32 orange/tangerine trees is a lot of citrus – there are hundreds of fruits on each tree! Oranges  keep fairly well in the fridge, possibly up to a month, tangerines not so well. I will need to come up with lots of ingenious ways to preserve all this fruit but my first thought was to make some marmalade. The tangerines were the first to ripen in early December so time to experiment with tangerine marmalade.

I’m a lazy marmalade maker, just slicing the whole fruit thinly and throwing them in a pan, but even that takes a lot of time! I used about 5 kilos of tangerines.

image I simmered the fruit in a little water for about an hour to soften the peels, you can just go away and leave it to do it’s thing, just checking on it every so often to make sure the water hasn’t boiled away. Some people soak their peels overnight in water to help the softening process, but that would require being organised, so I don’t do that…

When the peels were softer (not mushy, al dente – I want to taste those rinds in my marmalade) I added in 2kgs of raw sugar –  because that’s all I had (refer to note above about not being organised!) and the juice of half a lemon, and once the sugar had dissolved, turned it up to a rapid boil. On reflection, I should have made a smaller batch because it took blooming ages to reduce and set- about 90 minutes. I poured into sterilised jars and left it overnight to cool.

When I checked the next morning, it hadn’t actually set, it must have been wishful thinking on my part the previous night as I was thoroughly bored with the process by them time I’d jarred up.

That evening after work, it all went back in the pan for another 30 minutes, all the jars had to be washed and sterilised again, thereby doubling up the workload (and washing up!)

However, the end result was worth it, a tangy thick marmalade and the rinds have just enough bite to them, a great result. For my next batch I’ll add cardamon pods to the tangerines, taking them out before I add the sugar.

 

 

 

 

 

Busy Weekend

Busy weekend, homemade lemongrass and ginger soap with a copper mica topping ( bit OTT but smells amazing); berry flavoured Shea butter lip balm; home- made ketchup, used the last of the Roma tomatoes, and bone broth – all before lunch!

i have milk kefir fermenting ( thanks to Aisha for the scoby) and have been converting some of the grains to water kefir over the last week or so. I now have 2 bottles of cranberry kefir brewing, and 2 bottles of grape. Will post separately on the process and the results.

Watermelon Rind Pickle

Ever wondered what to do with the rind left over from melons? They take so long to breakdown in the compost, even the chickens leave them alone after the flesh has been pecked off.  I found this great recipe for pickled watermelon rind so thought I’d give it a go. It’s not paleo, as it contains sugar, so I won’t be eating it but Tom might like it.

The process is quite drawn out, but because there was only a little bit to do each day, it was actually easier than making pickles in one big batch from start to finish.

Ingredients

Rind of a water melon, flesh and dark skin removed

3 ltrs water plus 3 cups for the syrup

1 cup of salt

5 cups of raw sugar

3 cups of white vinegar

1 Tbsp of cloves

6 sticks of cinnamon

1 Tbsp allspice berries

1 thinly sliced lemon

Day 1- peel the watermelon rind and cut into 1/2 to 1 inch squares. I sliced my watermelon she’ll into 1 inch strips, which made it easy to strip of the skin and the flesh with a vegetable pearler, took about half an hour.

Make a brine with the salt and water and soak the rinds overnight in the fridge.

Day 2- drain and rinse the rinds. Put in a large pan with just enough water to cover, bring to the boil and simmer gently until the rinds are fork soft, about 15 mins. In another pan pan mix the remaining ingredients, except the lemon, bring to the boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Pour over the rinds and when cool, add the lemon slices and put back in the fridge overnight.

Simmering the rinds

 

Day 3 – pour all the ingredients into a pan and simmer for about an hour until the rinds are translucent and the syrup thick. Pack the rinds into sterilised jars and cover with the syrup.  I turn the jars upside down and leave for 24 hours (British method) but you can also use the water bath canning method to sterilise the jars for 15 minutes (American method)

Watermelon Rind Pickle

I did have a sneaky taste, and it’s lovely, the rinds have the texture of ripe pears in a tangy syrup. The combination of spices make this smell and taste quite festive, and I imagine it will taste great with the cold meats and cheeses we usually eat around Christmas – if it lasts that long!

 

Roma Tomatoes

The Roma tomatoes have done really well. They grew quickly and ripened quickly, each bunch weighing over a kilo. Even though it’s 40 degrees here now, we still have some flowering although it’s probably too hot for them to pollinate now. Last week I picked 7 kgs of various tomatoes. As well as using them in sauces or cooking them for breakfast, I’ve made ketchup and canned several jars ( with my new pressure canner that my friend Karen got for me in the US)Image

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The raw ingredients for my ketchup in a big saucepan. I didn’t have any fennel bulbs so used fennel seed, tasted fine.

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Tomato ketchup reducing. I’d used 2kgs of Roma tomatoes plus at least a couple of Kgs of other veg, and ended up with just 750mls of sauce. It took about 3 hours to reduce after sieving, but was definitely worth the effort. All natural ingredients, no preservatives and I used agave nectar instead of sugar. Tom loved it so much he’s eaten half of it already!

I also have 6 x 500gm jars of home grown and canned tomatoes

 

Candied/crystallised Peel

February is the season for oranges in the UAE – 7 dirhams for 3 kgs at the farmer’s market, that’s just under EUR 0.5 per kg. So today I made marmalade. Although technically marmalade should be made with bitter Seville oranges, any citrus fruit will do. I leave the pith on my fruit, essentially because I don’t have the time or patience to de-pith kilos of fruit, but also because it imparts a slightly bitter flavour. I used 2 kgs of oranges (8 fruits), I thinly sliced 4 and peeled and chopped the other 4, adding just the flesh to the marmalade. I squeezed the juice from 2 lemons and added that to the pan, marmalade underway- but what to dowith the leftover peel……?

I’d read that crystallised peel was easy to make, so thought I’d give it a try, and easy it was! Being lazy I threw the peels into a pan of water as they were and brought to the boil for 10 minutes. I drained, refilled and did the same again, so total of 20 minutes boiling ( I poured the 2nd lot of water into the marmalade for extra flavour!) and then drained in a colander. When they were cool enough to handle I scraped the leftover flesh and pith off the lemon peels and then sliced all the peels into thinnish strips. Much easier to do when soft.

I made a syrup of 4 cups of water and 2 cups of raw sugar and boiled for a couple of minutes before adding the peels ( see photo below) and boiled for 45 minutes.

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45 minutes later the peel was translucent and the syrup had almost been absorbed. The peels were drained, rolled in sugar and put on a rack to dry. Some recipes recommend drying in the oven at 200F but my oven doesn’t go that low, so my peels are drying overnight at room temperature, and they taste amazing. However next time I won’t bother with the additional suger coating, they are already sweet enough. These should keep for about a month in an airtight container, or several months in the freezer.

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Update 8th May

the peel had mould growing on it after 3 weeks of being in an airtight jar on the kitchen shelf, so will definitely keep them in the freezer in future

First crop of the season

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This is the first crop of the season. This photo was taken just over a week ago and we had 4 kilos of aubergines. I picked another 4 kilos tonight!

Winter is the season for growing vegetables and flowers in Abu Dhabi, everything shrivels and dies in the intense summer heat. Usually we’re just planting out our seedlings at this time of year, but last spring/early summer, we cut back our aubergine plants to bare stems and kept them shaded and well watered throughout the summer – we’d planted them under the fruit trees which provided the shade and the trees needed to be watered regularly, so it was no extra effort to keep the aubergine plants watered.

The plants grew back very slowly, hardly at all for the first few months and then a bit more vigorously in September, we had our first flowers by end of September and the fruits were ready for picking by first week of November.

The first batch was made into an aubergine pickle (Brinjal), with a couple reserved for grilling on the barbie

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This pickle tastes amazing with cheese and crackers or a curry. However, it needs to be kept in the fridge.

 

Now I need to find a some interesting aubergine recipes to use up the estimated 4 kilos per week – any suggestions?