Tag Archives: citrus

preserving blog: time for a citrus fest

Image

For Anna Colquhoun, Riverford’s Preserving Guru, January and February mean one thing in her kitchen.  Citrus.

Kilos arrive from Riverford, all lugged in crates by local driver Richard who always smiles and never grumbles.  The Seville oranges, blood oranges, lemons and clementines are fantastic  – bright, ripe, full of juice and flavour and of course unwaxed.  

ImageThey are some of my favourite things to preserve, as their colours stay true in the jar – a citrus rainbow of red, orange and yellow – and the boiling vats perfume the whole house. 

In my classes coming up in Feb we will make marmalade, spiced pickled oranges, blood orange and port jelly, clementine jam and Moroccan preserved lemons. 

If you’d like to join me at the courses in London, the dates are: 

Sat 8th Feb (waiting list only)
Sun 9th Feb (waiting list only)
Sat 15th Feb (places available)
Sun 16th Feb (places available)

If you’d rather have a go in the comfort of your home, here are a few tips…

Image

Preserved lemons:

These are easy to make and something special to add to your pantry of ingredients.  They are distinctive of Moroccan cuisine and go brilliantly with roast or braised chicken and fish, in chickpea and couscous dishes, and in salad dressings and salsas.  Chicken, olive and preserved lemon tagine is a classic, but why not also try spiced squash with preserved lemon or shoulder of lamb with preserved lemon.  You can find my recipe here.

Image

Preserved lemons are ‘lactofermented’, like some of the world’s other best foods – sourdough bread, yoghurt, chocolate and kimchi, to name a few.  Friendly bacteria enjoy the salty conditions, multiply, squeeze out any unwanted micro-organisms and produce lactic acid and carbon dioxide.  The former gives the lemons their distinctive texture, flavour and aroma, and the latter displaces the air in the jar.  The clever clip-top preserving jars let excess gas escape, so they don’t explode.  The bacteria like pure fine salt, that is to say not contaminated with those mysterious ‘anti-caking agents’.  Find it in wholefood and heathfood shops, or buy one of those expensive flaky sea salts and grind it in a mortar or processor. 

Fermentation takes around a month at warm room temperature.  Make sure the lemons stay submerged in the salty juice.  You might notice the jar fizz or sputter – good signs it’s working.  After fermentation keep the jar somewhere cool and dark and try to wait another month or more as they improve with age.  In Morocco I met a women who proudly showed me her syrupy seven-year old specimens.  (Not that I’m recommending that here.)  Fish out a lemon with a clean utensil, give it a rinse, cut away the flesh as it will be too salty and dice the translucent rind. 

Image

Marmalade

Pick up a Riverford Kit, some jars and granulated sugar and you’re away.  Bitter oranges are inedible raw, but deliciously bittersweet when transformed into marmalade.  They originated in China and later became popular in the Arabian empire, through which they spread around the Middle East and Mediterranean, as far as Spain, which remains a main production area.   

There are different methods for making marmalade, but all have several things in common.  First, the rind is boiled before it’s cooked with sugar, since the quantity of sugar involved will stop it softening.  So make sure the rind is tender enough to easily penetrate with the tines of a fork before proceeding.  Second, the all-important pectin is in mostly found in the pith and pips, so these are retained and used to impart their setting power, although strained out so as not to cloud the jelly.  Third, all the sugar must be gently dissolved before you boil, since stray grains on the side of the pan can cause a whole jar to crystalise.  Nothing wrong with crunchy jam, but perhaps not what you were after.  For a darker, richer ‘Oxford style’ marmalade, stir in a couple of tablespoons of black treacle.

Image

You need a big pan so the marmalade has space to boil furiously to reach setting point, which happens at around 104C.  Jam thermometers are not perfectly accurate, so better to use the cold saucer test – see my preserving guidelines for details.  Watch as the steam dies down and the bubbles seem slower and less watery – signs you should be testing.  It could take as little as 15 minutes or as much as 50.  When ready give it a few minutes so the rind disperses before pouring into jars, or they will be top-heavy with rind.  If there is scum, gently fold it in, skim it off with a spoon or dissolve it by stirring in a knob of butter.  For those so inclined, now is the time to add a dash of whisky.

Image

Image

Of course, there’s no need to limit your marmalade to your breakfast toast.  It’s great in bread and butter pudding, on steamed puddings and cakes, as a glaze for meats (ham, chicken, duck), in ice cream, and even in cocktails (marmalade whisky sour, anyone?).

Look out for our next preserving kit for clementine jam, which is probably my new favourite citrus preserve as it’s so ridiculously easy to make and retains so much of the raw clementines’ bright colour and flavour.  I promise you’ll love it.  

Whether you’re an experienced or novice preserver, please let me know how it goes, ask me any questions and share your own tips by commenting on this blog below, writing on our Facebook page or sending a tweet to @Riverford with the hashtag #cooksquestion. 

 

 

riverford newsletter: a little winter colour

Image

Oranges bring a bright, zingy contrast to all the glorious roots and greens of winter, so the Spanish and Italian citrus seasons are well-timed. By importing via road and ferry, the carbon footprint of these crops is a fraction of their airfreighted equivalents. Oranges thrive in the extreme south of Europe but they need cool nights to develop their colour and sweetness, meaning they are a winter fruit. January brings two special arrivals:

blood oranges

Riverford’s blood oranges are grown by a co-operative of small-scale family farms located in and around the foothills of Mount Etna in Sicily. There is a lot of skill involved in growing blood oranges, as so many factors can affect the colouration of its vibrant crimson-streaked flesh. Soil pH and crop variety play a part, but the most important influence is low temperatures during the night. It takes years of experience for the farmers to know when the crop is ready, at which point it is hand harvested using a rolling platform, where the pickers put the fruit straight into baskets and then out to Riverford via their co-op packhouse. Blood oranges are of course wonderful enjoyed as they are, but their balance of sweetness and acidity make them a good addition to winter salads. And considering that blood oranges contain up to three times the amount of Vitamin C compared to most standard oranges, they are timely for fending off those winter colds!

 

Seville oranges

Teresa Amodora and her two daughters have been growing Seville oranges on Ave Maria Farm near Seville since 1986. You can’t get much more organic than their groves, and the fruit has the classic aromatic zest and tart flesh that are much sought after by marmalade makers. They will be available as a marmalade ‘kit’ along with unwaxed, organic lemons and our much-loved recipe throughout January and February (you’ll need your own sugar and jars). Once made, don’t limit its use to toast; we’ve a super Seville orange marmalade pudding recipe on our website, or alternatively use it for a cracking duck a l’orange.

 

Zest for life – citrus fruit is at its best

organic orangesThe Spanish citrus season kicked off in November and runs right through until May. You’ll notice the flavour of the fruit changing as the weeks go by, as different varieties come and go. Right now is the peak time for these bright, zesty beauties. Most of our oranges, lemons, clementines and satsumas come from a small group of farmers working in the hills behind Almeria in Spain. The group is headed up by Ginés Garcia, who is fiercely proud of his farm and the biodiversity it supports. He’s even inspired other farmers in the area to join up and convert to organic.

Now is also the time to grab blood oranges while they’re around – the flavour is wonderful but the season is short. Ours are grown in the foothills of Mount Etna in Sicily and the depth of their colour depends on light, temperature and variety. Try them in Jane’s vibrant lemon and orange tart, or squeezed into some chilled Prosecco for a seasonal cocktail.

make your own marmalade

Last January Guy took a trip to Ave Maria Farm near Seville, where 75 year old Amadora and her two daughters have been growing Seville oranges organically since 1986. Guy reckons you can’t get much more organic than their beautiful orchards and is convinced that the resulting bitter-flavoured fruit makes the very best marmalade he has tasted. Sevilles are at their best between mid-January and mid-February, so dig out some jars and muslin sharpish.
Try our marmalade kit £4.49. It contains 1.5kg of Amadora’s Seville oranges, two lemons and Jane’s marmalade recipe. You’ll need your own sugar and jars.

How to make pomanders

pomanders These look great on the Christmas tree and are easy to make.

You will need:
cloves
a cocktail stick
a citrus fruit – order from Riverford
ribbon

Use the cocktail stick to make holes all over the fruit and push a clove into each hole. Then, put the fruit in an airing cupboard and leave it for two weeks to dry and go hard or to speed it up, put it in the bottom of a cooling oven. As the fruit dries, it will start to feel lighter and smell stronger.

Once it’s dried out, wrap a ribbon round it and tie the ends into a bow.

If you want your pomander to smell even more Christmassy, dust some spices over it. Cinnamon and ginger work well.