I was wandering past the Mango tree and noticed a Staghorn growing. The Mango Tree came up from some compost before I realised that Mango seeds survive composting. Mango trees don’t fruit here – too wet – and I have been meaning to cut it down. But I live in hope that it may, one day, give me a Mango to eat. Anyway, here’s another reason to leave it alone and have a glass of Shiraz instead.
Part of my winter ritual is the annual making of the marmalade using the trusty wood stove. My method is pretty simple and has resulted in prize winning marmalades. First, cut up some fruit. We grow oranges, lemons, cumquart, grapefruit and of course there’s Harry the hybrid.
For home use, I just chop roughly as the resulting thick peel suits my taste. For a competition, I would slice thinly. Three or Four fruit will make a decent batch. I also juice a couple of oranges to add to about 5 or 6 cups of water to toss in the pot. All seeds are separated and put into some muslin secured with a rubber band.
This goes onto the hottest part of the woodstove until it boils, then moved to a simmering spot. The pot stays covered. The mix is simmered for 2 – 3 hours to ensure that the resulting marmalde doesn’t develop mould over time.
After cooking, I remove the mix and measure it. The amount of sugar required is one cup less than the amount of mix. In other words, if I have 6 cups of mix, I will want 5 cups of sugar. The seeds are discarded, the pot is cleaned, the mix returned and put back on the stove. Once it boils, the sugar is added.
Now comes the critical part. The mix will boil and froth for a while. As it starts to settle down, you need to test for the setting point. If you take it off the heat too soon, you will have runny marmalade. Too late and you get toffee.
To test, just remove a couple about half a teaspoon of liquid and drop it onto a cool plate. Wait a few seconds and tip the plate into a vertical position. If the liquid runs down the plate, then you aren’t there yet. Setting point is when the liquid forms a skin and might slide a bit, but doesn’t run.
Let the mix cool slightly before bottling. A well cooked marmalade put into sterile jars will last a very long time.
Amazingly, plants can grow all by themselves without needing our help. You probably know this because mainly they are weeds which come up by the thousands in the paddock. But it ain’t always weeds. In our part of the world, plants that you might like that come up all by themselves are called volunteers.
A few years back I noticed a citrus tree come up in the chook yard. The good thing about having a paddock is having enough space to let these things grow and develop – just to see what it will become.
The result with this tree is a fruit that seems to be a cross between an orange and a grapefruit. Didn’t know what to call it – Orafruit? Grapange? – Decided in the end to just call it Harry.
It makes pretty good marmalade.
One of our first signs of spring is the grapevine coming back to life. The grapevine is a wonderful plant to have in the paddock with only one problem. The grapevine is a bit like a James Bond villain – it wants to take over the world. Paddock workers need to tend to it on an almost daily basis cutting back new growth so the plant is forced to put its energy into growing fruit. Our grapevine has become shaded by surrounding plants in recent years so there is a plan (somewhere) to build a new arbor in a sunny spot. It just needs time, money and effort.