January 2010

Rethinking marmalade

Posted on January 19, 2010 at 10:29 am in

Marmalade has long been a staple of British breakfasts. This odd mixture of orange rind and sweetened pulp has graced many a slice of toast, muffin, scone, or as the case may be. But what is marmalade?

In the English language, and in EU law, marmalade refers to any preserved citrus fruit. Peel or no peel is a matter of preference rather than definition. These days I like the peel and the sharp bitterness it grants, but there are many who prefer no peel / no bitterness.

In Portugal, “marmalada” refers only to a solid gel made from quinces.  In many European countries a word sharing a root with “marmalada” refers to any preserved fruit, in the same way that British English uses “jam” and US English uses “jelly”.

The use of “marmalade” to refer to preserved citrus fruits is a cause of some friction in the EU, but nothing is new there 😉

So, how can I make you rethink marmalade? Let me give you a couple of links to look at.

Quince marmalade.

Lime marmalade.

Quince allows you to experience the food that started off a whole genre – you are eating history. Lime marmalade is a wonderful thing to have in the depths of winter, a little slice of summer to brighten up a dark winter’s day, and completely different to orange marmalade.

Go on. Treat yourself to some deliciousness 🙂


A word on food safety

Posted on January 4, 2010 at 9:41 am in

So your vegetable garden didn’t do so well. You only got a measly few quarts of home grown veggies to put by. Now it’s the depths of winter and you need some summer veg to make a nice stew. But, oh no! There’s some mold on there! Oh, well, you can just scrape it off, right?

STOP. Stop right there.

Even foods which are considered acidic enough to not need a pressure canning experience – such as tomatoes with added lemon juice or citric acid – can become perilously high in pH if mold grows in there.

Why is the acidity and a proper seal so important? Because if the acidity falls too low, Clostridium botulinum will grow in there. C. Botulinum is the bacterium that produces the botulinum toxin as part of its metabolism. This is what causes the deadly illness called botulism. If you come down with botulism and do not receive immediate emergency medical care including artificial respiration, there’s around a 70% fatality rate.

If your preserved food shows any signs of not being preserved properly – mold, bulging lids, bad smell, sliminess – immediately destroy the food such that it cannot be eaten by humans or animals – give it a hard boil for 15 minutes, then flush it down the toilet.

Whatever you do, do not take any chances with your health or the health of any loved ones (human/furry/feathered/scaled). It really is not worth it.


Quoting Wil Wheaton

Posted on January 2, 2010 at 2:54 pm in

From Wil Wheaton’s Twitter feed:

The single most insulting thing you can tell a creative person is, upon viewing their creation, “you have too much free time.”


Thank you, Wil – you hit the nail on the head.

I do this – all the cooking and putting food up – because I want to and because I enjoy it. I enjoy taking care of my family and bringing joy to the friends that I share the bounty with.

I am not seeking anyone’s approval or “permission” as to how I spend my spare time. And anyone who tries to tell me how to spend my spare time is not a friend, and thus will not share in the bounty I put up.


Spiced apple jelly

Posted on January 2, 2010 at 2:45 pm in

Here’s a simple jelly recipe to start you off – lightly spiced apple jelly. Makes about six 8-ounce (250ml) jars.

4 cups / 1 litre unsweetened apple juice

1 package regular fruit pectin

7 cups / 1.75 litres sugar

3 cloves

3 allspice berries

1/4 teaspoon ginger powder

Prepare jars and lids according to instructions for hot water bath canning. Grind the spices into a fine powder and add to the sugar.

Add apple juice to a large, non-rective pan. Whisk the pectin into the juice until completely incorporated. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring frequently.

Once the juice is boiling add the sugar all at once and return to a full rolling boil, stirring constantly. Boil hard for 1 minute. Remove from the heat and quickly skim off any foam. Add to heated jars, leaving 0.25inch /0.5cm headroom and process in hot water bath canner according to instructions.

The essence of creative cooking is to be able to customise and tweak recipes to your own taste. This recipe makes a gently perfumed, spiced apple jelly – if you like a stronger flavour, increase the spices or change them around as you wish to make a completely custom flavour.


Jelly? Jam? Which is which?

Posted on January 2, 2010 at 2:39 pm in

Being from the UK, I tend to call fruit preserves “jam”. Being in the US, most folks call them “jelly”. Both useages are, in fact, wrong, and here I explain why. The approximate definitions, in ascending order of fruitiness, are roughly as follows.


Jelly is the thickened (with pectin), sweetened juice of fruits or vegetables. Ideally it should be crystal clear, no pulp or seeds. If the fruit juice is thickened with gelatin instead of pectin it forms a dessert called “jelly” in British English and “jell-o” in US English.


Jam is made with the pulp and juice of one fruit or vegetable, sweetened and thickened either with its own pectin or with added pectin. There should be no lumpy bits, the fruit/vegetable pulp should be evenly distributed through the jam. A fruit spread is a jam made without added sugar.


A conserve is a jam made with fruit stewed in sugar. There should be recognisable pieces of fruit in the conserve, or whole fruits if they are small like berries. This style is also sometimes called “whole fruit jam”.

Fruit butter

Fruit butters are the whole fruit, gently cooked, then aggressively cooked down until it has a texture similar to dairy butter. Most recipes talk about cooking rapidly on a stove top in a non-reactive pan – I use a crock-pot (slow cooker) with the lid off instead, as this allows the fruit to cook down and thicken without a risk of burning.


Marmalade is made with the whole citrus fruit, chopped or sliced peel, and sugar. Citrus fruits are usually rich in pectin. A lot of commercial pectin sold for home preserve making is derived from the white pith that lies under the skin of the fruit. Most marmalades sold in stores are orange, but any citrus fruit can be used to make a marmalade, such as lemon, lime, or grapefruit.

Fruit curd

Curds are off in their own category. They are a dessert topping made with egg yolks, sugar, fruit juice, and zest, gently cooked until it becomes thick and and spreadable. They are also delicious and well worth making!