Treading the Primrose Path of Dalliance

The Captain and I have been boating very slowly along the Llangollen Canal taking in the Montgomery Canal en route.  I like the Montgomery Canal.  It’s very picture skew.  The Captain made the 18 year old and I go on a walk.  I am still officially convalescing which is a tediously slow business but I am vastly improved.  However, the Captain is keen to get me back to fully functional.  So he decided a short walk was in order.  “Don’t worry,” quoth he, “tis but a gentle stroll!”

About four hours and nearly ten miles later we staggered from the end of the abandoned canal section we had been walking with the promise of a pub lunch dangled in front of us the only the thing keeping us upright.  On reaching the pub we discovered it was closed.  This was bad.  But it did not detract from the delightful scenery we had walked through.  There were swathes of primroses, carpets of celandine and more than a smattering of dandelions.  All was yellow with the promise of green.

Earlier in the week I had adapted a cake recipe to take advantage of the copious quantities of primroses we were encountering.  They are such a pretty flower and so synonymous of Spring, but did you know they were edible?  They taste slightly of honey but should only be picked where they are plentiful and even then care should be taken to ensure plenty are left behind.  I had made some primrose syrup by following the recipe for Wild Flower Syrup after a weekend in Norfolk.  I crystallised some fresh ones by painting egg white onto individual flowers with a child’s paint brush and then dusting them with caster sugar.  Apparently they will keep like this for up to 8 weeks but mine only lasted 2 days.  Though that might be because we ate them!

The cake was delicious and very pretty.  It is an infitely adaptable recipe.  I have made it with wild flower syrup, elderflower cordial and I have plans for another using violets 🙂

Primrose Crunch Cake

175g softened butter

175g caster sugar

3 eggs

140g self raising flour

85g ground almonds

1/2 tsp baking powder

100ml milk

Handful of fresh primrose petals

For the Primrose Drizzle:

4 tbsp Primrose Syrup

4 tbsp granulated sugar

Crystalised primroses to decorate

Heat the oven to 160c/gas 3.  Grease & line a 2lb loaf tin.  Beat the butter and sugar till light and fluffy.  Beat in the eggs, flour, almonds, baking powder and milk until smooth.  Fold in primrose petals.  Pour into tin and bake for 45-50 mins until golden, risen and a skewer comes out cleanly when poked into the centre.  As soon as out of oven, poke skewer all over pricking holes into the cake.  Mix together the syrup and sugar and pour over cake, allowing it to soak in.  Leave to cool in tin.  Once completely cool, lift out carefully, decorate with crystalised flowers and slice to serve.

Easter Tidings & Business Update

I know I’m late.  But I have not had the internet connections that would have allowed more timely greetings.  The Llangollen and Montgomery Canals have been utterly delightful but lacking in this regard.  This is not necessarily a bad thing.  Remote can be good.

This trip has marked the first time we have been out on Wand’ring Bark since my decision to officially go into the preserve making business.  In the run up to going away, I have been awash with legislation, registration and administration.  And I’m not entirely sure I’m sorted yet.  Actually, let me correct that.  I am entirely sure that I am NOT sorted yet!  You would not believe the complexity involved in selling a jar of jam.  However, all this red tape is designed to protect us and I really do not want to poison anyone so it’s all fine.  No really it is.  As well as tedious stuff, there has also been lot’s of exciting things – coming up with a name, ordering jars, planning a website, discussing logo design, booking fairs etc.

However, it really has been delightful to get away and get on with the actual making.  After all, that is kind of what I really want to do.  It’s been delightful to see the hedgerows waking up after winter and finally being able to dust off my maslin pan to make the most of their harvest.  Within days I had used up all the jars I brought with me so bought a dozen more.  These too are now full so I am hanging up my kit until we’re home when I have some boozy sloes that will need taking care of.  My boat cupboard is now full of Primrose Preserve, Dandelion Jelly, Primrose & Dandelion Jelly, Spiced Wild Garlic & Carrot Chutney and Wild Garlic & Apple Jelly.

At least I now have some products to sell!  Hopefully, my website will be live soon and details of how to buy will be available there.  Exciting times 🙂

Cider Revisited

Rember the homemade cider press?  It’s turned out to be a triumph!  They say the proof of the pudding is in the eating in which case the proof of the cider must be in the drinking and oh my this is definitely very drinkable.  And must be a very high percentage proof.  Either that or someone has moved all the letters around on this keyboard …

The Captain and I are away with the 18 year old  on a two week jaunt heading to Llangollen.  We’re currently moored on the Shroppie somewhere between Audlem and Nantwich.  We’ve had a fantastic day of sunshine and piercingly blue skies with chill winds – quite perfect for foraging dandelions and primroses.  I have several jellies on the go, some of which are a tad experimental so I have no idea how they’ll turn out.  I shall let you know.  I am hoping they’ll form part of the product line for my new business.  Wild Side will up and running very soon and I’ll have a link to the new website as soon as it’s live.

But for now, I think I may have to give up.  It’s really way too challenging trying to negotiate this newly arranged keyboard.  But the cider is amazing!  Will definitely be doing that again.


Butterbeer Kits

I was on a bit of a Homemade Christmas drive this year but coming up with a homemade gift for the children I buy for challenged me for a while.  I did general hampers for most adults, Bloody Mary Kits for some and thanks to Ms Marmite Lover’s fabulous book, Supper Club I put together some Butterbeer Kits for too-young-for-ordinary-hamper adults.

Sarah from The Book Barge gave me Kerstin’s book back in September in exchange for lending her the Captain and eighteen-year-old, some cake and a bottle of rhubarb vodka.  I rather think I got the better deal.

Kerstin includes a recipe for butterbeer, available on her blog The English Can Eat, that is simply sublime.  I defy anyone not to like it.  Even those with an aversion to beer.  I tweaked it very very slightly and used the following:


serves 2

500ml Homebrew – simply because we have plenty available.

2 cloves

5 whole allspice

60g brown sugar

1 egg yolk, whisked

50g unsalted butter

60ml butterscotch schnapps – made in the dishwasher using Kerstin’s method, lot’s of fun!  See recipe below.

Pour homebrew into a pan with spices and sugar.  Stir over a medium heat until the sugar has dissolved.  Remove pan from heat and whisk egg yolk into the mixture.  Add the butter and stir until the surface becomes frothy.  Stir in butterscotch schnapps and serve immediately, straining out the spices as you pour into glasses.

Butterscotch Schnapps

1 x 700ml cheapest vodka

3 Daim bars, cut into slices.

Gaffer tape


Open vodka, remove about a double measure and set aside.  Post the daim bar slices into the bottle then top up with the reserved vodka until the bottle is full.  Drink the remainder or put to some other use.  Seal tightly with screw top lid and then further seal with thorough application of gaffer tape.  Place bottle in the top drawer of dishwasher and run for a couple of short cycles until all the daim bar slices have melted.  It is now ready for drinking.  The contents will settle and will therefore need shaking to combine prior to use.  It will keep for a year and can be added to all manner of drinks 🙂

For my Butterbeer Kits for Adults, I included the following: 120mls Butterscotch Schnapps; 1litre Homebrew; all other ingredients for the recipe attractively presented (fI found some little organza bags for spices and wrapped the butter in greaseproof paper tied up with ribbon); 1 mug; 1 postcard made from this image

and finally the recipe written out to follow.

For the children, I ended up adapting the recipe and creating a non-alcoholic version.  Personally, I much prefer the one with alcohol, but so far the this one has gone down a storm.  Again, I included a mug, postcard, recipe and this time a copy of whichever Harry Potter book had yet to be read, plus all the ingredients.

Butterbeer for Children

500ml ginger beer

2 cloves

5 allspice berries

60g brown sugar

1 egg yolk, whisked

50g unsalted butter

2 tbsp butterscotch syrup (I used Tate & Lyle)

1 tbsp chocolate syrup (again, Tate & Lyle)

Pour the ginger beer with the spices, sugar and syrups into the pan.  Stir over a gentle heat until the sugar has dissolved.  Add the butter stirring until melted.  Whisk the egg yolk into the ginger beer mix until a frothy head appears.  Pour into two mugs using a tea strainer to catch the spices.  Drink warm.

Rose Water & Drying Petals

Japanese roses (rosa rugosa) that grow in such abundance in our English hedgerows are actually an invader and not native to our shores.  They are also very hardy, look beautiful with their big brash blooms, have the most enormous hips from as early as July and smell divine with their in-yer-face scent.  So I have little compunction in making as much use of them as I can whenever they are about.

They are not about now, however.  Yesterday’s post stirred my memories of summers past and a question on Facebook prompted me to post a recipe for Rose Water.  It really could not be simpler:

Rose Water

A jam jar – size dependent on the amount of rose water you wish to make

Japanese rose petals

Pick over your petals to ensure no insects present but do not wash them as this will disturb their scent.  Pack into the jam jar.  Fill jar with freshly boiled water and leave for 24 hours.  Next day, strain through scalded muslin and bottle.  Done. Use in all manner of recipes including Rose Tiffin.

How easy is that?  I am not sure how long it keeps for.  I have had some in my fridge since August and it is still fine.

Drying petals is equally easy.  Simply spread them out over a rack or mesh (I use either my baking cooling racks or my laundry drying thingy – a Lakeland special I have never used for its proper purpose!).  Leave somewhere dark, dry and preferably warm for as long as it takes for the petals to dry out thoroughly, approximately one week.  Store in an air tight jar out of direct sunlight and use as required.

Of King Lear, Floozy Vocab and Christmas Hampers

I have been tardy of late in my food writing.  Something for which I received a mild reprimand on Facebook.  The trouble is that I am a little preoccupied with a looming deadline for the completion of the taught part of my MA.  I just have the small matter of handing in a three thousand word paper comparing two films ofKing Lear which can be summed up as ‘redemptive versus existentialist’ but I really should at least try to find the other two thousand nine hundred and ninety-seven words.  I am sure they are lurking somewhere, though it is entirely possible that they have donned their scarlet lippy and red stilettos and gone tripping off for a night on the town.  Once they return, hung over and dishevelled, I will attempt to marshal them into some sort of coherent order and get on with the more serious business of playing with my maslin pan which has been sore neglected of late.  I dusted it off last week to make some granola in, but it was less than impressed.

Once my essay is handed in, I will have much to tell you of my trip to Spain and then before we know it the boating season will be upon us and there will be foraging and boating opportunities aplenty.  Hurrah!

For now, I will tell you of my Christmas hampers.  When I was looking for inspiration, I found a dearth of ideas around.  I suspect it is because, like me, when making up the hampers, the very people you are assembling them for may stumble upon your blog and therefore it is not politic to publish abroad the detail of their present before they have received it.  This Christmas I did three main hampers using lovely wicker baskets with hinged lids fastened with leather straps that I had found in one of my favourite charity shops.

I always line my hampers with tissue paper and package with straw, whether they be smart wicker baskets like this one, or old cardboard boxes that I have re-papered.  I try to colour match the tissue paper to the material tops I cover my jars with.  The photo above has gold and white with gold stars tissue papers but the photo does not show these well.  I wish I had kept a list of the contents but I am not that organised.  I do know that there were a selection of jams, jellies and chutneys; four or five bottles of assorted hedgerow tipples; crab apple cheese; sauces such as Blackberry Ketchup and Sage, Apple & Vintage Cider Sauce; Sugars such as Vanilla, Lavender or Cinnamon; Herb Rub presented in a Salt Grinder; flavoured salts; Cakes such as Hedgerow Christmas Cake, Rose Petal Tiffin and Quince Crumble Cake; Pistachio & Cranberry Cookies; Chocolate Gin Damsons and finally a couple of bottles of the Captain’s homebrew.  I make ample use of ribbons and for a non-foodie filler added a tea towel and coaster chosen with the recipients in mind.

For the hedgerow tipples, I mostly used recycled bottles but I did find some lovely bottles on Stratford Market.  They were stackable and three fitted very neatly into the corner of the hampers.

Unfortunately the corks were not altogether leak proof so there was some spillage but thankfully not much.  Scouring charity shops is a great way to pick up some interesting jars and bottles.  I have found some lovely ones over the past year.

As a final flourish I made gift tags, picking the most relevant images I could find and making them as festive as possible.  I rather suspect I had far more pleasure making them than those receiving them did but who cares!  I do know that the Captain is still using his as a book mark but then he has to face me every day 🙂

Other hampers I put together included Butterbeer Kits for both adults and children; Bloody Mary Kits; Christmas Muffin Kits and Breakfast Kits.  Details to follow.

I shall leave you with the recipe for Rose Petal Tiffin which was a forager’s delight.  I used Japanese rose petals that I had dried earlier in the year and rose water that I had made from the same roses.  So satisfying to be still using a taste of summer deep into winter.

Rose Petal Tiffin with Pistachio Nuts and Figs

200ml double cream

1 tbsp caster sugar

1 tbsp rose water

350g dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids)

handful of dried rose petals

250g unsalted, shelled pistachio nuts

7 dried figs, chopped

Line a lightly oiled 16cm square tin with cling film.  In a pan warm the cream with the sugar and rose water, stirring until the sugar has dissolved.  Melt the chocolate in a large heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water.  When completely melted stir in the cream until fully incorporated.  Fold in the remaining ingredients.  Press into tin, smooth over the top and chill in the fridge for at least 4 hours.  Lift slab from tin, turn onto chopping board and peel away the cling film.  Cut into bite sized pieces, approximately 20.

Living in

My days in the Kings Nurses Homes were short lived.  Officially, we had were encouraged to spend a year or at least a minimum four months living in hospital accommodation and then permission had to be sought from some senior body (not sure who now!) before moving out.  Unofficially, it was possible to circumvent this process and some from my set manged to get a flat in the much sought after hospital owned but completely independent Hambledon Court.  Being the rule bound creature that I was, I stayed for the four months despite being unhappy for at least half of it.

Initially all was well.  Rooming at Kings meant I was in the centre of the action.  Normanby College, our training school, was a five-minute walk around the corner and that was where we spent our first eight weeks for Introductory School.  There were fifty-two in our intake: September ’84 Set.  Kings had three intakes of that number each year.  I believe less than thirty of us qualified which is a pretty high drop out rate.  Over the three years, the training was gruelling and unforgiving and inevitably took its toll.  But we began gently.  During Introductory School, we were instructed in the arts of bed making (a three-hour lecture!).  I now know that it takes two people simultaneously to make one bed and can do perfect hospital corners with fold down counterpanes of exactly a forearms depth.  Of course, as beds now come with fitted sheets, duvets and there is never anyone else around to make the bed with, the beds in my house remain resolutely unmade at all times.  We spent many hours injecting oranges, the rationale being that to inject a human is exactly like injecting an orange.  That would be because humans are small, round, orange, with pith and leather-like skin.  Of course they are.  I have no idea whose idea this was but it seems to have been a common practice and I have to say that injecting people is nothing, absolutely nothing like injecting an orange.  There must have been other, more relevant lectures but these are the ones that stay in mind.  These and the one by the Head of Security who cheerfully informed us that one in three of us would be raped or sexually assaulted during our time in South East London.  Nice.

Post directed to the Nurses Home at Kings would be written up on a blackboard next to the hospital’s main entrance for everyone entering the building to see.  The recipient’s name would be scrawled with ‘Letter’ or if you were lucky ‘Parcel’ after it, and then it would need collecting from Reception.  I want to write, ‘Reception Desk’ but it was more of a little booth, or kiosk, that was only open for certain hours.  During a brief romance, I had been sent a single red rose, and on returning from school found my name writ large with ‘RED ROSE’ after it.  Everyone in the reception area was cooing and pointing and of course, the harridan on duty insisted on reading out the card at the top of her voice, much to general entertainment of the by then considerable crowd!  By the time I actually received the rose, I was as red as it.

After two months at Kings, we were given no choice but to move to one of the other, larger Nurses Homes: Franny’s or Dulwich.  Dulwich was by far the more desirable so of course, I was allocated to Franny’s.  To make matters worse, my set were the first to be given rooms on the coveted top floor.  Traditionally this had been the domain of the Sisters who still lived in but qualified staff were no longer entitled to hospital accommodation and were being strongly encouraged to live elsewhere.  Consequently, five of us were given rooms on this floor.  While bigger than my room at Kings (not a difficult feat), there was nothing about this room that suggested it was desirable in any way.  The home was probably built in the 1930s, was drafty, cold and characterless.  The other residents on the floor made it very clear we lowly students, paper caps at that (a derogatory term referring to the head gear worn for the first six months of training), were not welcome.  We were banned from using the lounge, given times we could use the kitchen and told which tiny portion of the communal fridge had been allocated for us to use.  The hostility was palpable.

The Home was ‘run’ by the Home Warden, a relic of a bygone age who did not seem to realise that her age was indeed bygone.  I cannot remember her name (anyone?) but she was terrifying.  She resented our intrusion onto her Sisters’ floor as much, if not more, than the staff themselves.  At anytime of day or night, she would barge into our rooms and clearly regarded it as her right to do so.  Once she arrived with a plumber in tow to fix a leaky tap, while I was just in my underwear.  Utterly unrepentant, she told me to hurry up and put something on and how could I stand there looking so indecent!  My underwear wasn’t that bad, M&S terribly sensible if I remember rightly … However, if there were ever a time when such intrusion would have been welcomed, she was nowhere to be found.

It is maybe hard to imagine why such uninvited attention would be welcomed but during one very virulent bout of sickness, I would have welcomed anyone.  Even her.  My second ward was Dickens, a female medical ward at Dulwich Hospital run by a gangling disorganised Sister who I believe turned out to have a drink problem and was later dismissed.  The ward was certainly chaotic.  Like most of the Dulwich wards, it was in the Nightingale style (long room with beds either side) with glass partitions dividing part way along and with a couple of side rooms of two and one beds respectively.  Part of our duties on the Early shift was to make and serve breakfast which involved porridge and boiled eggs as well as copious amounts of toast.  While doing this on one occasion, I put my hand in the cutlery drawer for a knife with which to spread the toast, and felt something ticklish crawl across it.  Glancing down I saw a cockroach scuttling to the back.  Another time, we had pigeons flying up and down the length of the ward.  So it is perhaps not any wonder that when rotavirus hit the ward, it spread with great rapidity, indiscriminately taking out staff and patients alike.

For three days I only left my room to dash to the lavatories at the end of the corridor.  Even then I was so terrified of the Sisters I went armed with toilet cleaner and bleach.  For three days, I saw no one.  Up until then, I had not really understood the homesickness that many of the girls suffered so acutely from.  Dare I say that I was not even very sympathetic?  My view was that most of them were lucky to be able to pop home on days off (oh the arrogance of youth!).  I needed at least three days off together in order to make the long trip home (5 hours by National Express coach, similar by train due to changes.  No one wants to go to Hull!).  I was fairly pragmatic about it.  I had chosen to be so far away so there was little point in being upset about it.  However, this was the first bout of illness I had succumbed to, and it remains one of the worst bouts of this kind of illness I have ever suffered.  I desperately wanted to be at home, to be looked after, to be cared for.  More than anything or anyone, I wanted my Mum.  I had never felt so lonely.  More than anything else, it was this experience that led me to want to move out.  I wanted to distance myself from the Sisters as I did not recognise them as the ‘caring’ profession that I thought I had joined.

Having joined a local church I began to have contact with other people and professions and broadened my range of contacts.  Fortunately, I soon found three others looking for a fourth to join them in a shared flat.  By February 1985 I was sharing with a student physio, a second year student nurse and a qualified enrolled nurse.  During the next 3 1/2 years we moved had two other flats and our flat mates changed and varied but it remained one of the best decisions I took.

Back in the day – memoirs of a 1980s nurse training

Prompted by my friend Joy, I have started to reminisce about my youth.  Clearly a sign that I am getting old.  However, I have enjoyed reading Joy’s account of our training so, with her encouragement I have begun to set it down.  How far I get remains to be seen but while it remains pleasurable I’ll continue to write.

It was September 1984.  I had a long car drive to contemplate my decision to leave the North East of England and head to London to train as a nurse.  I’d had my offer at Kings College Hospital for nearly two years having secured it around the time I discovered I had failed Biology O’level.  Kings was alone among the London hospitals in not requiring a rudimentary knowledge of the reproductive cycle of a frog for its prospective student nurses.  For this I was eternally grateful, especially as I went on to fail my O’level a second time.

It was not unexpected that I ended up training in London.  I had only applied to hospitals there, much to the consternation to many around me, though my parents were endlessly supportive.  We had moved around a great deal as a family so applying to a local hospital made little sense if the only reason was to remain close to home.  Indeed, that sunny September morning when I set out with my parents and younger sister, we left our latest house of only ten days.  My application forms had been sent out from Newcastle-upon-Tyne.  I actually left ‘home’ from Hull.

Kings was my first choice for two reasons.  First of all, my cousin had trained there.  As wide-eyed sixteen year old, I had stayed with her for my interview.  She introduced me to several of her friends and took me to The Penthouse, the student union bar.  I sat in awe of this group of doctors and nurses as they drank and talked of their day.  The stories seemed fabulously exotic and exciting, the atmosphere heady and intoxicating.  With hindsight, it was just a group of overworked young people letting their hair down in the only establishment still open at the end of their shifts.  However, it made a deep impression on me and I desperately wanted to be part of the fabric of this place, rather than just an observer.  The second reason I wanted to train at Kings was the relaxed and friendly style the interview day adopted.  All the other hospitals I had been interviewed at were extremely stuffy in comparison.  In reality, Kings chose me.  I had no other offers.  Like I said earlier, the life cycle of a frog knowledge seemed to be a deal breaker for most.

Pulling up to main entrance, it was impossible not to be slightly in awe of the building, with its impressive façade.  My room was several floors up, the fifth I think, and thankfully next to the lift, which was just as well as I had a very cumbersome trunk that had to be got up there.  Several other girls and families were in the same situation and there were a lot of hot and bothered looking fathers around.  The room itself was tiny.  I could lie in bed and wash my feet in the overhanging basin without even having to sit up to turn on the taps.  Looking out of the window, I was surprised to see so many bulging carrier bags suspended out of other windows.  Not that they spoiled the view which was of more walls and more windows.  I later learned that the carrier bags served as make shift fridges which helped prolong the life of milk and other fresh things that tended to ‘walk’ from the communal fridge.

The other delight that was particular to my room was the intimate knowledge of the lift and its comings and goings I gleaned.  My wall was next to the lift shaft so every time a particular lift moved, I knew all about it.  I was soon au fait with everyone on my floor’s comings and goings.  What’s more, after having only been in possession of my room key for less than twelve hours, I managed to drop them down the lift shaft as my typical 1980s saddle bag style handbag upturned as I stepped out of the lift, and the contents including the keys plunged down the gap between the lift and the floor.  We had only just been warned of the perils of losing our keys and already mine was lost.  Thankfully, the porter on duty that evening had encountered clumsy student nurses before and took my flustered apologetic ramblings in his stride.  I was soon reunited with my key and promised to keep a firmer grip on my bag.  It was not the last time that particular bag caused me embarrassment.  I had a similar experience on a bus after a night shift only this time, having scrabbled to collect the contents, I missed a Lillets tampon which then proceeded to roll up and down the length of the bus every time we rounded a corner much to my acute mortification.  I did what I always do in such situations.  Pretended I was elsewhere.  It seemed best.

All this, and I had not yet spent a full day in my new job!

Eviva España!

Back at the end of October, the Captain and I went on a foraging walk with Jayne of Edible Eastside along the Digbeth Branch canal.  We had a splendid afternoon that was only cut short by my knackeredness.  I wrote about it at the time, as did the Captain and Jayne and I have maintained contact through Twitter ever since.  Much to my delight.

You see, Jayne has been involved with a two year EU funded project looking at women in the food sector and working with five other European partners.  As part of this, she has to take a group of women to visit León, in Northern Spain, to visit food co-operatives and businesses in the area.  I feel immensely privileged to have been accepted onto the trip and cannot quite believe my luck.  Having been invited to go, it would have been rude to refuse.  No, really it would.

Today we met for the first time.  I am going to be in very illustrious company.  There was Birgit and Lisa from Change Kitchen; Rachel from Cuffuffle Chutney; Rosie from Digbeth; as well as Jayne and myself.  Two other potential members were unable to be there so the exact group has not yet been finalised.  But it is going to be a treat.  A foodie delight.  An exhausting, exhilarating, opportunity not to be missed.  I can barely wait.

I shall be picking brains, hanging on words, assimilating information, acquiring contacts, making friends, having fun.  Oh and eating, did I mention that there will be eating?  I have it on good authority that food is going to be involved.  Oh yes.

Roll on March!


More Marmalade

So, the results are in.  Having spent the weekend making marmalade I can reveal not one, not two, but three, yes three recipes that I am very pleased!  There is Seville Orange with a Hint of Vanilla, Orange and Vanilla, and finally in readiness for the end of the year, Clementine Marmalade with Christmas Spices.

I have fiddled a bit with the recipe I posted here so for the sake of clarity I shall re-post with my amendments.

First up is Seville Orange with a Hint of Vanilla.  This marmalade keeps the bitterness Seville oranges with just a back taste of vanilla almost as an afterthought.  A nice twist on the traditional bitter marmalade normally associated with Sevilles.

Seville Orange Marmalade with a Hint of Vanilla

500g Seville oranges

1/2 vanilla pod

juice of 1 lemon

1kg demerara sugar

Scrub oranges, cut in half, squeeze out juice and set to one side.  Cut oranges into fine slices and place in a bowl with the orange juice.  Split the vanilla pod, scrape out the seeds and add both pod and seeds to the orange slices.  Cover with 1 1/4 litres of hot water from the kettle and leave to soak overnight.

Transfer to preserving pan, boil then simmer covered until the peel is tender (approx 1-2 hours).  Contents of pan will have reduced by about one-third.  Remove vanilla pod and stir in lemon juice and sugar, stirring until sugar dissolved.  Boil rapidly until setting point achieved.  Remove from heat and allow to cool for about 8mins to allow the peel to distribute evenly in jar.  Pot and seal in sterilised jars.  Keeps for up to 2 years.

The next recipe is a very slight variation on the above but the difference in taste is remarkable.  Orange and Vanilla Marmalade has no bitterness about it at all, despite being made with Seville oranges and having exactly the same quantity of sugar.  The extra vanilla gives it a depth of flavour that perfectly matches the oranges and provides a beautifully balanced marmalade.

Orange and Vanilla Marmalade

500g Seville oranges

1 vanilla pod

juice of 1 lemon

1 kg demerara sugar

Use the method described above.

Finally, my Clementine Marmalade with Christmas Spices is really only a slight variation on my friend Joy’s recipe who was in turn inspired by her Granny Duncan.  I sincerely hope I do still have some left for next Christmas but as it really does taste delicious, I can see myself having to make another batch by then.

Clementine Marmalade with Christmas Spices

1kg clementines

600g Seville oranges

3 lemons

4 sweet oranges

3.6l water

3.6kg granulated sugar

8 cinnamon quills (use less if using cinnamon sticks)

6 cloves

Same method as above but tie spices into small muslin bag and add to soaking water.  Remove before adding sugar.  Will take 2 hours plus of covered slow simmering to reduce by one third.