Saturday, 10 August 2013

Life's Too Short Marmalade

There are no better gifts than those you make yourself, and I absolutely love giving preserves I make to friends and family; the only exception being this marmalade.
I'm so conflicted about this, but it doesn't give a high yield, (there's no water added, relatively low sugar content) and it's all about real, intense fruit flavour. So I have this overwhelmingly selfish impulse to keep it and not give it away. Very conflicting. 
It's a challenge to cut down sugar content in preserves, but it is perfectly possible to achieve this to let real flavours shine. Most of our commercial producers are missing the point, I believe, and therefore consumers are missing out. It's so easy to make your own pickles, chutneys, relishes, jams and jellies, just choose seasonal to minimise cost, maximise flavour and say no to preservatives and colourings! (You won;t be sorry).

Photo: Think Photography

Life’s Too Short Marmalade

This marmalade is for those who like the best in life, a little more time - consuming in terms of yield, but absolutely worth it. The secret is in the method; flavor is maximized by keeping sugar to a minimum, and no water is added – it’s just fruit flesh, zest, and a minimum of sugar to preserve and enhance the flavours. You simply can’t buy marmalade as good as this unless expense doesn’t matter.
The flavours here are bold and intensely orange, but balanced by the lime to create a particularly delicious spread.
Use all oranges for this marmalade if you prefer, or experiment with other citrus.
Makes 2 x 350g jars.

1 kg thin skinned oranges
250g limes (3-4, depending on size)
500g sugar
2 Tbsp peeled and finely chopped fresh ginger (optional)

Using a zester,* preferably, or a floating blade peeler, remove the zest from all the fruit, ensuring that none of the pith is attached. Roughly chop the long strips of zest if a zester has been used. or finely slice the peeled zest into fine julienne lengths, and chop roughly. Transfer to a large saucepan.
With a sharp knife, pare the pith from all the fruit and discard.
Dice the fruits small, about 5mm (¼ inch), discarding any core or obvious membrane. Try not to lose any juice.
Transfer the diced fruit and juice to the saucepan with the zest, stir in the sugar and bring to simmer point.
Simmer, uncovered, for 25 - 30 minutes, stirring regularly. 
 Test by placing ½ teaspoon of the marmalade on a saucer to cool then nudging with a finger. If the surface ripples, it is ready to pour into hot sterilized jars and cover with sterilized metal screw on lids.

*A zester has a truncated ‘blade’ with 6 small holes.

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Sophisticated Organics and Sustainability

Although I moan about the growth in suburb sprawl at the expense of how uncomplicated life used to be in Wanaka, one positive is that the population is growing ever more diverse; representing every facet of the social strata and bringing new skills and experience into the district. Which brings me to the point of this post; on my last visit I had the luck to be introduced to a couple who are well into a fascinating and ambitious lifestyle project, making their lives as ecologically sustainable as possible - and part of this is to grow as much food as they can themselves, organically. Their determination and the sophistication of this endeavour is not only impressive, it's nothing short of inspirational. The focus is uncompromisingly on recycling resources and sustainability, wasting as little as possible and eating as healthily as possible

Randolf and Marty in front of their asparagus bed
We've unwittingly walked past their property many times and commented on what looked like a 'serious' garden from the street - but as it turns out, we didn't know the half of it.

Randolf and his 'tunnel houses'

This is what we'd glimpsed from the street; long, carefully nurtured, boxed vege gardens. In fact, each of these long rows are partitioned into 1.5 metre square plots, which Randolf has graphed on his computer so that he and Marty know exactly what is grown in a particular plot each year, how much yield is realised and what beds need crop rotation. Not only that, but beneath these beds run water filled copper pipes capturing residual warmth from the soil and conveying it to their home's heating system so it doesn't have to operate from zero temperatures (of course solar power is accessed also).

Some of the beds grow herbs and vegetables solely to feed the rabbits farmed to supplement this couple's meat sources; next year they intend to set up a snail farm to further supplement and add variety (if you can't imagine this, have a look at my August 2011 post, 'The Upper Nivernais Canal - by boat'. I've posted photos of a snail farm we visited in Burgundy -we plan a return visit in about a month).

There's simply too much to comprehend about this 3/4 acre garden - 85 fruit and nut trees, many espaliered around the periphery; pears, apples, plums, nectarines, cherries, fig and citrus, 55 of which are apples, cider apples and crab apples. An underground 'root cellar' keeps pumpkins and home pressed apple cider (12% alcohol) at a controlled temperature and the green house's temperature is controlled by - yes - a geothermal field. Lemons, chillies, herbs and the more tender vegetables thrive here, oblivious to any temperature extremes outside.
In the house, one large room is devoted to weighing, drying and preserving what the garden provides.

Hens not only provide eggs but have access to large compost bins, which they happily pick through, depositing manure as they go; this is in turn distributed to the gardens, as is the rabbit manure.
Oh - and let's not forget the two beehives that produce about 50 litres!! of honey per annum.

Randolf and Marty's passion, vision and philosophy are the drivers of this carefully conceived operation, but they also intend to involve and benefit others from it. Their plan is to invite those who don't or can't grow their own to help with maintenance and harvesting, in return for a share of the produce - a fabulous idea, and I'm already scheming in the hope I can get invited to the apple cider pressing next year!

We return to Wanaka each year to recharge and catch up with cousins and friends; I've been visiting all my life and husband Russ was born just around the corner (well sort of) in Kingston. Despite Wanaka's growth we still love it and the whole area - we tramp, fish, bike, walk, swim and do lots of socialising. I even rode on a cavalcade not so long ago and had, literally, one of the best weeks of my life.