Friday, January 27, 2012

Orange You Glad...

I made the orange marmalade! And although it wasn't easy, it is definitely really worth it! This stuff tastes so much better than anything I have ever bought at the store. It is so much more flavorful!!

I had to do a lot of research before making it because I didn't know How to make it and it wasn't as simple as finding one recipe. There are a myriad of ways to make it!

And it's amazing the rabbit trails one can get on in one's quest for a simple recipe! Did you know for instance that the first marmalades weren't even made from oranges, they were made from a fruit called quince which isn't even in the citrus family but is more like a pear or an apple?
Did you also know, when made with oranges it can be made with or with out the peel? I didn't know that. I thought all marmalades had peel in them? Heck, I thought marmalade was made from oranges!
Did you also know it can be made using the whole orange, the peel, the pith and the fruit. Or it can be made out of any citrus fruit like lemons, limes or grapefruits even? Or you can also add spices for a spiced marmalade, or did you know, you can make marmalade out of other fruits like peaches, apples or pineapple? Whew! I had no clue!

Anyway, all I wanted to make was just a standard orange marmalade with the peel in it. And I choose to make it bitter, because in order to use the peel and not have it bitter would require blanching or soaking and I didn't want to do that, at least not this time.  I found an awesome recipe on this cool website called the Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories. It was called Marmalade is Way Easier than it looks. Seriously, with a name like that and a recipe title that had 'Way Easier' in it I knew this had to be a recipe made for me!

I did end up tweaking it just a bit... I never can seem to leave things well enough alone so I'm sharing my tweaked version with you.

So... on with the marmalade!

I choose sweet oranges and lemons for mine. I bought 8 lbs of oranges and 4 nice sized lemons.

First off, I recommend using organic oranges as you will be using the peel which is the part that is sprayed, but either way you'll want to wash the fruit.


Next you will need to remove the orange part of the peel from the pith. I was having a dickens of a time trying to remove it with a peeler like was suggested. I think the reason was in the type of oranges I had bought. Now I'm not an orange connoisseur so I have no idea the types I had, but it did seem they were two different kinds.


The bigger one on the left had a thicker pith than the one on the right


so I decided to just cut up the oranges first


and then cut the peel off the one ones with the thicker pith


And then cut the pith off the fruit


And the ones with the thin pith I just left.
I then stacked them on top of each other to slice.


And I cut the fruit into chunks, removing any tough pieces, and put it all in a big pot with all the peels.
When I was cutting the fruit I would work over the pot or bowl to try to save any juice, and to also save from making a mess! hehehehe


I then poured *water into the pot just so that the fruit was semi covered, meaning the fruit wasn't covered completely but I could push it down under the water, and turned the stove top on to set the mixture to boiling.
*You can also use OJ which I would have done except Webster drank it all and left the empty container in the refrigerator so I didn't know that we Didn't have any until it was too late!

Do keep track of how much water you put in because you're going to want to add approximately the same amount of sugar. I used a quart jar to add the water so I had a general idea of the amount I needed. Once it started boiling I left it simmering uncovered for an hour or so and then added the sugar and let it simmer some more stirring occasionally.


And now was the time that I had my first taste of my homemade proto-marmalade!...

Geep!! Gack! Ooooop! Sssshhwwwwunnnk! (That was the sound that my face made as it was sucked into my skull)
Bitter was an underestimate! Whew! It needed an overhaul! So me not willing to concede to marmalade failure did the natural first response... add more sugar! Well, it did help some but that proto-marm was still needing a flavor fix that I realized adding more sugar couldn't mask. So I put on my thinking cap and thought about it a minute and said hmmm... it seems to be very acidic... so it would need an anti-acidic? So I opted to try a bit of baking soda... a teaspoon to start...


And a funny thing happened as I stirred it in...


It blew up!

Not like *BOOM* blow up,  but more like FROOOMP! Blow up!


EEK! At one point I wondered if it was going to keep going right up over the top, but it did stop rising before it came close. But the amount of foam was amazing!
Oh my... so now what? I thought again and remembered a trick my mom had told me to reduce foaming in strawberry jam, and that was to add a pat of butter while cooking, so I figured I would try it and see if it helped... and it did! It looked normal again!


And you know what? The flavor, in my humble opinion, was much improved!

I then opted to stir in a few drops of red food coloring, just as a personal preference to give the orangey-ness color a boost.


Now this recipe said that adding pectin wasn't needed to set the jam because of the amount of pectin already present in the skin and pith of the citrus fruit. But from what I read, that would only be true if you used seville oranges and not sweet oranges. And I was having issues with it not jelling up so opted to add 2 packages of pectin. I mixed them with a cup of sugar before stirring it all in.
The original recipe says to cook it until it's 220 degrees fahrenheit. If you don't have a thermometer, put a spoonful of the marmalade on a cool plate. If it's still runny after cooling for a minute, keep simmering a little longer. I cooked mine for about 30 minutes more before I was happy with the consistency.

Now I was pretty pleased with how my marmalade experience was turning out, so at this point got to thinking about what else I could do to perhaps punch up the flavor a bit?


How about this?


Or this even...


Heh heh heh!

Okay I didn't really think the onion would taste very good but did opt to try mixing in the chili pepper to a few jars. I just crushed the pepper into the bottom of a 32 oz measuring cup and stirred in four cups of marmalade.


Now at this point I was done. I opted to freeze most of the marmalade in plastic freezer containers but I did put some in jars for immediate eating.


And eating I did!

I ate it with homemade scones!


And my, oh my, is it ever delicious!


Saturday, January 14, 2012

The Farmer has a Green Thumb too...

I had second thoughts today about keeping the tulips inside, even though they were already sprouting and my sweet neighbor, and fellow gardening enthusiast Isabelle, assured me that it was alright to do and that she was keeping hers inside (she got the same great deal I did!). I just kept thinking it wasn't going to work and I had good reason to think that way, because I know that tulips don't grow well and bloom in mild-winter areas. And if you do want tulips to bloom in planting zones 8 through 10 then the bulbs will have to be chilled in a refrigerator for six to eight weeks before planting. (Doing that is called forcing the bulbs) and I highly doubted that these bulbs that have been hanging out at the store for months would have gotten anywhere near refrigerator temperatures.
And I 've said all that to say that I ended up moving the tulips in their pots out on a shelf in the garage. So now, I'm really interested to see if I succeed in killing them or not. Hehehehe!

And there is still no marmalade but I am still determined to make it eventually!

And I do have a good excuse! I was side tracked today by a totally amazing gift given to me by my husband, the Farmer of the DELLS.


You see, all this time that I've known him being the Farmer and all I had no idea that he was horticulturally inclined and I most certainly didn't know that he could actually grow one of these!

And let me tell ya! He must have given this one extra fertilizer... or perhaps he genetically modified it to grow bigger... and have less bugs... and have a super duper immune system to prevent viruses from even thinking about infecting my computer... even if I do accidently click that one button that I'm not supposed to click.
I can just envision those viruses ricocheting off this like bullets off a sheild

Ahhhh... but what I don't have to envision is opening up photoshop and working on some pictures or playing a game or two or six of Words With Friends... with my friends, because I've already done things like that... and let me tell ya... this new monitor is amazingly Amazing!!

♥ So Thankful to my Farmer ♥

And do you see Tokeeo? She is trying to camouflage herself underneath my desk.  This is her favorite place to lie down. She wants to be as close to me as possible and she makes a really good foot warmer. So I don't mind... except when I've fed her left over bean burritos... then I mind... A Lot!



Friday, January 13, 2012

Irises but No Marmalade

Okay, so I didn't get the marmalade made today. I did check out some recipes and as I suspected it is Not going to be an Easy Peasy recipe like the freezer jam because I have to peel the peel off the oranges, which is the orange part and not the spongy white stuff... I'm sure the spongy white stuff has a name but to me it's just spongy white stuff... and then chop it up and measure some stuff and cook and can it. So there's a lot more steps than the freezer kind... But! I am still going to do it because I already bought the oranges!

But I did get some bulbs planted into pots that I had picked up at my local Job Lot store. I was able to get 1 bag of tulips and 2 types of Irises. I got them at a dramatically reduced price of only one dollar a bag because it is so late in the season. Well, actually the season is over! These should have been planted months ago outside in the ground but they still looked good so thought I would rescue them and give them a chance at life.
So the plan is to put them into pots and then transplant them into the garden come spring.


The bag with 12 tulip bulbs were already starting to sprout so I divided them, 6 each, into 2 pots of dirt... or if your more sophisticated you can call it potting soil but to me it's dirt you know, it's the stuff that gets under your fingernails, potting soil is too sophisticated to do such things.
Oh... and speaking of dirt, or potting soil, it is a good idea to stock up at the end of the summer season because it is hard to find in winter. That's because they hide it in the storage room in the back of the store and won't sell it to you... even if you say please, or pretty please and grovel just little, they still won't let you have any. It's taboo to sell in the off season sorta like wearing a white fanny pack past Labor Day. So, you'll want to stock up on a bag or two at the end of summer so you will have it on hand for potting necessities such as these.


I planted the irises in 2 pots also and put them all in the front parlor and am going to keep the dirt moist and my fingers crossed and say a little prayer and wait and see how they do!


Wednesday, January 11, 2012

My Ode to an Arachnid

Sentinel in my stairwell hall
Freaking me out and yet so small
Do you regard me?
All eight eyes glistening
Carefully contemplating
Fear to install?

Why do you linger there?
Balancing suspended
Barbed legs poised
fanned out and sprawled?


Are you plotting to jump and fall?
As I pass by... back pressed flat
against the stairwell halls far wall?


Brave little Sentinel...
in my stairwell hall.

Yeah... this stupendously dorky poem was written by none other than Me...
Yep, I bet you didn't know I was so talented... I mean who knew? Poetry too? *Snork* Good thing no lives are depending upon it eh?

Anyway, I've had some things kicking around on the back burner that I've wanted to do for a while now and one of them is to make Orange Marmalade. Why? Because I like Orange Marmalade! I've never done it before though and  I haven't even got a recipe yet but I do have the Oranges! I bought an 8 lb bag of them at the store a couple of days ago because even with out having a recipe I kinda figured I would need them to make, you know, Orange Marmalade. I'm just hoping it's not to difficult... I really like the freezer jam recipes. They're so Easy Peasy, all you do is smash the fruit, mix in the pectin and some sugar and ladle into jars! Voila'!
But I'm thinking that marmalade can't be made that way?
Okay, I guess that's it... I'm off to find the perfect recipe. 

So until then...

May the Lord bless thee, and keep thee.

May the Lord make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee.

May the Lord lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace.

Num 6:24-26

The Farmers Wife