Monday, 28 July 2014

Marmalade ~ my revised recipe ~ ratios for citrus, sugar and water

Grapefruit available in Dunedin is brought in from the north of the North Island, where the milder climate provides citrus trees with good growing conditions.  I had been on the lookout for them in Veggie Boys, and on seeing them there a week ago realised it was time to work out how much fruit I would need in order to make the amount I wanted.  The great advantage of writing down recipes and making notes about the quantity of fruit and the number of jars filled is that one can refer back to them and then be confident about buying the right amount of fruit and sugar.  

Over the last couple of years I have used a recipe passed on to me by a dear friend who makes delicious marmalade, but her method is very different from mine, and I found I couldn't replicate the outstanding success of my first batch, so this season I decided to work out my own recipe.  It took a bit of extra time and thought but I am now confident I will be able to replicate the delicious marmalade I have just produced. 

As with my other jam recipes I have a clear ratio of the fruit to sugar and water which makes the recipe easy to repeat and / or modify.  

The first and very important thing to do is to equip oneself with pen and paper, large enough to work out quantities and ratios.  This is where a generously sized household diary, which I highly recommend, comes into its own.


You will also need kitchen measuring scales. 


The recipe I give here is for 1 kilo of fruit, which is then easy to mulitply or divide for any quantity of fruit.

RATIOS OF CITRUS FRUIT TO SUGAR AND WATER, POT SIZE AND JARS NEEDED:

I use grapefruit and lemon in a ratio of 2 to 1, which is to say, twice as much grapefruit as lemon.
To work this out:
  • Divide the single kilo into three, which equals 333 grams
  • Multiply it by two to get two thirds, which equals 666 grams - nearly 700 grams
  • Then make up the remaining weight to 1 kilo with about 300 grams of lemons
Once you have grasped how to work out a ratio it's easy to work out any ratio that suits you.

The weight of the fruit is measured after it has been fully prepared for the pot: once it has been cut up and minus any bits you don't want to include.  As practically all the fruit is used only a small amount of extra fruit is needed to end up with the desired one kilo weight.  

Keep the pips!  These contain pectin, which helps the marmalade to set.

Now the ratio of fruit to sugar: 
I use a one to one ratio, by which I mean that I use the same weight of sugar as fruit.  Tastes differ, and this is what suits me.  After carefully starting with a lesser amount I worked up to a one to one ratio.  With any less sugar I found the flavour too intense for my liking.   

The amount of water per kilo of prepared fruit is one and a half cups. 
Here again I carefully worked up from a lesser amount, and found this was just right.  Getting the amount of water right can greatly reduce the cooking time in which excess liquid may have to evaporate before the marmalade is ready to set. 

Pot / saucepan size: 
A two litre pot / saucepan per kilo of prepared fruit and accompanying sugar and water should be adequate.  
Note: I avoid aluminium pots and containers due to a possible link with Alzheimers.  In addition to this the only containers I stand hot food in are stainless steel and glass.

Jars needed / yield produced: 
I found that from each kilo of prepared fruit I got about three and a half to four medium-sized jars of marmalade.  If you re-use pop-top jars which have contained other produce, such as commercially produced jam or pickles, the medium-sized jar I have in mind would have held about 400 grams of food.

THINKING ABOUT QUANTITIES:
Thinking about how many jars of marmalade you want to have sitting on your pantry shelf and how much you actually consume over time is a good point from which to consider how much fruit you will need, and then how much sugar.  Once you have decided this the rest is easy, and it's just a matter of taking things step by step.

This year I decided that three kilos of grapefruit with one and a half kilos of lemons should do, and from that I ended up with 17 jars, and I am very happy with that. 

METHOD:
For the use and re-use of pop-top jars refer to my article:


General instructions about how to make any jam, including marmalade, can be found in my article
 ...so I won't repeat all that here, simply provide the outline along with details that are particular for marmalade:
  • Do the arithmetic to work out the quantities of fruit and sugar needed.
  • Assemble your jars and cooking pots and implements.  I find a long-handled wooden spoon essential, as well as rubber gloves.  
  • If you want to include those pectin-laden pips and would rather not leave them loose in the marmalade look out an old piece of clean pure cotton fabric and make a small bag, say about two or three inches square, in which you can sew in your pips.   It's good to do this before starting on the fruit!  Old pillowcases or handkerchieves can be good for this.
  • Chop up the whole fruit into the size that you like, including all the rind and pithy parts.  Note that athough the rind will soften it will remain the size to which it has been cut.  I sometimes remove a little of the central pithy part but that's about all.  Put the pips to one side in a cup or small dish.  
  • I usually prepare fruit in one kilo batches, which helps me keep track of where I am up to.  I put a large plastic container on my kitchen scales and gradually fill it up with chopped grapefruit.  Once I have the calculated amount of grapefruit in it I then make up the balance to one kilo with chopped lemon.  
  • Once you have prepared the desired amount of fruit gradually add it to the hot water you have measured and ready in your pot.  Take your time over this as it will make things much easier, giving the fruit time to release liquid as it cooks which increases the amount of liquid for the rind to cook in.  Make sure you keep it all moving so that it doesn't catch and then burn on the bottom of the pot.  
  • Sew up or tie the little bag with the pips in it and add it to the pot.  
  • Once you have got the fruit to a nice rolling boil ease off and let it simmer until the fruit has softened.  Keep it moving.
  • At this point you can turn if off and take a break leaving the pulp to stand for a number of hours.  I often leave mine overnight.  It's a good time to break the process in any case as preparing the fruit and getting it cooked is time-consuming and it's a long time to be standing in the kitchen.
  • Next, heat it up again.  If you'd rather not stand at the stove while it heats it can be decanted into covered glass casserole dishes and heated in the microwave.  Once it is (on the stove and) briskly boiling gradually add the sugar, continuing to keep it all moving.  Now it is more important than ever to be sure it doesn't burn on the bottom.  If I am in any doubt about this I put the pulp into another pot so that I can check the bottom of the pot and clean it if necessary, as a scorched patch is a fast way to spoil a delicious batch of any jam.
  • Test it for flavour and if you want to sweeten it further do so.  
  • Let it continue to simmer and bubble up briskly.  If it froths up add a knob of butter, about as large as a walnut or two, and the froth with clear.  
  • If it has started to froth it may be nearly ready to set.  To test this put a teaspoonful on a cold plate and let it stand for a minute or two and then draw your finger through it.  If you can see a slight skin has formed over it and is being dragged by your finger your marmalade is ready to bottle.  
  • Proceed as per the instructions for 
Marmalade can be made in endless variations of fruit and additional ingredients.  Some include limes, others ginger...  I like apple with mine.  In my latest batch I added 100 grams of grated raw apple for each kilo of prepared citrus fruit, which rounded out the flavour most pleasingly.    

A full list of my recipes can be found by clicking through on the link provided below:
Here are two lemony treats:

Lemon cordial makes a refreshing drink

Lemon pudding ~ a festive treat at any time


Sunday, 27 July 2014

Pillowcases ~ how to make you own

Pillowcase-style covers are easy to make and are a simple way to cover both pillows and cushions. 

Today I made a cover for a slim cushion my mother likes to have in bed with her.  I was pleased to find I had material in my scrap bag which was a good match for her bedspread.  It just happened to be an old sheet which had worn out in the middle, but the edge parts still have plenty of wear in them!  The teal-coloured cushion shown here is the result of that work. 


I took the photos below as I worked as a visual guide to the method.  The photos are not to my usual standard, but the main thing seemed to be to record the process, so here they are...

(1)  The first step is to measure the cushion or pillow that the cover is for.  I always write anything like this down so that I can easily check what I am doing, and make the same thing again if I want to. The cover I made today was a second one for the same cushion, because like any bed linen these things need laundering and a fresh one is needed while the other is in the wash.

(2)  Work out the material needed: a single rectangle is the simplest style.  
  • The width will be the narrow dimension of the pillow or cushion, plus two seam allowances for each side, say, half an inch (or a centimetre) for each side.  Although New Zealand has officially used metric measurements for many years I still prefer to sew using inches as I find them easier to visualise and work with.
  • The length will be for each side of the pillow, plus enough for a generous flap to tuck inside, say eight or so inches, plus two seam allowances of about three quarters of an inch. 
  • The small pillow I made the cover for was 15 inches square so my rectangle measured 16 inches in width by 38 inches long.  I wanted it to fit snugly so the dimensions I used reflect that.

(3)  Fold one end over twice, and sew a seam along the edge.  Folding the material over twice means that the edge of the material is very neatly concealed and requires no further work.  This is the only stitching that can be seen once the cover is finished.  The turned over edge ends up on the inside of the cover.


(4)  Keeping the folded over edge facing uppermost fold the material back on itself to the width of the cushion or pillow, leaving the part that will be the flap free for the meantime.


(5)  Pin it in place. Theoretically the cushion or pillow would now fit within this folded part.


(6)  Neaten the edge of the flap with a zigzag stitch.  This seam could just as well be secured by turning it under twice as with the previous seam, but that would create one more thickness, and possibly a slight ridge, and I think this is the neater option:


(7)  Fold the edge back by half an inch, pin and press it:


(8) Stitch it flat with a simple straight stitch:


(9)  Keeping the position of the work as show above draw the flap snugly into place over the body of the pillowcase folding it down firmly over the uppermost edge of the first seam.  Line up the edges of the flap with the body of the pillowslip and pin the flap and side seams together:


(10)  Stitch the side seams:


(11)  This is a good time to reverse what you have achieved to check that all is as it should be:


(12)  Once you are confident that the construction is correct you can turn it inside out again and neaten the side seams with a zigzag stitch:


(13)  Turn it right side out again, and you will see that first seam only.  It's now time to get the iron out and give it that finishing touch by pressing it:


(14)  Put the cushion or pillow inside and you have achieved your goal!


The sheet I used for these covers came from an expensive set of bed linen I bought many years ago when I could afford such things.  They have been such favourites that I have used them relentlessly and naturally they have become fairly worn.  However I gave them a make-over a couple of years ago using the good parts of the worn out flat sheet to make a new border and pillow slips.  I wrote about them in the article linked to below:


I still have some good scraps left over from that project so haven't finished with them yet!  I may use some of it for cloth shopping bags, like the ones I show how to make in the article below, and yes, those ones were made from old sheets - they are still going strong:


Other articles about sewing and keeping house are listed on my page: