Category Archives: Preserves and Cordials

Citrus Fruit and the loveliness of Curds

Zeb Bakes Marmalade with Meyer LemonsI have made two lots of marmalade, started on 1st January which seems a long time ago now and then I moved on to the Seville Oranges when they arrived in the shops. Then I got bored with chopping peel and I cut my finger (poor little me!) so used up the remaining Meyer lemons and Sevilles in the house, which were getting a little ripe to make divine fruit curds which are now in the fridge.  We love lemon curd and we love Seville Orange curd too now!

That is my red chilli plant in the kitchen still fruiting away in case you were wondering.

Zeb Bakes Lemon Shred MarmaladeDid I tell you about the Meyer lemons, fabled for their sweetness and aroma, a fruit well known to Americans, but one I had never seen here.  Gloria Nicols went shopping in Bristol and tweeted that she had found them at Tescos so we went off to find them and we did! I got some for a friend too who lives in a food desert in the East of England where their Tescos don’t stock such delights and gave her some as well at Christmas, the exchange of food being a great excuse for a get together!( along with smoked bacon ribs from Cockermouth, a Northern delicacy rarely seen in the South. But I am guessing it will become trendy one of these days to nibble on boiled bones once again… mark my words… but I digress)

The lemons are indeed quite different from Sicilian or Greek lemons, they have a delightful aroma of clementine and what I imagine is a laid back Californian sort of way about them, the sort of lemons that rollerblade and don’t moan about the weather.

I made luscious lemon curd with them two times. The second time I reduced the sugar as the first batch was a bit sweet for our tastes.

Lemon Curd by Zeb Bakes

Meyer Lemon Curd

  • Four ripe Meyer Lemons, finely zested and juice squeezed out. If you mash the remains gently in a sieve you can get a little thick extra goodness out of the pulp.
  • 4 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 125 grams of unsalted butter, softened and chopped into small pieces
  • 250 grams of sugar

Note: if using regular sour lemons or bitter Sevilles you might need more like 300 – 325 grams of sugar, but it is all to taste, best thing is to dissolve it all first and have a taste and take a view before you start the final cooking part. You might find you get away with a lot less sugar or you might be able to use half and half, I am not sure.

3 – 4  seven oz jars, washed and put in a warm oven to sterilize them. Lids in saucepan of boiling water on the hob. (I got three jars out of the above quantity and a ramekin over)

In a bain marie, or a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, put all the zest, juice, butter, sugar and beaten eggs together and stir until the butter and sugar is all dissolved. If you don’t want any stringy bits in your curd, then it is probably a good idea to sieve the eggs first. I forgot and just hoiked out the stringy bit when I saw it lurking in there.

Keep the heat low, a gentle simmer, not a fast boil.  If it is too hot you might get a scrambled egg effect. Stir continuously and watch the colours change gently in the pan. You might get a little foam as the eggs start to cook, turn the heat down, if necessary remove the bowl from the pan and allow it to cool down a bit. The most important thing is to keep stirring and be patient. The curd is ready when it coats the back of your spoon like a thin custard or single cream. It will thicken up more once it has cooled.

Boil up your funnel and ladle and put it into your jars and screw the lids on tightly. Books vary in saying how long it keeps from a month to three months. We try and eat it within a month but Brian remembers his Gran making it and keeping it in the larder for several months.

For the Seville Orange Curd I followed the same procedure as above, (I had six oranges left)  used more sugar (325g)  as the juice was more sour.

There was more juice so it took longer to set off and gave us four jars as opposed to three. I didn’t use more butter though or more eggs. Some recipes suggest adding cream or extra egg yolks, I think it is just one of those things that you can be fairly relaxed about. Keep the temperature low and stir constantly and you should be fine. Or try Celia’s microwave method which she blogged about here.

Gibassiers by Zeb Bakes

You can eat the curds just as they are with a spoon. You can spread it on toast, on teacakes, use it in pastry tarts, to sandwich cakes together, dip your Gibassiers in it for complete luxury and just enjoy it. It’s the sort of thing I make once a year and eat and give away and then it’s gone till next time. Though now I think about it, there is no reason not to make it more often…

There was a cake with a delicate lemon glaze for a while in the kitchen too. I liked these lemons and hope that we continue to import them into the UK.


Apple Bonanza Autumn

A rare sight in my garden in October. I know these little guys are common elsewhere in the world but not in my patch….

In case you were wondering, the apple cider vinegar saga started in the latter part of this post has rumbled on gently for a month; from our heat wave in the early part of the month till the cooler wetter weather we are currently enjoying the house has been swamped with apples.

The fruit flies have been and gone, lured into the laundry room by the sweet smell of sugary apples, only one managed to fall in one morning – now the first batch is on the way to becoming vinegar slowly but surely. I have a second batch of apples bubbling away cheerily, a small sup of home made cider in the mornings definitely wakes you up!

We peer in most mornings and have a sniff to see how it’s changed and it’s coming along nicely.

Vinegar production, from what I understand from conversation and a little bit of reading, is a slow process and relies ultimately on acetobacter landing on the liquid to convert any alcohol to vinegar.

Like many of these fermentation projects the trick is to get the right bacteria in there at the right point in the process, so like sourdough starters, sometimes it’s good to have a little help from your friends.

I was given some acetobacter (it looks like a semi translucent bit of jelly) by Mitch and popped it into the brew and it is working beautifully. I asked a cider seller at the local market whether they had it, but he looked shifty and claimed that vinegar took five years to make and was less than helpful on the subject. Maybe some special aged balsamic variety takes that long and I have no doubt that vinegar matures and evolves over time too, but it would seem possible to get something serviceable within a few months.  For much more detail and delightful writing on this exciting process I recommend visiting Miskmask’s Vinegar Diaries now on Day 30. and also the guy who kickstarted us all making it, Carl Legge whose blog is looking very smart, all kitted out in its new theme.

My neighbours’ apple trees are still chucking them down and I still keep getting gifted more. It has been an outstanding season for apples here, the long mild autumn weather allowing fruit to ripen fully on the trees.

Over last weekend we finally dealt with the outstanding Concorde pears from our garden tree. We peeled and quartered them, left them in a bowl of salted water with citric acid while we puzzled over the mysteries of the screw top Kilner jars, and I think, hope, have successfully managed to bottle six big jars of garden pears in a vanilla sugar syrup. Brian took on the job of packing, saying it reminded him of Meccano. I think he did a great job!   We followed Pam Corbin as usual from her book Preserves and used an oven water bath method.

While slowly doing this I thought about the women who must have spent weeks preparing and bottling fruits not so many years ago. I grumble at peeling pears for an afternoon, I don’t know if I could do it for days and days at a time, but if needs must then one finds a way I suppose and the satisfaction from knowing you have preserved something you have grown yourself, even in relatively small quantities as a townie like me does, is immense.

I also made a lovely olive oil and apple cake – quite different in texture from the Ottolenghi cakes I made recently and much simpler in method, though it does take an age to prepare the fruit if you’re me, easily distracted.  This cake’s recipe was shared by Carla Tomasi on Facebook and is based on an Anna del Conti recipe so it has an excellent lineage. I hope I did it justice. Carla has kindly put the recipe on her new blog here.

It uses a huge quantity of fresh fruit and has a wonderful light pudding texture. I have put one in the freezer and distributed others to the neighbours who promptly give me more apples back in return. Hey ho. Apples everywhere.

NB I found some left over chopped apple from this cake in the fridge, I had doused them in lemon juice and they had kept well. I fried them in some bacon fat, Mr Misk Style, and slapped them with the bacon between two pieces of sourcream sandwich bread and a

dollop of home made tomato ketchup, again the recipe for that is in the Pam Corbin book and several people have blogged their versions. Please see the comments on this Tomato passata post if you want to follow this up.

One way to make Apple Chutney

I love chutney! A rich combination of autumn fruits, dried fruits and vegetables simmered for hours in a mixture of muscovado sugar and cider vinegar, seasoned with spices and root ginger is one of my favourite things to make. It takes far longer than jam, but is much less stressful, none of this pectin testing and no chilled saucers. Continue reading