27 January 2013

Orange, Lemon, Lime and Ginger Marmalade

I haven't seen any Seville oranges yet this year, so 2013's marmalade is a mix of other citrus fruits, with some ginger thrown in for good measure.

5 Navel oranges
2 lemons
5 limes
3 inch section of ginger root, peeled and cut into narrow strips
4 pounds of sugar

I used the boiling-the-fruit-whole method that I first used in 2009 (here's the PDF of the original recipe I followed). I still think it's one of the easier ways of making marmalade, although if you wanted to make it even quicker, you could maybe do the peel-cutting part in a food processor with a slicing attachment.

Thanks to Quinn for her comment about sprouting lentils (she's also blogged about it), I had a go at that this week, to make something green for the chickens to peck at. I hadn't realised that store-bought lentils could be used to make sprouts. I think I'd always assumed that they'd been heat-treated or something to stop them from sprouting. But it works just fine, as Quinn said:

Although it seems that the chickens are quite good at finding new things to eat by themselves. When I went into them yesterday evening to replace their frozen water with a new supply (we've had a very cold week), I found one of the hens happily pecking away at half a dead rat. :-(

22 January 2013

How to boil an egg

Well, it's more 'How to peel an egg', to be strictly accurate. I present for your inspection two batches of hard -boiled eggs.

Batch 1:

Batch 2:

Batch 1 was cooked on Sunday, with the intention of making pickled eggs. As you can see, they peeled so badly that they are only fit for egg sandwiches. Batch 2 was cooked today.

The eggs were all the same age: 3 or 4 days old and I cooked them exactly the same way (gentle simmer for 10 minutes then drained and plunged into iced water). The only difference was in the length of time I allowed them to cool. With the first batch, I was distracted by something else and they sat in the bath of iced water for half an hour. During that time the outer layers of the white became firmly glued to the shell and impossible to separate. With the second batch, the eggs went into the iced water and were then peeled almost immediately, as soon as they were cool enough to handle. Maybe this is something that everyone else already knows, but I thought I'd share my discovery here in case it's helpful!

Pickled eggs have established themselves as a firm favourite since I first made them back in 2011. They're very easy to make and the end result is a useful, nutritious component of a packed lunch or a satisfying snack. Here's how I make them.

Recipe for Pickled Eggs

14 hard-boiled eggs
200ml/7 fluid ounces water
200ml/7 fluid ounces white vinegar
1tsp salt
Whole spices to taste, e.g.whole chilli, peppercorns, allspice, cloves, garlic cloves

Bring the vinegar and water to the boil with the salt and spices, then remove from the heat and allow to cool. Pack the eggs into a two-pound jar, pour over the vinegary brine and refrigerate. You can start eating the eggs after two days, but they'll taste better after a week or two. They keep for months in the fridge. Or would do, if they didn't get eaten much more quickly than that (I find I'm making a batch of these once a week!).

21 January 2013

Root and branch

I forced myself out of the house this afternoon to take a stroll along the edge of the lake. With the high winds yesterday during a rapid freeze, I knew that the water from the still-unfrozen lake would have made some interesting ice-forms along there. It was still well below freezing today and there was a cold easterly wind, but I persuaded myself that it would be worth it. And it was.

In places, trees and branches were welded to the surface of the lake with long columns of ice:

Elsewhere, the ice had formed into delicate combs

The lake is decidedly frozen now, resembling a moonscape or desert with the light dusting of snow which fell today.

In the house, I'm sprouting alfalfa seeds to give myself something that's actively growing to look at, as a relief from all the ice and snow.

19 January 2013

Unreliably icy

Yesterday morning the lake had frozen over. But today it has turned mild again.

The stream running down the western side of our property has partially frozen over, making the usual interesting patters in the ice. These bubbles looked vaguely biological: like frog spawn or a diagram of a cell and its organelles.

Up in the woods, the ice was more geographical-looking, with contours forming around the bases of the trees.

There's a dead ash tree in that area which something's been having a good nibble at:

The Weather Network's forecast for next week is for some 'proper' winter weather:

I think we'll be stocking up the house with wood this weekend!

15 January 2013

Caribbean concoction

A lot of Canadians escape the cold at this time of year by heading south to Florida, Mexico, Cuba or other West Indies destinations. I can understand the need for a break from cold weather, but these days I'm not even slightly tempted by the idea. I'm quite content to wait for the change of seasons here for my next taste of summer.

Instead, I'll conjure up some Caribbean flavours in the kitchen and warm us up from the inside. Today I made a dish based around black turtle beans, a common ingredient in South and Central American cuisine, and a pork hock which came in our meat CSA order. For heat, I've added smoked paprika and some smoked garlic which I picked up in Sainsbury's when I was in England last week.

Ingredients for Pork Hock and Black Bean stew (serves 6)

180g bacon, sliced into strips
130g onions, sliced
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp smoked garlic
1 pork hock (940g uncooked weight)
2 cups/400g dry black turtle beans (soaked in water overnight)
750ml/1½ pints water
salt & pepper

The pork hock had no skin on it, so I cooked the bacon first in a crockpot to generate some fat. Then I stirred in the sliced onions and cooked them for a few minutes until they were softened. I added the paprika and garlic and then put the pork hock in the pan to brown it. When the hock was browned, I added the beans and the water. Then the pot went into a low oven (275°F/135°C). If you've got a slow cooker, this is a great dish to make in that.

After four hours of cooking the meat was falling off the bones and the water had been transformed into a richly flavoured, thick, dark brown stock. I tasted it (mmmm, delicious) and added a little salt and pepper. This type of dish is usually better when you've let it cool and then reheat it (if you can bear to).

Then it is just a case of cooking some rice to soak up all that lovely stock made by the bones in the hock.

14 January 2013

Mild and muddy

On Thursday, when I left to take Mike's mum back to England, the snow had melted enough to tempt the chickens back into the orchard.

Since then, nearly all the snow has gone and everything's wet and mucky.

The only bits of snow left are the remains of the large drifts.

It was colder in England than it was here, which is pretty unusual for January! The lake in front of our house still isn't frozen - much like last year in fact. Usually there are people skating and ice-fishing on it by now.

07 January 2013

Snow slip

The temperatures rose a bit yesterday, enough to melt some of the snow. On the roof of the barn the snow gradually slipped forwards as the layer closest to the roof melted. This morning the temperatures are back to 'parky': -12°C or 10°F and the snow slip is frozen in its half-on-half-off state.

The solar panels work more effectively at low temperatures than they do when it's very hot, so at least they're clear of snow now and by the look of the sky it will be a good generating day!

Despite the cold, the chickens ventured out this morning for the first time since Christmas, so it was worth clearing some of the snow from their run on Saturday.

05 January 2013


Yesterday's high winds made for an unpleasant day. I ended up in the ditch twice: not in a car, luckily, but rescuing our recycling boxes and their contents from the water at the front of our property where they were blown twice by the wind before the truck arrived to collect them. Later on, I did drive to the library to take some books back and it took three times as long to get there as usual, with drifts blown all over the roads from adjoining fields. Not much fun.

Today's weather is completely different: clear and still. It's pleasant to be out admiring the snow-sculptures made by yesterday's winds along the fence lines:

This one made me think of meringue when it has reached the 'stiff peak' stage:

The poor chickens haven't been out since Christmas with the snow that we've had. This morning, as it was a little milder and much more still than it has been, I've cleared some of the snow from their run so that they can go out if they want to. They don't mind a little bit of snow, but they do object to going out in it if there's more than an inch of depth. The cat is the same, come to think of it.

The dog, however, is quite happy to go out whatever the weather.

01 January 2013

Custard and crinolines

It's been fairly snowy and cold since Christmas. Quite useful when you need to cool a custard down quickly to make ice cream:

It might have cooled faster without the lid, but certain other members of the family were also outside this morning...

The snow had drifted up in interesting shapes on rooftops, which have since been further sculpted by the wind. The snow on top of the grain silo this afternoon made me think of a ruffled Victorian petticoat.