It’s been a long time since my last post. Thank you to those of you who have written to me to see if I’m still alive. I am. More than ever. But busy. So, so busy.
I recently started studying to become a chef. While it’s a lot of fun, it’s also all consuming, so posts will be less frequent for a little while.
While I haven’t had much time to spare I did manage to attend a country wedding in a town called Wombat in south west New South Wales. I had hoped the town would live up to its name with constant sightings of the furry little creatures. While I never saw a wombat, the scenery didn’t disappoint. It was magical.
The wedding ceremony was held at the couples’ property amongst an orchard of blossoming cherry and apricot trees. I was suspicious. The blossoms were too perfect – like strategically placed props from a movie set.
I left Wombat in verdant daze lovingly clutching my gift from the bride and groom – a bottle of homemade apricot jam “made with love” from their own trees. That was it. I was moving to the country to grow my own fruit, harvest my own vegetables and bottle-feed lambs.
Two weeks later, I’m firmly ensconced back into city life but the dream of one day having my own patch of land, even a small backyard, is firmly lodged in my heart. And while I don’t have my own plot of land, I am living in a rather expansive, green urban haven with its own orchard of sorts.
With spring well and truly here, I’ve been waking up to the delicate
and intoxicating perfume of orange blossoms from five fruit-laden
cumquat trees right outside my door.
Some of the cumquats were so ripe that they were falling off the trees and the ground was littered with little vibrant orange orbs. I couldn't let any more go to waste so I embarked on making my first ever pot of marmalade.
If you've made jam before, then you most likely know about the 'wrinkle test' -- when you place a teaspoon of simmering jam on a saucer and pop it into the freezer for several minutes. If it's ready, the surface of the jam should wrinkle when you run your finger over it. It not, keep simmering and try again in a few minutes.
I collected a kilogram of cumquats and poached them with water, sugar and vanilla bean paste for just over an hour. The time may vary though. It's just best to keep an eye on them as they bubble away.
Bittersweet Cumquat Marmalade
(Makes approx 6 cups)
1 kg cumquats, quartered
5 cups water
2 tbsp lemon juice
4 cups sugar
1 tsp of vanilla bean paste or 1 whole vanilla pod
Special equipment: 4 sterilized jars with airtight lids
- Wash cumquats and then cut them into quarters. Place them in a large bowl with water, cover with plastic wrap and stand in a cool place for 3 hours. The pips will rise to the surface. Scoop them out with a spoon and discard.
- Transfer mixture to a large saucepan and stir in lemon juice and vanilla bean paste or pod. Bring to boil, then reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes until cumquats are soft.
- Add sugar and stir, without boiling, until sugar dissolves. Bring to boil over high heat, then continue to cook, uncovered, without stirring for about 30 to 40 minutes or until marmalade wrinkles when tested.
- To test if the marmalde is ready, place a teaspoon of it onto a cold saucer and place it in freezer for two minutes. Remove saucer from freezer and run your finger gently against the marmalade to see if it wrinkles and a skin has formed.
- If not, keep cooking the marmalade for another five minutes, then retest. When finally ready, remove from heat and allow to settle for 10 minutes. Scoop out any pips and discard. Pour marmalade into hot, sterilised jars and seal.