Tuesday, June 14, 2011
Winter on the Farm - Time for Marmalade Making
Soft swathes of mist drift over us, reaching around the hill behind us, bringing the vague memory of the sea with them, enveloping us in a cocooning blanket and muting the sounds of neighbours. The nearly full moon is dimmed, only a glow, and gradually all we hear is the steady drip, like rain in slow motion, of the misty dampness on our tin roof. Soft winter weather like this is a balm. We wake to a cool clear morning and, as we breakfast, a glow lights the line of the mountains that are our horizon. The children leave for school, I clear the detritus of breakfast and vacuum the accumulation of sand and dog hair from wooden floors until the sun creeps sluggishly into the sky. Then the day is awake, its beams reach in dazzlingly through the windows, dimming the lights which suddenly look feeble beside its glow.
It’s a time of new growth. Dusty dry ground turning green over night, studded with the vibrant yellow of little oxalis flowers, like jewels spread by a prodigal hand. The oranges, so impatiently awaited, are finally here in abundance. Huge bags for only R12. This weekend they were irresistibly cheap – I bought a bag and then my sister-in-law bought me one too, just in case I hadn’t got them. So I am flooded with them. Nothing for it but to give up an afternoon to making orange sorbet, stashing it away in the freezer for an easy dessert later in the season when oranges are no longer so plentiful.
My first batch of marmalade this year was a disaster. Two weeks ago I happily spent the time shredding peel: limes, grapefruit, lemons and oranges. It cooked away, scenting the house with citrus tang. Sugar added, it was slow to come to setting point. I divided my attention and went to help Youngest with her pony club project, researching the sport of carriage driving on the internet. She’s too young to be able to do this by herself, so ‘help’ really means a grumpy Mum, who would rather be doing something else, trying to find some resources that are simple enough for her to read and understand, and then giving up and writing most of it herself, while Youngest chooses the pictures.
In between mutterings I went and checked on the marmalade, which was nearly there but needed another five minutes. And we all know what happens when you let a computer take you away from the stove for five minutes... I was recalled to the kitchen 15 minutes later by the pervasive aroma of caramelised oranges, which, by the time it had wafted through to our office, was more than just a little hint of caramel. It took me a whole week to get the blackened pan clean. And the rest of the day to restore my sense of humour.
This weekend I took a deep breath and made another batch from my ever adaptable marmalade recipe, which can be three fruit or four fruit or even five fruit quite happily, according to whim. This time I stayed in the room with it. The marmalade is perfect.
Six golden glowing jars await their labels and I have plan to make another batch very soon, to fill the marmalade side of the shelf once more and get me though to the next orange season. Now I want to make some candied peel, which I love but have never tried to make myself.
The soft winter weather is about to be blasted into oblivion by a fine old Cape winter storm according to windguru so I’m getting a final load of washing done while the sun shines and the breeze veers round to the north-west. Two days of rain will be enough to pile the laundry basket high again, so it needs to be emptied in readiness. And then it is our winter festival this weekend – midwinter, middle of the year already. How did that happen?