Sunday, May 3, 2009

Marmalade Day

Started off sunny and warm today so puttered in the yard a bit. We live on a hill covered by only 1/2in of soil so gardening is a challenge. No fruits and veg, just a bit of landscaping to keep it all from blowing away. Gerry is studying up on beekeeping as that is one way of farming land that is unfarmable. We are allowed up to six chickens in our subdivision (check with your local municipal or county government to get the rules for your area) but haven't gone that route...yet.

Had some pastry in the fridge so made a blueberry pie with the last of the marble size blueberries we bought from Blueberry Hill farm last year. Hope this year's crop will be heavy and full like last.

Once that was bubbling away nicely in the oven (almost two hours cooking as the berries were frozen!) I decided to do something with the oranges that Gerry's parents brought us from California.

Now these large lovely navels aren't the perfect marmalade oranges but I thought what the heck! So my aunt and I cut up four large oranges, three medium size ruby red grapefruit and four large lemons in thin strips. Smells were really competing in the kitchen by that time.

Once the fruit was cut, we measured and had 12 cups of the shredded and liquid magic. That went into my stock pot (gotta get a new one as the handles have fallen off this old thing) and 3 cups of water followed. This boiled happily for 45 minutes to soften the peels and then I added 12 cups of white sugar. I know it seems like a lot, but the pith of the fruit is incredibly bitter and it takes a huge sweet infusion to mellow it out. Stirred it in slowly to make sure it blended completely.

Once that was done, I stirred the gooey broth until it started to boil again. I kept stirring occassionally to make sure it didn't start to burn to the bottom (note to self: for new stock pot get the thickest bottom possible). In the dishwasher, two racks of jam jars were getting cleaned and once the hour was up it was showtime.

I let the marmalade sit off of the heat for a few minutes while I got the jars ready. The sealer lids were soaking happily in their pot of boiling water. I gave the marmalade a good stir to make sure the fruit was incorporated evenly (no sinking tidbits for this gal) and then filled the jars. Snapping the lids on was very satisfying. The golden pots of sweet citrus are sitting happily on the counter cooling. The first lid has popped down already.

What a satisfying day!


Saturday, May 2, 2009

The Staff of Life

Modern sufficiency combines the desire to provide excellent healthy food for ourselves and our family while managing costs. When Gerry and I visited his sister up north, we were both very impresed by her Whispermill grain mill and the fantastic buns she made out of the freshly milled flour. I knew then I wanted one but the key to this desire was finding a supplier of wheat.

I guess we could buy those little bags from the health food store but I am really opposed to paying 5x the cost for this wheat than I would pay for regular flour from the supermarket. Flour is one of our economic indicators -last year we watched its price soar from $4 for 10kg to almost $12. Luckily, long before it hit that price, we had stockpiled several bags (storing it in our cold storage basement) in preparation for more volatility in the food markets. (Rice and sugar also experienced this inflation but those will be discussed in future posts).

So we have been hunting for a supplier of wheat to grind for our own flour for about a year. Surprisingly today I think we found one--the local feed store! The manager there said our order would likely be no problem and that last year he could get sacks of this staff of life for the same price as supermarket flour.

I am in HEAVEN. As soon as we find out next week that the wheat is available, I will order the mill. Gerry will be able to bake his fabulous bread with flour so fresh that is rises twice the height of his previous attempts. All that bran and flavour really pairs nicely with our small pots of shiny sweet goodness that we took the time to create last sumer... once our jelly hits that bread, it all will be clear--this is why we practice modern sufficiency.