I am inspired to  make marmalade.

I’ve resisted so far – its not exactly the healthiest jam out there – 9 lbs of sugar to 2 lbs of Seville oranges in the 1906 Reliable Cookery book.

Marmalade recipe  - Lawrie

A few weeks ago, Laura (Cottage Country North jams) came out with a whiskey marmalade that was truly wonderful. Traditional, yet the whiskey added wonderful body and complexity to it. That was one thing. It got me thinking about it.

Next, I was in at my food coop and saw they have Seville oranges! Ok. That did it.

But if I was going to do this, I was going to do it traditionally.  I was, however, not going to get myself into the bother that I remember my dad having, with huge muslin bags and the like. (Of course down below you will see that I was delighted to find I had such a bag.)

Next – a recipe: the one above is one option. I like the soak for a day part. I can see that as being like a slow soup. But what happens to the skins?

Lets fast forward to the present and see what the internet offers up: first - a blogger who seems to have gone through a similar process I am now going through.

First on the google search is this one: If I do this I will double it.

This too is interesting:

Finally a book I have around “Jams and Preserves” by Gina Steer: It also has the cheesecloth bag but more orange and less sugar than the old recipe.

I’ve sufficient jars for 4 litres of product.

Jan 22 2014:

I have now slotted the 5 recipes onto a spreadsheet to compare them. I’ve converted everything to a gram weight, as I want to see how the ratios differ one to the other.

Here is an image of my table for the 5 recipes:

oranges seville G 900 1 2000 1.0 908 1 908 1 1543 1
lemons G 0 0.0 680 0.3 170 0.2 340 0.4 340 0.2
other 0 0.0 0 0.0 0 0.0 400 0.4 0 0.0
water L 3000 3.3 4000 2.0 2250 2.5 3420 3.8 6000 3.9
sugar 1800 2.0 2725 1.4 1815 2.0 4086 4.5 2724 1.8
total weight before boiling 5700 9405 5143 9154 10607

They really are quite different – both in ratio (sugar to fruit) and in process – though all have a muslin bag for pips & pectin, all dissolve the sugar before it boils, all reduce the syrup, none use pectin beyond the natural pectin in the seeds, all have the same test for doneness. Canning in a water bath does not seem to be required either.

First lets deal with the proportion ratios. These go from oranges:sugar – 1:1.4 to 1:4.5. Taking the outliers out the range is between 1.8 – 2.0. I think I will settle for a ratio of 1 part seville orange to 2 parts sugar.

For the water, the ratios range from between 1:2 (orange to water) to 1:3.9. One of them says “enough water to cover them.” I’m inclined to go with a ratio of 2.5 parts water to one of oranges. One of the recipes    - uses this and also the 2:1 ratio. Its also the most detailed.  It also uses 1 lemon so I will try this too.

Looking at how many oranges I got, I should get about 8 litres! Yikes! (I’ve tried to account for the water being boiled away by a factor of a half, and that sugar shrinks considerably in volume.

Well  - lets be optimistic: 2l regular, 2l whisky, 2l brandy 2l….???? At least I ought to get more jars.

Next consideration: the fruit preparation. In all cases, the skin and pits are separated from the juice. I think on second thought, I will just do half the oranges. I’ll do a separate batch and hopefully learn from the first.

OK  - lets do this!!

So first…. quarter and peel the oranges – there are about 7 of them – 1480 grams.

Set up a bowl for peels, a bowl for seeds, a bowl for juice.



Next, I used the shredding blade on the food processor to shred the peels. These pics are from the first batch. For my second patch I just cut the peels into big chunks and threw them in the bag.  In the end, I do not believe it is necessary to even separate the seeds from the pulp. It can all go in the same bag. Cutting them into big chunks makes it easy to control for the amount and thickness of the pulp shards you put in the final product.


The juice was blended. Blending is important. It breaks up the more fibrous parts of the meat giving a silkier texture in the jam. IMG-20140122-00192

I found a great cheesecloth sleeve, tied one end of it and put all the peels in it. In a separate bag I put all the seeds.IMG-20140122-00194

Then I added the water  - 2.5 the weight of the oranges.


Now a long simmer without the sugar. It was something of an error in timing but what happened at this stage was that I had it on this long simmer for about 10 hours. It was NOT boiling  - there seemed to be very little activity, but at the end of the 10 hours, it had reduced considerably and I realized – “this is it!” IMG-20140122-00196

The idea of a very long slow barely simmer is mine. Partly in error, partly inspiration from the recipe advising it be soaked. Although its the only way I have tried it, I believe this is the reason that the final result is so wonderfully deep dark and complex.

The Fast Boil and reaching the sweet ‘set point’

Now time for the final boil and jarring. First step: remove the bags from the soup and squeeze out every last bit of juice. Next add the sugar.  My research suggested I use twice the weight of sugar per weight of whole oranges. So in that went. Now here is an important point. The sugar has to completely dissolve before the fast boil starts. So put the burner on low, stir it around until the sugar dissolves, and then…  and all recipes agree this is where you do a fast boil.

As it was boiling I checked the bag of skins as I wanted to get little shards of pulp to add texture to the final product. I did not want too much – just enough to announce their presence.

The marmalade has to boil until it reaches its set point. To ascertain this, take a plate and after about 10-15 minutes of fast boiling, put a spoonful on the plate. Drag the spoon through it and observe what happens. If the jam closes around the spoon, its not set. If it crinkles up and does not close the track the spoon makes, its at its set point, and can be placed in jars.IMG-20140124-00200 IMG-20140123-00198 


Making a flavored marmalade.

The final part in the process was the flavorings. I had earlier said I was initially excited about making this after tasting ‘Whiskey Jack’ marmalade. I also know from my other cooking adventures that often the taste you want to highlight in a recipe is added right at the end, otherwise it gets lost, especially in a long slow cook. Besides, its a lot easier to have one big batch all the same and siphon of smaller quantities for their special treatment.

So I went to the cupboard to see what struck my fancy: In addition to plain, ‘no extras’ ‘old fashioned’ marmalade, I decided to do scotch, bourbon, Grand Marnier, Tequila and ginger. But how much? I wanted enough so that it added body and complexity, yet not enough that the liquor could be tasted. Using a 500ml measuring cup, I scooped out half a litre, poured it in another pot, and added 50ml of whatever liquor, giving me a 10% mix. Tasted it. In the case of the scotch, it was too strong, so I added another 250ml of marmalade resulting in a 7.5% mix. Much better. In the end, the Tequila and Grand Marnier worked out well at 10%, while the scotch, and bourbon worked better at 7.5%.IMG-20140124-00199

As for the ginger, I made up a ginger syrup: a big chunk of thin sliced ginger, a couple pf pinches of salt, 2-3 heaping spoons of sugar. Let it sit for a couple of hours (yes this is to be done well ahead of the final boil!) until it yields a dark, sweet highly potent ginger syrup.


As for canning them, I did boil the jars, but I have not canned them. That amount of sugar is more likely to turn them to alcohol than to mold. Besides, I’ve had many a jar of what my parents used to make months after it had been opened, and it was all fine.  Many recipes suggest wax disks poured on top once they are cooled. The idea is to keep air from interacting. I will take my chances  - you do what you feel is best!

The final recipe:


Seville oranges (weight =y) Seville oranges weigh approximately 200g each. The final quantity of marmalade will be approximately 2.5 times in volume what the oranges weight in kilos. Thus for a 1.2 kilo weight of oranges (6 oranges), I made over 3L of marmalade.

Water (weight = 2.5y)

Sugar (weight= 2y)


  1. Peel the oranges, and separate seeds and peel from the juice. Cut the peel into big chunks.
  2. Place the seeds and peel in a cheesecloth bag.
  3. fill a large pot (10 litre pot for about 6 oranges is good) with the juices, orange meat, and water. Tie the cheesecloth bag inside the pot so it is infusing in the juice. Set on a stovetop at the lowest possible heat, with NO lid, overnight (or all  day).
  4. Once the stew has reduced by 1/3-1/2, turn it off and let it cool down for a few hours.
  5. Meanwhile, prepare your jars. My preference is the 125ml and 250ml sizes. Either boil them or heat them in a 350 degree oven.
  6. Squeeze out as much liquid as you can from the cheesecloth bag into the juice.
  7. Add the sugar, turn the heat ro low and stir until the sugar has completely dissolved. Turn the heat to medium high. stir constantly, adjusting heat, stirring so it does not boil over. Take a plate and test for the set point every 10 minutes or so. Let the jam cool on the plate, then run the tip of your spoon through it. It is ‘set’ when the skin crinkles, and it does not backfill the track made by the spoon.
  8. Flavoring: your choice! Start at 10% (50ml flavour to 500ml marmalade). Once it is right, bring to a boil for a few seconds, take it off the boil and jar it.


Sourdough: Beyond newbieism

This is my second post about Sourdough. At the end of my first, I had gone from making sourdough bricks to making consistently decent loaves. I’d also graduated from always making Northwest Sourdough’s ‘first loaf’ to more involved recipes, specifically ones involving preferments.

In this series of posts, I’m trying to refine what will be my basic, infallible, go-to sourdough recipe. I’m basing it on Theresa Greenaway’s ‘Soft White Pan Sourdough’ on page 104 of book 1 “Discovering Sourdough.

What drew me to this recipe was that it had a preferment stage, something I wanted to know more thoroughly about, and that it was a pan loaf – what is most useful to my family for their basic bread.

What I didn’t like about the recipe were the odd numbers, and the amount of differing ingredients. I wanted my recipe simple, something I could easily remember without  referring back to a recipe.

When I make yeast bread, its is simple: 1 kilo of flour, 600g water (60% hydration), 30g (3%) yeast and 20g (2%) water.  I wanted something the same.  Somehow the length of time didn’t really bother me. Perhaps I know if I am really stuck and bread is called for before its ready, there is always a 2” heel in the freezer from an earlier batch.

I started looking at the quantities and their relative ratios in this recipe. I discovered that

  • The ratio of starter to preferment flour and water is 1:2
  • The final hydration once everything is said and done is 64%
  • The ratio of preferment to additional  water and flour is 11:10:4

I then looked more carefully at the charts and the flour/water ratios & quantities boil down as follows:

flour water hydration culminating hydration total weight












bulk rise












I then looked at the hydration and total weights and made them functions of the flour and water weights. So for the starter, the 166% hydration is the result of water divided by the flour times 100 (159/96*100).

From there I wanted to begin simplifying the quantities. The flour/water quantities for the starter don’t count, as the starter is considered as its own ingredient – its final weight only matters.

I then rounded out the flour and water additions in the preferment and bulk risings, ensuring that the overall hydration and weight were similar. The resulting chart looks like this:

flour water hydration culminating hydration total weight












bulk rise












The main difference is that the bulk rise is a little more hydrated – and that’s OK because it will be more pliable when I fold and turn it. In the end, it still all comes out to 64% hydration. My salt would follow a baker’s ratio  – 2% of the flour weight or 20g. The other change from the original recipe is that I’m not adding oil or butter, or a sugar.

Once this is all worked out,  you can mess around with it all you like. You can for example mix 975g of the variety of flours you want (I like a combination of Red Fife and white hard flour) as long as you distribute them as noted in the preferment and bulk rise. I add in extra grains etc. when I am folding them into loaves.  The more whole grain flour, likely the tighter and denser it will be.

On the issue of refrigeration – I’ve now tried refrigerating both the preferment and the bulk ferment. Both seem to work, though I want to investigate this further to see what is best. I have not tried refrigerating the readied loaves, though this should work too.

So…. What is the final recipe? Here goes – and significant parts of it come from the original “Discovering Sourdough” book:

  1. Add 255g of vigorous 166% starter to 275g flour and 225 g water. Mix and leave covered 6-8 hours.
  2. Once the preferment has risen (do the water test: a little bit of it should float in water) Mix in 700g flour and 300g water. Knead or mix for 2-3 minutes until the dough is well mixed.  (or let it stay in the fridge, and when you are ready take it out, and monitor it as it does its thing)
  3. Let sit for 20 minutes autolyse and then add 20g salt.
  4. Knead or mix on low speed for 4 minutes. Cover with a damp cloth and let rise for 4-6 hours (or keep it in the fridge as long as you need to. When you take it out it will need a longer time – it has to come to room temperature, then rise. )  Stir the dough a couple of times to strengthen the gluten.
  5. Once the bulk ferment has doubled in size, shape the loaves using the pull and fold over technique. This quantity makes two loaves. You can put one back in the fridge and  bake it when you are ready, or use it for other purposes – rolls, buns, pita, pizza, baguettes.
  6. Let the loaves rise  – a shorter period  – about 2 or so hours.
  7. Heat the oven (450 – then after 10 minutes reduce to 400, or even 375), slash the top.  After 20-25 minutes and it has sprung , stopped rising and is getting brown, insert a meat thermometer – until you become familiar with your own conditions. Bread is ready when it hits 200F. You might also want to have a pan of hot water under it, and you may also wish to spritz it in the first 10 minutes.

And there you have it. The wonderful alchemy of only flour, water, and a little salt!

Oct 13 2013

On September 30, I was at our cottage, and in leaving, decided to do an experiment. On one hand I left about 150ml of the starter I had been using at the time in the fridge. On the other I set a bowl with 1cup of  water and 1 cup of flour on the counter, uncovered. The temperature varied between 14-15 degrees. Yesterday – 14 days later, I saw the results. True there was a dried crust with some mold on the top, but under it a wonderful bubbling sarter!

I scraped the mold crust off, at then I took out the older fridge starter. I refreshed them both – 1 cup of flour & water in each. I then put them side by side to see how they would react. Huge difference! The new starter was a lot more vigorous. In fact – I’ve now tossed the old one – I don’t need it any more.

This is important because of the element of self sufficiency this brings me. I no longer need to concern myself that my starter is like some magic passed down special elixir. I now know how to do it on my own. Not only that but it was so incredibly easy! No need for special ingredients, special processes,  just flour and water.

I’m curious now. I used our RO water for this. What would happen if I used lake water? There would be all kinds of micro organisms in that water (it is filtered and passes a UV light) that aren’t in the RO. What would happen if I changed the location? My basement for instance. How long is the ideal time? My limitations here is that I was not here. The 2 weeks was likely way too long. What would have been ideal? Note to self: we really need to get a wifi surveillance camera around here – I could see which animals break into my compost – or which birds come to the feeders when we’re not around – or to see the progression of a starter.

On other aspects of sourdough: I’m really pleased I’ve got down my basic loaf. Its wonderful, nutty, moist. he crumb is a little tight, but its got a good rise and makes an excellent all round loaf. My next bit to sort out is the ideal amount of dough for a loaf pan. I’m thinking it ought to come 3/4 of the way up the pan. I don’t want to have it rolling off the top if it rises too high above the pan. Along with this, I need to figure out the optimum period to do the final loaf rise. At this point the dough is near the end of its feeding, and if its left too long it won’t rise. I want the intense heat of the stove to ‘use up’ the remaining rise in the dough in the first part of the baking.

That is it for now….

Nov 3

In the last few weeks I’ve been trying out a yeast recipe, which is a derivative of Jim Lahey’s Sullivan St Bakery basic recipe. What is unusual about these is that they are low yeast, high hydration, and long rise. I saw a certain similarity between this and the sourdough work I’ve been doing recently – and so I’ve been going back and forth between them, and working in elements of each into each other.

Consequently, in the No Knead recipe, I’ve tossed in half a cup of sourdough starter. (and added some extra flour to adjust the hydration). In the sourdough I did yesterday I added a teaspoon of yeast  - you know  - to help it along.

I’m thinking that if one understands the underlying principles: you are essentially husbanding yeasts and this means that

  • in order for them to grow, they need food. That food is more flour and water.
  • Natural yeasts like TONS of food relativeto their weight – though there is an optimum ratio which  I still need to work out.
  • The warmer the temperature the faster the growth and food consumption
  • Its best to make the changes (starter to sponge, sponge to bulk rise, bulk rise to loaf) when the yeast is at its most vigorous.
  • The time can be slowed down through refrigeration.
  • The longer the rise, the more complex the taste

I’m finding both types of loaves are turning out similarly. In the sourdough there is more of a complex sourdough taste, but both have a nice chewey texture and a great  nutty taste. Both are wonderfully moist.

My next challenge is to get putting it in the oven after its final rise just right. So far I think I’ve left it too long. At this point I am thinking that turning on the oven after a 45 minute rise will work well. Like with what I experienced with fast yeast breads, I want it to have its final charge of rising in the oven. On the occasions where my oven spring has been disappointing, it was rising much too long.

The other thing I am working on is an excel sheet that will allow me to input certain variables (i.e. final dough weight, hydration, type of bread, or adding in dough that has been in the fridge and is being added to) and yield the remaining quantities for the preferment/bulk rise. I guess that is called an AP these days. I’m a little behind the times – or not in the MAC family…..

Nov 16

I believe I now have my essential go to bread process and recipe down. What’s nice is that its mostly my own stuff. Here is the BREAD CYCLE

  • take starter out of the fridge
  • mix 250g starter, 250g flour 250g water. Mix well and leave 6-8 hours at room temperature.
  • replenish the starter: 1 cup of old starter, 1 cup flour, 1 cup water (RO water). put back in fridge.
  • to the preferment, add 700g flour, 300g water.knead in mixer.
  • allow to autolyse 20 minutes and knead for about 4-5 minutes
  • cover with damp cloth and let rise 5 hours
  • form into loaves, bench rest 20 minutes, put into pans for 1hour.
  • put oven to 450 degrees convection, loaves in. Reduce to 425 convection after 10 minutes. after 20 minutes check temperature with a meat thermometer – should be 190-195.
  • remove, allow to cool

December 7 2013

Yesterday something rather remarkable happened.

I was doing the recipe noted above, but with a difference. Due to time constraints, I did not let the starter and preferment stages fully proof. The details of why aren’t important. It was all about time. But, the starter went into the preferment before it was fully risen and bubbling; the preferment was worked into a dough before it was fully proofed s well. There were no bubbles, and just hints of life. I knew though from this particular sourdough starter that this was because it was cool, and not because it had grown and depleted. It was still on its ascendancy.

I have to say I was worried about how it would all turn out, so when I added the flour for the main proofing, I did sprinkle a teaspoon of yeast on as well – and I do not know what the effect of this was.

The other difference I tried was to  slash the bread half way through its pan rise. I think this helped make it better rounded at the top.

So here for the record are the details:

  • 5:30PM removed starter from fridge. It was half frozen. there was about 350g in it, and I added my usual cup of flour cup of water. Then it went into a cooler as we were headed north.  It probably was at 40-50 degrees during this period.
  • 11:30 at our destination: The starter had not started to act, but I still prepared the preferment – following directions above. For 6 hours it was covered and in a 69 degree environment.
  • 5:30AM next morning: prepared the bulk rise(as above)
  • 11:30 AM shaped the loaves. At this point it had risen to about 3x its size and when I moved it it deflated. It was however nice and stringy. no oil on top as I usually do,
  • 12:30 Into the oven: I did my flatbreads and baguette first, then the loaf. Same temp settings as noted above – but NOT convection. As noted, I slashed it half way through the rise.
  • The result: it rose higher and more evenly than previous efforts. Taste is much the same. IMG-20131207-00120I

It was interesting moving to the next step before the yeasts have fully grown and working. I like to think, but I wonder if this contributes to a better loaf spring in the oven. I’m thinking so. I’ll look on the sourdough discussion forum for further information.

BBQ red pepper jelly

Red Pepper Jelly 2013

I know when its time. Organic red peppers are in my food coop. They are $11/kilo – enough to make me wonder if the price point is too much, but they are beautiful. Big, heavy, juicy – they will make amazing jelly.


I‘ve been working on this recipe for a couple of years now. Last year I just bbq’d them  - that was it. This year I am really playing with it – adding in smoked, and fresh (uncooked) slices into the mix – sort of like a pickle.

I feel as if I am still working on it. Between last year and this year I have become more aware of the effect of different vinegary acids  - wine, apple cider vinegar  - and how these mix with regular vinegar in a chutney or jelly. I’ve also been playing with the points at which one introduces a flavour into the mix.

Vinegar mix tasters

In exploring this relationship between different types of vinegars, and following on from a couple of earlier blogs this month, I’ve set myself up with a variety of taster bottles. The idea of these is that I can sample a variety of vinegar combinations ahead of time to see which might be best for the particular chutney/jelly I’m working on. Sugar is a constant – 100g per bottle – and the vinegar/wine  is added so there is 100g vinegar/whatever and 100g sugar in each taster. As of yesterday I now have 6 of these: white wine vinegar in 90/10, 75/25, 65/35 and 50/50; red wine vinegar 50/50 and apple cider vinegar 50/50. I’ll be putting more of the red wine and apple cider together shortly. Last year I tried 50/50 apple cider vinegar/white vinegar. This year I wound up using a 50/50 red wine mix – though in truth I didn’t quite have enough red wine so it was augmented with apple cider vinegar.

I used these tasters to figure my vinegar mix for this.

I used these tasters to figure my vinegar mix for this.

The basic mix

Here is the basic mix of this recipe:The weight of peppers is ’1′.

  • Peppers and other ingredients: 1 (PLEASE NOTE: weigh the peppers for their ratio AFTER they have been processed!)
  • total vinegar:1
  • Sugar:1
  • salt 5%.
  • Other flavorings to taste.
  • In terms of the final total quantity, multiply the ’1′ ratio  - however much it is – by 2.74 to determine the final volume of the whole batch. So, if you have 1 kilo of peppers and other ingredients, you will get 2.74L of final product.


This is for a 1kg final weight of peppers/garlic/onion. Adjust as needed.

  • 1kg total weight that includes BBQ’d red peppers, 1 roasted bulb of garlic, 1 roasted small – medium onion.
  • 500ml red wine
  • 500 ml white vinegar
  • 1kg brown sugar
  • 1 tsp cinamon
  • 4 tsp corriander (Next year I would toast the whole seed, then crack them open so they appear as corriander chunks.)
  • 50g salt
  • Hot stuff: 4 tsp chillis/hot pickled peppers/cayenne to taste for hotness
  • Thickener: Although I used agar-agar yesterday, I would likely use Certo in the future, now that I have a better sense of this recipe. With Agar, you can make up the whole mix first; with Certo, you mix in the sugar near the end.


  1. Sort out peppers: keep one to julienne fresh, one to dry, the rest cut in half – try 1/3 of them to be smoked 2/3 roasted on bbq.
  2. Chop a fresh pepper into quite small ‘not quite diced’ pieces. (at least this is what I would do next year. This year I julienned them thin in the food processor, and they do not have that fresh crunch I was hoping for)
  3. Cut peppers in half & coat in olive oil, & herb mixture (coated in oil with salt, pepper, oregano, thyme, basil, cumin) 270271
  4. BBQ: Have a spritzer bottle of water ready! Use 2/3 of the coated peppers. Set up the BBQ smoker ( a small metal box with wood chips) under your grill. Fire the BBQ, and once hot, cook the 2/3 batch of peppers, a whole garlic bulb and the medium onion. These should be cooked before the smoker ignites and starts to smoke. Remove them from the bbq.  273
  5. When the BBQ reaches 450-500, place the 1/3 batch of pepper halves inside-down above the smoker.   Once the smoker starts to go (the wood chips are smoking) turn off the bbq. If it flames, spritz it. Leave the smoked peppers in the covered bbq for a couple of minutes until cooked, but not charred. (Hint to manufacturers: would be cool to have see through bbq lids! )274
  6. Peel the roasted garlic and onion
  7. Weigh the total pepper mix (bbq, smoked, fresh,) to establish your ’1′ for the vinegar/sugar/salt syrop
  8. Puree 3/4 of the bbq/smoked peppers, the garlic and the onion and pour in your cooking pot.276
  9. Fine chop the rest of the peppers. You should now have a bowl of fresh peppers, a bowl of roasted pepper pieces, and a mash of roasted red pepper, garlic and onion.
  10. Boil 11-12 250 ml jars (based on the 2.74 factor noted earlier; put lids in colander to boil also.
  11. Add sugar (read pectin directions first – you may need to add this later), wine, vinegar, cinnamon, coriander, hot pepper and salt to the mash275
  12. Mise en scene at this point: syrup mix on the stove or bbq, bbq/smoked chopped peppers, julienned fresh peppers,   pectin,   250 ml jars in a  canning pot,  lids in a colander, canning tongs, oven mitts/dry cloths.
  13. Bring liquid mix to a boil
  14. Remove jars from hot water (or oven if you use this method)
  15. Distribute bbq/smoked peppers into jars277
  16. Spoon in fresh peppers
  17. Add pectin following pectin directions
  18. Pour syrup over peppers and place the lids on
  19. Can for 10 minutes

Utensils needed

canning tongs
Pot for jars
Pot for sauce
Stirring spoon
oven mits
Bread board
Paring knife
Measuring spoons
Weigh scale
Jars and lids
Small bowll
Measuring cups

Where to go from here

Next year I would make the following changes:

  • toast and crack the coriander, and perhaps reduce the amount
  • try a 75/25 red wine vinegar combination. I feel this version needs more calming, more body.
  • use Certo – as I’m sure about the sugar/vinegar ratio now
  • use half the amount of garlic, but crush it fresh into the jars before they are filled.

Make your own yogourt

This post is going to be a little different. A couple of weeks ago I was chatting with a friend who told me that occasionally an old friend comes to Canada from New Zealand. When she does she brings what sounds like a dried yogourt starter, which she then takes and makes into great yogourt. So this post is written like a kind of letter  - to  L.

So… L….

There’s got to be a gazillion posts on the net about making yogourt. Why then should I contribute to the mess?

Well, for one thing its in keeping with the way this whole blog is turning out. Not a lot of recipes about this or that amazing dish, but lots of stuff that people don’t usually do and that you can do other neat things with – like jams, or preserves, or tomato sauce – or… yogourt. For another, I find that a lot of other yogourt recipes are more difficult than they need to be. This one is really easy – and designed for that very ubiquitous 1.3 litre bag of milk.

A lot of companies will sell you on all sorts of stuff to make yogourt with, but you don’t need any of it. Here is all you need to make 1.5 litres of great tasting yogourt:

  • a bag of milk
  • a cup or so of skim milk powder (instant works best)
  • a cup of good quality organic plain yogourt (your starter)

What can be more challenging is the equipment. But once you have that down, you are good to go.

  • a large pot and a large bowl to be used as a double boiler
  • a thermometer
  • whisk
  • spatula
  • 2-3 jars adding up to 1.5 litres
  • 1 1 cup (250ml) mason jar.

Most important, you need to find a way to keep your yogourt incubated at about 110 degrees for about 6.5 hours. I’m lucky to have an oven with a proofing option, but if not that, then slightly heat your oven to about 120/130, turn off the oven,  put the yogourt in the warmed oven  insulated with a towel and the stove light bulb  on. The heat from the light bulb should help to maintain the desired temperature. I’d also stick the thermometer in there  - right in the middle or even in one of the jars at the beginning to ensure the temperature is holding steady between 110-118.

Temperature is everything in making yogourt. The milk needs to get up to 185 degrees to kill unwanted bacteria, and needs to incubate at the lower temperature to coagulate its proteins. Check out for a more complete explanation (and a recipe that’s nearly the same as this! )

Here’s what you do:

Heat up a pot of water with a bowl nestled in it – your double boiler.Toronto-20121014-00206

 Take out your starter, or if its your first time set out a cup or so of good quality organic yogourt that you really like the taste of.

 Pour a bag of milk into the double boiler bowl. I prefer whole, organic milk.

Set up a thermometer – either instant read electronic or a good cooking thermometer you can clip on the edge of your bowl.

Add a little less than a cup of instant skim milk powder, and whisk this in until dissolved. Whisk frequently as the milk heats up to keep the temperature of the milk consistent.

yogourt making (13)

While the milk heats up, fill a sink with cold water, and gather your jars together. Making yogourt (5)

Heat up the milk in the double boiler until it hits 185  degrees.

yogourt making (11)

Once the milk mixture hits 185 or so, remove the thermometer, take the bowl from the pot and gently float it in the sink filled with cold water, and turn off the heat.

Dip your jars in the ‘just gone off the boil’ hot water to sterilize them, and place them on the counter beside your cooling yogourt.

Making yogourt (8)Making yogourt (9)

Keep whisking the milk to ensure it cools evenly. When the milk mixture cools to approximately 115 degrees, remove it from the water, mix in the yogourt starter.

Pour the milk + starter mix slowly into your jars, and cover.yogourt making (3) Be sure to pour in your starter into that smaller jar for the next time.

Place them in a warm spot that will retain the heat at 110-120 degrees for 6 – 7 hours. The first time doing it you might wish to keep a thermometer in to ensure your plan works. This step is really the point of commercial yogourt makers. They have a machine that is designed to maintain this constant temperature. There are other devices that could do a similar job: some bread makers, or a dehydrator set to its lowest temperature would work well. I’m fortunate to have a proofing option on my oven, and I use that.

After 6 – 7 hours remove your yogourt and refrigerate. Voila! It will last up to 14 days, though my friend Paul claims much longer.

There’s a couple of other notes to add:

If it does not congeal well, and you are sure you are using a good fresh starter and good quality milk, I would add  - one time only  - a natural thickener like organic gelatin or agar agar. For this quantity about 2 tbs. Only do it once to get the desired consistency. Once the consistency is there, do as  described above.

What I am finding is that with time, the yogourt just gets better and better. Somehow the starter seems to improve with age.

Well that’s it! It strikes me you could use S’s dried starter as your starter – it should not make a lot of difference. Changes in the taste of the yogourt are affected both by the kind of milk you use and the starter.

I look forward to hearing you have given this  go!



Yesterday was definitely Pesto day.

Basil is an amazing, but also finnicky plant. Its wonderful fragrance and taste is due to its volatile oils that depend on heat and strong sunlight. If you leave it too long, or the conditions aren’t right, it will become bitter and not terribly usable.

Last year I tried growing it on my rooftop deck, with little success. This year I tried starting it from seed. While the seeds sprouted, the resulting plants did not exactly take off. I have so much to learn about gardening! What I found myself doing was buying these ‘living plant’ basils  - the ones that are sold with their soil starting medium – and planting these as soon as I got them home. Most of these worked out well, at least in terms of their growing.

However, it has not been a hot summer. Sun has been so-so. The soil I was using at the start of the season was before I started to figure out how to do my compost, and so that too was not optimal. I had tasted the leaves from time to time and sadly they were on the bitter side.

Yesterday was our big September heat wave day in Toronto – sun, humidity and 35 degree temperatures. Yesterday- – yesterday afternoon in particular –  was the day – if I was going to capture any of the good of these volatile oils.

My experience yesterday was bittersweet. On one hand, it was a special and unusual experience for me to be able to harvest from the living plant and then right away process the final product. I haven’t done that before. That part of it was incredibly rewarding.

On the other hand, I was aware that the basil had that bitter side to it, and I was understandably concerned about making it a success. This meant more salt. I’m still not sure how it will all turn out. This batch is in the fridge for a couple of days while I let the flavours mingle and settle, then I will see. I’m prepared for it to be a failure, but I have confidence in the recipe  - its been tried and true for over 20 years.

The original recipe came from an old cookbook that has been around our house for years: Romagnoli’s Meatless Italian Cookbook. This recipe has weight substitutions for volume (as I am want to do in order to obtain some precision). Also the order in which ingredients are added is really important, as is how long you food process each ingredient as it is added. The longer you process, the more of a puree it becomes.

Here is my ‘kit’ for the process.  Toronto-20130910-00753 Toronto-20130910-00752

This version of the recipe is for 100g of dry leaves, about 1+ packed cup. The idea here is that you base your quantities on the amount of basil available to you and do the math. In my case, I wanted to do a series of smaller batches as I had basil in a variety of pots, different varieties, different plantings and I wanted to see the difference.

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In this order blend:
1 large garlic clove
6g salt – 2 three finger pinches- (or start with 6g and adjust up at the very end)
65g pine nuts
12g grated parmesan
12g grated Romano
100g fresh basil

IMG-20130910-00755 IMG-20130910-00756
80g olive oil
This recipe makes approximately 300ml of pesto

Top up with olive oil to prevent oxidizing (yes even in the freezer!)

Here is the final outcome…. with my scrawly labels to indicate the pots they came from – not that this will be important in the long run….


Equipment needed
food processor
weigh scale
several large bowls
wooden spoon
knife and cutting board
salad spinner
250ml mason jars


Finally, a word on costs: The basil was free – sort of. buying these ‘living plants’ and potting them in good rich soil right away is a wonderful and economic way to keep a supply of fresh herbs.

The big cost here is the pine nuts. At $45/kilo, they contribute half of the $5.60 or so cost of a 250 ml jar. I’m also insistent on using real, freshly grated cheese – not the fake crumbs that are sold as parmesan cheese-like product.

On this particular batch, I did  - and do – have concerns that I may have squandered these expensive ingredients on a final product that may in the end be questionable. I don’t know if I will be making more basil from what is at the markets. I’ll have to see how this works out in a few days.

One thing for sure  - I’ll be tasting it before I buy!

Hot Apricot Chutney

Now is that magical time of year where everything comes in from the fields. It means pressing the refresh button on all the preserves – to see what has been used, or not – and to plan what is to come  - as much as possible that is.

Cottage Country North makes this great hot apricot chutney that I have wanted to copy for a couple of years now. I could not last year, however, as there were no apricots to be had due to the spring frost earlier that year.

This year is a different story however. Last weekend I scored a couple of baskets of Ontario apricots and yesterday I sorted out how I thought the recipe should go. here was my line of thinking:

I start with my basic chutney ratio: 1:1:1 fruit:vinegar:sugar. In this case I wanted to really accentuate the apricot flavour, so I cut the vinegar and sugar in half giving a 2:1:1 ratio. Next, I did not want the vinegar to overpower, so I made a batch of white wine vinegar (1 bottle (750ml) plus 250ml white vinegar in a 1.5L jar) and used this. One gets the subtle flavour of white wine, yet there is enough vinegar so that it is clear that it is not wine.

Salt is added to taste, but it works out to about 5% of the apricot weight. Finally, hot peppers: I used a combination to heat it all up: cayenne, pickled hot peppers from last year, fresh scotch bonnet peppers.

I’m trying to follow what I have learned doing other similar preserves and dishes: where you want the flavour to jump out at you, add it at the end, and do not overcook it! Here, the peppers were added at the end.

I’ve also tried using Pomona’s pectin for this. It was a little bit problematic, as I wanted to be able to taste the entire mix to get the taste right before applying the pectin. This involved sugar, but the directions call for the pectin to be added to the sugar. I reasoned that since I had cut back on the basic sugar ratio,that it could take some more and could only get better.

I had one further idea: What else could give it some oomph? Garlic? Ginger? I tried both – and ginger was a clear winner. Ginger is definitely something to add at the end of the process as it was something I wanted to have out in front when eating. I used a combination of both fresh ginger finely diced and my insanely intense dried ginger I made a couple of months back.

The recipe was divided in half, one part taking the ginger, one part straight up apricot chutney.

Here is the final recipe:

Ingredients (ratios in brackets)

Fresh apricots 2k (2)

brown sugar 1k (1)

white wine vinegar 1l (1)

hot peppers (to taste)

salt 100g (5% of apricot weight)  - but taste it!

Optional: fresh ginger to make it hot apricot-ginger chutney


Pit and thin slice apricots; cook until they have broken down

Prepare jars and water bath as you would for canning. This quantity makes about 3L of chutney.

Add wine vinegar, sugar, and salt. Simmer briefly, and taste/adjust for sweetness. The salt is only for flavour enhancement – you should not really taste it. Take off the heat.

Finely dice, add hot peppers/pepper flakes/cayenne until the mix has the desired heat.

Follow directions on your pectin recipe  - usually adding pectin, bringing to a boil until dissolved, removing from heat, canning and boiling. Since there is so much vinegar in the recipe it should keep for a number of weeks once opened.

And the result?

I like!

Its definitely different than the inspiration chutney. The original is made with dried apricots, and as a result there are chewier more intensely apricot bits in it. It also uses vinegar and not wine vinegar as its base, and so has a stronger taste. In mine the wine vinegar makes it more mellow. I find it curious that in my version, the heat catches up to you – whereas in the original, its more initially apparent. I am thinking I could have added more heat, but then maybe not. My family doesn’t like it TOO hot. Finally, I’m using Pomona’s Pectin, and this delivers a different texture than other pectins. Although jellied, it breaks up easier, and is smoother

Next time:

  • I like the idea of using dried apricots as an addition to the fresh. I’d probably use 250g to the 2kg of fruit.
  • I’d like a little more heat to it.
  • It could also be sweeter. I’m thinking the sugar should be 75% of the fruit weight.
  • I’d like the vinegar to be slightly more prominent. I would try a mix that is 75% white wine vinegar, 25% white vinegar.

Tequila Lime Jelly

This recipe is on inspired by Cottage Country North preserves – though the development is all mine. It grows out of the white wine vinegar ideas I have been experimenting with, and is an initial response to “so what next”? after the previous blog.

I wanted the taste of both the lime and tequila to be prominent so I began the experiment with half a lime – 30g, to which I added a matching 30 g of tequila. To these 60g of taste ingredients I added 60g of sugar – 1:1. Following the basic chutney ratio of 1:1:1 (flavour/vinegar/sugar) I added 120g wine vinegar/sugar mix, where the wine vinegar is 3:1 wine to vinegar. Into all of this I put in 5% or so of salt – just enough to enhance flavour. It in total made a little under a cup. Since all of the sugar was added ahead of time, I have decided to go with Agar for the experimentation stage. In the recipe below I’ve multiplied by 10 to yield 9-10 cups. The ratios in brackets are premised on the lime weight being (1) and are in brackets.


300g limes (about 5) (1)
300g tequilla (1)
1200g brown sugar (4)
450g white wine (1.5)
150g white vinegar (.5)
50g salt (.06)
140g certo pectin (@ 2 -3 packages) (.46 – .5)
hot sauce/peppers/cayenne to taste


  1. Prepare 10 x 250 ml mason jars in a water bath (approximately 1/2 lime per jar)
  2. Squeeze the limes to get pure lime juice without any pulp. Weigh the resulting juice as this will determine the weight of other ingredients. The lime weight  is expressed as (1) in the ingredients list.
  3. Combine all ingredients – but not the sugar –  in a pot and bring to a boil.
  4. Add in sugar and return to boil for 1 minute.
  5. Remove from heat and can – due to the high acid you can probably get away with 5 minutes of canning time.