Getting nerdy with sourdough

October 7 2014

The objective of this exercise is to develop a tool that can effectively calculate my sourdough timing using the ratios of flour and starter used.

I believe I’m going to make it one of those “as it unfolds” blogs  – a series of journal entries that chronicle the sequence my thinking and this experimentation takes me. If you are reading it because you clicked on a link from a sourdough website forum, well that is the whole idea. Yes I’d like traffic to my blog – if only for bragging rights – not that its particularly well subscribed – and that’s fine too. I also don’t want to bombard these forums with a ton of material either. That can get tedious – and while feedback is always welcome, I have observed the presence of a milder subspecies – the sourdough troll.

And if there’s one thing I’ve learned about sourdough, its respect. There is such a myriad of ways to approach and do sourdough that there’s no one right way. So if someone has a different recipe, technique or timing than you,  respect it. Sure, ask questions “Why did you do X?” or “have you tried Y?” Even “That’s interesting. I would not hav thought of doing it that way.”  But I would like to see those who pontificate as though their ay is the only way – be a little more humble!

Next: the key to this is the spreadsheet. I’ll be explaining what its all about, how it works, and how it is best used. They started life as excel sheets, because excel is always easier and more robust to work with than google docs, but google docs is wonderful for web viewing and sharing. On this anyone has viewing and commenting privileges, but only I can edit. Its here:

You may also be interested in my basic hydration table here: On this I invite you to actively use it. You can control for quantity, and hydration.

Ok enough for today. More ‘splainin tomorrow.

Oct 22

Tomorrow? Ha! I got derailed. Anyway I am going to start it now. What I wish to find out is the optimal  amount of time taken for the bulk rise to occur where the variable is the amount of flour added to a preferment at the bulk rise. As can be seen on the chart, each batch will have 60g of preferment that is at a 117% hydration level.

The preferment is prepared using equal weights of starter, flour and water. I am using 100% organic bread flour uniquely for this experiment.  The final hydration level is between 65-70%.

My first task is to prepare a preferment. Yesterday I refreshed starter  – and its now in the fridge. I will need 720g of preferment in total thus 240g of starter.

The DIY mustard factory

Ever consider making your own artisanal mustard? Its easier than pie. Way easier.

Here’s how and why it works:


My notes – what I want to do today!

Prepared mustard is a combination of mustard, an acid based liquid (AKA vinegar) and flavoring – preferably liquid. And salt. Can’t forget that. What happens is that as the liquid is added to the crushed mustard and is absorbed by the mustard and their flavours combine. Since a highly significant part of the preparation is a vinegar of some kind, and that you are using more than a squirt of salt, most mustards will be perfectly happy outside the fridge.

The underlying formula is (by weight):

  • 1 part mustard
  • 1 part vinegar
  • 1 part flavoring
  • salt at 5% the weight of the mustard
  • sweetener is optional.

So drilling down a bit: I like to grind up whole mustard seeds, both brown and blonde, and use them in conjunction wtih yellow mustard powder. You can go anywhere you want with this, but you do have to grind up and break the whole seeds. You could even toast some of the seeds by heating a dry frying pan until its quite hot, throwing in the seeds and slamming a lid on right after, Once they star popping, take them off the heat. (Its sort of like popcorn)

You can use any kind of vinegar, from wine and wine vinegar to pickling vinegar. My preference is for apple cider vinegar as it is not too strong, and imparts a subtle sweetness to the mustard. You can also combine vinegars. Play with it!


My mise en scene


Always tare back to zero with each ingredient.


The initial slurry will be very wet until it is absorbed by the mustard.


Mustard can tend to overwhelm garlic. This is roasted garlic and I would add more fresh garlic to profile its taste better.



The flavoring you select gives the name to your mustard. For my basic, everyday Dijon style I use apple juice. Its sweet, not too strong flavour balances out the vinegar and mustard. Some other possible flavorings could include:

  • chutneys or jams you have available
  • roast garlic
  • horseradish
  • dried fruit (e.g. dates and apricots)
  • tomato products: sauce, dried tomato, paste, combinations of….

Salt should be 5% of the weight of the mustard you use. That said, you can experiment with more. At 5% you can’t really taste the salt, so don’t use less.

Sweetners are not part of the actual formula though they do tend to find their way into most mustards, either as a separate addition, or in the flavoring (chutneys and dried fruits for example). The stronger the vinegar base, the more sugar that will be needed to balance it. The right amount of sweetner can make or break the  mustard.

Useful weights

A 250 ml jar  – 1 cup – is the most common quantity that mustard is sold in. If you use 75g as your basic ratio weight (75g mustard, 75g vinegar, 75g liquid flavoring) you will get a cup of mustard.

Some final thoughts

  • Mustard is initially very strong and powerful in its taste but it will weaken in time. Therefore, when you taste and adjust, imagine it in its more integrated and slightly gentler form. Also, only make what you are likely to use over the following 2-3 months. The reason commercial mustard mild is because its been a long time between its preparation and your mouth.
  • Give it a couple of weeks for the flavours to mingle and for the mustard to settle down a bit.
  • If you have used a drier flavoring  – for example dried fruit, garlic or horseradish – you will need to add liquid to achieve the desired consistency. Do this after a day or so. You can use whatever you like: water, juice, even wine or beer.
  • On the other hand, after a day or two the hydration may be a little too much. To correct this add a little mustard powder and a pinch of salt.
  • One of the quickest ways of turning out a delicious predictable artisanal mustard is to use a favorite chutney as the flavour.
  • Do NOT, under circumstances bring your hands (which are likely to have some fresh mustard powder on them) in contact with the various orifices and mucous membranes of your body. Do not rub your eyes especially. It will be painful and you will need to rinse thoroughly. Latex gloves are strongly suggested.

My haul for today. With all the vinegar and salt I don’t waterbath them, so they can go in whatever jars are around.

Happy mustarding!

A simple and delicious sourdough

Wouldn’t you love to be able to make a beautiful loaf of sourdough bread, but found the prospect  too complex, confusing and time consuming? This blog describes  a process for making sourdough bread that, if you follow it more or less correctly, will yield a rich, complex, nutty, flavourful sourdough each and every time.

I’m preparing this as an online accompaniment to a sourdough bread workshop I am preparing for my food coop. I’d like to see lots more people doing sourdough, and, I’m a teacher by profession. Even though I maybe far from an expert on bread, I can at least teach it.

This venture started when I wanted to find a way I could have fresh bread for breakfast. Was it too much  to ask? Additionally, I liked the idea of using a preferment as this makes the flavour much more complex due to the lengthy time the dough sits, slowly ferments and brings out the rich flavour complexities of the enzymes as it ages.

So here I am at a point now – beyond being the  newbie of two years ago – I’m teaching about it.

The Big Picture

First of all: the big picture. The sourdough cycle is basically this:

refresh starter >  preferment >  bulk rise > shape loaves/final rise > bake bread

Continue reading

The Food Chain

This is going to be one of those off the cuff blogs, quickly written, uploaded, and likely edited as time goes on and more ideas on the theme come along.

We usually think of the food chain as being the order that various critters in nature eat each other for their sustenance. Here its about what to do with food that gets left over. I’m not talking about how you take last night’s entre and reconstitute it for lunch the next day. I’m going beyond that.

I hope that readers can be inspired somewhat by this and contribute new ideas.

The sauce continuum

Begin with ….. roasted or BBQ vegetables. (BTW…. if you roast or BBQ veggies, stick a bulb of garlic in it. Put it in the fridge after, or use it – you will always have the essential ingredient for any ‘roast garlic….’ recipe). Back to the veggies: cut them up into quite small chunks. For every 200g or so add 5g salt, 35g vinegar, 200g tomato sauce/tomato paste (vary this to get the right consistency), herbs and spices: consider some of basil/oregano/thyme/ rosemary/cumin/mustard/hot pepper, that roasted garlic (to taste!), a handful of chopped olives. The result: a roast vegetable antipasto.

And next down the food chain? as in if the antipasto is not gobbled up in a day or 2? A sauce! Begin by pureeing what is left of the antipasto. Taste and consider its viscosity. The aim is to make a sauce that pours slowly but surely out of a narrow necked bottle. If anything it will be too thick. Here’s where you can have some fun. Get a vision of the kind of sauce you want to pour over a burger, on a sandwich, as a marinade over chicken or steak. Just keep in mind that you can add but you can’t remove. Here are the parameters to consider:

  • Salt – always a good one to begin with, and also one that can be overdone.
  • Vinegar – consider the type of vinegar, and only use a little at a time. Lemon/lime is part of the vinegar parameter
  • Heat – hot peppers, cayenne, hot sauce
  • Garlic – you likely already have this – do you want more?
  • Tomato: Since the antipasto had a tomato base, by definition its going to be a tomato based sauce. If you like the amount of tomato in the taste, and the vinegar continuum is right, but the sauce needs diluting,  then add water. If it can take more tomato then add tomato sauce. If it needs thickening, then tomato paste.

Finally  – choose a bottle. The food industry does an absolutely stellar job of inventing just the right size and shape of container for their products. So save a few glass sauce bottles for your own DIY stuff. Make sure it pours just right – bottle and label, in the fridge it goes. Whereas your original entre dish would be a science experiment after a week, the transformations, including the addition of vinegars and salts, mean that the resulting delicious sauce will be happy and likely used up over the next 2-3 weeks.

The sourdough continuum

All sourdough makers are aware of keeping their starter beefed up and active for the holy grail of sourdough – that perfect loaf of bread. Inevitably some starter is poured off. But instead of composting this, put it in a jar and pop it into the fridge. Here are some beginning ideas on what to do with this leftover starter.


Essentially cracker dough is a 60% hydration dough of flour, liquid (including up to 20% oil), 3-5% salt, and dry flavoring. The dough is rolled out – for super thin crackers, use a pasta roller. For the sourdough version the starter is used in part of the dough. Check my hydration table to help create your own sourdough crackers.


Pancakes are an easy way to use up starter. Although the starter helps the leavening, the main leavening comes with the addition of eggs and baking powder. Essentially the pancake mix is a very wet – 200% or so hydration mix of flour, liquid, eggs, oil, salt, sugar, and leaveners – baking soda/powder. I’ll refer you to Theresa Greenaway’s Discovering Sourdough  – my absolute authority on sourdough – for the original recipe. My hydration table (link still to come) functions as a kind of app that will guide you to making bigger or smaller amounts of mix.

Scones and hotcakes

I’ll refer you here again to  Theresa Greenaway’s Discovering Sourdough  book 1 which has lots of great hotcake recipes that can be done with leftover starter.

That’s it for now…… if you have other creative ideas for the ‘food chain’ please share them!


Cheeseless Lasagne

Cheeseless Lasagna

I should say a few words as to how this came about. Simply this – the dinner request was a lasagna and I knew that one guest, much as she loves cheese, inevitably suffers from eating it. SO I did what just about anyone does these days confronted with a new culinary challenge – go to the web and see what’s there. Who knows – maybe someone will even search this recipe out one day – though I doubt it given the lack of effort I put into publicizing this blog.

So the best recipe I came up with was at Vegan? well almost. The trouble is that the lasagne noodle itself is likely made with egg and flour, a clear disqualification. Thus it is a ‘cheeseless’ and not a ‘vegan’ lasagne.

My version of the chowhound keeps the ricotta – tofu combo. The addition of lemon and lemon rind is a genius stroke. Although I have kept an eggplant layer, my preparation is quite different, and also I am something of a stickler on the issue of  sauteeing mushrooms, chard and onions.

This is a recipe where you strive to make each layer in the dish taste delicious and unique on its own. That is the only way this dish will survive the inevitable comparison to its wonderfully gooey, fatty, cheesy cousin.

So here goes – enjoy! The recipe makes one pan of lasagna but the photos here are for a double quantity because I know there will be a hue and cry if I do not.

Begin by lightly sauteeing about 800g of onions on a very low heat. Start on medium heat, add about a tbs of salt, and also olive oil. Once they are translucent, turn the heat down to the lowest and leave with the top on for another half hour or so, and once juices have begun to accumulate, take the lid off. Keep cooking on a very low heat – you should be seeing constant but slow, lazy bubbling. This allows some of the liquid to evaporate, concentrating the incredibly sweet and complex onion to use in other parts of the recipe. Do the chard part last (like about 2 hours after you have started to cook the onion) as this is the one that really benefits from the slow caramelization the onions are undergoing.  Once they are happily bubbling away turn your attention to the eggplant dish. Cheeseless Laagna (13)Cheeseless Laagna (10)

Eggplant layer

  • 2 medium eggplants
  • Salt as needed
  • half cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 5-6 teaspoon finely chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 diced red pepper

Cheeseless Laagna (12)Heat oven to 450. Cut the eggplant(s) lengthwise into 1/8-inch-thick slices. Place in a single layer on 2 baking sheets, overlapping slightly as needed, and sprinkle evenly with a little salt (a few sprinkles per slice). After little water bubbles appear (its the salt interacting with the eggplant and not really water) flip the eggplant and sprinkle with salt on the other side. (again not too much: you do not want it too salty); let sit until water beads form on the surface, at least 30 minutes. Brush olive oil over the slices generously, flip back and brush olive oil on the other side too. The olive oil should be fairly generous so it is actually baked in the olive oil. Cheeseless Laagna (11)Bake for about 10 – 12 minutes, checking frequently after the 6-7 minute mark. You want them to be nicely cooked but not falling apart or burned. You could also bake at a lower heat for a longer time.Cheeseless Laagna (7)

While the eggplant cooks, place 2 tablespoons olive oil, parsley, vinegar, red pepper flakes, and a pinch of salt in a large bowl and stir to combine. Transfer the seared eggplant to the oil-vinegar mixture and toss. Taste and season with additional salt as needed to make even the lowly eggplant delicious.

Sauce layer

I have it easy in this department. I use the tomato sauce I can at the end of August. Whatever you use, you need 1litre of basic tomato sauce.

  • 1 L tomato sauce
  • 3 Several tbs of the onion mix that has been gently sauteeing
  • 2 medium garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons capers

Sautee onions (with onions used in other layers)

Pour sauce, sauteed onions, capers in a bowl.

Ricotta analog

In a large food processor (it really needs to be a 12-14 cup size – or else do it in batches)

  • 2 packages tofu, drained (roughly cut them up, otherwise they will take a lot longer to grind.)
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped Italian parsley leaves
  • 125g olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest from about 1/2 medium lemons. Lemon confit would work well here also.
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice, plus more as needed (from about 1/2 lemon). Since it all goes into the same food processor, I grate off the zest, cut the remaining lemon into slices only to remove the seeds, and put it all in the food processor.
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more as needed
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more as needed

Place the tofu, parsley, lemon zest/confit, lemon juice, and measured salt and pepper in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a blade attachment and process until smooth. Taste and season with more lemon juice, salt, pepper and/or olive oil as needed. Like with the eggplant, you are working to get this to taste truly excellent on its own. The texture should resemble ricotta cheese. Set aside

Noodle layer

1 package of lasagna noodles, uncooked. They will nicely absorb all of the extra liquid from the onions, mushrooms and tomato sauce.

Fresh flavor layer

The Chowhound recipe suggests a  cup of loosely packed basil leaves cut into 1/4-inch-thick ribbons. But fresh basil is not always available. If you are prepared to veer from the cheeseless, pesto works. I would also suggest thin sliced fresh red sweet peppers – uncooked. Another suggestion would be a single layer of whole pine nuts. This is one layer in the middle of the lasagna, a layer you know you are biting into from the little zap of taste pleasure it gives.

Mushroom layer

Cut 400g mushrooms (crimini – portobello, white mushrooms) in thin slices, and lightly sautee in olive oil. Turn them frequently over a slightly less than medium heat. Add a couple of pinches of fresh pepper and cook only until they are just cooked: the flesh has begun to sweat, they have acquired a cooked sweetness but are still crunchy. Remove from heat into a bowl and add some of the caramelizing onion sautee – to taste.Cheeseless Laagna (9)Cheeseless Laagna (8)

Chard layer

Begin with about half of the caremelizing onion sautee – put it in a wide pan. Cut 1 large bunch of washed chard as follows:

  1. separate the veins, and dice as fine as you can. Add to the onion, but DO NOT stir it in.
  2. Cut the remaining chard into thin ribbons, and add on top of the chard veins.  Cheeseless Laagna (6)Add a little thyme, basil, oregano. DO NOT mix in. Let them lie on top. Braise covered on the lowest setting until the chard is cooked  – about 40 minutes or so.
  3. Turn into a bowl, gently mix the 3 layers, and taste for salt, pepper. The sweetness of the onions should have premeated everything.

 Assembly (from bottom up) 

In the picture, the order is from right to left – counter clockwise.

Cheeseless Laagna (5)

  • Tomato sauce
  • tofu
  • noodles
  • tomato sauce
  • extra flavour  layer
  • eggplant
  • chard
  • mushroom
  • tofu
  • noodles
  • tomato sauceCheeseless Laagna (3)
  • extra flavour  layer
  • eggplant
  • chard
  • mushroom
  • tofu
  • noodles
  • tomato sauce

Cheeseless Laagna (2)

Add whatever other herbs and spices you wish – Basil, oregano, thyme, rosemary are good bets. Cover with a cookie tray upside down (or foil  – but the cookie tray is ideal as it is a rigid surface) and bake for 50 minutes at 375. Its important that the top of the lasagna does not come in contact with the underside of the cookie tray, otherwise the top layer of lasagne will stick to it. While it won’t ruin the taste the presentation…. suffers! Let cool at least 10 minutes before cutting.


Vegan chocolate chip and coconut-ginger cookies

The back story here

I’ve been making a bunch of cookies recently – and being aware that some of the potential audience for these cookies have a variety of food requirements. It means – following the culinary philosophy of my friend and occasional culinary partner in crime, Mia – that one might as well just go vegan. This has the added benefit of people feeling that because they are ingesting coconut oil and not butter, that it is somehow guilt free (LOL!!!)

So yesterday Toronto’s local cycling advocacy group, Cycle Toronto held a ‘tuneup Tuesday’ down the road from my place – so I went along, and brought a cookie tin of cookies with me, thinking that maybe if someone filled out our survey, signed onto a mailing list they could be rewarded with a cookie. It turns out that most of the takers were kids who enjoyed them  – and who knows maybe we’ve begun an initial bud of interest in cycling advocacy. The other volunteers also appreciated them, and would like the recipe. So a good excuse for a blog.

These 2 recipes are cobbled together from several different recipes. If as a general rule, if you want to go back to the dairy versions, substitute 1 egg per 50g of almond/coconut milk and an equal weight of butter for coconut oil. Or you can mix it up as you wish.

You will note my usual proclivity for using weight measurements. Occasionally I have the volume in there as well….. Get thee a weigh scale. I promise you won’t return it and begin using it for lots of other stuff.

A final caveat: I may still do some fine tuning on these recipes. If you try them and have suggestions, please make a comment and share them.

The recipes

coconut ginger snaps total vegan version

This recipe originally was based on the following recipe:


180g coconut oil

1 cup light brown sugar, packed 200g

1/4 cup molasses 80g

100ml coconut milk

2 cups all purpose Flour 280g

1 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoons baking soda

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 tbs dried ginger (if you go to the trouble of finely dicing dried ginger your taste buds will be rewarded by the occasional zap of ginger in each cookie)

20g fresh ginger – finely minced or shredded. If you do not have the really strong dried ginger, increase this amount to 60g.

60g coconut

1/4 cup granulated sugar + 1/4 cup shredded coconut for rolling dough in before baking


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. and line 2 large baking sheets with a silpat liner or parchment paper.

Cream together  coconut oil and  brown sugar. Once creamed, add molasses and coconut milk, beating on medium until well combined.IMG-20140529-00292IMG-20140529-00293

In a separate bowl mix flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, coconut, fresh and dried ginger. Mix until just combined.IMG-20140529-00294

Combine wet and dry ingredients. Knead until well combined. Form into small balls – about 2 tbs each. Roll dough balls in granulated sugar and shredded coconut mix and place onto prepared baking sheet. Place 1 inch apart to allow for spreading.IMG-20140529-00295

Bake for 15-16 minutes, until baked through. Remove and let cool on baking sheet for at least 15 minutes before transferring to cooling rack. Serve room temperature or chilled.


Chocolate chip cookies totally vegan version

vegan cookies (3)

This recipe is a mashup of these two recipes: and

I should make a note on these: I’m not happy with this recipe, so yesterday I sat down with my occasional cullinary partner in crime, Mia, and discussed it. Mia is a great baker and though not vegan herself, has lots of friends who are and so knows this landscape.

We both agreed, there is too much oil. In the recipes, I replaced the butter for coconut oil, but coconut oil does not behave the same way – it doesn’t attach itself to the flour the way butter does. Also the ratio of oil to flour in this recipe is considerably different than in the ginger cookie recipe. Next time, I’ll reduce it so the ratio of flour to oil in the recipe is the same as the ginger cookies.

She also suggested replacing some of the flour with nut flour – filbert, almond, walnut. It would change up the texture and of course the taste, supplying some of the fat hit taken away by reducing the oil. On my next effort I’ll try replacing 1/3 of the flour with an equal weight of walnut flour – its what I have available to me right now.

If someone tries these, please make a comment and let me know what you did, how it turned up. My family can’t afford the resulting calories from extensive experimentation here.


Makes 24 cookies (2 ounces each)

270g all purpose flour

1teaspoon baking soda (5 g)

1 tsp baking powder

1/2teaspoon kosher salt (3g)

450g semi sweet chocolate  chips (I’ve used Camino semi-sweet chocolate chips)

1 1/2 cup walnuts, finely chopped 170g

180g coconut oil (this amount resolves the problem noted above.)

260g (1cup) light or dark brown sugar, tightly packed

130g 1/2cup white sugar (optional. You want it sweeter? do this.)

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

100ml almond milk


Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. and line 2 large baking sheets with a silpat liner or parchment paper.

Sift flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Set aside.vegan cookies (15)

Mix together chocolate chips and chopped nuts. Set aside.vegan cookies (14)

All medium speed unless otherwise noted: In a standing mixer, with the paddle attachment, cream the coconut oil and sugars until well mixed and light. Scrape down the sides.  Add almond milk and vanilla. Mix for 5 seconds. Scrape down the sides.vegan cookies (11)vegan cookies (10)

Add the sifted flour mixture in 3 batches, stopping before adding the final batch. Either hand mix, or if using a stand mixer use the lowest speed and mix until just combined at each stage.  When you get to the final batch of flour, add the chocolate chip/nut mixture.  Never over-mix.vegan cookies (9)

Spoon onto the cookie trays and bake at 375 for about 15-20 minutes. Check them frequently to ensure they have hit their Goldilocks point: not too soft, not too hard. They will firm up once cooled down. vegan cookies (5) vegan cookies (4) vegan cookies (1)


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.