The Blog

Welcome to our award winning blog


Here you can find a collection of our thoughts, reports and ramblings together with some fun things we find along the way. We try to update the blog at least once a week and more often during busy periods so make sure you check back regularly..

By The Twig - Well Seasoned, Sep 24 2017 08:00AM

As we edge further into the autumn season we really start to focus on preserving some of the gluts to last us over the less fruitful months.

Apples, pears, nuts, marrows, pumpkins, squashes and a host of other great fruit and veg arrive in huge quantities this month and we need to start thinking about how we're going to deal with them. Chutneys are one of the best ways of preserving the bounties of autumn and with that in mind, here are our top tips for making good ones.

Golden Rules for Champion Chutney:

1. Give yourself plenty of time. One thing you can't do is rush a good chutney. Allow at least a couple of hours to prepare and cook a batch.

2. Cut your vegetables and fruits to roughly the same size. It will allow the ingredients to cook at the same rate and make the end result better to eat.

3. Don't burn it! Cooking chutney is a long and laborious process but the worst thing you can do it take your eye off the pan for too long. Keep stirring the mixture, especially as you get towards the end. Burning it will not only make it taste terrible, it will leave a layer of black sugar welded to the base of your pan.

4. The simple test for when your chutney is ready is what we call 'the parting of the Red Sea'. Draw a wooden spoon across the bottom of your pan. The chutney should be thick enough that you see the bottom of the pan for a second or two before receding to fill the channel. When you get to this point, your chutney is ready for jarring.

5. Use jars with screw top, plastic coated lids. The vinegar will corrode uncoated metal lids.

6. Make sure you sterilise your jars. If you don't, bacteria in them may ruin the chutney and the whole point is that they should last through the winter. Give the jars a good wash in hot, soapy water and then place upside down in an oven at low heat until dry. Alternatively, put them in a dishwasher on its hottest cycle and use them as soon as it finishes.

7. Always allow your chutney time to mellow. That means at least two months in a dark, cool cupboard. Eat it too soon and it will taste harsh and vinegary. And don't worry about it going off - the high vinegar and sugar content means it should keep for at least a year (provided you sterilised the jars properly).

8. The final and most important rule is that, when it comes to ingredients...there are no rules. Pretty much anything goes and one of the best things about autumn is being able to experiment with an almost limitless number of flavour combinations. We've had some of our finest results (and admittedly some of our worst) simply throwing whatever we had at the time into a pan and seeing how it turned out.

By The Twig - Well Seasoned, Jan 8 2016 11:52AM

Happy New year Seasonal foodies!

One early highlight of our seasonal calendar (when the Christmas and New Year festivities are but distant memories) is the short season for Seville oranges, the key ingredient of marmalade. That time, ladies and gents, is RIGHT NOW.

Don't worry too much what they look like - Sevilles are often a bit lumpy and bumpy. The bitter, thick skins are high in pectin making them the perfect fruit for this classic bitter-sweet preserve. A good batch made in January will last the entire year.

Orange Marmalade:

To make around 2.5kg:

10 Seville oranges

4 lemons

4 litres water

2 - 2.5kg sugar, to taste

Before you start place a small saucer in the freezer for an hour or so. You will use this when testing for a set.

Place your jars and lids in the oven at 160 C for ten minutes to sterilise. Carefully remove them and stand on a board close to where you are making the marmalade.

Take a large pan and fill with 2 litres of water and the juice of 2 lemons.

Add the oranges to the pan and boil for 2 hours. After an hour, add another litre of water and pierce the oranges with a knife - this is to soften the peel, and also give you an orange liquid which will be the base for your marmalade.

Once the oranges feel soft, drain (preserving the liquid) and leave your oranges to cool.

Cut your oranges in half and use a teaspoon to scoop out the inside (including pips and pith which you can scrape off the inside of the peel with your teaspoon) - add to the liquid. Most recipes use muslin, but this way seems easier, you just drain the mixture later.

Add another 500ml of boiling water and bring your liquid/pip/pith mixture to the boil and simmer for 6-7 minutes

Whilst your mixture is simmering, cut the orange peel - we use about half of the peel cut finely.

Take your pan off the heat and pass the mixture through a fine sieve (preserving the liquid). Push down with a spoon to get the juices out. Be careful not to let the bits get through the sieve. It will still taste lovely but your marmalade might be a bit cloudy.

Add your chopped peel and 500ml of boiling water to the sieved liquid and return to the heat.

Add 2-2.5kg caster sugar and bring to a rolling boil (where the entire surface is bubbling) for 20 minutes.

Take off the heat, skim off the foam, add the juice of 2 lemons (no pips) and bring to a rolling boil for a further 5 minutes.

Test for a set: remove your saucer from the fridge and place small amount (teaspoon) of marmalade onto it. Lean the saucer from side to side so it spreads a little over the surface. Place the saucer in the fridge for 2 minutes. After 2 minutes take it out and push the jam lightly with your finger. If the surface wrinkles up you have a set. If not, put your saucer back in the freezer. Return the pan to the rolling boil stage for 5 minute intervals and keep testing for a set until you have one.

Once you have a set take a tablespoon of butter and add it to your marmalade - this will get rid of the foam on the top.

Leave for 20 minutes to settle (otherwise your peel will all rise to the top of the jars).

To put the marmalade into jars, use a ladle and a funnel. Fill the jars until almost 100% full (a few mm below the very top) and place the lids on tightly immediately.

By The Twig - Well Seasoned, Aug 27 2015 12:00AM

We've got fruit coming out of our ears at the moment - this year's perfect growing conditions mean a lot are in season early and with less than a week to go until the start of meteorological autumn it's definitely time to start thinking about preserves.

One of the first hard fruits to come into season are crab apples. These small, sour and woody relatives of our orchard apples are very high in pectin making them perfect for jams and jellies and if you haven't tried crab apple jelly you are missing out. It's the perfect accompaniment to Autumn roasts and cold meats.

Here's our recipe:

Crab Apple Jelly recipe:

For about four jars:

2 kg crab apples

500g white caster sugar

juice of half a lemon

(You will also need a jelly bag or a large folded square of muslin.)

Wash the apples under cold water.

Place the fruit in a saucepan, add just enough cold water to cover.

Bring the pan to the boil and simmer for half an hour until the fruit is soft and pulpy.

Pour the pulp into a jelly bag or a large sieve lined with the folded muslin, over a large pan.

Allow the pulp to strain overnight. Avoid squeezing the pulp or pushing it through the bag as this will cause the jelly to go cloudy.

Once strained, measure the juice. For every 1000ml of juice, add 600g of sugar.

Add the lemon juice, place the pan on the hob and bring to the boil, stirring regualrly to dissolve the sugar.

Bring to a rolling boil for 40 minutes until setting point is reached. Skim off any surface scum.

Pour into sterilised jars and seal.

Store in a cool dark place for up to six months.

Did you know...? Crab apples are mentioned in a famous Old English poem called The Nine Herbs Charm. Something of a cross between a poem, a spell and a old wives tale, with elements of both paganism and Christianity, the charm was traditionally used to treat a variety of illnesses, poisoning and infection. It references nine significant herbs, many of which are now known to have genuine medicinal properties. The seventh herb referred to is Wergulu, the Old English term for members of the Malus (crab apple) family.

By The Twig - Well Seasoned, Jan 1 2015 09:41PM

So that’s Christmas and the New Year done and dusted. As we shuffle into mid-January it can be a depressing time of year. The parties are over and there are at least two cold months to come before we see the start of Spring. But January heralds a real highlight of the seasonal foodies’ calendar in the short season for Seville oranges.

Now, wherever possible on this blog our focus is on British seasonal produce but there are some things that just don't grow in the UK and oranges, unsurprisingly, are one of them. We excuse ourselves on the grounds that, despite its continental provenance, marmalade is quintessentially British; a cup of tea, a thick slice of brown bread with generous layers of butter and home made marmalade is what Sunday mornings were made for. If you've already been dabbling in the kitchen and reckon you've come up with a winner you could enter The World Marmalade Festival which is taking place next month on 28th February. www.marmaladeawards.com

And if you've yet to warm up your jam thermometer, you've got a few weeks to go as we’re only just seeing the first shipments of Sevilles make it onto the shelves. However, you might want to get your skates on - it’s been reported that shops have seen a spike in marmalade sales this year due to the release of the Paddington film. Assuming that’s not a bear-faced lie, it's possible we'll also witness a shortage of oranges.

RSS Feed

Web feed