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I never give up anything for Lent because I’m no good at giving things up. Mind you, I say that and yet I remember that I spent about 6 months ‘giving up’ certain foods when I tried to get my health better.

One of those things I gave up for a good long while was sugar. I got to a wonderful place where I reintroduced it and only ate tiny amounts and felt satisfied with only a quarter of a slice of cake or brownie.

The problem is it’s so easy to slip and life gets a bit much and that quarter of brownie becomes a half and then the whole thing, and then you need the whole thing the whole time.

So we (poor Mr Rigg has been dragged into this too) are going to attempt to give up sugar for Lent. Hopefully by the end of it we won’t be wanting so much and so often.

I say ‘attempt’ because I’m realistic. Not because I can’t give it up 100% – I have before, as mentioned above. But realistic that we’re approaching a time of change in our lives (more on that at a later date), and that I am a breastfeeding mummy to a 6 month old whilst juggling my own business, one dog, three rabbits, and who likes to cook ‘from scratch’ almost every day of the week.

Oh and did I mention in the middle of this ‘give up sugar’ experiment is baby T’s Christening complete with cake fuelled ‘after party’…

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Following yesterday’s post on processing large amounts of pumpkin puree, we put the first lot to use in a Pumpkin Cinnamon Spice Bread.  I followed a recipe from Sunny Side Up in San Diego for Pull-Apart Cinnamon Sugar Pumpkin Bread.

Originally the recipe came from this Pumpkin Spice Pull-Apart Bread with Butter Rum Glaze created by Willow Bird Baking – a brilliant blog full of delicious sounding recipes.

It is such a delicious, soft bread that I will definitely be making it again – I would like to try it with less sugar and more pumpkin though. It involves making a bread dough that has the pumpkin puree in, then rolling this out, brushing it with butter and covering in a sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg mix.

You get to then press it in with your fingers…

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Last weekend we had some beautiful bright, crisp weather – blue skies, sunshine and lovely autumn colours.  Mr Rigg, Buddy and I walked to our local woodland in search of sloes to make sloe gin.

Armed with baskets we headed to the first spot I knew of – however, someone else had thought it was a good day for picking sloes so we carried on to the second patch I knew of and thankfully we found quite a number of them.

Picking sloes is a long slow process.  They are small and dotted along branches that are armed with long thorns to prick your fingers.  With the weather so lovely we were in no hurry, so pushed our way into the bushes picking off the fruits.

When we had picked what we could we headed into the woods in search of more bushes.  We had almost given up when we came across three good bushes where we picked the remainder of our haul.

At home we discovered we had picked 1.6kg of sloes!  We had only wanted about 400g…oops!  With a couple of bottles of gin and granulated sugar we started to make our sloe gin.  Sat in front of the Grand Prix we pricked every sloe multiple times with a pin, then we measured them into bottles and topped up with the sugar and gin. 

We followed Darina Allen’s recipe for Sloe Gin from her Forgotten Skills of Cooking – to 700g of sloes use 350g granulated sugar and 1.2 litres of gin.  Once bottled, seal tightly and store in a dark place, turning every couple of days to start with, then every couple of months.

Seville orange peel

Seville orange peel

Last week we made our first attempt at homemade marmalade.  I must admit that I am an avid reader of Country Living magazine, and February’s issue had a selection of marmalade recipes.  I personally don’t eat marmalade – probably haven’t even tried it, but like with many things I want to make them even if I don’t take pleasure from eating them.  Perhaps this is my moment to try marmalade!

We did it over a period of an afternoon and two nights as we didn’t have enough time to do it all at once after getting home from work.  I bought a kilo of luscious smelling Seville oranges from an Asian grocers in Chorlton.  After a good hour of careful slicing of the peel – N doesn’t like it too thick – it went into a large pan with water, and a bundle of the pith and pips tied up in muslin (the full recipe is below).  This was then soaked overnight, before being simmered for about two hours until the peel is soft and tender.  Then the muslin bundle is removed and discarded.

soaking the peel

soaking the peel

The sugar – kilos of it – is added to the pan, along with the reserved juice from the oranges.  This is the boiled gently to dissolve the sugar, and then on a hard boil until it thickens and sets when smeared on a cold plate.  It is allowed to cool before making its way into jam jars. 

homemade marmalade

homemade marmalade

This marmalade has quite a deep burnt orange colour from the addition of dark muscovado sugar.  One of my best friends has a fantastic recipe for a ginger cake with marmalade in it – she made it last weekend and its delicious – hopefully I can get the recipe from her and post it on here for everyone to try.

The recipe: Firstly, I would recommend getting some of the equipment out that you will need before you start. A large metal pan – I don’t have a preserving pan, so just used my largest saucepan. A citrus reamer – mine is a great wooden one which gets out as much juice and pith as possible. A square of muslin and a sieve. Some string. A jam funnel – I don’t own one of these, but I wish I did – it’s quite possible to manage without, just expect lots of sticky drips! A ladle and jam jars that have been washed carefully.

Seville orange marmalade

Makes about 2kg – we filled about 10 jars of different sizes

1kg Seville oranges (go for those that are hard and fragrant)
1 lemon
2 litres of water
2kg preserving sugar
200g dark muscovado sugar

Wash and dry the fruit. Cut it into halves or quarters.

Line the sieve with the square of muslin and start to juice all the segments over the sieve. Make sure you scrape the shells out well, dropping into the sieve the pips, the flesh, and the pithy membranes. Country Living’s tip for getting these out is to use a teaspoon to grab a piece of membrance, the rip it out.

Once you have finished juicing, put the peel to one side and tie the muslin up into a bundle. Place the bundle into your large metal pan. Reserve the juice for later.

Using a very sharp knife, slice the peel into thin pieces – or thicker if you prefer. Add all these to pan. Pour in the 2 litres of water and leave to soak overnight.

The next day, bring the pan with the peel, water, and bundle of muslin to the boil. Reduce the heat and let it simmer for about 2 hours – the liquid should have reduced by half and the peel should be ‘meltingly tender’.

Making sure you let the mixture cool first, remove the bundle of muslin and squeeze out as much liquid as you can – then discard.

Add the sugar and reserved juice. Slowly bring the mixture to the boil and stir until all the sugar has dissolved. Once the sugar has dissolved, raise the heat and boil hard until you reach setting point – I personally didn’t know what this meant, but a friend had mentioned she tested hers by smearing a bit of it on a cold plate and left it for a few minutes to see if it was starting to set. I used this idea, and it seems to have worked.

Allow the marmalade to cool before stirring, and then pouring into jars – either with a jam funnel for the neat and tidy option, or for sticky fun just use the ladle to scoop it in!

Seville orange marmalade

Seville orange marmalade

This recipe is taken and slightly adapted from the February 2009 edition of Country Living magazine.

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Eat the Earth

I love food, especially locally grown and seasonal food. This is my place to share my food finds and the food I like to eat.

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