March 2009


Orange marmalade layer cake

Orange marmalade layer cake

This has to be one of the most scrumptious cakes I’ve ever had. It was made with zest and juice from oranges produced by our little orange tree, and home-made orange marmalade for the filling.  The recipe is fairly elaborate, but doable.

whats_left_of_helen_10mar09

fox_on_driveway6_30mar09_cropped Acouple of weeks ago, on 10 March 2009, chasing back all of the hens and Ole (the Americauna rooster) back into their coop, one of the hens, Helen, was missing.  After I locked everyone up, I found her.  The creature that ate most of her had dug a small hole under the deer fence, and had actually bitten through some of the metal of the fence and bent the metal upwards and backwards to create an opening large enough for it to get through.  It was our local California Coastal Grey fox (although he has some red in him, too, in the picture taken above from our front driveway on 30 March 2009). I saw Mr. Fox around the neighborhood not too much afterwards.  My hubby buried what was left of our best-laying hen about 1 foot deep.  Next day, her remains had been dug up and were completely gone!  To add insult to injury, a few days later our prize rooster was also taken.  This time, over the fence, no carcass to be found, only his pretty tail feathers strewn about… Now, the three remaining hens are staying cooped up.

orange_marmalade_small

To make this marmalade, I more or less followed the recipe given in the Ball Blue Book of Preserving,ISBN 0-9727537-0-2, p.38.  Used 2 cups of sliced up orange peel (from about 2-1/2 oranges, in our case); 1 quart of chopped orange pulp (from about 10 oranges), 1 cup thinly sliced & seeded lemon (used one gigantic lemon, bigger than an orange, from our tree out back); 1-1/2 quarts of water; 1 cup of sugar (this is way less than the recipe calls for–they suggest 1 c. sugar per cup of fruit/water mixture, which would have been more than 8 cups of sugar!)

Directions: Combine all ingredients, except the sugar, in a large saucepot.  Simmer 5 minutes.  Remove from heat, cover, and let stand 12-18 hours in a cool place.  Next day, cook rapidly until the peels are tender.  Add sugar at this point.  Original recipe called for 1 cup of sugar per cup of fruit mixture.  I only added 1 cup of sugar total. Then, you are to boil over high heat, stirring constantly (otherwise, you’ll burn it!) It’s like cooking polenta or risotto, constant stirring.  This is to be done until the gelling point is reached (220 F at sea level–never happens w/ my marmalade). I cooked for an hour, then gave up (this produced 5 1/2 pints). Same canning instructions as for grapefruit marmalade.

We have 10 growing beds up front.  This one is poetically named “Bed 3.”

bed3_24jan09_smallUp front are some parsnips, behind which are Bibb lettuce and a few spinach plants (most of which were consumed by us for dinner the night of 1 March 2009). You’ll note these are under “bird netting”, if these plants had not been protected by netting, they would all have been consumed (as was the fate of the winter “snap peas” on the trellis at the rear of this same bed.  Most of the bed is occupied by a winter “cover crop”–fava beans.  On either side of the trellis are broccoli raab (or broccolini).  We’ve had some of these for dinner on 2 occasions, the rest are going to flower.  The cauliflower at the very back of the bed never “headed up.”  To my dismay. I realized the seed I had saved and grown these from, one “Snow Queen” variety, is a hybrid, which means you get a fairly useless plant from its seed!

This is a picture of our little orange tree (maybe just 3 feet tall) up front, as opposed to our huge orange tree (maybe 20 ft. or taller) out back, as it appeared on 15 February 2009, before I harvested about 8 oranges from it. little_orange_15feb09What to do with all these oranges?  Orange marmalade, of course!