Thursday, January 12, 2012

A Dangerous Time of Year

Seville oranges have appeared at work and despite the fact that my freezer is still inconveniently full of last years haul (I thought I was on top of it until my mother came round with what feels like half a hundredweight more she'd been looking after for me) and I have many, many, jars of marmalade of increasingly unknown vintage hanging around the place I'm finding them hard to resist.

I came late to preserving - or perhaps it's not something one naturally turns to much before one's thirtieth year - but some time not long after then I started to develop an interest, by the time I was thirty five it was more like a passion, possibly when I hit forty it will be a full blown obsession. Meanwhile I'm still acquiring books on the subject, have taken to squirrelling away old jam jars (which friends and family now surrender as a matter of course), peruse the Lakeland Plastics catalogues with the same furtive enthusiasm that teenage boys (presumably still) hold for top shelf magazines, and am £50 away from a maslin pan to call my own.

The most recent book to join the fold is a reprint of what the cover assures me is Beryl Wood's classic 'Let's Preserve It'. It was a Christmas present from mum and I'm delighted with it; a proper A-Z of mostly jams, jellies, marmalades, and chutneys with side lines in the way of vinegars, pickled walnuts, and preserved lemons. So far I've only browsed so it may well be that there are all sorts of other good things in there. I'm strongly reminded of Niki Segnit's 'The Flavour Thesaurus' in the way that so many flavours are paired - it's an approach that I find endlessly beguiling and inspiring (although getting my friends to share my enthusiasm/eat the results of the more picturesque combinations can be an uphill struggle). 

I'm hoping I can resist the urge to buy more Sevilles, given that their season is a short one (only a few weeks) I may do all right and can concentrate on using up existing stores. Discovering a love of marmalade came about the same time as I discovered an enthusiasm for making it, both came like a bolt from the blue some time in 2006 - though even after my damascene moment there's only so much of it I can eat, mint and pineapple jelly however may be a different matter (quince and pumpkin jam however you can probably keep). This is a fascinating little book for the light it shines on previous generations of careful preservers (many of the recipes clearly have a venerable provenance) as well as for world of flavours it's suggesting to me. The instructions are brief to the point of economy so it's perhaps not the best book for a new initiate to the dark arts of preserving but otherwise it shows every sign of being indispensable. 

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