Welcome back to Hen Corner, especially to new visitors since our recent feature in The Guardian.
Maybe I should have named this post ‘Upper Body Strength’? As this week is marmalade week and we started the process by collecting 18kg of bitter Seville Oranges from Chiswick High Street Market. I was just on my way home from meeting a Head Teacher at a Kensington school, to plan an exciting chicken project, and decided to get off the bus a bit early to check out the prices of this prized Spanish fruit that is only available for a couple of weeks a year. I’d already done my online research and knew how much it would cost to have them delivered as my local supermarket wasn’t stocking them, so when I discovered that these were less than half the price, I asked the stall holder for ‘as many as I could carry’.
He offered me a couple of carrier bags and I said ‘No, I want loads, can I buy a box?’, rather than dismantling his display, he appeared with a new full box weighing 18kg, ‘I’m sure I can carry that, it’s lighter than a sack of chicken feed’ ‘Where’s your car? I’ll help you…’ ‘No, I’m on the bus…’
I managed to get them home, with short rests every 100 yards or so, and am jolly pleased with my bargain (he gave me a very good ‘by the box’ price). I’m just working my way through the processing part now…. I’m nearly half way!
We’ve been making marmalade, that quintessential orange breakfast preserve, in England since the 17th century based on recipes passed down from Roman times. The firm bitter oranges of Seville are believed to make the best marmalade in the world due to their sharp flavour that complements the sugar and the high pectin for the perfect set. Whilst the oranges are grown in Spain, all the marmalade is produced here in England. You can’t even buy Seville oranges in Spain as they are all shipped over here allowing us to boil, chop, bubble and pot to store up a year’s worth of breakfast treats. As I write this, in fact all week, I’ve been reciting to myself a favourite AA Milne poem of my childhood…
‘The King asked the Queen and the Queen asked the dairymaid ‘Could we have some butter for the royal slice of bread?’ to which the old tired cow eventually replies ‘You’d better tell His Majesty that many people nowadays like marmalade instead.’ Well I like my marmalade on hot buttered toast, so sorry cow, we still need the butter…
We’ve developed a great recipe that simply adds 2 lemons and 2kg sugar to every kilo of oranges, each batch produces 10 jars of preserve which should leave us with a total of 180 jars of marmalade!
Now, this is not just for us as a family, do not fear dear dentist, as the marmalade is for sale through our micro bakery, market stall, courses and events. We have completely sold out of the preserves that we made last summer and autumn and love to work with the seasons as fruit and vegetables become available.
We have also sold out of our own honey, but are still able to supply fantastic local honey from some of our award winning bee keeper friends. If you haven’t tasted it yet, pop along to our micro bakery on a Friday and see how good it is.
We have been delighted to accept the invitation to bring our stall to the Fox Valentine Vintage & Craft Market in Hanwell on Saturday 13th February, they’ve given us a fab write up and we are planning to take all that is needed to give your loved one the perfect ‘Breakfast in Bed’… We will be baking four types of bread loaves (Rye, White, Seeded Malt and a 50/50 blend of wholemeal & white), three types of sweet buns (Almond, Cinnamon & Lateward) and of course our marvellous marmalade!
If you are in the area, come along between 1-6pm.
Our regular courses are continuing to be popular, we have a Bread: Sweet & Savoury course every month and our chicken courses start next month with Family Feathers and Fun! on 27th February. We have also been planning a few private bespoke courses for groups of friends, do get in touch if you like us to plan one for you.
- When we are not in the warm kitchen baking and boiling, we are in the cold crisp garden getting ready for spring.
- The bees are safely huddled together keeping warm, it should still be around 36c in the centre of the nest
- The chickens have grown lovely thick feathers to keep the cold out, hopefully they’ll start laying again next month
Jobs for this week:
- Brief the team that will be helping me cook breakfasts for local homeless men during this cold weather
- Order some new big compost bins to replace our rotten old ones
- Start bottling up our home brew of cider, perry and fruit wines…
Join us on the Journey!