The cabbage experiment …

For the last week, my house has smelt like a sauerkraut factory. In fact, unless you are partial to the smell of boiled cabbage, the word you would probably use would be stink rather than smell.  The aroma of stale boiled cabbage is NOT nice.

What was supposed to be a quick eco-dyeing experiment with Purple Cabbage, iron and eucalyptus leaves, turned into a week long obsession quite by accident. On discovering that I had run out of plain cotton fabric to insert between the layers of fabric and leaves, I decided to improvise by inserting sheets of ordinary copy paper before wrapping it around bamboo and simmering it in a pot of cabbage water and iron.

I expected that the paper would be a soggy mess destined for the compost pile, but no, there were some really lovely outlines of leaves on a soft aqua background …

So then of course I was hooked. I had to continue, with different weights of paper – 80gsm, 110gsm and 250gsm, and fresh leaves, dried leaves and leaves soaked in iron water. Endless possibilities.

At the same time, and in the same pot, I was trying fresh and dry Eucalyptus citriodora leaves on linen …

And some unidentified dry eucalyptus leaves on Raw Silk

Every morning I bounded out of bed to see what unbundling suprises awaited me. But eventually, I had to stop, clear everything away, and simmer some citriodora leaves for a few hours to get rid of the stale cabbage aroma.  I’ll be at it again as soon as I’ve caught up with my garden jobs.

Burnt Citrus Syrup recipe …

I have recovered from my tasting session – so here is the printable recipe from my previous post

Ingredients

  • You will need a selection of sweet and sour citrus – orange, mandarin, cumquat, grapefruit, blood orange, lemonade fruit etc – this is a great way to use up ugly, misshapen or blemished citrus.
  • A selection of herbs and spices, for example – coriander seeds, rosemary, cinnamon sticks, black peppercorns, cloves (not too many), star anise (ditto)
  • Two or three large wide mouthed jars – sterilised with boiling water
  • Enough sugar syrup to fill the jars and cover the burnt citrus. There are plenty of recipes for sugar syrup on the internet. I used two parts sugar to one part water dissolved over low heat. Warm the syrup when you are ready to fill the jars.
  • Optional – ½ tsp each of Tartaric Acid and Citric Acid for each jar to help preserve the fruit.

Method

  • Chop the citrus into chunks, pop them on some baking paper in a large roasting pan and sprinkle over the herbs and spices.
  • Slow roast them in the oven at 130C (260F) for four to five hours. It will look a bit like a baking disaster but never fear, it’s all good.
  • Allow to cool and then split the citrus pieces and herbs roughly evenly into the sterilised jars. Add the Tartaric and Citric acid, fill with warm sugar syrup, seal and wait for one month. This is the hardest part.
  • Spoon the syrup and a piece of citrus into your glass and add sparkling wine, gin and tonic or just plain sparkling water for a mocktail. Unless you like crunchy spices in your drink I would suggest leaving them out.
  • Eat the sozzled piece of citrus when you have finished your drink.

Notes: This makes a very sweet, unctuous syrup which can be diluted. The citrus pieces will probably only last for a few drinks after which they will become a bit soggy and you’ll need to throw them out.  Prolong the life of the syrup by storing it in the fridge.

Warning: This is completely deadly when combined with alcohol – so be careful!

Burnt Citrus syrup …

OMG – I’ve died and gone to heaven …
I’ve just tried my first batch of home-made Burnt Citrus Syrup and it tastes fabulous.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. About a month ago, I lunched at Popla, a new Bellingen restaurant, where I tried their home-made Chinotto Mocktail.  It was spicy, sour, sweet, smoky, citrus and delicious.  It set me thinking about an Italian soft drink I had tried when I was young.  So I tracked down a bottle of Chinotto and tried it – it was truly HORRIBLE!  When I looked at the ingredients, I discovered that it was entirely made of chemicals – not even a trace of the Chinotto orange after which it is named.

Surely with my abundance of ugly, misshapen citrus, I could do better?

After a few minutes searching on the internet, I had enough information to give it a go. You need sweet and sour citrus – I used orange, mandarin and cumquat with a few bought, locally grown pink grapefruit. For the spices I used coriander seeds, rosemary, cinnamon sticks, black peppercorns, cloves (sparingly) and star anise (also sparingly).  I chopped the citrus into chunks, popped them on some baking paper in a large roasting pan and sprinkled over the herbs and spices.

Then I slow roasted them in the oven at 130C (260F) for four to five hours. Your kitchen will smell wonderful, but the result will look a bit like a baking disaster. Never fear, it’s all good.

I allowed the citrus to cool and then split it into three wide mouthed sterilised jars, filled them with sugar syrup and waited for one month. This is the hardest part.

Then it’s tasting time … try the syrup in sparkling wine, with gin, soda or tonic water. Pop a piece of the burnt citrus in the bottom of your glass and eat it at the end when it’s a bit sozzled.  Amazing and a little bit deadly.  Tasting is quite strenuous so excuse me, I need a little nap …  after which I will post the full recipe.

Hibernation dyeing …

I can’t believe that it’s two months since I last posted something on my blog.  My excuse is that I hate cold weather and I have a tendency to hibernate over winter, only venturing forth on nice sunny days to prune something before scurrying back to the fire.

Winter hasn’t been entirely unproductive though.  Two of my eco-dyed scarves won a prize at the Bellingen Agricultural Show. It’s not exactly the Sydney Show but who cares!

I made up an “artist’s book” of my paper and fabric dyeing successes (and failures)  for display at our local library…

The display was mounted by the Mixed Up Art group as part of Readers & Writers week. The group held a bookbinding workshop in May, and whilst my bookbinding/sewing skills would benefit from some (a lot) more practice, the book held together and much to my surprise was featured in our local paper.

On rainy days, I have been experimenting with leaves gathered from the garden and on my morning walks.  Some leaves were disappointing – yielding absolutely no colour – but others such as Ornamental Maple and Native Tulipwood rewarded me with soft silhouettes, Geranium varied leaf by leaf, steamed Purple Carrot worked well,  but sometimes the bundle wrapping was more successful than the fabric piece.

The “compost experiment” failed primarily because I forgot about it.  By the time I dug it out of my compost heap, the bugs had munched on the silk and the bacteria had broken down the fibres.  Note to self: write a reminder in your diary!

One of my experiments using Native Tulipwood leaves on Habotai silk which was then dipped in a purple cabbage and iron bath – was particularly successful.  Depending on whether the cabbage is permanent or fugitive, this scarf may be a contender for next year’s Bellingen Show.  It’s all a bit of fun …