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.

Note: this makes a very sweet, unctuous syrup which can be diluted.

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.

My first Black Sapote fruit …

I’m only going to mention it one more time … we had the summer from HELL. But then the weather turned cooler, we had a minor flood and everything returned to normal.

Remarkably my garden survived on half the usual amount of water, which probably means that I have, in the past, overwatered. A lesson learnt.  Some more fragile plants succumbed whilst others like the Black Sapote toughed it out and even fruited tentatively for the first time.

Not knowing a lot about sapotes, I now realise that I harvested the fruit a little early. Instead of taking 7-10 days to turn black, it took nearly a month. And I wasted a few by cutting them open prematurely.  You pick the fruit whilst still green but slightly yellow, and when the calix starts to lift. Then you have to wait until the whole fruit turns black and feels mushy all over when you squeeze it – in fact when it reaches the stage that you would normally throw fruit in the compost – it’s perfect!

As each fruit ripened, I scooped out the pulp and stored it in the freezer until I had enough to make a batch of ice-cream.

I will shortly be posting my recipe variations for Black Sapote ice-cream, or mousse for those of you who don’t have an ice-cream machine, or can’t be bothered waiting!

 

Lilly Pilly time …

Three years ago I turned a section of the garden into a small native plantation, hoping to cut down on erosion and mowing, and to provide a bit of extra bird habitat.  Unsurprisingly, this year ALL the Lilly Pillys flowered and fruited abundantly and I panicked and was forced to pop several kilograms of fruit in the freezer.

Way too much fruit
Way too much fruit

To process the Lilly Pillys, first you leave the container outside on its side for a few hours to give the insects a chance to escape … especially the ones that bite.

Let the insects escape
Let the insects escape

Then you rinse them and pick out the rubbish – stems, leaves and bruised fruit etc…

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Then you either pop them in the freezer for later use, or …

You make Lilly Pilly Gin (of course!) Give them a quick blast in the food processor, and then put them in a glass jar with a bottle of reasonable quality gin.

Now I have to wait for a few weeks for the Lilly Pillies to infuse their colour and taste. Which will give me time to research Lilly Pilly cocktails …

 

Queen of the Night …

It’s been good news almost daily since New Year’s Day …

The Rain God smiled, and instead of useless sprinkles, we’ve had decent heavy showers, bringing the total this year to just over 60mm of garden saving rain.

Almost as exciting as the rain has been my very first Queen of the Night flower. This plant is technically a cactus but doesn’t seem to have a problem with Bellingen’s bouts of extreme humidity.

Nearly ready to flower
Nearly ready to flower

Each flower lasts for just one night, so if you forget to go out after dark to check, you miss it completely.

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This must surely be one of nature’s most spectacular flowers and well worth a nocturnal walk. These photos were taken with a torch and an iPhone in the drizzle. With the proper photographic equipment you’d be able to see just how delicate and impressive the flowers are.

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The next morning it’s all over, the flower has closed, and that night it starts to shrivel.

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The flower closes at first light

 

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The next evening it starts to droop and shrivel

 

 

World’s Smallest Bananas ?

Bananas (and Paw Paws) are gross feeders and drinkers, so if you’ve got a boggy spot in your garden, they are the perfect thing to plant. However, when the rain stops and the town goes on to Level 3 water restrictions – you have a problem.

My Musa Pisang Ceylon banana, fruiting for the first time this year, started spring with the most magnificent inflorescence I have ever seen, and I was hopeful of a bounteous crop. But a hot gusty wind bent the already dehydrated trunk over and my hopes were dashed.  I ended up with hands of what might be the world’s smallest bananas.

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Musa Pisang Ceylon inflorescence

I was quite surprised when one by one they started ripening, and they turned out to be the sweetest bananas I had ever tasted. Not wanting to waste them, I revisited one of my old posts from back in “the dreamtime” when we used to have regular floods and rainfall of between 1,500 and 3,000 mm per annum!

The banana bread recipe I linked to my old post no longer exists, so here is a link to my recipe which I have modified slightly to reduce the rather horrifying sugar content of the original. Still just as nice and with a rich caramel taste.

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Spring disappointment …

It’s been a disappointing spring. The first two months being colder than usual, and November so far being hot and windy. Coupled with almost no rain, the result has been fewer than usual spring blooms.  Native bees do not appreciate this sort of weather.

After two months of impatient waiting, I finally allowed myself to check the honey super  on my native beehive – to discover no honey and a partially blocked hole. My local bee advisor suggests that they are not ready to fill the honey pot yet and that I need to wait impatiently for another couple of months.

Hoping the holes mean that they will fill the pot later?
Hoping the holes mean that they will fill the pot later?
In the meantime, just so there’s no doubt that I’m running a bee friendly garden, I’ve named my garden “maam dungaarrgundi” which means “place of bees” in the local indigenous Gumbaynggirr language. Native bees are welcome, stingless or otherwise.

Maam dungaarrgundi - place of bees in Gumbaynggirr
Maam dungaarrgundi – “place of bees” in Gumbaynggirr
A lack of flowers doesn’t stop the native bees from keeping up with the housekeeping – the Poo Patrol regularly brings out rubbish in the form of little pellets.  So I decided to do some housekeeping of my own. Thinking that the Bee Motel that I created several years ago had been all but abandoned, I moved it to a shadier spot and then decided to clean out the nest holes. Ooops – I very nearly killed a pretty Homalictus bee which emerged spluttering and covered in dust.  Thankfully, the rest of the holes only contained little dead bodies.

The European bees are busy in the pecan catkins, and hover flies are still around, but I’m not holding out much hope for a good native bee season unless we get some meaningful rain.  All very disappointing.

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European bee in pecan catkins

 

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Hover fly on salvia