Garden to Table, Kitchen Preserves, Weekend Projects

Processing Homegrown Oranges & Orange Jam Uses

It’s been a bumper citrus season for all the citrus trees in my garden. I’ve been climbing Orange Everest trying to make the most of the organically grown fruit I’ve harvested so far, especially from my Washington Navel Orange tree.

This post is about the processing flow of a large orange harvest, and uses for the jam, rather than how to make orange jam.

Processing the Harvest

My family and I enjoy eating oranges fresh, so a very large amount are set aside for the fruit bowl in my strategy. With all four of us adults working from home while stay-at-home orders are in place here in Sydney, these are being enjoyed… fast. I usually have some grab-and-go peeled diced pieces and peeled full fruit in the fridge, as well as the ones in the fruit bowl.

This latest stage harvest meant I still had over thirty kilos to preserve in a way that helps us enjoy those oranges right through the year in different ways, until next flush.

My answer to this, was to make large amounts of what I call ‘Strong Orange’ and ‘Spicy Gourmet Orange’ jams, syrups, poached orange segments and flat freezer packs of juice, diced and segmented orange.

For those like myself with limited time for this, I recommend peeling all your oranges on a Friday night, and refrigerating them overnight. With that behind you, you then have the weekend days to do the more involved things like jam-making, with more focus and motivation. Remember to reserve some peel & seeds to include in your jam making if you’re not using pectin (most citrus jam recipes don’t).

I like to shave the best skins with a sharp peeler and either freeze or dehydrate them. When ever a recipe calls for zest or peel I have them to use.

I reserve all the skins and leftovers from processing, to produce a Jadam-style plant ferment for my garden. I’m still experimenting with citrus skins, they’re the hardest to get back into the garden in a plant-usable form. My goal is for all parts of the fruit I harvest to be used by us, or be returned to the garden.

Preserving the Harvest

Jam making doesn’t have to be hard, but it can get dangerous if you’re not totally focussed and always present. Be careful with your safety and keep small children out of the kitchen, because nasty scalds from hot sticky jam (that can’t be removed quickly from the usual cold water burn treatment) are possible, if you’re not on your game.

Know beforehand that you have enough storage jars and towels to handle hot transfers of jam. Then sterilise your jars and equipment. Always be wary that when preserving any food you are trying to eliminate and reduce the risk of dangerous bacteria and mould having any chance of invading that food. I refrigerate most of my preserves as an extra precaution. I also follow storage advice or seek it when using any recipe.

My ‘flow’ started with Vanilla Poached Orange segments using Martha Stewart’s Recipe. I had some left-over syrup after bottling them into jars, so I will be using the delicious syrup to pour over a tea-cake ‘citrus syrup cake’ style or flavour plain carbonated water from my Soda Stream.

I then moved onto juicing so I could reserve the pulp for the jam, because No Waste is my jam! I used a very efficient food processor to do this, making flat freezer packs of juice, diced & segmented fruit. You could do it by hand with a small serrated knife, which makes segmenting easier in my experience. The segments can be used for topping fancier desserts. All can be used as the orange component in future recipes, in fruit salads, or eaten alone as a frozen treat for summer days.

I then started making my jam by using whole fruits processed into smaller pieces, as we prefer smooth jam, without orange peel. I am experienced enough in jam making to eye-ball my amounts, but Sally Wise’s A Year in a Bottle Orange Marmalade, page 95 is a great guide. Keyword search Orange Marmalade or Orange Jam recipes online, and make sure you seek one with or without the peel included according to your preference. Vintage cookbooks are also great sources of recipes and hints when building your skills.

When I make orange jam I make two versions. Strong Orange, where I replace some of the water with orange juice and lime juice. That gives it a more concentrated orange taste. I also make Spicy Orange jam which is my gourmet version. I sprinkle ground cloves, cinnamon and a very small splash of brandy in the finished jam and stir, before bottling. These spices elevate the flavour and work so well with orange, adding an amazing taste to anything you add them to.

Uses of Orange Jam/Marmalade

So my latest harvest has led to 18 large jars of orange jam. That seems like a lot for one family until you think about the ways it can be used. These are some of the ways I use them constantly through the year, apart from the obvious on toast and in sandwiches. It’s a fridge-fixer extraordinaire.

Glazes: home made breads, pastries, donuts, lollies, syrup cakes, tarts and pies

Toppers: pancakes, ice-cream, yoghurt, custard, trifle, waffles, muesli, oats, toast, sandwiches

Flavourings: pan sauces, marinades, cocktails, BBQ sauces, batters, salad dressings, popsicles

Dipping Sauce: cheese platters, canapes, home-made dips

Fillers: crepes, thumbprint cookies, tarts, pastries, grilled cheese sandwiches, stuffed meats/fish

I hope this post has given you some ideas and hints on how to process, preserve and use the products you produce from your wonderful orange tree. I’d love to hear your ideas on this topic too, so please leave a comment if you have anything to add. Most importantly, enjoy Nature’s bounty.

Disclaimer… Please do your own research for your own needs and context. The author assumes no responsibility for any outcomes of anyone using this well researched and documented blog post. Enjoy processing and using your oranges and orange jam 🌸

Beginnings, journey, Nature, Garden Thoughts, Nature

Nature is a Maker

IMG_9812I was out in the garden looking at blossoms on the Washington Navel orange tree yesterday. It made me happy to breathe in the delicious citrus scent and see the beautiful shape of the blossoms. That’s the affect Nature can have on us if we slow down and notice.

But then I was thrilled at the next layer of delight. The bees and the noisy myna birds were in a frenzy over the sticky green centres of the orange blossoms. The sticky green centres are part of Nature’s design of flowers – their job is to be sticky enough to draw the birds and bees to their nectar, achieve pollination AND turn those pollinated flowers into oranges.

Nature makes a lot of stuff. Nature makes it look so easy!

Dare I say it probably is easy for Nature… but we make it hard for Us…and Nature.

Nature goes through a long process to make a Washington Navel orange. From the time the tree blossoms it can take seven to twelve months for the orange to ripen into an orange we can eat. In that time it has gathered strength, blossomed, been pollinated,  developed baby oranges all the way into massive oranges. Provided the tree receives enough water, food and sunshine. But during this seven to twelve months, it is many things to many creatures.

An orange tree provides shelter to birds, nectar to bees–food for baby bees and citrus essence for honey. The orange is an evergreen tree, but it’s old leaves shed gradually as they are replaced by new. These discarded leaves aren’t wasted. They provide food, shade and shelter for small creatures. Soil bacteria right up to lizard size creatures find what they need from under the tree. In this sense the tree makes much more than ‘just’ oranges.

Now if you know this little piece of information, you can understand why using chemical ‘this and that’ will make it hard for Nature. People are appalled (rightly so) at the beautiful animals photographed dead at the hands of humans, on hunting expeditions. Yet trillions of tiny creatures, insects, beautiful bees, soil creatures, lizards and frogs die, at those same appalled viewers hands, each year, because they don’t realise this is what happens. Chemical sprays and fertilisers kill many things to ‘save’ one thing. Please stop using them, for Nature’s sake. Bees die if they sting you–heads up, they want to live. So some healthy respect for what might make them feel threatened is what you need to keep in mind and then, don’t do it.

Nature is, by design, a Maker. We are proof of that. Nature not only saves things it makes others in the process. A Washington Navel tree in a Natural Garden will make oranges and homes plus food to birth many more things. A Washington Navel tree in a chemically controlled garden will just make oranges and probably suffer from increasingly worse disease along the way. This is because Nature wants to to be part of a wider family and using chemicals, kills or prevents the birth of many things, before they have chance to join that family and help the tree through its life.

So when you hear me use the term Natural Gardening, know that everything in my garden is geared to one thing. I aim to help not hinder Nature, to be a Maker.

Natural Gardening is about supporting Nature to do Her thing, without chemicals or synthetic fertilisers. In this way I can receive and design-in, the gifts She gives our family in healthy food, pretty surroundings and delightful experiences. We can all have this delight.

Nature is a Maker. Please help Her.

©Trish McGill 2018