I thought immediately of the year we came back from France, 2014. That was the year too when the Tour de France came to Yorkshire. We went Tour de France mad, and some people even decorated their houses in red spots in honour of the King of the Mountains.
I remembered Brian, the dog my elder daughter had. No dog is spottier than a Dalmatian.
I thought of a bubble-producer extraordinaire we met in London once, delighting children of all ages.
There was that extraordinary murmuration of starlings that took place over our house. It’s an annual treat round here. Thousands and thousands of starlings polka-dot the sky. And afterwards, leave the car spotted and dotted.
Or what about Seville orange trees with glowing orange fruits brightening the winter Spanish streets – and then lying discarded as the season ends: until we come along and bag up a kilo or two to transform into marmalade back at home?
But then I thought about spots and dots in the here and now. Spots and dots in England mean rain on the window, rain on the windscreen. So I begin and end my post with weather, English style.
But … one more thing. No rain = no welly-boots. No welly-boots = no cheery whimsical feature in a garden just down the road.
PS. Several of you have asked for a recipe. There are any number on the internet, but they are all similar to this one from The Cottage Smallholder. I saw a different recipe that suggested cardamom, so I have used this instead of cloves. And I only used 150 g. sugar. Also. Three years? Not a chance. We’ll be drinking ours at Christmas.
One of the joys of being in Valencia was walking down streets and through parks lined with orange trees. It’s orange season right now, so they were looking at their best. They’re bitter Seville oranges of course, the ones we use for marmalade. Juicy sweet ones would probably be too much of a temptation for passers-by.
Orange trees in Valencia.
Last Sunday though, when we were walking in the Turia, we spotted fallen fruit under many of the trees. A forager by nature, I couldn’t leave them there to rot. No, we had to gather them, so that when we returned home, we could have a very special souvenir of our holiday. Home-made marmalade, cooked from fruit gathered in Orange Central: Valencia.
Chopped and ready for the final bit of cooking.
I can’t show you the finished article. The marmalade is simmering on the stove as I type.
Every autumn we gather sloes from the hedgerows. Every autumn we make sloe gin, and lay it down for the Christmas of the following year. And every Christmas, we find ourselves sampling some of the hooch we made a mere three months previously.
With so little willpower at our command, what on earth has persuaded us to save a few bitter oranges from our annual marmalade making bonanza to concoct Seville orange gin this January? This recipe by Maria Dernikos admonishes us to make it, and leave well alone for three whole years. Good Lord, we might be dead by then.
Ready for action with gin and oranges.
It’s dead easy. All it needs is gin, the thinly pared zest from a few Seville oranges, a couple of cloves and lots of sugar. Bottle the lot, put in a cool dark place, and agitate daily till the sugar has dissolved.
After that, I think our only option is to try to forget all about it. And perhaps we could remember it just one month shy of the three-year requirement, and drink a small glass of it on Christmas Day 2020.
PS. With the juice from the pared Seville oranges, I made Seville orange curd. This recipe is a bit sweet for my taste so I added some lemon juice. Thanks Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall!