Thursday, 1 March 2012

Beetroot marmalade

I like making things to eat but I also like making things to cook with. I make my own stock when I have bones, for example, and I buy certain fresh herbs to dry - living in a flat has its limitations and with no garden or balcony I can't grow my own but a greengrocer I use sells huge branches of fresh bay leaves for a quid that invariably end up in a kilner jar.

There's a few other ingredients I make when I have time, space and need. I'll be sharing these whenever I rustle up a fresh batch of something. Look for the "extras" tag if you want to do a search.

The original recipe for this was given to me by a woman called Pat I "met" on a non-food website. She mentioned it in passing and I was intrigued enough to ask for more information. Her recipe was for industrial quantities and had slightly different spices. With a little tweaking, I came up with a version that makes enough to fill a largeish jar, the sort that dill pickles come in. This is delicious with hot roast lamb or game and also goes well with cold cuts. It's a great alternative to cranberry sauce or redcurrant jelly.

What you need:
1/4 pint white wine vinegar
2 tbsp raspberry vinegar
1 bay leaf
6 peppercorns
1 star anise
2 small strips orange peel (no pith)
Pinch of sea salt
A small packet of raspberry jelly
250g cooked beetroot

What to do:
Grate the beetroot coarsely into a dish and set aside. 

Put both vinegars and the spices in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Simmer for 10 minutes. Break up the raspberry jelly into cubes and put it into a heatproof jug. Strain the vinegar through a sieve into the jug and stir until the jelly is dissolved.

Add the grated beetroot and stir well. Check and adjust the flavour, with a little more, salt sugar or vinegar as needed. Pack the mixture into a sterilised jar. Top up the jar with boiling water to the top of the beetroot if needed. When it has cooled, seal the jar and pop it into the fridge to set firmly. Once opened keep it in the fridge.

Cook's tips: 
If you're not cooking your own beetroot, buy the vacuum-packed sort that is not preserved in vinegar - it's quite easy to find in supermarkets. Beetroot in vinegar is too sour for this. Beetroot stains everything it comes into contact with, including skin, so it's a good idea to wear latex gloves when grating it.

Sterilising glass jars is easy. Wash the jar and rinse thoroughly, heat the oven to 180C and pop the jar in for 20-30 minutes. Some people say you should put layers of newspaper on the oven shelf but I've never bothered. If you're sterilising more than one jar make sure they're not touching in the oven and if you're using a kilner jar, remove the rubber seal first. 

The jar needs to be hot when you fill it, so only take it out of the oven when you're ready to use it and be sure to rest it on a heatproof surface. Never put hot food into a cold jar or vice versa, unless you fancy cleaning up the mess after the jar has exploded and splattered its contents across the kitchen.

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