Tag Archives: Spain

Make your own marmalade

20150106_170946 (1)A calming January marmalade-making session is a good antidote to the mayhem of Christmas and New Year. Put the radio on, get peeling, slicing and simmering, and fill your house with the distinctive bittersweet aroma.

We buy our Seville oranges from Ave Maria Farm in Mairena del Alcor near Seville, which is run by Amadora and her two daughters. They produce wonderfully gnarly, knobbly, thick-skinned fruit with the incredible aroma and unusually high pectin content that make them so valued. There have been orange groves on their 60 hectare farm since 1867 and they were the first orange farm to be awarded organic status in Andalucia. Riverford founder Guy Watson visited them in 2011 and was hugely impressed by the crops and wildlife on the farm, not to mention the energy and orange-devotion of Amadora and her family!


Seville Orange Marmalade Recipe
We’ve won awards for our marmalade, which is made to this recipe. You could substitute in a few of our glorious blood oranges to get a rich, caramel-coloured preserve or use our incredibly perfumed bergamot lemons to really crank up the aromatics.

Guy’s tips:

  • Make sure the pan is big enough – if it is too full it will boil over and all that sugar will be a nightmare to clean off your cooker
  • When you are dissolving the sugar, don’t heat it too vigorously as it will catch on the bottom and you will end up with burnt marmalade – not tasty.
  • Don’t boil it too for long; if you go past the setting point you will end up with jars of concrete!
  • Skim off any scum before potting up to get a clearer set.
  • Let the marmalade stand for 15 mins before jarring – this will stop the fruit from settling at the bottom of the jar.

makes 6 jars, prep 30 mins, cook 3 hrs

1.5kg seville oranges
2 lemons
2.5l cold water
approx 2kg granulated sugar
a large pan
muslin
string
sterilised jars
screw top lids or wax discs
cellophane covers
elastic bands

 

  1. With a sharp knife, peel the skin from the oranges and lemons, leaving as much white pith on the fruit as possible. Chop the peel into 3mm strips and put in a large pan.
  2. Line a large bowl with a piece of muslin, leaving plenty to overhang the sides of the bowl. Cut the oranges and lemons in half. With your hands, squeeze the juice from the fruit over the bowl, dropping the leftover squeezed fruit (pith, pips and flesh) into the muslin.
  3. Lift the muslin out of the bowl, gather the sides and squeeze any remaining juice into the bowl. Tie the muslin together with string to keep the fruit in and form a bag.
  4. Place the muslin bag in the saucepan with the peel. Add the squeezed fruit juice and 2.5 litres cold water to the pan.
  5. Heat until boiling, then reduce the heat and simmer for 2 hours, until the peel is tender. Put a few saucers in the fridge to chill.
  6. Remove the muslin bag and squeeze all the sticky juice from the bag into the pan. (An easy way to do this is to put the bag in a colander and use a spoon to press it out).
  7. Measure the contents of the pan in a jug (include the shreds and liquid). Return to the pan and add 450g sugar for every 500ml liquid.
  8. Gently heat for 15 minutes, until the sugar crystals have dissolved. Increase the heat and boil rapidly for 15 minutes.
  9. Test that the marmalade has reached setting point by putting a teaspoon of the liquid on a cold saucer and gently pushing with the back of the spoon. If the liquid starts to wrinkle, setting point has been reached. If no wrinkling happens, keep boiling and re-test every 10 minutes. Turn off the heat as soon as you reach setting point.
  10. Skim any scum from the surface. Leave the mixture to stand for 15 minutes. Stir gently, then carefully spoon into warmed sterilised jars (use a jam funnel if you have one). If using screw top lids, put the lids on while the marmalade is still hot and turn upside down for 5 minutes to sterilise the lids (or boil the lids for a few minutes and leave to dry before use). If using cellophane, put a wax disc on the marmalade while warm, then seal with cellophane and an elastic band.

Buy ingredients for making your own marmalade here.

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Guy’s newsletter: competition, collaboration & car manufacture

Last week we were visited by some of our growers from Andalucia. For years they’ve produced veg for us that we can’t grow at home without heating with fossil fuels. As I approached Pepe, who this year has grown the spinach and asparagus which precedes the UK crop, I extended my hand with typical English reserve, only to be pulled into an extended Andalusian embrace. After six years, what started as a trading relationship has developed into a lasting friendship; one that’s benefited us and our box customers and will, I expect, see one or both of us into retirement.

The contrast couldn’t be greater with our (now long past) annual trips to supermarket HQ: having scrubbed up for the nightmare session of abuse from a buyer, the visit would start with the ritualistic humiliation of a two-hour wait (calculated to soften you up) before finally we would be summoned to meet the latest testosterone-charged buyer. Thankfully, that was fifteen years ago, but I gather things at some supermarkets haven’t changed much.

Does business have to be done like this? After thirty years of trying to find an efficient and courteous alternative I have reluctantly come to the conclusion that competition is pretty good at driving innovation and improvement. Brutal as it sounds, if you don’t have the incentive to find a way of both doing what you have to do today, and doing it a little bit better tomorrow, it’s only a matter of time before someone else does and your number is up.

This is not to accept that short term, cut-throat deal making is the best way. A school friend has spent his working life making parts for the automotive industry. I’m always amazed to hear how the larger car manufacturers, having selected a partner, invest heavily in making the relationship work, in the long run and for both parties. Car manufacture must be one of the most competitive and sophisticated industries in the world; it is heartening that there, like Pepe and me, they have reached the conclusion that building and maintaining relationships is critical to long term success.

Guy Watson

Ben’s wine blog: Dominio de Punctum’s Finca Fabian

Ben took a trip to Spain to meet the producers of an organic wine that’s head and shoulders above the rest.

Fernandez family

The Fernandez family

When I first tasted Dominio de Punctum’s Finca Fabian wine three years ago I marked their card several levels above the standard, entry level, Spanish organic wine. The problem was that the same applied to the price. However, where there’s a will there’s a way, so by importing pallet loads direct from the vineyard and twisting the arm of the UK agent, we’ve been able to get the price down to £6.99 – the same as the infinitely inferior wines we were stocking before. I like our Finca Fabian wines so much that I thought I’d better pay them a visit.

Doing the right thing

My first thought was that here’s another rich man learning how to make a small fortune from a big one, but I was wrong. It’s a well thought out, properly funded family business. Until ten years ago it was a typical grape farm selling their produce to the local co-op for next to nothing. Bulk wine from the region sells for 0.25 euros a litre.

The Fernandez family thought they could do better and so father and three siblings set about doing it in a business-like way. The fact that Jesus Fernandez, who showed me around could probably sell sand to an Arab certainly didn’t do any harm. There was also a reassuring commitment to doing the right thing, not just farming organically and biodynamically (they’re certified for both) but also employment and social responsibility. It was definitely a happy place.

The vineyard

Dominio de Punctum

The Fernandez’s harvest

The wines speak for themselves. Harvest had just finished and most of the 2014 was happily bubbling away, while the Chardonnay has nearly finished its secondary, malolactic fermentation. Delicious. I don’t like winespeak but sometimes you have to – unoaked, fresh tropical fruits with a lovely slightly creamy mouthfeel. Why we’re all rushing to buy Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio, when you can match this with virtually any light food, is a mystery.

The rosé/rosado is so classically French that it’s freed us up to stock the slightly fruitier, New World style, strawberry flavoured L’Estanquet as our second rosé from France. It’s a funny old world.

The Tempranillo is equally good. It’s clean, well made and with enough tannin and structure to stand up to heavier foods.

There’s far more to come from Dominio de Punctum, including a lightly sparkling frizzante, so watch this space.

Ben’s wine blog: The wine in Spain comes mainly from the plain and by Jove we’ve got it!

Spain, once European viticulture’s poor cousin, land of Don Simon tetrapak and worse, has woken from the dead. Drive south from Madrid to Granada and you ill still see the industrial stainless steel wineries of Valdepeñas, but elsewhere, in the north and east, vine growing and winemaking has taken giant leaps forward.

Unheard of regions from Rías Baixas in the North West to Yecla and Jumilla in the South East, are fast upping the ante to compete with old favourite Rioja and sleeping giants; Penedès, Rueda and Ribera del Duero.

ben-spain

A new beginning for Spanish wine

The land is cheap in Spain, and rather than grubbing up old vines it’s easier to plant new ones. Now many of the old, abandoned vineyards are being restored, and with judicious irrigation, are producing grapes with real character. It might be hot, but it’s also high. Around the south east of La Mancha many of the vineyards are 700 meters plus which makes for near perfect conditions – sundrenched days and cool nights.

We’ve been having a good look at our range of Spanish wines and have decided to start afresh. There’s so much out there to choose from, we thought it would be better to start with a clean sheet…

Sebastian’s Story

One of our favourite wines, Marsilea Verdejo, is from the mountains, 900 m above Valencia. It’s the apple of vineyard owner, Sebastian’s eye, cherished and nurtured for years before he got it off the ground. Winemaking the Riverford way.

wine-white-marsilea6

Sebastian’s family came back to Spain after 30 years in Germany. On their return they set up a small business and slowly started buying some of the land around them. It wasn’t long before Sebastian started planting vines, his passion for wine meant he had a clear idea about what he wanted to achieve and a dream that one day he would have his own wine cellar and a wine made by his family.

He started out making wines in his garage after studying viticulture.  Slowly the business grew, as he tended to his vineyards, in his own words, like they were his children. His respect for the plants and the surrounding countryside meant that farming organically was an obvious choice from the word go.

Sebastian’s wine is a great match for fish and poultry but works equally well as an aperitif, with crunchy vegetable crudités and tapas.  It’s described as having notes of ‘crisp green apples with soft, creamy, nutty overtones, and hints of honey’, but I’m sure you can make your own mind up.

winery

guy’s weekly new: asparagus, optimism & relief

A cool May has restrained the flowering urges of our purple sprouting broccoli, leeks and cauliflower, giving us the bonus of an extra two to three weeks’ picking. With the barns empty and the last of 2012’s crops ploughed over, we can finally say our annus horribilis is over. Hurrah! I haven’t been happier to see a plough in a field since I ploughed in my first disastrous strawberry crop back in the 80s. I remember whooping from the tractor seat. 

Looking forward, most of spring has gone well. There has been enough dry weather to create good seed beds and plant in the right conditions, with rain for germination and establishment. The persistent cold means that most crops are running two to four weeks late, but the prevailing feeling among growers is one of optimism: a strong, healthy crop is the best way to banish memories of last year. This week sees the first Devon-grown little gems, wet garlic, pak choi, salad onions and salad leaves in the boxes. The cold has meant a slow start to our asparagus and rhubarb season. Asparagus is a hard crop for organic growers: all the weeding has to be paid for from a very short harvesting season, which ends in late June to allow the plant to recharge its roots. Two weeks lost at the beginning will be hard to make up. Rhubarb loves cool, damp weather and we are now into the thick of the crop. It will be available to add to your order and occasionally in the boxes through to the end of July.

As I type, my son is grilling me about us pre-empting the UK season with asparagus from Pepe, our grower near Granada in Spain. When did this seventeen year old become such a purist? Logically, based on carbon footprint, I have no trouble defending working with Pepe. He is a small, highly committed grower, cultivating the same fields farmed by his family for generations, which are irrigated using snow melted from the mountain surrounding his farm. We like him and the quality is always good, but is there something iconic about English asparagus? Should we make you wait? Thoughts to spanishasparagus@www.riverford.co.uk/blog or comment on here.

Guy Watson

a little help from our spanish friends

With continuing cold weather holding back growth, combined with some crop losses from the extreme cold before Christmas, we are very short of homegrown greens, forcing us to import more than we would like at this time of year. We have plenty of roots in store and there will be purple sprouting broccoli, spring greens, cauliflower and leeks to come as soon as temperatures rise. In April and May, as we get into the ‘hungry gap’ (between the old and new season crops), our dependency on imports will inevitably rise again if we are to maintain variety and balance in the boxes.

Rather than buy on the open market, our aim is to work as closely with our Spanish and Italian growers as we do with our local co-op. Most crops are now grown to a program by growers we like and trust, with a long-term commitment to organic growing that is based on values and beliefs, as well as commercial gain. Building these relationships takes time: time trading together and doing in practice what we said we would in theory, time in the fields, time around a table eating and normally time in a bar. Last week I took a trip to visit the growers in Andalucía.

First stop was Ave Maria near Seville, where Amodora and her two daughters have been growing Seville oranges organically since 1986. You couldn’t get much more organic than their orchards and with a cupboard full I can vouch that their oranges make the best marmalade. You probably have another two weeks to get boiling before the season is over; see our website for a recipe, to order a kit and for a video clip to guide you.
Next was Pepe who grows spinach, onions and garlic, but most of all asparagus (in the boxes late February to late April) in a fertile valley north of Granada, when he is not hang gliding in the hills that surround his farm.

Paco and his groups of growers on the coast near Motril grow tomatoes, peppers, green beans, lettuce, cucumbers and much more in some wonderfully fertile soils where, unusually for Andalucía, there is plenty of water. The broccoli in some of the boxes has been coming from Las Hondonaras; a co-op in another fertile valley east of Granada.

Guy Watson from Riverford in Devon

better business

Riverford Organic Farm AsparagusAs a grower in the 90s, when supermarkets first started selling organic produce, I got used to regular abuse from ambitious supermarket buyers with no knowledge of or interest in vegetables, let alone farming. Quite apart from the unpleasantness, the relentless pursuit of short-term profit and resulting lack of trust made it impossible to develop a business that could deliver genuine value in the long run. The experience left me with the conviction that there had to be a better and more enjoyable way of doing business. The box scheme gave us and our fellow growers and suppliers the opportunity to find it; for that I am very grateful to you all.

When we met earlier this month for our annual gathering of growers, there was much discussion about flavour and avoiding unnecessary waste, packaging, excessive transport and risk. One key theme is to ensure that our standards, specifications and prices are reasonable and reflect the messages we get from you; flavour is more important than cosmetic perfection. The lamentable decline in flavour of fruit and veg is a direct result of the search for consistency, 52 week continuity, cosmetic perfection, cheapness and shelf life demanded by supermarkets. Better flavour often means taking risks; but growers will only take a risk if they trust us not to castigate them if things go wrong.

Paco Sanchez - Riverford grower

Paco Sanchez - one of our Spanish growers

Our best suppliers tend to be the ones we know best. In recent years we have worked with a small group of growers in Spain, Italy and a few further afield. Paco Sanchez on the Spanish coast grows wonderful peppers, cucumbers, avocados and beans. His eternal optimism and boundless enthusiasm means that he is always trying new varieties and crops. We love him and he loves the box scheme. Up the coast near Murcia, Gines grows most of the oranges in the boxes through winter. He thinks he can do even better using different varieties, including more of the blood oranges and by focusing on the very best time for picking each variety. Inland, near Granada, the hugely energetic, bike riding, paragliding Pepe grows the asparagus that will be in the boxes until ours starts. There are so many great stories to tell but yet again I have run out of room.

Guy Watson


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