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Oranges: a fermented chipotle salsa; a sour pickle with fenugreek and mustard; a scrap vinegar beauty cure; and dried orange peels for many uses…

The cold and the dark and sometimes a feeling of being defeated and overwhelmed, that can be what deep winter is like for me.

Then, before you know it, beautiful globes in all shades of orange announce themselves on shop shelves, and it’s time to think “What do you want to do this year with oranges, Annie?”

Well, I love marmalade, but I don’t want to be eating the buttered toast I also love with that marmalade, so better not go there.  (Last year I made these lovely orange-and-vegetable marmalades.) And I’d just read this enticing Sybil Kapoor Chilli Marmalade recipe.

I remembered making Sybil Kapoor’s Orange Chilli Vodka Cake, a marvellous. rock-a-birthday-party contribution, sticky and spicy and surprising– one of life’s great cakes, truly.

So with all the recent fermenting of chilli sauces, the harissa, the salsa, the red and yellow and green sauces, I thought– let myself be inspired by this Ms. Sybil Kapoor and make…

Fermented Orange Chilli Salsa

  • 4 organic oranges, juiced
  • zest of 1/2 an orange, grated
  • one fresh red chilli
  • two dried chillis
  • 0ne yellow 0r red capsicum pepper f0r body
  • 2 dried chipotle (wanted the smoky thing happening)
  • a handful of fennel seeds
  • one tablespoon sea salt
Roughly chop the fresh and dried chillis and peppers, throw in the fennel seeds and grated zest. Push to the bottom of the jam jar.  Add your salt to the orange juice, and cover the pepper mixture.  Weight down the peppers (I use small doll’s plates; here’s lots of clever solutions.) In a week’s time at room temperature, fermenting will have begun.
Puree everything, and the texture is salsa-like, the taste sour, bitter, sweet, floral, smokey all at once.
I swirled it deliciously in a carrot-squash soup.  I see it as well as a great accompaniment for pork or duck or pheasant too–  greasy, gamey flavours that want some cutting.  With the romance of that floral.  If I were meat eating.
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I do enjoy making condiments….
and so was inspired to experiment with…
Preserved Seville Oranges in Salt
  • 7 Seville Oranges, which are so apparently an old variety, the way the pips stay tucked and hidden in the flesh, a quality modern breeders would be seeking to breed out…
  • extra oranges and lemons for juice as needed
  • 7 1/2 teaspoons sea salt (one for each orange and “one for the pot”) — as per Preserved Lemons
  • a tablespoon of fenugreek seeds, ground up
  • a tablespoon of mustard seeds

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Juice and pulp the Sevilles as much as possible, removing seeds (which are great for pectin if you need more for your preserves).  Slither the rinds. Mix with salt and spices (chilli would be great too but I’m exhibiting an occasional reserve!).

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Press down your mixture as tightly as possible in an appropriate size jar.  Cover with the juice, adding extra as needed, and weighting down your solid matter so it is not exposed to air.  Check that the fruit remains under the juicy salty brine.  (The pectin in the seeds and rind creates a gelatinous gel after the first few days; I add additional juice to keep the preserve moist in this stage.)

Let it sit.  After a week you can really feel the changes happening.  Keep it somewhere cool.  Once it has properly fermented and soured, you can add a little oil to give it the feel on an Indian Pickle, like Lime Pickle…  Last time I used Grapeseed Oil. This time, maybe I’ll just use Olive Oil, though a friend suggested Avocado Oil, if I could find it anywhere nearby…  This preserve lasted for two years, only getting better with time.

This pickle is delicious with South Asian food, curries (sorry, Odd Pantry!), with cheese and greasy meaty things if you eat them– any where you’d use a chutney or pickle.  Peanut Butter? Hummous?  That kind of thing. No, I’m not pregnant.

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And what to do with the bits that remain?

As a compulsive scrap vinegar maker, how could I not attempt something with the membranes and odd bits of these precious Sevilles?  Put ’em in a jar with a little sugar or honey, and cover with water.  Stir to integrate air (vinegar bacteria loving air, vs lactic-acid ones)…  A week on, I’ve got something bitter and sour and citrusy, reminiscent of that grapefruit seed gel one is (well, was) prescribed for Candida.  The fermenting pulp strikes me as a great source of Alpha-Hydroxy beauty mask, and indeed, I put some on my skin and it looks rejuvenated (not kidding). A friend tells me though it’s important to wash it thoroughly off as citrus can make one’s skin photo-sensitive.  I’m wondering if my daughter would like the vinegar, once I’ve strained it after a proper (3 weeks?) waiting,  as a kind of adolescent-skin clarifying preparation, on a cotton wad removing the day’s detritus.  My poor children/ my lucky children– that’s up for grabs.  And if it all goes wrong I’m confident I’ll at least have some amazing DIY cleaning agent for greasy pans or acrid clogged drains….

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I was also really inspired by Zero Waste Chef drying orange peel for her homemade Chai blend, though I may try drying and grinding and see if I get a powder that might be useful somehow… in a custard? in a spice blend? We’ll see.

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