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Lime Marmalade

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Lime Marmalade is my favourite preserve to make and is always delicious with a beautiful tang and slight bitterness, which all of the best marmalades have. Limes are plentiful right now and at the peak of their season in mid Autumn. My lime tree was bursting with fruit, and the crop was the best I’ve seen. Lime marmalade is relatively uncomplicated to make with no seeds to deal with, and a good one to start with if you haven’t made marmalade before. All you need is limes, sugar and water. I started with around a dozen limes, but you can successfully make lime marmalade with half that, and this recipe is very flexible. If you are a beginner, it is best to start with smaller batches, rather than one large one.
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Top and tail the limes, cut into half longways, and thinly slice. For Show work, you need to slice very finely. Put the lime slices in a large container, just cover with water and soak (covered) overnight or at least three to four hours.
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Next, put the limes and soaking liquid in a large pan, bring to the boil and simmer (covered) for an hour. This is an important step to soften the peel, which will not soften any further once you add the sugar.
If you want to be sure of how much sugar to add, test for pectin (1 teaspoon mixture to three teaspoons methylated spirits), and tip the mixture onto a white saucer. If you have large clots, add the sugar cup for cup. If smaller (which is unlikely as limes are rich in pectin), you should add less sugar, closer to 3/4 cup sugar to each cup of mixture. In this case I added the same amount of sugar to the pan as the lime mixture. Note: you will be adding a lot of sugar, but this is important as it preserves the mixture, and fortunately you only eat a small amount of the marmalade at at time!
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After adding sugar to the pan, add your candy thermometer (if you have one), and turn on the heat, ensuring that you allow the sugar to fully dissolve before it comes to the boil. At that point, boil the mixture rapidly until it comes to setting point, which is 104 degrees. The mixture at that point will come to a rolling boil, and will spit. You can also test for set using a small amount on a cold plate which will wrinkle, or use the spoon test, where the thickened mixture will “sheet” off the spoon. Watch the pan carefully at this point, as it will have a tendency to boil over. If this happens, when you are finished, add water to the spill and it is easy to clean up.
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When the mixture reaches setting point, take it off the heat and allow to sit for 15 minutes so that the peel will distribute evenly. Don’t leave it too long, or the marmalade will jell in the pan. After letting it sit, take your heated jug and sterilised and heated jars, and carefully pour the marmalade into each jar using oven mits and protection.
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Fill each jar to the top and seal immediately with the lid. image
Finish filling all of the bottles and don’t move them until they are cold, so that the marmalade can properly set in the jar. I made around a dozen bottles from this batch. If properly prepared and sterilised jars are used the marmalade will keep for 6-12 months. Enjoy!

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One more sleep until Cookery judging starts at the Brookfield Show!

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Did you know?

We have 650 entries each year in the Cookery Section of Brookfield Show from over 200 exhibitors. Each year, almost half of the exhibitors are new to the Show.
It takes seven judges to taste, prod and admire each entry. Each and every entry is tasted except for the decorated cakes and the eggs.
25 volunteer stewards assist in the Cookery, each with specialised skills from database management, to logistics, to display and marketing. Our experienced stewards expertly swing into action each year to assist with the judging and run the Pavilion. As our volunteers retire or move away, we welcome new stewards each year to join our group.
Brookfield Show Cookery is one of the largest of the non-Royal agricultural shows in Queensland. We are also one of the longest running Cookery Sections, and can trace back our roots to the Brookfield Country Market over 100 years ago.
There have only ever been four Chief Stewards in the post-World War II history of the Cookery Section. The longest serving, Mrs Daphne Dowdle, served in the role for almost 40 years, and only retired in her 80’s. Daphne was much loved by generations of Cookery exhibitors, and only passed away at the age of 96 in October 2013, active to the end despite crippling polio as a child and its after effects. The Cookery Pavilion and Grand Champion prize are named for this inspirational community leader.
The Lyn Nayler Champion Preserves prize is named for Mrs Lyn Nayler who served alongside Daphne Dowdle as a steward for many years, and was a preserves specialist, winning the championship prize herself on many occasions. Lyn was a kind and generous friend to all, and her name and spirit lives on through the Champion Preserves prize. She was thrilled to be acknowledged in this way.
The Children’s Cookery section grows bigger each year, greatly assisted by the active involvement of the Kenmore State High School Home Economics teachers and over 70 keen students who enter each year to test their skills. The last two Children’s Cookery Chief Stewards grew up entering in the Children’s section, and were themselves Children’s Champions under the watchful eye of Daphne Dowdle.
Each year we get bigger and better as the Cookery Section slowly moves with the times, although never forgetting our roots in the Agricultural Show tradition.

Don’t forget to come and admire our beautiful exhibits this year, buy some fudge or other products, and pick up a raffle ticket to help us run the Pavilion.

See you at the Show!

Cookery judging myths and misconceptions

Brother Howard judging the preserves section, Brookfield Show

Brother Howard judging the preserves section, Brookfield Show

At every Show we get a lot of questions about the judging process in the Cookery. So here are some commonly asked questions including myths and misconceptions, and the answers you have been seeking!

Do the judges taste everything?

It is a persistent urban myth that the judges don’t taste all of the entries, and I get asked about this many times a year. In fact, the judges taste each and every entry, unless there is some reason not to, for example, there was mould present in the jam when opened (which happens occasionally). In fact once when we opened the lid on a preserve for judging, a cockroach flew out, but that’s another story!

With the preserves, the judge takes a small amount with a spoon from the side of the jar. With the cakes, unless the cake is in the decorated cakes section (these are judged on appearance only), the cake is cut in half, and a small wedge cut off one side, including the icing (if any). With biscuits, slices, small cakes and the like, the judge takes a small piece off one item for tasting.

What are the judges looking for?

The judge looks for colour, texture, uniformity (with small cakes or slices), and a great flavour which is appropriate to the item being judged. With cakes, the texture should be even throughout with no or very few trapped air bubbles or under or overcooking evident. If for example it is an orange cake section, the judge will be looking for a strong orange flavour, and good mouthfeel. A cake should be moist, but not overly so, and how moist will depend on the variety. The judge will be able to tell straight away that it has been properly cooked, and that quality ingredients have been used.

With preserves, the judge is again looking for flavour and texture. A proper set is important for jams, marmalades and jellies, but sometimes great flavour can overcome a preserve which may not be perfectly set. Ideally jellies and marmalades should be perfectly clear and glistening. Chutneys and relishes should be perfectly cooked, reflect their variety, and be of the appropriate texture so that they can be easily spooned out and are not too runny. Any overcooked preserves will be rejected by the judges, who can tell straight away by appearance and taste. The judge can also tell straight away (by taste and texture) if you have used an artificial jam setting product, and this is frowned up in Show work.

Is judging anonymous?

Absolutely! The judge never knows whose entry they have in front of them, as all judging is done anonymously.

Why do the same people win prizes year after year?

This does happen (but not as often as you think), and is not because the judge knows who entered the exhibit. The same people win prizes because they are very experienced, and know what the judges are looking for. You can get the same results by entering, learning from your mistakes, and knowing how to win prizes. This can be a lot quicker than you think!

Jams, jellies and marmalades

preserves jars on display

Entering the Preserves section of a Show can be one of the most daunting, frustrating and rewarding experiences you can have in cooking. But making the perfect clear glistening jelly or marmalade an is an incredibly satisfying experience. Getting it to set properly is another story, which will be the subject of another post! Ultimately, the only way to succeed in the Preserves section is practice, practice, practice, and to learn by your mistakes.
• For jam making, cut fruit evenly, don’t over boil. Use a candy thermometer (available at kitchen shops) for more accurate cooking to test for jelling point. A thermometer is much better than guesswork for Show work. Even then, you need to use your judgment
• Cut fruit for marmalade as finely as possible for Show work. Marmalade should be clear, with fruit evenly suspended. After soaking fruit overnight, cook thoroughly before adding sugar. This is absolutely critical. Most recipes specify an hour cooking before adding sugar to marmalade.
• For jelly making, after fruit has cooked, allow to drip through jelly bag overnight, without squeezing. Jelly should be completely clear and properly set.
• Ensure that jars are properly sterilized before use. Clean in dishwasher if possible, and then thoroughly sterilise before using. Use oven mits to avoid burns with hot jars and preserves.
• Put lids on jars immediately after filling with preserves to inhibit moulds. Store carefully – in the fridge if necessary.
• Make chutneys a month or two ahead of time if possible to allow flavours to develop. This is a common reason why otherwise great chutneys don’t make it to the winner’s circle. If you make it the day before the Show, unfortunately it will taste like it.
• Jam, jelly and marmalade making is often a frustrating experience. Sometimes the fruit is overripe, there was too much rain before the fruit was picked and not enough pectin in the fruit, or it just doesn’t work out. It happens to everyone, and sometimes when it doesn’t jell, it’s nothing to do with the skill of the cook. If instead of a jam you have a runny sauce, your family might appreciate a nice dessert sauce instead!

Show cooking hints and tips

fruit cakes
Here are some tips and tricks for preparing show entries in the cookery sections of a Show. Disclaimer: always read your individual Show schedule, as requirements vary from Show to Show. These tips apply for the Brookfield Show and will generally apply to others, but that may not necessarily be the case.

1. The most important tip is to read your Show schedule carefully and double-check before preparing your entry, particularly if you are a first-timer. Every year, we have to turn away entries where someone has misread dates and come the day after judging, or misread the entries and brought in something which can’t be entered. As this leads to heartbreak, particularly where there are children involved, check and double-check. If in doubt, ask the Chief Steward who will be able to give you guidance.

2. Read carefully the size of the plates allowed, and don’t exceed the size under any circumstances. Each Show has limited space available for display, and large entries can’t be accommodated. To avoid disappointment, adhere to size requirements.

3. If the Show Schedule says bring your entry on a disposable plate, please don’t bring it on your best China! Unfortunately this happens multiple times each year, and we have to either transfer the entry with possible damage, or the China plate slips through and then often can’t be reunited with its owner.

4. Judging is always anonymous at every Show. Don’t write your name on the plate.

5. Ice cakes the day before judging so that icing sets. This is important, particularly with childrens entries, as otherwise the result can be very messy!

6. Turn off your oven fan if possible when baking, to avoid dome tops on cakes and muffins. This is a common problem. If your oven fan can’t be turned off, experiment with a lower heat, but it is going to be more difficult to get a good result.

7. For general cake classes, normally ice cakes on top only (check your Show schedule for anything different, but this is a general rule), and keep decorations to a minimum. Decorations must always be appropriate to the cake. If in doubt, leave it out.

8. Don’t test with a skewer in the middle of the cake, as it will be cut there for judging, and your skewer mark will mar the appearance of the cake when cut.

9. For Show work don’t use any cream, mock cream, custard or similar icings or fillings. There is no refrigeration, and your entry will normally be unable to be accepted.

10. Slices or brownies are best cut into even sized pieces (eg, 5 cm square), with a hot knife if necessary. Check your Show schedule for any differences to this.

11. Scones should be light in texture; and shouldn’t touch each other when cooking.

12. The more traditional recipes are best for Show cooking, eg WW/ CWA cookbooks.

13. Make sure the cake tin you use is the right size for the type of cake entered. Cakes are sometimes brought in too small, and are either disqualified or ruled not competitive, as can be seen with the cake in the photo at the top of this post. This is particularly important for fruit cakes.