January has a lot working against it. It's cold, dark and very rainy. Everyone is on a budget, or on a diet, or in a foul mood thanks to giving up fags, booze, wheat, joy - or all of the above. In our family it's also Miss B's birthday party on top of 2 nieces, my mum, my brother and Z's birthdays so it tends to be a busy and expensive month too.
But there are two bright shining January things that make me happy. The first one is my annual ballet jaunt to London with my Very Excellent Friend Bon, but I've already told you about that in detail.
The other nice thing is something I can share with you - Seville orange season! They are bright, aromatic and wonderful when everything else in season is an all too virtuous-looking dark green: sprouts, kale and so on.
Don't let that marvellous smell fool you, though. Sevilles are dreadfully sour and inedible when raw. They need to be cooked or otherwise processed. The obvious is marmalade, of course, and I had a pleasant afternoon making 8 jars of the stuff.
Marmalade is all well and good for pleasing partners, fathers and bears visiting from Darkest Peru. What I really want to try this year is orange gin.
There are 20 or 30 recipes easily available through search engines. I went for 70ml of cheap gin, the peel but not pith of 3 to 4 seville oranges, 1 or 2 cloves and 125g caster sugar.
NB - loads of recipes suggested anything up to 250g of sugar. I prefer my drinks less sweet but if you like sweet liquors, add more.
I have a small serrated knife - a mini bread knife with the rather ludicrous label "breakfast knife" - that I used for getting the peel from the orange whilst leaving all the white pith still on it. A very sharp knife would do, too, but my veg knives all need sharpening. The oil that makes oranges smell so wonderful is all in that coloured peel. The pith just makes things bitter.
Tip some of the gin into a jug. Pour the sugar in the gin bottle and poke the orange peel and clove in too. Top up the bottle with the gin you put in the jug. Close the lid tightly and shake. Shake it every day or so for a couple of weeks then put it somewhere dark like the back of a cupboard and forget about it.
By Christmas you will have a lovely orange gin. I expect it is nice by summer, to be honest, but tradition dictates it steep for the year. Even after a week it looks beautiful, having taken a golden glow from the peel already.
Having made the gin, I had a bunch of pith-covered oranges sitting on my counter. What could I do with then? I can't juice then nor eat them.... Curd! I could make Seville orange curd! It would use up the juice, and as the hens are back in lay I had heaps of fresh eggs to use.
200ml lemon or Seville orange juice
zest of 2 lemons or normal oranges
4 large or 5 medium eggs
Making lemon (or orange) curd is a doddle. First you juice your fruit. You need 200ml, so I topped up with the juice of 1 of the normal oranges I was using for the zest as well.
Break all your eggs into a jug and beat them well. Have a sieve to hand.
Pour the beaten egg into the bowl through the sieve - there are little stringy buts that hold the yolk in place and they can go a bit weird in things like curds. Beat the mixture well to combine. Keep stirring over that gentle heat until it is a think and creamy curd. It takes anything from 7 to 15 minutes in my experience. Basically stop once it looks like lemon curd!
Pour it into sterilised jars, seal, and fight with your children about who gets to lick the bowl. (Hint - you do. If they want to lick it, they can do the washing up.)
Ta da! One bag of lovely aromatic oranges turned into 8 jars of marmalade, 2 1/2 bottles of gin and 3 jars of orange curd. Maybe January isn't so bad after all.