When we moved into this house a few months back I did what I always do when checking out a new place. I took a tour of the garden. I always hope that I'll find something useful - abandoned vegetable gardens would be great - established fruit trees would be awesome. On this occasion I spotted a large healthy citrus tree from a distance and as I approached I was delighted to discover that it was covered with plump green balls. An orange tree! My kids love oranges. Orange juice! Orange cake! Orange ice blocks for the summer!
I waited patiently through autumn for my oranges to turn orange, keeping a careful eye on the leaves of the tree for any infestations or viruses. There was no need to worry, this tree has been here a while and she's a healthy old girl.
Then one day I was chatting to the landlord about the property and she said "You know, down there by the grapefruit tree". Ummmm... the what now? The grapefruit tree? Out of all the fruit trees one can inherit the grapefruit tree is surely the booby prize.
Nobody can eat a tree load of grapefruit, except perhaps my sister and I when we're 6 months pregnant. My kids are good eaters but they won't touch a grapefruit. My husband hates them. And as it turns out, so do most people. I couldn't give them away. Every time I presented a friend with a bag of grapefruit I got the thanks, but no thanks.
Now one thing I really hate is waste, and food waste is the worst. Every day I'd see bright yellow globes dropping from the tree onto the grass where even the cockatoos wouldn't touch them. It was playing on my conscience a bit, seeing perfectly good fruit rotting away like that.
So this week I declared war on the grapefruit tree. I decided to make as much marmalade as I could stand to make, and then I followed that up with grapefruit jelly.
Marmalade is the easiest jam in terms of setting, but it sure is a pain to prepare. All of the cutting and slicing the peel. My peel is always too chunky because I can't ever be bothered to cut it finely enough. Nevertheless, the other morning I went down to the tree and collected the best looking fruit. I added some organic oranges to the lot and gave it all a good wash. Then I cut, and diced, and deseeded, and cut some more. For two hours. Then the marmalade was made in the usual way - cooking the fruit before adding the sugar and cooking until the setting point is reached. At the end of the afternoon I had 7 nice jars of marmalade, some for us and some to swap at our community crop & swap meet (that's if anyone will want my chunky jam).
Today I tackled the rest of the grapefruit on the tree. I decided to make jelly, partly because I wanted something different but mostly because it's so much easier. I washed and chopped the fruit including the peel and pips and boiled that for about 20 minutes with some water. Once it was all pulpy and soft I strained it through an old cotton pillowcase over a bowl.
You can use a jelly bag for this, but I don't have one and this works just as well. It looks a little odd...
If you try this, don't squeeze the bag (it'll make your jelly cloudy). Once I had the juice I measured it back into the pot, added sugar and boiled it until the setting point was reached (scraping off the scum/froth as it cooked). Ta - da! This is easily enough for our family for a year, with a few jars left over to swap for some fruit and vegetables. So if you find yourself with a heavily laden grapefruit tree don't despair - there's always marmalade :)