Making Kalamansi Marmalade

Kalamansi (Calamondin) is cheap and plentiful – lucky me!

I know, kalamansi marmalade recipes abound. Here is my version, Black Kalamansi Marmalade with ginger and cinnamon. This recipe includes a pectin setting test and a secret ingredient to balance the sweet-bitter taste of the marmalade. Enjoy!

Kalamansi Marmalade (Black) by Fats

Ingredients:

400 grams of green kalamansi
3 cups of water
3 cups of granulated brown sugar for black marmalade (or white sugar if you prefer clear marmalade)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
Half thumb-size ginger
Pinch of salt (the secret ingredient ahaha!)

You will also need some cheesecloth and string.

This recipe makes about 21 ounces (three 200-gram jars) of marmalade.

Instructions:

  1. Wash kalamansi in water, remove stems, leaves and any damaged fruits.
  2. Cut kalamansi in half, remove seeds (set seeds aside). Squeeze kalamansi and reserve juice in the fridge.
  3. Get about half of the kalamansi peels, remove any seeds still intact then slice the peels thinly (or thicker if you want thick cut marmalade). Set sliced peels aside.
  4. Put the other half of kalamansi peels and all the seeds in a cheesecloth or muslin square and tie into a bundle with string.
  5. Place the sliced peels and 3 cups of water in a pan. Add the bag of seeds and peels into the pan. Bring to a boil, half covered and simmer until soft (about 10-20 minutes). Cool.
  6. Transfer all the contents of the pan (including the bag of seeds and peels) to a container and put in the fridge overnight. The next day, pour everything into a pan. Squeeze all liquid in the cloth bag as much as possible into the pan. Discard the bag of seeds and peels into your compost.
  7. Add the reserved kalamansi juice, cinnamon, salt and sugar to the sliced peel mixture. Scrape the ginger with a spoon to remove the skin. Slice into thin sticks and add to the mixture. Heat gently, stirring until all the sugar has dissolved. Turn the heat to high and bring to a rapid, good rolling boil for 5 minutes, uncovered. Turn off the heat and test for a set (see below). If the marmalade has not set, boil again for another 5 minutes, and test again. Do this if necessary until 20-30 minutes.
  8. When marmalade is ready, set aside until the surface forms a skin and peels float to the top. Stir with a ladle and scoop the marmalade into sterilized jars, leaving 5mm headspace. Cool, label and store in a cool dark place. Marmalade should keep for 12 months.

Testing for Set

Pectin in fruits help jams, jellies and marmalades to set when mixed with sugar and boiled to appropriate setting temperature (105 degrees C) and time. This can be difficult to determine as pectin content in fruits and recipes may vary. To test:

Chill a saucer in the fridge before making the marmalade. Scoop about 1 tsp of the boiling marmalade on the chilled saucer and let it cool. When cool, push the marmalade with your finger to one side. If the marmalade wrinkles and your finger leaves a trail on the saucer, then it is set. Your marmalade is ready.

Help! My marmalade won’t set!

  • You must bring the marmalade to a rapid rolling boil, or at temperature of 105 degrees C if you have a candy thermometer. Otherwise, observe the boil, the marmalade should thicken around the sides of the pan and should boil sluggishly with bubbles popping rather than frothing.
  • There might not be enough pectin in your marmalade. To solve this problem, add the juice of one lemon and boil. Make the test set as described above.

Why is my marmalade so bitter?

Marmalade is a bitter-sweet preserve but kalamansi seeds can make your marmalade overly bitter. Make sure you remove all seeds before you slice the peels and don’t let any seeds get into the marmalade. Keep the seeds in the cloth bag and discard after use.

Try thin cut marmalade instead of thick cut marmalade. Thick cut peels creates a tangy bitter flavour while thin cut has softer flavour.

Learn more about the marvelous marmalade through these resources:

If you want to get to know the kalamansi better, I recommend this very good resource:

Mulching

Coconut trees finally got cleaned today – after nearly 3 years. It took such a long time because the guy who does it is as slippery as a rat out of a snake’s mouth. “Cleaning” coconut trees means clearing the tree of dead materials, trimming the leaves and cutting down coconut fruits that may pose a hazard over roofs, garden beds and pathways, and of course, cutting down mature coconuts (for copra or cooking) as well as a few young green ones.

We use coconut leaves – green or dry –  as compost, feed for the pigs and for mulching. We specially need mulch for the west garden. Several days earlier, I’ve started work by sowing mung beans and adding a thin layer of dry coconut leaves on the soil, plus spraying with a dilution of lactic acid bacteria to facilitate decomposition. Then we got help from Bebe and Atoy to further mulch the area.

Instead of digging and ploughing through the soil, we rely on mulching. Apart from spraying lactic acid bacteria, I am currently preparing a variety of indigenous microorganisms with large mycelium growth. This will be placed onto the soil, under the mulch, to inoculate the soil and increase microbial diversity, hoping to improve soil texture and enrich the soil at the same time.

I don’t expect to grow anything soon in several areas where mulch has been added specially over where the boar pen used to be. The manure in that area has not yet completely decomposed. However, some of the mung beans I tossed around several days ago seem to be doing fine.

There has been an unusually high amount of rainfall this year and I think we’re nearing the end of the rainy period. This would be a great time to mulch since there will be enough moisture and humidity to decompose the mulch, and the soil cover will be much needed as the dry season approaches.

To learn more about mulching, here are some helpful resources.

How We Discovered the Rain Garden

The use of bioretention for stormwater management has its roots in industrial and commercial site settings. Only in the early 1990’s did residential applications of bioretention for stormwater management begin to become a concern in the area of environmental protection within communities. The term “rain garden” was coined for this purpose.

“Rain garden” is the popular term used to refer to a landscaped depression or hole that catches rainwater runoff and allows it to soak into the ground. This is opposed to drains and surfaces that cause and aggravate flooding, soil erosion, water pollution and diminished groundwater.

A swale is a similar feature, which may be natural or artificial. Swales serve as infiltration basins, allowing increased rainwater infiltration.

We “discovered” the useful features of the rain garden/swale by accident. The previous occupants of the property demolished their old house and left behind a pit latrine, a toilet that collects fecal matter in a hole in the ground. We actually only noticed this hole after the big earthquake in 2013. It seems that the earthquake had caused that area in the garden to cave in.

Shortly, a group of ducklings suddenly disappeared in the garden. We discovered that they had fallen into the hole and had to be rescued. Because the hole posed a hazard, Trevor decided to grow plants in the hole. By then, we also noticed that stormwater flowing from the roof of the house and other higher parts of the garden collected into the hole. Apparently, this had great benefits. It prevented excessive flooding and soil erosion.

Today, this – what we now call a “rain garden” – hosts one of the most lush vegetation in the garden. Below are more photos of the rain garden. We plan to dig a couple more rain gardens to alleviate the flooding in low areas of the garden, particularly in the west section.

Here are some links to get you started in understanding and building rain gardens.

A Gardening Challenge

More drawn to livestock, I have not done much gardening in years. A few attempts have not resulted to anything promising. However, since a section of the garden along the west side of the property has given way to newly rebuilt pigpens and the surrounding area cleared and trampled down by construction work, I may now have to face the challenge of tending not only to the pigs but also to plants.

But the first real challenge is tending to the soil – how to bring life back to soil that has been subjected to abuse.

Here is one area of the west garden between the two pigpens. I have laid down stakes cut from the tough midribs of coconut leaves to fence in what would be garden beds and paths in between for access. The fencing will consist of the thicker and heavier parts of the midribs, and inside the fenced area the coconut fronds will be piled along with other organic materials for composting. This is also where spraying the area with lactic acid bacteria might be helpful.

This is the lower half of the same area, some 25 square meters of what used to be a boar pen. There is still some scrap wood left from the demolition of the old pen. The red bits are from the tattered canvas roofing of the pen.

In this photo, one can see that the edge of the west garden has become devoid of ground cover vegetation due to construction work. A lot of work needs to be done here to revive the texture of the soil so that plants can start growing again. Due to digging and trampling, the soil has become compacted and is very prone to flooding.

Here is the southern corner of the west garden. Likewise, compacted soil, a canal dug up leading to nowhere now becomes flooded. Logs from a tree that was cut down will need to be stood up to serve as plant holders in locations where they will not block the flow of rainwater. Those galvanised iron roof sheets will need to be removed and stored elsewhere.

We have cleaned up as much as we could but much remnants from the construction work remain: pieces from cements bags and broken hollow blocks and a pair of slippers, pieces of plastic bags, paper.

A section of the garden was used for mixing cement, and although the workers have broken up the concrete to expose the soil, they did not clean up afterwards. We will need to remove as much as we can of this concrete and put them nearby where they can reinforce paths around the pigpens.

Here is a closer look at the soil in the area where the boar pen used to be. Heavy rains cause water logging and the ground here is very soft, it is really a mud pit. We will need to compost over these areas and will probably takes several months before improvement becomes visible.

Here is another section of the boar pen which is a mix of soil, composted organic matter and limestone.

And when it rains …

These photos (below) show what the area looks like after a half hour of rain. It isn’t pretty.

Managing the rainwater run-off from the upper part of the property will need to be done along with planting, contouring, rain gardening and such things in the west garden. A not-so-good neighbor has also been dumping their roof rainwater run-off into our property, so that will need to be dealt with later.

Canals were dug up around the pigpens to prevent rainwater from entering the pens. In some areas the water goes down, but in the southern section, the water pools in the canal and doesn’t get drained  into the soil.

I planted tiger tail and fortune plants in this corner at the lower part of the canal hoping that later, more plants can grow in the canals and absorb the water.

In a few areas where the canals flow downwards, I hope to dig a couple of rain gardens to serve as catchment for overflowing rainwater, hoping to avert flooding in the west garden. Soil dug up from the rain garden may be placed over the old pigpen particularly in excessively muddy places where water pools.

Next to a mahogany tree and behind the darkness of a pile of scrap wood from the demolished pigpens this lily has managed to survive and grow.

The mung beans I threw into the wet areas of the west garden have also started sprouting. I don’t expect these to grow and mature but I am aiming for these roots to enrich the soil. More leguminous plants will need to be planted in these areas.

And this grass, pressed between the concrete base of the pigpen and the limestone paving has managed to survive.

So all is not lost, it may still be possible to bring the west garden back to life. It will take a long time, so it will be an exercise in patience. 😉

Sausage Recipes

Currently practising making sausages again, getting ready for Christmas! Here are three sausage recipes that I’ve tried and tested and would like to share with you. These sausages use either natural hog casing or collagen casings. These are fresh sausages that don’t use artificial preservatives, nitrites (prague powder) or phosphates (accord powder). Instead, the sausages are mildly preserved using coconut vinegar or anisado wine (such as Green Perico available here in Bohol) or bread (which ferments with the meat). In all cases, the sausages are considered fresh and therefore hung to let the casing strengthen a bit only for a short period of time (2 hours in ambient tropical temperatures of 25 to 32 decrees Celsius; sausages containing salitre, saltpeter or prague powder may be hung to dry for 2-3 days). Then the sausages are stored in the freezer where they can keep for longer: 3 months frozen uncooked, 4-5 days in the refrigerator uncooked.

 

sausages1

SWEET LONGGANISA (Mildly Sweet Sausages)

1 kilo ground pork with fat about 30%
2 tbsp Soy Sauce
2 tbsp vinegar
2 tbsp Anisado wine
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tbsp coarse sea salt
1/2 cup garlic, minced
2 tsp freshly crushed black peppercorns
2 tsp Spanish paprika or smoked paprika powder
Hog casing or collagen casing and butcher’s twine/string for tying

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LUCBAN LONGGANISA (Oregano Spiced Sausages)

1 kilo ground pork with 30% fat
1 tbsp coarse sea salt
1 1/2 tbsp dry oregano leaves, ground
1 1/2 tbsp dry basil leaves, ground
1 tsp dry laurel leaves, ground
1 1/2 tbsp Spanish paprika powder or smoked paprika powder
1 tbsp freshly crushed black peppercorns
1 tbsp vinegar
Hog casing or collagen casing and butcher’s twine/string for tying

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ENGLISH SPICED SAUSAGES

1/2 kg ground pork with 30% fat
50 grams breadcrumbs
1 onion, grated or finely chopped
1/2 lemon rind, grated
1/2 nutmeg, grated or 1 tsp nutmeg powder
1 tbsp chopped parsley
1 tbsp thyme
1 tbsp sage
1 tbsp fennel seed or dry coriander seeds
1/2 tbsp coarse sea salt
1/2 tbsp ground white pepper
2 eggs, beaten
Hog casing or collagen casing and butcher’s twine/string for tying

GENERAL INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Combine all ingredients together in a large bowl. Mix thoroughly with your hands.
  2. Cover and put in the refrigerator to allow the meat and spices to marry and to firm up for 2-4 hours or overnight.
  3. Before stuffing sausages, you may wish to test the taste of the sausage mixture. Get a small amount and shape into a patty and fry in oil. Adjust seasoning as needed.
  4. Prepare and clean fresh hog casings, soak in a bowl of cold water. If using collagen casings, read the instructions on use. Generally, collagen casings are used dry and should not be soaked in water.
  5. Keep a bowl or pitcher of cold water nearby for rinsing sticky hands. Start stuffing the casings with the cold meat mixture. It is easier to stuff sausages when the mixture is cold. Use sausage stuffing machine or sausage stuffer (funnel).
  6. If not using casing, you can also roll the meat mixture into balls or shape them into patties or for making “skinless sausages”. Use wax paper or plastic food wrap to prevent patties or skinless sausages from sticking to each other. Keep cold or frozen or cook immediately.
  7. Carefully but firmly tie sausages in desired intervals. Prick sausages with a clean pin or cocktail stick to remove air bubbles. Hang up to dry and strengthen the casing for 2 hours. Sausages may be cooked immediately. Keep in the refrigerator uncooked for 4-5 days or frozen for up to 3 months.

COOKING SAUSAGES

  1. To cook English Spiced Sausages, dip in beaten egg white then dust with small amount of flour. Cook in small amount of oil, 5-6 minutes on each side for 24mm sausages; cook longer for thicker sausages. Serve immediately.
  2. To cook longganisa, hang the sausage to allow to warm up to room temperature. On very low heat, put 2 tbsp water in a frying pan and the sausages. Keep on LOW HEAT so the sausages will not burst and you will not need to prick the sausages. Depending on the thickness of the sausages, for 24mm sausages, cook for 5 minutes on one side, turn over and cook for 5 minutes on the other side. Add 1 tbsp oil and cook on each side for 3-5 minutes more until brown. Serve immediately.
  3. Alternatively, you can poach the sausages before frying. Prepare a saucepan with water and on medium heat. When water is HOT BUT NOT BOILING, put the sausages in. Cook for 5-8 minutes. DO NOT BOIL or the sausages will burst. Bring out the sausages and finish off by frying in a small amount of oil over medium heat on each side until lightly brown. Serve immediately.

Ducklings, Fingers Crossed

Our duck population is now down to only 4 ducks — one drake (Daddy Duck) and three duck hens, two of which are white and one is brown with a beak deformity, we call her Twisty.

duckdagain3
Duck and Hen stand-off. The hens have learned to engage in less fighting.

Twisty was given to us in exchange for one of our ducks some 2 years ago. Because she was only a little duckling then, we didn’t notice her deformity until later. The owner told us that Twisty’s siblings have all died because they were unable to feed themselves. We managed to keep Twisty alive by feeding her separately from the other ducks. She is able to eat better if given food in a deep container. Otherwise, it is impossible for her to pick up food from the ground with her beak.

twistydeformity

A few months ago we took the risk of letting Twisty sit on her eggs. We assumed she would have deformed ducklings but we already knew a way of keeping them alive by separating them and using deep feeding trays. We wouldn’t let them breed anyhow but would just cull them when they get big. But that never happened. Twisty’s eggs never hatched. It is possible that Twisty is infertile, the work of natural selection. So from now on we will keep Twisty just for the eggs, she’s a very good layer.

duckdagain1

The other two ducks successfully hatched their eggs this week – one duck has 3 ducklings and the other has 7. Hopefully, this will be the start of a new younger generation of ducks for us to revitalise the dwindling population. I’ve learned that it is best to keep a young population of duck hens, no more than 3 years old.

Natural Farming: Does it really work?

When we started breeding and raising pigs in a backyard setting, we decided to keep everything small-scale and as close to nature as our resources could allow. Ideally, this means pasture-raised pigs. However, we don’t have the luxury of the space. So we kept only a few pigs and provided spacious accommodation for them, roughly about 20-25sqm for 1 boar or 1 sow or 5 growers.

We built pens for our pigs that are large, well ventilated and get plenty of sunshine. The pens have grass, bushes and soil flooring, not concrete. Apparently, pigs love rooting and digging the soil, thus, the conventional pigpen designs with concrete flooring would be against our principles.

The natural principle also means giving pigs plenty of green forage, fruits, roughage and other organic materials to eat. Again, our limited resources make it impossible to give even a few pigs 100% natural diet. So we supplement with commercially-produced pig feeds in pelleted form.

To imitate the pig’s preferred natural habitat of the forest, we introduced plenty of organic material (mostly dry coconut leaves) which absorbs moisture and urine and at the same time provides soft bedding for the pigs. When a pig gives birth (or farrows), we provide plenty of dry banana leaves for nesting. Every now and then, we put wood shavings and rice hull into the pens to keep the flooring dry and provide entertainment for the pigs. Ashes and burnt pieces of wood from cooking are also collected and placed into the pens after we learned that ashes were good for piglets.

Perhaps due to the “lucky” combination of these conditions, our pigpens did not emit irritating odors. The only time we had an odor problem was when the roof of the pen started rotting and rain flooded the area. It seems that a large majority of irritating odor problems associated with pigs take place when the water content of beddings are over 30% and in the case of concreted floorings, when water, urine and manure are mixed, no matter the amount or proportion. This is why concreted floor pens need to be cleaned and washed with large amounts of water several times a day. Our pigpens never need cleaning.

We have had 4 farrows with no incidence of disease amongst the piglets. This is surprising for many who see the piglets amidst soil, rotting vegetation, manure, urine and mud, all widely perceived as unhygienic conditions. While we have had no problems after 2 years, we do think about the possibility of build-up of pathogenic bacteria in the pigpens after a longer period of time. This is why we are currently taking measures to rotate the pigs in different pens so as to enable the vacated pens to fallow and completely turn into compost before seeds of cover crops are sown over the area.

After 2 years, we seem to have established a system of pig-keeping based on farming philosophies more widely known as Natural Farming (pioneered by the Japanese Fukuoka Masanobu) and Korean Natural Farming (KNF, promoted by the Korean Han Kyu Cho). These are broad farming philosophies and principles that have numerous applications.

Although our own principles and practices are fairly successful so far, we are now experimenting with KNF, particularly, the role of the diversity of indigenous microorganisms and beneficial microorganisms in keeping healthy pigs in a healthy natural environment. We are particularly curious how the more focused and directed approach of microorganism production and harvesting would be most useful.

As part of our experiments, we have a smaller pen, about 2sqm under the house, where a 10-week old piglet is kept. The piglet is fed a high-density diet (crude protein of about 16%) and a small amount of fruits and forage materials such as trichanthera (madre de agua), banana leaves, ipil-ipil, papaya, etc. Odor events in this pigpen are more frequent and were greatly minimized by spraying the area with lactic acid bacteria solution (known in KNF as LABS, made by fermenting rice washing with milk) and fermented plant juice solution (known in KNF as FPJ, made by fermenting shoots and leaves of vigorously growing leafy vegetables and brown sugar). These are also added to the piglet’s drinking water. Occasionally, wood shavings are thrown over the manure then sprayed with the solutions mentioned above. Given the small space for this piglet, the results of using fermented solutions have been impressive. We are yet to successfully produce indigenous microorganisms (known in KNF as IMO) and introduce that to our pigpens and surrounding gardens together with FPJ and LABS.

While NF and KNF systems seem to work quite well for us, we will be regularly sharing results of our experiments in the near future. We do have a number of failures which we will share here as well. In the meantime, here is an article explaining some of the principles and methods of KNF for those who are interested. Good luck!

 

The Predator

I finally caught one of our bigger predators in action! I heard a screech outside which I thought was a bird, so I took my camera and here’s the result!

There is a growing population of frogs and toads in the ponds and I have worried about them going out of control. This young monitor lizard takes care of that for me!

Frogs in the Garden Pond

Having ponds for rainwater harvesting, lots of frogs and toads are attracted to the garden. This is good because frogs are a sign of good ecology and they keep pesty insects under control. Here is a video of frogs spawning, one female and two males! The white foam is a nest in which the eggs are deposited. The foam nest protects the eggs from microbes and predators, to some extent – I have seen the turtle in the duck pond eating the frog eggs!

Rainwater Harvesting

If you look around the village you will still see old water cisterns built many decades ago before running water became available in households. Some of these have been abandoned, broken but a few are still in good use. Rainwater harvesting is particularly crucial if you have livestock, crops and drought seasons, as well as failures by the municipal waterworks to provide continuous running water.

Currently, we have three ponds that harvest rainwater. The first (photo above) is home to some 30-40 tilapia and floating water plants. It is located next to the house on the south side catching a good amount of rainwater flowing off the edge of the roof. It’s about 146 cubic feet (or about 4 cubic meters). I keep two buckets under the overflow pipe to collect more rainwater during an overflow.

The second (photo above) is located on the north side of the house and has a volume of about 70 cubic feet (or 2 cubic meters). This is home to water hyacinth, water lettuce and frogs. We didn’t put fish in this pond because the fish kills the water hyacinth and water lettuce. The presence of frogs and tadpoles make sure there are no mosquito larvae in this pond. The water in this pond is used as drinking water for sow Number 3 who also loves eating the water lettuce.

The third water reservoir is this (photo above), the duck pond. Some water lettuce thrive here but not the water hyacinths which the ducks eat immediately. This pond becomes dirty (build up of mud, organic material, algal blooms) when the duck population is high – that is, over a dozen ducks. This pond is not large enough for that many ducks. At the moment, I have only 8 ducks and it is the rainy season so the pond stays reasonably clean. The water plants also keep the water clean, preventing algal blooms. There are also 2 turtles in this pond, plus an impressive chorus of frogs and toads. These and the ducks ensure that mosquitoes do not thrive in this pond.

Rainwater from the first two ponds have been crucial during the Bohol (2013) and Leyte (2017) earthquakes which knocked down power supply to the island for several weeks. Without power, municipal water pumps are non-operational and cannot pump water to many households. We were able to use water harvested in these ponds for cleaning, for the animals to drink and for flushing.

Now we are seriously considering building another pond to harvest rainwater run-off from the roof of the new pigpens. This pond would be closer to the pigpens and would ease use. A rain garden nearby, where the ground slopes, might also be an excellent feature to catch water that overflows from the pond.