orangesPaddington bear is celebrating his fiftieth birthday. Yes it's been five decades since the Peruvian immigrant with a love for marmalade sandwiches arrived at a certain railway terminus and took up residence with the Brown family. Their housekeeper, Mrs Bird, instinctively knew that bears need plentiful supplies of that bitter-sweet breakfast jam if they're to maintain the shine on their fur. And so a message was sent to the local grocer for top up supplies. How times have changed. Now finding and purchasing a decent pot of marmalade suitable for south American bears and Wiltshire-born writers with a penchant for chunky, dark and sour marmalade is virtually impossible.

DuerrsI stuck with Duerrs Thick Cut Vintage for years and then suddenly, about three years ago, it disappeared. An unanswered query direct to Duerrs left me no nearer to finding fresh supplies of their sticky breakfast essential. So I turned to Duchy Original (a sloppy consistency allows it to slide off both knife and buttered toast) and Waitrose Organic thick cut – both satisfied my need for chunky marmalade without the unnecessary additions of caramel colouring, pectin and peel from fruits other than the Seville orange.

But they just contained too much sugar. This was overpowering the jam's natural bitter bite obtained from the peel and pith's essential oils. These are leeched out during the initial orange peel soaking process prior to boiling the juice, sugar and peel infusion and turning the whole lot into what is essentially a sour jam.

There was only one alternative left. Make my own.

After much searching through recipe books and websites (BBC Good Food's Dark muscavado and whisky, and Delia's Dark Chunky seemed almost right) I settled on a recipe combination of the Bitter marmalade from the Slothful Cook and the very unsweet recipes provided by fellow members of the Allotments4All forum.

Six pounds of Seville oranges bought from Waitrose (the oranges are only around for a short period in January and February), lemontwo lemons, eight pounds of Waitrose Fairtrade white granulated sugar (this worked out cheaper than their bog standard granulated) and half a pound of light brown sugar (to give the dark colour I wanted) were processed according to the Slothful Cook and boiled vigorously with ten pints of water until a 'set' was achieved (a jam and marmalade makers term for when a fruit's natural pectin turns the liquid into a semi-solid mass – test by pouring a small amount of marmalade on a fridge-cooled saucer and poking your finger in it. If it wrinkles it's done).

An over cautious nature combined with a first time recipe try-out left me not with the expected 17 one-pound jars of marmalade but 12. It's darker and more solid than expected due to the excessive water evaporation from too long a boil, but as I get through about one jar a month there is enough to see me through until next January when the Spanish fruit growers next export their crop.

If any of you are wondering if this lower than traditionally recommended ratio of sugar to fruit means I must keep my marmalade in the fridge, then the answer is no. After four months of munching through the jars I've seen no speck of mould (despite dipping in a buttery knife) from jars kept in the kitchen cupboard alongside other snack essentials of blackcurrant jam, gooseberry jam (products of allotment produce), local village-made honey and Marmite.

MarmiteCheese and Marmite sandwiches are a necessary lunch-time snack for this writer. But as I eat them as soon as I've made them I have no need for the long term storage facilities provided by a slightly stained and battered hat.

Chapel Down BacchusIt's English Wine Week, so of course it must be raining. That pretty much captures the essence of what it's like to be an English winemaker - great when the sun shines but for the other 300 days of the year it's just plain hard work getting grapes to ripen in less than ideal conditions. Luckily newer cross-bred grape varieties make it easier to produce an end product surpassing New World competitors.

Mont Tauch labelMany wine experts predicted the extinction of the three pound bottle from Britain's supermarket wine aisles following the Chancellor's recent duty increases. But rummage among the expensive named chateau in the 'French' wine aisle of your nearest Somerfield supermarket and you'll find a great bargain hiding behind a sepia monstrosity of a wine label. Mont Tauch Corbières 2006 may not look much from the outside but the young and vibrant wine inside will get you excited.

Blue Nun MerlotThe red was fruity and pleasant, but not something I’d want to pay more than £3.99 a bottle for. The dry rosé tasted of strawberries, but little else. Both had an easy-drinking nature which hinted that they might be French or Italian. But I was only half right. France and Italy make good mass-market wines and, yes, that red turned out to be a French Merlot. But the rosé was Spanish – and there’s a good chance you’d find them both on the shelves under ‘Germany’. Because these two wines are branded Blue Nun.