Thursday, 15 January 2015

Preserving the Present for the Future

Well I'm to a good start this year! I decided that this year I would get back into jam-making , looking forward to seeing rows of gleaming jars of lovely jam, jelly and marmalade. Possibly even some chutney (the amount of green tomatoes we usually have at end of summer, I should be more creative with them). I planned to buy some Seville oranges at our local market, around February, I reckoned, according to the books I had. I just happened to ask last week at our lovely vegetable stall, and was told the Sevilles are in, and will be here next week, after that they aren't so good. So, panic mode!

I had to get all my jamming equipment out and check it over - it's been a while! See what I had, what I needed. Last time I jammed I used the pan of my large pressure cooker which I no longer have. So, where do I get a Maselin pan from, and how much is it going to cost me?

By chance, Jim and I took a Sunday trip into Dobbies to pick up some seed potatoes , blood and bone, extra compost to supplement our home made stuff...and there, one lonely Maselin pan stood on the counter, £4.99 Made by Kilner. Selling for about £20 - and more- from other places. It's rare I strike lucky with the sales, but I did that day!

I had jars, just needed some jam sugar and lemons, the oranges, and I was good to go.I didn't make a huge amount, only 3lbs of oranges, but it made all these jars of really super marmalade. I used 1/3 soft brown sugar and chucked in the half jar of ginger syrup left over from the preserved ginger cheesecake I made instead of a Christmas cake. So the end product is dark, but not the rosey hue that appears on the photographs; I think it must be the reflection from the tray.

I want to say to my American readers, that I made this in the traditional British/European manner which has done us for centuries without anyone getting botulism. I really must stress this, as I've had some pretty vehement on-line conversations from women who think you have to further process jam, jelly and marmalade by canning in the water-bath fashion. I can assure you WE DON'T do it here, with no ill-effects, and neither does our preserving industry, who sell their produce around the world, including to the USA.(Despite one lady telling me they wouldn't be accepted into the country because of your higher food standards. Well, let's not go there - I'm not even going to MENTION GMO's, and Corporate -driven legislation which prevents you from demanding open and transparent food labelling. Well, I just did. I think Tiptree, Chilvers, and Fortnum and Mason  and probably the Prince of Wales, would be very surprised to hear that they wouldn't get past customs! )

Ok, minor rant over. We just had some marmalade on toast for our tea, and it was good!

So, hoping to do more preserving this year, including some chutneys and maybe pickles, and I have been having thoughts about making my own sausages...... and no, I'm not contemplating keeping a pig! But more on that another time.  Keep well, keep warm and dry, and I'll be back with more next time.

Friday, 2 January 2015

It's a New Day ..........

Well folks, it's been a while! Both Christmas AND New Year have come and gone, and  I managed to get a post written about neither of them. I can only plead annual sick episode - the usual, asthma, bronchitis and a never-ending head-cold - during which time I have used enough tissues to deforest a small Scandinavian country,  consumed more steroids than a disgraced Olympian athlete, and clocked up more hours on the Poorly Chair (previous known as Jim's Recliner) than is respectable for a woman of my age. However, I feel the Corner has been Turned, so I can pick up on normal activities again. Thank you so much for the kind thoughts you've sent my way which are now published on the previous post!

Our Christmas was very quiet, with just the two of us and Mum for Christmas lunch. She really enjoyed it, though having sat down for a nap in front of the television after lunch, she awoke not knowing where on  earth she was; it took a while for us to talk her through what had happened that morning. Having done that, she was fine, back in her own skin again as it were. By four o'clock she was more than ready to get back to her 'own home' though she really would rather be in her OWN little home and not the Care Home where she now lives.

I had two really rather wonderful Christmas presents from Jim - and some jolly nice other ones, too! But these two were totally unexpected. The first is a wonderful metal sculpture of a moonlit hare, made by the Holkham Blacksmith; I had seen it at the Back to the Garden Craft Fair and fell in love with it. Unknown to me, Jim had been across to the guy and ordered it there and then. Apparently I had scuppered his first attempt to pick it up saying I fancied a trip round the coast road with him one day, so he had to come up with another excuse for going up there!

Here he is, I photographed him right away in the garden, but of course, he will live indoors. Isn't he wonderful?

My second Big Surprise was a long, flat envelope containing the cardboard details attached to a Square Foot Garden package, which was too large to wrap up. I am no gardener, but have been wanting to move on from just growing herbs, perhaps salads, and some easy greens? Then I came across this very easy system of growing which seemed so manageable to me, who has always felt rather overwhelmed by the whole concept of "Gardening" . I read up about it and watched umpteen you tube videos. Being used to my enthusiasms, Jim was less than overcome when I stated I wanted some garden to do this new thing of mine. So I thought well, I shall just get on with it on my own, I have several gardening friends who are more than willing to talk raised beds and no-dig methods with me! Jim really enjoys digging, our soil is beautiful and organic, and he sees no reason to waste an inch of it - and I don't blame him. But I really thought I was going to have to source all the material myself and just crack on with it. Then I opened this on Christmas Day and was totally thrilled to bits by the fact he had gone out and bought this for me. (Any other time he would have knocked some nails into a few bits of wood). So here is the picture again, and I hope in a few months time I shall have something similar to show you myself!

 On Boxing Day we had Mike and Vicki for the day, and in the evening we trotted round the corner (I drove, as legs still too weak at that point) to our local where a couple of dozen  hardy perennials were gathered with homebaked bread, quiche, sausage rolls, cheeses, pickles and chutneys, a lovely spread; I took home made bread and a chicken-liver and pork terrine which I'd made two days earlier.

We had a lovely social time, and some of us made music on guitars and melodeon, there was much singing and even a little dancing!

Jim insisted upon wearing a "Hippy Waistcoat" which I made for him about 15 years ago for a fancy dress party!

Me accompanying Pat with some Cajun tunes. Then he accompanied me playing a couple of my tunes.

At one point Linda couldn't sit still any longer and dragged a not too reluctant Derek up to jive. Do you love the matching Christmas Jumpers? Derek didn't!

 It all packed in by 9pm as arranged, everyone having had a splendid, quite spontaneous time of it. I was pretty shattered by then but it was worth it. To make up for all the excitement (!) we had a very quiet New Years Eve, what Party Poopers we have become! I hope your own celebrations were happy and memorable, and I'd like to wish you all a very happy and healthy 2015. I shall now go and try and catch up with weeks of blog-reading and see what you've been up to!