Friday, 5 August 2011

Another path..........

This really struck a chord with me:

There is a life to live without money that is defined by impoverishment, a lack of safety, and potential violence. On the other hand, even with low funds, there is another path thatis surrounded by abundance and community:
'That's the path I want...... Money is just, I think if you have a good relationship with it, it's fine. But my security is not lying in a big stack of cash (You can have a good relationship with money) if it doesn't worry you and..... you're not afriad to receive it, not afraid to let it go. Not afraid to give it away.... You can definitely be mindful about how you use it, but I think that once you let it damage your emotional and spiritual body, once you start letting it take over your life....... I just couldn't imagine how horrible that would be, and you see so many people caught up in it. It's this wicked game that distracts us from being real and being human and from interacting with each other, sharing.'

Stormy McGovern, from Radical Homemaking (Shannon Hayes)

Roses galore.............

This  thing of beauty dropped on to my doormat last week -  ideal reading in a big, hot bubblebath, by candlelight :) True gardener's porn.................. lol
I'm not buying any at the moment, but I just love looking at all the pictures of such gorgeous flowers........... and when I'm done with it, it is destined to be re-shaped into another couple of projects, so watch this space
If you love roses, it's definitley worth  requesting, go on................

Thursday, 4 August 2011

River Cottage Canteen, Axminster

I was lucky enough to be treated to lunch today at this lovely place, and can throughly recommend it if you're near there. Lovely atmosphere, great fun, noisy and busy, child friendly, wonderful staff and stupendous food. Give it a go.............
- not forgetting the Stinger, ofcourse lol

Love me.................

Love my cookery books! Part of my collection of  over 300............

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

How to get your jam to set!

Jamming season is well underway now, with a  lot of folks giving it laldy with the jam pan lol - me inlcuded!
I thought I'd pass on what I've learned over the years about the main problem with jam - how to get it to set.
First off, like most things in life, especially in the kitchen, success lies in practice and patience.
The first is rather obvious -  make as much jam as you can as often as you can!
The second one is a bit more complicated. Patience is required in many steps in the process. The first, and a very basic one that a lot of folk don't consider is to wait until the fruit is fully ripe - you can't make good jam with under-ripe and hard fruit. A few extra days of sunshine at this time of year can make all the difference. Patience when picking - treat all fruit gently to avoid bruising and crushing at this stage. Next is preparation - yes it takes time to de-stone plums, hull strawberries, top and tail gooseberries,  strig currants - but surely that is all part of the pleasure, no?
Take time, if using a recipe, to read it thoroughly, all the way through to the end, more than once - make sure you have enough ingredients, the right equipment to hand, all clean and ready to go.
Let the fruit either stand overnight, or leave on a low heat for a while to soften, especially for fruit with tougher skins - blackcurrants, plums etc.
Use a wide pan for jam making - the wider area at the top ensures rapid evaporation of the liquid, resulting in a good thick jam, with a more certain set.
Give the contents of the pan plenty of time on a lower heat to thoroughly enough to completely dissolve the sugar; if it's not completely dissolved, this encourages crystalisation fo the jam - a thick sugary crust forming on the surface of the jam; whilst edible, not paricularly pleasant, and certainly wasteful.
Give the jam a long enough time at a high temperature to reach setting point. Most folk start out with a jam thermometer;  the wrinkle test is very reliable - a small dollop on a cool/cold saucer, left for 30 seconds or so, will wrinkle on the surface when pushed with a finger to show the jam is ready. A third method, and the one I use now, is the sheeting method - lifting the wooden spoon from the jam, it will not leave the spoon in single drips, but they will join together on the edge of the spoon and form a sort of curtain effect before leaving the spoon edge back into the pan. It's wise to draw the pan from the heat whilst testing, as it will continue to cook and may over cook if time is being taken to test. A few minutes at such a high heat can make a difference.
I take my pan from the heat when setting point is reached and leave on the side for a good ten minutes or so - I put the jars into the oven while doing this. This gives the jam time to relax a bit and settle; if not done, the fruit will frequently rise to the surface instead of being evenly distributed throughout the jar.
Another tip is not to have the jam and/or the jars too hot -  if the jars are too hot, the jam will boil as it touches the hot glass, and can impair the taste of the final product.
So - just a few pointers from my 20+ years of jamming and preserving, I hope you find them interesting and useful.
Happy jamming lol

ps - if your jam doesn't set, it is well nigh on impossible to re-boil to a satisfactory jam; I see lots of ideas for using unset jam as a sauce for ice-cream,but there's usually an awful lot of jam to get through! On the admittedly very rare occasions mine hasn't set, it's gone into the brewing bucket to transform it into a drinkable jam instead !

Monday, 1 August 2011

Simple cards

I think that often simple cards are the nicest, relying on  texture and subtle colouring for effect, with a simple subject  matter. The designs on these I've had stashed away for a while after a stamping afternoon (with lots of tea and laughs) at a dear friend's house a couple of years ago. She's no longer with us, but I have fond memories of her literally thousands of stamps and inks that she generously let me share. The cards are bought; the handnmade paper the designs are stamped on was a book of such paper I got at the tip (aka recycling centre) and still have a lot of left, it's just the thing to add a bit of subtle interest, and a good, versatile colour. Very pleased with these :)

Orchard jam

Sometimes, there isn't enough of a single crop at the right time to make a big batch of something, so I just pile it all in together, like this Orchard Jam which is on the stove right now - I wish it would stay the lively shades of pink and green that it is, but I know it won't !  In there are damsons tiny wild plums and pink crab apples from my orchard, and a few bought greengages that were needing used up. Equal amounts of fruit and sugar, splash of water and on to the stove. Smells wonderful already :)


Today, 1st August is Lughnasadh,  a festival in honour of Lugh, the pagan god of light and wisdom. Loaves were baked from the first corn of the harvest and either presented as offerings or eaten at the celebratory feast, which also included newly dug potatoes and fresh summer fruits. The day-long festivities featured games and sports, singing, dancing and story-telling, followed by general merry-making around bonfires in the evening.
One of the four great pagan festivals of Britain. When Christianity was introduced, the day continued to be observed as a festival on these grounds, and, from a loaf being the usual offering at church, the service, and consequently the day, came to be called Hlaf-mass, subsequently shortened to Lammas, just as hlaf-dig (bread-dispenser), applicable to the mistress of the house, came to be softened into the familiar and extensively used 'lady'.
Here is my loaf, fresh out of the oven - wish you could smell it...............

Sunday, 31 July 2011

Ripple lap blanket

Finished a wee while ago, but just unpacked; this is crocheted in Rowan wool, with the natural dyes, beautiful yarn to work with, I loved it.  The result is very soft and tactile, and I thinkt he subtle colours lend themselves to the ripple pattern very well. It will be for sale very soon in my imminent Blogshop, so watch out for it, and lots more handmade, vintage  and interesting things!