Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Jelly. The facts.

The hit of this summer, when it comes to things to spread on toast in the morning and gobble down with a good strong cup of coffee, was blackcurrant and apple jelly. It was a particularly satisfying thing to make, because not only was it very delicious, but I used blackcurrants that I'd picked myself, for free, from a farm in the Moutere Valley, and windfall apples that I'd found when out on a wee bike ride one day. I wish I could show you a photo of it, but we ate it all up or gave it away as gifts, so I have none left.
However, I did get my jelly stride on again last weekend, and made a batch of old-fashioned grape jelly from the grapes that trail over our garden fence from our neighbour's house. To make old-fashioned grape jelly you pick over the grapes, removing all the sneaky spiders that like to hide on the stalks. Give the sorted grapes a wee wash and then boil them up with a little water, say, 1/2 C to a kilo of grapes, until it's all juicy and pulpy. Simmer for about 40 min or so, then pour into cheesecloth and let the juice drip through. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: For GOODNESS SAKES, don't squeeze the jelly bag. Old people who know about jelly will hit you on your hand for doing that, and they'll berate you about making cloudy jelly.
After all, or at least most, of the juice has dripped through, boil it up with an equal amount of sugar (500 mL juice, 500 g sugar) and some lemon juice or citric acid (1/2 a teaspoon or so) if you have no lemons. Boil until you reach the setting point. You know what a setting point looks like right? If you put a little on a saucer, cool it, and then push your finger through it, it will form wrinkles on the surface. Hey presto! Old-fashioned grape jelly!
I learned to make jelly when I was a teenager, when I should have been hanging out with naughty friends my parents disapproved of, and experimenting with cigarettes. Sigh...so many regrets, so many regrets. 
When I'm making jelly I almost always just boil the fruit up, strain it, then add equal quantities of sugar and a little lemon juice to the strained juice. It always works, but if you want to be a true jelly expert then look out for this book:
It's the Otago University Extension Bulletin from 1966. What it can't tell you about making jelly isn't worth knowing. Does anyone want a copy of the chapter on jelly? I will load it up if you're interested. You can make jelly from most fruity fruits, you know, apples, berryfruits, citrus, currants, plums, elderberries, grapes, quinces, even rowanberries. If you're into it, that is. You might find it more fun to hang out with naughty friends and experiment with cigarettes, but I can't say for sure. One thing I do know is that when you tally up the cost of jelly made with free fruit the inner tight wad does a little jig with its short arms tucked firmly into its deep pockets.
Have a great week everyone!
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Monday, March 7, 2011

For my love

Ten years ago next week...we got maaaaaarried. The sun shone, the sky was blue. It was ace.
We don't normally do anniversary presents, but since 10 years is such an impressive round number we decided we would.
"How about a VERY silly home made present?" I said.
"...(Awkward pause)...um...okay" he said.
I'm sure his retiscence was just for show, because he secretly loves all my silly craft activities. We sure have a lot of laughs about them.
I wanted, needed, to make a wonderfully literal cross stitch motif of one of his favourite hobbies and put it on a T-shirt. Explaining why I needed to do this is like explaining a joke. Either you get it or you don't, and if you don't, an explanation will kill it anyway. I fully acknowledge that it is extremely unlikely this T-shirt will ever be worn in public. It may well end up being one of those things that only gets worn when all his other clothes are dirty and even then under a jersey. But did that stop me? No sir. This motif, man on bike, was just so hilarious that it had to be stitched.
It's from this book, and there are a suite of other fabulous designs of every day items and activities. There's even one of a woman frying an egg. Great, isn't it?
So this is the final gift: Cross stitched motif on cotton embroidery fabric using three strands of DMC cotton in assorted colours. The motif was pressed onto vleisofix and then ironed onto a plain T-shirt ($15 at Hallensteins). I pressed woven interfacing onto the back side of the T-shirt front and then edged the motif using a very wide, small-length zig-zag stitch.
Ten years, it sounds like a long time, doesn't it? It doesn't feel like it though. He has seen me at my fattest, my thinnest, my happiest, my darkest and moodiest, and he loves me anyway. What a sweet heart he has. Happy anniversary Darling.