Sunday, 1 February 2009

In which I get very excited, and make Marmalade (but not in that order)

I was very excited when I got out of bed and turned on my computer to discover that Neil Gaiman had twittered about my Coraline junkets (yesterdays post) with a link here. I’d sent him a link to the pictures, as I thought it might amuse him, but I didn’t really expect a response, or a twitter of my own! So I did spend a little while wandering around the house (while pottering and making breakfast, because I can multitask) saying to myself “Neil Gaiman linked to MY blog!....Neil GAIMAN linked to my blog..” it didn’t seem very probable, whichever way you say it.

I got several questions about how it tasted, and the answer is – a bit bland – junket is only milk and sugar, after all, it’s a bit like diluted yogurt, and the flavours you notice are of whatever you put into it, so in my case it tasted slightly of apple, cinnamon and chocolate.

I only really got to eat the original junket, because the ‘Other Junket’ made a leap for freedom as I was putting it back into the fridge after taking the photos, so most of it ended up all over the floor. This taught me 2 things:

1. The advantage of blue junket it that it shows up well on the floor, so it is at least easy to clean up
2. Cats like junket.

There was enough left in the bottom of the glass to taste; it tasted pretty much the same as the first one. And I suppose that the cat getting a helping is quite appropriate, given Coraline’s story!

As well as junketting, I spent a lot of yesterday making marmalade. This is something which I have only started doing in the last year or so. My grandmother always used to make marmalade, and I would always go home with a jar when I visited her. So home made marmalade, it’s smell, and flavour, are deeply evocative.

As she is no longer with us, I started thinking about making my own marmalade. I always had an idea that jams and marmalade were tricky to make, but my first effort, this time last year, seemed to work reasonably well, so as it’s marmalade season again I decided it was time to make another batch.

It’s actually fairly straightforward, but it is time consuming, especially if you are cutting the peel by hand. But it does make the house smell nice.

Last time I made marmalade I think I very slightly undercooked it, so it took a long time to set, and all the peel floated to the top, (although it tastes just fine) so I was particularly pleased that this lot set beautifully.

It makes me feel very self-sufficient and housewifely, as if I might suddenly find that I also had a garden full of home grown vegetables and chickens and the like, instead of a rather dismal yard, in which I grow only concrete and the occasional tomato.

I also enjoy the feeling that I have achieved something practical. In my day job, I don’t make anything (I help people to fix their problems, so I achieve stuff, sometimes, at least, but I don’t physically make anything). And I’m not good at anything craft-y – I can’t draw or paint, or sew or knit (believe me, I have tried. I can’t achieve anything which comes close to the end result I want, so it just becomes depressing. I can, up to a point, do DIY, (partly because of a determination not to be a helpless female, but again, I end up having expended huge effort and vast amounts of time, for a result which is mostly just ‘OK’. But cooking, that I can do. And get results. I just need more people to feed, now.

And it means that I now have 11 jars of marmalade, to eat and to give to family and friends, which is nice.

Of course, as with all things in life, there is a down side – marmalade is sticky, and when you are ladling not-quite-boiling marmalade from a large preserving pan into small jars you do (at least if you’re me) end up with sticky dribbles of marmalade on the hob, the surface and the outside of the jars.

Cleaning is less fun than cooking. But I now no longer have either junket or marmalade anywhere it doesn’t belong.

(Of course, having expended all this effort, I now feel that I have been sufficiently productive to be able to spend the rest of the afternoon on the sofa with the papers (yesterday’s and today’s), the radio, the interwebs and (of course) the chocolate buttons which did break when I tried to make holes in them and which therefore now need eating. ..


Dragonsally said...

"Cleaning is less fun than cooking"
yup, to be sure.
Home made marmalades, jams and sauces are so much better than bought ones.
You really have been having a productive time.

spacedlaw said...

Making jam or marmalade is indeed very evocative of chiildhood. An it smells wonderful inside the house.
You are lucky with your recipe: I have a marmalade recipe that spans over several days to be made!
A friend of mine had bitter oranges in her garden, but she doesn't cook, so I get to make mamrmalade for her 8i don't eat sweet things much).