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Less Partridges, More Pears – Yet Another Holiday Jam

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We’re moving up the ranks of interesting to the second of my four Christmas jams today (if you didn’t catch my strawberry jam run down you can find it here). What is this mystery slightly-more-interesting jam? Pear and Vanilla of course!

Pear and vanilla is J’s favourite fruit and spice combo as you all know, and it resonates very much with the holiday season for us, since it was the flavour of the cake I made for our first Christmas together. This jam riffs pretty directly off of that recipe and thus as far as interesting goes this is not a super unfamiliar combo, but it’s still a step away from the traditional standard berry combinations you find in jams at the supermarket.

I think it’s pretty important to develop and keep food traditions. When you think about it, so many of our food associations and memories come from repetition: tea when times get tough, chocolate pudding at a gathering, creamy rice on a cold winter’s night, flummery (a.k.a. in my family ‘amamfa’) on a hot summer’s day. I sometimes feel guilty just repeating the same recipes and combinations over and over, like I should be exploring and discovering and broadening and all those other things, but then I remember just how much I like those recipes and combinations. And each time they’re repeated they just get more and more meaning and feeling.

A summer time jam in a summer time garden

In the US they’d call this a jelly rather than a jam, since it’s made using only the juice of the fruit rather than the whole thing. I’ve based this off of a recipe for apple jelly from here, with a few alterations.

So anyway, first thing’s first, assemble your ingredients:


1.75-2kg of pears

5 cups of water

2.5 cups of sugar

1 lemon’s worth of juice

1 vanilla bean

Some pectin (I used some Jamsetta, about 1 tbsp or a little less)

As for your method:


Wash your pears and chop them up into chunks, removing the stalks.

Boil them up with the water for about 45 minutes at least, until they’re quite soft.

Then you need to strain all the juice out of them. I improvised a set up using a bowl, a sieve, a colander, a clean tea towel, a plate, and a bottle of water. Give it at least 3 hours.

I ended up with about 3 cups of juice. Whack that back in your pot with the lemon and vanilla bean (split down the middle) and bring it up to the boil.

Pop a little plate in the freezer about now.

Mix the sugar with your pectin then stir it in nice and quickly, making sure you haven’t got any lumps of pectin.

Cook that until you can put a little bit of it on your frozen plate and it sets to form a loose jam consistency.


Now put that jam in your jars and you’ll want to waterbath process them so you can store them out of the fridge.

Yay for new nostalgia!

Home-made Strawberry Jam for Christmas

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Home-made Strawberry Jam for Christmas

So, in the lead-up to Christmas I decided to try and make some of my own gifts. I feel terribly virtuous saving on all sorts of things, money, packaging, you name it.  And of course food makes some of the best gifts (in short – it’s fun then it’s gone).  I did some easy things like vanilla sugar and vanilla essence (did I mention I obtained a heap of vanilla beans?). But then, the silly fool I am, I had to do something more challenging – jam.

An assortment of jams

I’ve made four types of jam now, all ready to be prettied up as gifts for Christmas. And although I’m sure you’re all keen to hear about the more adventurous ones, I’m gonna start with a classic.

Strawberry Jam

My little strawberry patch has been mentioned before around here, and this year it’s producing better than ever. And what better thing to make home-made strawberry jam with than home-made strawberries? It’s double domestic!

The recipe I used is a bog standard one, I’m not sure exactly where it originally came from, but I’ve found pretty much exactly the same one at a tonne of different sites.

So you start out with three cups or so of strawberries. A lot of recipes out there for strawberry jam will ask you to sit the washed and cut strawberries with however much sugar you’re using overnight. This is called macerating them, and its basic function is to break down the cell walls of the strawberries so that all the juice comes out. I didn’t do this though because I’ve been just harvesting a handful of strawberries a day, washing and chopping them, and popping them in the freezer ’til I had enough. Freezing the strawberries also breaks down their cell walls as ice crystals form inside them, so macerating them isn’t necessary any more.

At this point you’ll want to pop a little plate into the freezer so it can get nice and cold. Well use that later. It’s now too that I put my jars in a pot to boil away and get all nice and sterile.

Now put your thawed/macerated strawberries in a wide pan with a cup of sugar and the juice of half a lemon.

Cook cook cook on medium-almost-high heat for ten minutes, and if any scum forms skim it off with a spoon. It’s not dangerous or bad or anything, it just doesn’t look very pretty.

After ten minutes get out your little plate from the freezer and put a little blob of your jam on it. Give it thirty seconds then run your finger through it. If it’s the texture of (thinnish) jam, hurray, you’re done! If it’s not really congealing at all and just seems like a syrup – that’s what it is. Pop the plate back in the freezer and keep cooking for five more minutes then try again.

Now’s the time to put the super hot jam into jars. Try not to splash little drops on your fiancé’s face – they don’t like that. Also try not to put more in a jar than there is space in said jar – not recommended.

Overflowing strawberry jam

Alright, alright. Your jam is in your jars, you’ve wiped any spills off the rims and put the lids on. Now what do you do? You’ve got two options. The safer, more widely preferred and recommended thing to do is to water bath process your jam (instructions and info here). The lazier, more risky, way is to pour the jam in when it’s still really super hot, screw on the lid nice and tight and then quickly flipping the jar upside down for five minutes. This is the one I chose. I’ve got my reasons, but you probably shouldn’t do it this way.

And voila! Jam!

Short Version:

Ingredients

3 cups of washed, hulled and very roughly chopped strawberries

1 cup sugar

Juice of half a lemon

Method

Put a small plate in the freezer and sterilise your jars.

Put everything in a wide pan.

Cook on medium-almost-high heat for 10 minutes, skimming any scum that forms.

Put a small blob of your mixture onto your little plate to check the consistency. If it’s still runny, cook for 5 more minutes then try again. If it seems like the consistency of a loose jam you’re done cooking.

Pour your jam into your jars and process.

Quick note – sheee’s baaaaack…

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Butters the Cat

 

Hi all,

I’ve been gone a pretty long time, dealing with some fairly hefty shadows.

But now I’ve finished study for the year and I’m going a lot more smoothly, I’m thinking with the time on my hands I’m gonna throw the blog world some love.

See ya soon!

Crunchy Betty Challenge Update

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So I’ve been doing the Crunchy Betty Honey Challenge for a bit over a week now and washing my face every day with honey. I’m sad to say I haven’t exactly been having terrific results. I’m going to give it the full two weeks though, and we’ll see what happens at the end. For now though, on with the review:

 

Food:

I love honey. I mean, I really love it. It’s so sweet and tasty and wonderful and nuanced. The raw manuka honey I’m using is a little bit expensive, but I’m only using a finger full and I suspect that the bees that make it are likely happier and better looked after than the home-brand stuff I usually buy (I’m told that industrial beekeeping operations often kill the bees when winter sets in rather than feeding and looking after them all winter before they become active again in spring).

Sadly it’s just not having the intended effects. My skin is both dry and pimply. How does that even work? At first I thought the dryness could be from the cold, but it’s not. I can feel my skin suddenly get so much drier as I wash off the honey. And as for the pimples, I was tempted to attribute them to my red-headed friend coming to visit last week. You know, surfing the crimson wave, Aunt Flo coming to visit, code red, the communists are in the fun box. But no, they persist. Maybe my skin will have gotten used to t after another week? Maybe?

 

With:

I’m fast becoming a Crunchy Betty convert. I’m not going to be using all of her suggestions, but I really like trying new things, and I really like food, and I see no reason why something that’s a food may not also be good for other things. Lots of things can be used for more than one thing – see elastic, or hemp, or the internet.

 

Feeling:

I’m very sad it’s not working out, because I love how fun it is to was my face with honey, and the way it smells. I feel like a kid, like a rebel, like a hippy, a bit silly but okay with that. It feels so fun and nice that I’m gonna keep looking into ways to make it work for my skin. We’ll see.

All I know is that I’m excited every time I put on a bandanna to keep my (newly red) hair out of the way. And I like that.

Sometimes I Just Feel Like A Glass Of Wine

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Sometimes I Just Feel Like A Glass Of Wine

Sometimes, sitting down at the end of the day, I really want a glass of wine. White wine. Sweet white wine. Cheap sweet white wine.

Sadly, ninety-nine percent of the time I don’t have a bottle of wine on hand. So I sit, ruminate on wine and glasses and life and cockatiels and whatever else springs to mind, and then the feeling passes and life goes on.

But these last few days, the last week even, each night the desire for a glass of wine has crept up on me. And so I decided it was time.

 

I went to the bottle shop and bought a bottle of the cheapest sweetest looking white wine I could find (five dollars something – bargain!) and brought it home.

As it sat in my fridge through the afternoon the anticipation grew. I thought about how I never used to drink alcohol at all. I thought about the ceremony that goes with a glass of wine in the evening – the fancy glass, the cosy chair, the possible addition of a knee blanket, the slow luxurious sips.

Eventually it came time. And what a magnificent time it was. I really like the wine I got – Gossips Sweet Lips Muscato. It’s very very sweet and very slightly fizzy and just lovely. I could feel myself relaxing even as I looked at it.

 

It’s funny how very relaxing one glass of wine is. It’s not the alcohol itself, because even though I am quite the cadbury, one sip is not enough to affect even me. So I have come to the conclusion that it is the ceremony, the idea, the luxury, the feeling of having a glass of wine. I’ve written before about seeking out luxury, but sometimes one isn’t in fact in Tasmania, and so a little bit of ceremony goes a long way.

I’m even thinking of buying a bottle of Appleteaser and seeing if I can replicate the feeling entirely sans-alcohol. We’ll see.

Do you have any ceremonies you use to relax?

Murphy’s Law and Honey on my Face

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Murphy’s Law and Honey on my Face

We all know Murphy’s Law, and I of course am as susceptible as anyone to its vicious justice. So when I announced a fortnight ago (oh the hubris) that I was going to be good and punctual and bloggy from then on, well old Murphy, like a gleeful leprechaun, was only too happy to intervene. Thankfully I finally gave the little blighter the kicking he deserved and I’m back – back in time to tell that I’m taking the Crunchy Betty Challenge! (And the blog post I promised for last weekend will be up here tomorrow)

What is this challenge of which I speak?

 

 

Well everyone has this vague idea that honey is pretty good for you. There are plenty of things going for it. And apparently lots of those things are good for your skin. So the challenge is to wash your face with honey once a day for two weeks. I’ve started a few days late so I’ll do a midway post about how things are going as well as a wrap up in a fortnight.

Some things I’ve observed so far:

Raw honey is not labelled super well. It’s important to get raw or unpasteurized honey I’m told, since the heating when it’s processed destroys a whole lot of goodness. I couldn’t see any jars labeled ‘Raw Honey’ so I had to look a bit closer – eventually I came across a jar of Bee Products Active’s manuka honey, which in small print on the side says it’s ‘pure, raw, New Zealand’ honey.

 

 

Manuka honey smells weird. As per the label – “Manuka Honey is world renowned for its distinctive rich flavour, unique aroma and special properties.” I can’t say it’d be the best flavour for baking, but it’s growing on me.

My skin seems to be a little dry immediately after I wash it, but since I usually just use warm water it might just take a few days to adapt. Also it’s quite cold and windy at the moment so it could be that.

It’s pretty fun putting honey on my face – I feel a bit like I’m little and playing with my food.

—–

Last of all, I was pretty charmed by this video Crunchy Betty herself made demonstrating the process – it may have been a large part of my decision to join the challenge:

A Special Birthday Edition Review of Kitami Japanese Restaurant

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I haven’t posted for a while, it’s true, but I have excuses. Reasonable excuses, fantastic excuses, phantasmagorical excuses! But alas, this blog post is far too full already to go into all that. So instead I’ll leave it at: I turnt 21 and I went out and did stuff. One of the things I did was go to dinner at Kitami with some dear friends (and forget my camera, *facepalm*). And so, as well as a bit of an outline of what I want to do with my blog over the next little while after this brief unexpected hiatus, I present to you a Special, Birthday-Edition Review of my favourite Japanese restaurant in town – Kitami.

Cooking:

Fantastic. I’ve been hankering after some decent Japanese food for quite a while now and this really hit the spot. Three friends, my brother, and I got four entrees and two mains to share between us, plus I had some miso soup.

We had spider rolls, tempura prawn rolls, california rolls, and a plate of mixed sashimi for entrees. The rolls were all great, the meat in the spider rolls and tempura prawn rolls was crispy and good and the pickled ginger was as delicious as pickled ginger always is. The sashimi was fresh and delicate and lovely.

I also nicked one of J’s tako yaki balls which were just as rich and tasty as I remembered.

For mains we had a plate of stir-fried beef and a plate of stir-fried pork. They were both lovely with wonderful thick sticky sauces, though I’ll admit I was lusting after some of the chicken dishes on the table, the kara age in particular – it was remarkable last time I ate there. Sadly they don’t use free-range chicken, or at least they don’t say they do and that’s something you advertise. Eating purposefully takes a bit of work and sacrifice though, and it’s only non-free-range chicken so far that I’ve totally ruled out of my diet, so I can hack it.

With:

A most  delightful crowd. There were about fourteen people in all from very different parts of my life – my little brother to the ladies I’ve known since my first year in Law, right through to a new friend from the Linguistics department at Uni. Plenty more great people sent their apologies, and of course J was there too.

It really made me appreciate how fantastically lucky I am. Life is fragile, but it’s easy to forget that with all of these wonderful, supportive, caring, loving people around me. Without these people, my family, my friends, my partner, would I be sitting here at the kitchen table sipping tea and looking out at the dazzling blue of the Australian sky? Would I have the luxury of this blog, this computer, this safe welcoming home?

And who would cheer me, teach me, support me, reason with me, or make me laugh? Who would talk to me when I feel like I’ll bust if I don’t have a chat to someone but but I have nothing particularly interesting or new or relevant to say? Who would make me feel valuable and good?

 

I like birthdays and anniversaries, days that mark time passed. They remind me of just how cool it is that all that time was mine, to share.

Feeling:

Well back to the serious business. Kitami feels… unfinished. But it’s not so bad. It feels friendly, at ease. Like the restaurant itself is relaxed and happy to see you. There’s a little garden near the entrance that’s very sweet, with sand and rocks and bonsai trees. And the staff are super friendly. They’re really professional, sure, and all our meals came out promptly and deliciously. They even got some lovely plates and a tray set out for my friends who decided, sneaky things they are, to bring a cake and not tell me about it.

But more than anything the staff seem happy. Really genuinely happy to have you there. And that overwhelming feel of welcome means more than any decor.

 

—————

 

So, as I hinted earlier on, I’d also like to lay out what I plan to write to you about over the next few weeks. I’ve been lazy lately, taking huge breaks between posts, but now that I’m on Uni breaks for a few more weeks and most of my Big Stressful Things that needed doing have been done, I’m going to try and step back up to the plate – at least one post a week.

My next post will be one I started writing a week ago but didn’t really get to the posting stage with, then if I can find the pictures I took to go with it I have a post written a very long time ago with a modified carrot cake recipe that I was especially proud of. And after that I have some new musings to share, on choosing not to eat everything and healthy(-er) eating. So I really look forward to getting into that.

 

What are you looking forward to? And what makes you happy to look back at?

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