We all like to eat well and if you want to eat then learn to cook well. Recipes handed down through families are culinary treasures. In New Zealand when I was a child, it was common to preserve fruit and vegetables, to make our own lemonade. No convenience store down the road for us. Visitors to the farm who turned up at morning teatime quite often stayed for dinner. Food draws people together and it is nice to offer homemade preserves with other food.
Relishes, chutneys and jams that are simple to make, are staple items in my pantry, used to jus up different recipes. Each season, fruit and vegetables ripen faster than we can consume. Home preservation is a practical money-saving activity that I enjoy and the chance to do some cook creative cooking. Yesterday, I turned a surplus of cucumbers picked from my garden into a lightly spiced relish that partners well with cheeses and cold meat. It will not last long in this household.
Surplus fruit gets frozen each season and the cleanout of the freezer prompted a jam-making effort. The raspberries, strawberries, boysenberries, white sugar and pectin smelled divine as the fruit came to a boiling roll in my jam-making saucepan. Using a wooden spoon, I stirred occasionally for the six-minute cooking time.
The low-pectin berry jam recipe has varied a little from my mother’s recipe: 1.75 kg of fruit, 1.1 kg of warmed sugar and a 70 gram sachet of powdered pectin.
It is a basic recipe. As I had enough berries, I did not want to add more fruit such as cooking apples or crabapples, as Mum usually did, even though they are high in pectin and jell easily when made into jam. My way to check the jam is setting is to cool a teaspoonful of jam on a plate which should crinkle when pushed with a finger.
I remember my brothers always wanted jam sandwiches for their school lunches. As kids, we all loved the taste of Mum’s newly set jam spread over a slice of fresh bread. There is nothing quite like the flavour of home grown seasonal fruit transformed into a delicious homemade conserve.
Boiling fruit and sugar
Test for jelling when a spoonful of jam is cooled, it should crinkle when pushed with a finger.
Jars of berry jam
Childhood memory of newly made berry jam spread on a slice of fresh bread
Word Press Daily Prompt Saturday Night
Coping with the heat and humidity. That is what I am doing.
Earlier this evening, cold drink in hand, I kept company with Dr. Kay Scarpetta as I turned the pages of crime author Patricia Cornwell’s latest novel, Depraved Heart. At page 256, I stop reading. There is no more ice in my freezer and no more chilled drink in my fridge. That puts an end to that.
Time to venture outside to say goodnight to my garden, to give the plants a cool drink. It is pleasant during the stillness of the twilight hours. The first star makes its appearance, there is the occasional bird twitter as they settle in the trees and the shadows deepen as the dark cloak of the night descends over the land. After shutting the hens in their coop, I set the possum traps. These creatures of the night will soon stir from their daytime slumbers intent on foraging and ravaging my fruit.
Still the humidity persists. Feeling listless, I check out the online International Scrabble Club and play a couple of games, check out Facebook and am now writing this daily prompt. It may be a late night.
Hardly Saturday night fever.
How did I NOT notice all this junk before? Is this what we have to show for decades of married life? Time to cut the clutter. One drawer, one shelf, one cupboard, one room at a time and then the outside shed. Donate the items to charity. Simple. Let’s get organised.
It has been dirty, sweaty, heavy work in the humid hot weather. It has taken several days to clear, sort, decide, shift and stack items for removal. Rooms needed cleaning after being cleared.
A mindshift was in order. Do I want to reread these 1980s’ academic texts? Do we really need this pre-energy ratings, aged fridge-freezer as a drinks’ cooler? Are those kitchen and linen cupboard items are surplus to requirement? Would the gardening tools inherited from long ago gardeners be better in another pair hands digging their new garden? A heated argument sparked between Himself and I over his “best” pair of shoes that I tossed onto the discard pile. “They’re still good! I might need them one day” Male logic! That the shoes had been stored in a box in the shed with other old footwear and not worn for some years is immaterial. In this decidedly cooler atmosphere we worked on.
One person’s trash is another’s treasure. Now, this I understand. Habitat for Humanity ReStores sent their truck to our place today for free and we filled it! Imagine the number of vehicle trips to the local refuse station and site entry costs we saved. Zero, the amount of our household stuff tipped into the landfill, a step towards helping the environment.
Items we donated to Habitat may be given to people who need help to set up house again. Good work is being done to provide communities with sanitation and clean water. Restore shop sales generate funds to support building and repair programmes to rehouse people locally and internationally.
And yes, his shoes live another day – for now.
It is that time of the year again when the branches of the Luisa plum tree hang low, heavily loaded with large, luscious, blushing yellow-fleshed fruit, best eaten fresh from the tree. Kids love to pick and snack on the juicy sweet fruit. And so do possums. These pest animals are picky eaters of the ripest part of the fruit.
In previous posts I mentioned how possums are a pest animal in New Zealand. They roam and forage during the night ravage a range of native forest species as well as bird eggs and chicks. Home gardens and orchards are not immune.
Possum control is ongoing. For safety reasons, we neither lay poison nor night shoot with a spotlight. We set Timms traps which kill a single possum at a time. Before I bait a trap with cinnamon-dusted apple, I put the cats inside and shut the hens in their coop while the traps are set. Doggy neighbours have an friendly woofy role in our life. Dog ownership has expenses and responsibilities that we choose not to take up even though we know the presence of a dog acts as a pest deterrent.
Our older son had a flourishing orchard until his dog Rosy became ill early in 2015. She hated possums and took her guard duty seriously at night and was quite the goofy family pet by day. Unimpeded after Rosy’s death, possums stripped many mature fruit trees bare of leaves and fruit buds. A heritage peach tree later died. Since late last year, son’s new two-year old dog, Chief, has been quick to pick up Rosy’s mantle of Pest Control Officer and is guarding ‘his’ orchard with success. Most of the fruit trees are showing signs of recovery.
Picking and preserving under-ripe plums is at the top of my To Do list.
About 6.00 a.m., a line of mist hovered along the paddock highlighted by rays of early daylight as the sun appeared over the hills. The awakening moment fogged over as the heavier morning mist rolled in low along the valley, dressing the trees in ghostly cloaks. But, the sun, relentless, rises even more, the fog dissipates and the chooks and cats let us know it is beyond their breakfast time and that we would be reported if food was not forthcoming.
Kitchen food scrap bucket and grains in hand, I walked across the wet grass dotted with small blankets of spider webbing before heading down some steps past the cabbage tree (Ti Kouka) covered with sparkling silky spider webs. My, how the spiders have been busy weaving the night away while we slept. They are hungry and set their gossamer traps to snare the insects that frequent the tree.
The circular webs are delicate and lacy in a way that seems not to be of this world. Dew drops glisten like fine diamonds on the filigree threads clasped to the small branches. I pause and ponder intent on capturing the moments of the morning.
Finally, I remember my task was to feed the chooks two hours ago. The sun has risen well above the trees and it promises to deliver another hot windless day. To a squawk the chooks have voted me the worst hen mother ever! Some busy pecking of the organic wheat and scraps ensues and it is not long before they scamper to scratch for bugs under the trees. As I return to the house, I notice the spider webs like the fog, have gone.
Poof! A fleeting moment is now a memory.
Excerpt from Daffodils poem
The village at Grassmere
Wordsworth’s garden steps
Who does not know and love this poem, I Wondered Lonely as a Cloud penned by William Wordsworth? It is a poem that has never been far from my mind. I came across some photos while decluttering stuff that has piled up over the years, photos taken on our trip to the Lakes District during the English summer months a few years ago. Decluttering can wait. This pleasant memory demands attention. As a gardener, I identify with the natural landscape features, the floral and starry elements and I feel the poet’s delight at the scene before him.
There were no daffodils dancing in a springtime breeze for us the day we visited Wordsworth’s garden and cottage. Up the garden steps built by the poet himself and I went. From our vantage point while sitting on the garden bench, we gazed at the village and lake nestled among the hills and for a while as travellers do, rested and refreshed, delighted by what we saw.
I wandered lonely as a Cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and Hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden Daffodils;
Beside the Lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.
The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:-
A Poet could not but be gay
In such a jocund company:
I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:
For oft when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude,
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the Daffodils.
Published in Collected Poems, 1815
Word Press Daily Prompt (YAWN) What bores you?
Sipping my cappuccino at the local scenic waterfront café at times, has become a fraught experience. The very public nature of private mobile phone conversations are made audible across the café courtyard. I can overhear details about commercial transactions, marital woes, family and dinner arrangements. In this small city, it is easy to recognise names and faces. I, the stranger two tables away, become an inadvertent confidante. Yawn!
Hear this loud phone talkers! iPhones and Smartphones are sophisticated devices that enable two-way conversations without the need to shout. Speak in muted tones so that people at the next table cannot hear your personal business. I am not part of your conversation.
Notice that woman, sitting with the man at the table under the red sun umbrella, who just turned her back on you away from the direction of your voice. Quite likely it is me. I struggle with too much information from unguarded talk. I get bored and to pass the time while I wait for my order, I concoct fictional scenarios around the snippets of information. Are you auditioning to be the central character?
In a café setting, we expect people to be sociable, to laugh, to savour the food and to enjoy face-to-face time with their companions. That is part of the ambience. Stop a while. Be unbusy. Inhale the cinnamon aroma that wafts from the froth in your coffee cup. It is one of life’s simple pleasures. Does that mobile call need to be made now?
Yes, I make and take mobile calls in public settings. I am mindful to talk in a private area so that I cannot be overheard. When I last checked, the café is licensed to sell and serve food and is not a phone booth or designated as an office. Phone etiquette is called for. After a workout at the gym, I like to have a coffee date with my husband away from my garden and to chill out in the sun without being interrupted by noisy nearby phone calls.