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Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Giant Granny Square Blanket



Cosy Cat Crochet




I was sorting through my wool stash after
Christmas and came across a
bag full of wool I had bought from Poundland
of all places.
I must confess,
I couldn't even remember buying the stuff.



I was pleasantly surprised at the quality of the wool.
Sometimes cheap wool is exactly that,
c-h-e-a-p.
This wool however,
 felt quite soft to the touch
and the choice of colours weren't bad either.

I pondered for a little while, 'what on earth I could do with it?',
and the idea for a little blanket for Jaffa
came to mind.

Everyone in the house has had something made for them
in recent months
but poor Jaffa has been somewhat forgotten about.


I have mentioned my cat,
Jaffa, 
to you before
a.k.a. Stupid Cat
He is not the most affectionate of cats.
In fact, any affection is very much on his terms.
He does't' do cuddles or sitting on your lap,
only wants to be touched when he is hungry,
and has the philosophy
"why scratch when a hiss will do?"

Over the years, we have all come to have
mutual understanding
for each other.
We have our space and he has his own.
The children learnt from a very early age not to bother him.
On the odd occasion he strolls upstairs to see
what is going on,
the kids tend to stiffen up into rigid statues and inform me
"Jaffa is up here".
It's actually quite funny to see their reaction to him
(in a cruel way).

I know my description makes him sound awful
but he really is not all that bad.
You just need to know how to treat him.

So I thought best to keep the design simple,
and plumped for a giant granny square style.



I ran an alternate row of white with each colour,
which looked quite pretty,
and seemed to accentuate the contrasting colours.

The wool was comfortable to work with,
and didn't split or separate either.

In all, I would say this wool was not a bad buy.

I do read some of the brilliant blogs out there,
where they use such beautiful
(and terribly) expensive wools,
and wish my purse strings could stretch
to such luxurious buys.
A girl can dream, right ?

Any how, my little cat blankie came together
 in the space of a couple of evenings
and the pom poms on each corner were a fun project for
Miss B and me to play around with.


This was such a quick and simple project
and the end result was very satisfying.

I think Jaffa was suitably impressed with his present too.


Until next time, enjoy your day.




x

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Seville Orange Marmalade


Mammy's Marvellous Marmalade



It's that time of year again, when Seville Oranges are with us,
albeit a very short time.



This year I was determined to make my own marmalade from scratch.
I was given a maslin jam pan for my birthday back in September,
by my wonderful friends at work.
(They know me so well.)

It has been sitting, feeling unloved, since then in the cupboard,
waiting patiently for me to get me act together and rediscover my baking mojo.

Thank goodness the New Year seems to have been the
kick start I needed,
and marmalade making seemed to call me back into the land of the kitchen living.

I did a bit of research on-line for recipes and tips,
and decided to plump for one from the BBC Good Food website.
Whats not to trust ?
It's the BBC after all.

What a disaster.
I followed the recipe exactly,
and let's just say  it will not be one I use again.
The cooking times and instructions were less than adequate,
and the result was a pan full of thick, dark brown, bitter gloop.

After seeking some expert advice from the amazing Vivien Lloyd 
I was armed with the correct advice and determined not to be beaten.

Vivien has a wonderful web site packed full of advice, recipes,
and video tutorials.
Her latest book is most definitely on my wish list.

I emailed Vivien and she very kindly took the time to 
help me with the problems I had experienced.
She gave me excellent advice on 
where I went wrong,
and how to correct these problems.

This weekend I cleared some time for myself,
and was all set to master this marmalade making alchemy, 
if it was the last thing I did.

Suffice to say I had a wonderful weekend,
and managed to produce not one,
but two batches of this mesmerising golden nectar.

 Vivien recommended to try and use 
Ave Maria Seville Oranges if you can get hold of them.
They are available from Waitrose 
but regular Seville's will produce a good quality marmalade 
if that is all you can find.

Vivien's video on how Seville oranges are 
collected is very interesting,
 and may make you think twice about not bothering 
to wash your fruit thoroughly before you start.



you will need :*



675g Seville Oranges
1 large unwaxed lemon
1.4 kg granulated sugar
1.75 litres water

*Reproduced with kind permission of Vivien Lloyd

1. Begin by washing the fruit thoroughly in warm water.
Squeeze the juice from the oranges and lemon and set aside.
Keep the pips from the fruit as these will be needed later.

2. Scrape out the membranes from the orange shells.
I found an ice cream scoop quite good for this but a metal spoon will do just a well.

3. Put the membranes into a food processor and chop briefly before putting into the muslin square,
along with the pips from squeezing the juices.
Tie with a long piece of string and set aside.




4. Cut the orange halves into three petal shapes.
It will make cutting a little easier.
Finely cut these petals into shreds.
This is where you decide if you are a thin or thick cut kind of gal.
I made a batch of each in the end it was so much fun.



5. Put the shredded peel, juices, and the water into a large pan,
together with the muslin pouch and leave overnight to soak.



6. The next day, leaving the bag in the pan, bring the liquid to a slow boil and then reduce to a gentle simmer.
Cover the pan and leave for approximately two hours,
until the peel is beautifully soft and the liquid is quite translucent.



7. Remove the pouch and set aside to cool.
I left mine for at least an hour so that it was comfortable enough to handle without burning my hands.


Now for the messy (and quite fun) bit.
I found popping on a pair of rubber gloves quite helpful here.
Squeeze and manipulate the bag to remove as much of the pectin and juice as you can.
This gloopy stuff is crucial to help your marmalade to set, so it is quite important to remove as much from the pouch as you can.
If you don't want to wait for the bag to cool,
you can press the bag into a sieve using the back
of a metal spoon.


Once you feel like there is nothing left to squeeze out, discard the contents and rinse the muslin, ready to re-use.

8. Weigh out your sugar and place this into a heat proof bowl.
Place the bowl into a pre heated oven at approximately 140c until it has gentled warmed through.
Whilst you are waiting for the sugar to warm,
you can wash and rinse your jars ready to sterilise in the oven.
Now remove the sugar and add to your pan.



Pop the jars into the warm oven.

9. Stir the contents of the jam pan over a gentle heat until the sugar has dissolved.
Do not start to boil until all the sugar has melted.


Pop a saucer into this freezer around about now.

10. Now to get down to the exciting part.
Gently increase the heat of the pan to bring the contents to a rolling boil.


You know you achieved this when the top of the marmalade resembles foaming cola.
This took me about ten minutes to achieve but this may vary depending on the size of your pan, volume of contents and the type of hob you are using.
 
Some find it can only takes five minutes
This highlights the importance of
keeping a close eye on this process.

I guess this is where experience and patience comes into play.

If you have a sugar thermometer it will be around the 105c mark.


11. You can give the occasional stir just to be sure the contents of the pan do not catch and start to burn.

This is where I went terribly wrong with my first attempt.
(Important lesson learnt).

Wait approximately ten minutes, keeping the pan at a rolling boil and then test to see if you have a good set.


12. Remove your pan from the heat and taking your saucer from the freezer, place a few drops of the liquid onto the saucer.
Give it a few seconds and gentle push the marmalade with your finger.

There should be little wrinkle to the surface.
If not, pop the pan back onto the heat and wait for the rolling boil to appear again.

Give it another five minutes and repeat the process.

I found checking after five minutes worked for me as I was paranoid about it burning again.


13. Once you are satisfied you have reached a successful setting point,
remove from the heat and leave to stand
for a 5-10 minutes to settle.
Remove any scum that may have formed at this point, with a slotted spoon.


14. Remove the jam jars from the oven, being careful a they will be hot.
Alow them to cool  little.
They need to be warm but not hot.


Ladle the marmalade into the warm jars.
A jam funnel is very helpful at this stage.
Fill the jars right to the brim to acheive a good
airtight seal when you put the tops on.
Scoop off any air bubbles before sealing too.
I put a small wax disc of paper on mine which
are available from many shops.


Seal the jar and allow to cool before labelling.
Stored in a cool, dark place the marmalade will keep for up to one year,
 and up to a month in the fridge once opened.


These little jars of golden heaven are such lovely gifts to give to people 
or indeed just to enjoy yourself at home.

If you can, make a few batches to stock up on.
You need never be without a little 'thank you' gift for someone special.

Our first jar is almost gone already.
Miss B enjoyed it so much she named it
Mammy's Marvellous Marmalade
hence the title of this post.
I think I'll stick with it actually.


It may seem like a bit of a cliche,
but it really does taste so much better when you've made it yourself.

Until next time, enjoy your day.




x