Thursday, 26 January 2012

amo amas amat

Amo amas amat,
A minibus,
A marmaladey cat.

Forgive the gratuitous regression to John Lennon quotes* and schoolgirl Latin, but I've been making marmalade this week.

We get through quite a lot of marmalade over the course of the year, so last Saturday I went and filled my shopping bag with 13lbs of seville oranges.

I made the first batch that afternoon.

More on Sunday

and the third lot on Tuesday. None of the batches came to setting point within the hopeful 15 minutes suggested in most recipes, so there was quite a lot of messing around with a thermometer and saucers chilled in the freezer. As you can see I have used a very motley selection of jars. There are 28 of them in a wide range of sizes.

So far I have used 8lbs of oranges and will be using the rest for Bitter Orange Ice-cream - a Nigella Lawson recipe from Nigella Bites which is totally delicious - then will be freezing any oranges remaining for future use.

I think three batches of marmalade already justifies the new preserving pan that I bought last week.

As a memorandum to myself for next year's reference. 2.5lbs of oranges seemed about the right amount to be able to boil the pan of fruit and sugar quite hard without overflowing

*I remember this as a quotation from a John Lennon poem, but can't find any confirmation on the internet.

Thursday, 19 January 2012


My latest finished project. A hooded cardigan for myself. The pattern is the ubiquitous Central Park Hoodie, which I already made a couple of years ago for Hannah. It's always such a relief when a garment I've spent time on actually fits and does the job I wanted it to do!
The yarn was a total bargain - bought in the Hospice Charity shop for £4.50! I think it was pretty cheap even before it was given to charity and is 100% acrylic, but was actually quite pleasant to knit with - didn't have that static crackle that you sometimes get with synthetic yarn.

Anyway, I'm pleased to have a useful garment that will go with a lot of my other clothes. (The colour in the first and last photos are more accurate).

Unmatched buttons from my mother's button box.

Friday, 13 January 2012

the rise (and fall) of the sourdough loaf

As my first “try something new” of 2012 I decided to have a go at making sourdough bread. (And in fact, to make more bread generally). This involves creating a sourdough starter from flour, water and the airborne yeasts that exist in the environment. My bread baking book had a recipe, so off I went.

100g bread flour and 115g tepid water mixed to a paste and left in a covered bowl on the kitchen worktop for 2 – 4 days

After this time it should look bubbly and smell pleasantly yeasty, and it needs to be fed. Add another 100g flour and enough tepid water to make a paste-like dough. Cover and leave for 24 hours.
By now it should be pretty active. Stir, then discard half the mixture and feed as before. Cover and leave for 12 hours, by which time it should be just about ready to use.

Increase the volume by adding another 100g flour and tepid water and leave for 6 – 8 hours. Measure what is needed for your recipe and put the rest in a closed container in the fridge.

So far, so sourdough.
I was a bit surprised after five days of so much bubbling and dividing and adding and stirring and leaving under a damp cloth that the recipe for California Sourdough bread still specified the addition of yeast as well as the sourdough starter, but I did it anyway and was very pleased with the results.

Next I wanted to make a loaf that just used the sourdough starter and no additional yeast. The recipe I chose was for a delicious-looking olive and thyme loaf. I measured the starter, added flour and water, kneaded and left it to prove. Well I waited and waited and really nothing happened. I’ve tried it twice now and the second time I actually left it for more than 24 hours, but the starter just wasn’t active enough to raise the dough.

I was disappointed, but used the starter to do another batch of California sourdough using a wholemeal/white flour mix. Again, the result was very pleasing.

I’m continuing to work with the sourdough starter, feeding and resting, but still haven’t produced anything that looks lively enough to work on its own. It’s beginning to feel a bit wasteful as I add and discard, but I’m going to give it another week or two. Of course I’ve had a look on the internet for other methods of creating a sourdough starter, but ended up feeling confused and distressed because there are so many different approaches. It could be that the ambient temperature of our kitchen in January is just a bit low (though all the artisan bakers extol the slow, cool rise rather than the accelerated approach). For now I’m just going with these wise words from the poet David Whyte: Start close in, don't take the second step or the third, start with the first thing close in, the step you don't want to take. (With thanks to Gail Adams)

Thursday, 5 January 2012

den building

Isn't it amazing how a few cushions, some chairs and a couple of quilts can keep A Retired Person happy for hours!

Monday, 2 January 2012

made in 2011/plans for 2012

I started a post yesterday to record all the things I had made in 2011. Unfortunately I bored myself to tears trying to record it all and find the appropriate photos. I will therefore restrict myself to showing a couple of photographs of things I made for others that didn’t get blogged at the time.

A wrap/shrug for one little grand-daughter

and a little cardigan for the newest family member . The pattern for this one kept me on my toes as it is made cross-wise from wrist to wrist and uses provisional cast-ons and lots of stitches held on spare needles. (That link is to a pattern on Ravelry. I'm not sure if it will work if you're not signed up).

Inspired by a pattern idea on the Purl Bee website I made a swaddling blanket for the same baby.

Now, I'm concentrating on projects for 2012. First I simply must finish the cabled cardigan I used to illustrate my last post of November. The process, though enjoyable, is no longer enough; I want to be able to wear it. Equally I want to be able to wear a colour-work hat that I already have yarn and pattern for, so that's next on the needles.

And I have a sewing project that I want to make progress on. It was inspired by paisley quilts that I saw at the Quilt Museum in Lampeter and is going to make use of a Liberty print shawl that I gave to my mother as a Christmas present at the end of the eighties.