Thursday, September 28, 2006

Luscious Loquats

Robert cuts down bunches of loquats from the tree every few days while they are ripening. The ones at the top are left for the birds...crimson rosellas, yellow winged honey eaters, blackbirds and wattle birds mostly. A bucketful will make about 5x250 ml jars of jelly.

The larger yellow loquats are about three cm long. I try to use a mixture of ripe and half ripe ones so that the jelly sets well. The fruits can be eaten raw when they are yellow but are small and fiddly. That's also why I make jelly and not jam. For jam I would have to peel the darned things.
Inside are some large brown pips which we push out with our thumbs and because the flesh goes brown quickly they get put straight into a saucepan of water. When they are all done I make sure that the water just covers them and then I put it all on to cook for about half an hour , till they are mushy.

I strain them through this amazing gadget that I bought on ebay a couple of years ago.
I line it with a clean cloth and leave the juice and pulp to drip through it overnight.
The juice is saved and the pulp is chucked into the compost.
This gadget was made in America and is part of my growing collection of Kitchenalia. It's lovely to have something collectable and usable too. I use it for the crab apple jelly as well.

For every cup of juice I add a cup of white sugar, and to the 5 or 6 cups of juice that I get from each bucket of loquats, I add the juice of two lemons, a tablespoon of rosewater and 2 drops of cochineal. Any more cochineal would make it look luridly coloured. The two drops is just enough to give it a blush.

I boil it all till it reaches setting point. I test this with a thermometer and when it gets to 104 degrees C I start to chill bits on a saucer in the fridge. If you push your finger through a cold sample it should wrinkle up as if a skin is forming on top. This means it should jell if bottled and left well alone till it is cold.

It is too sweet for my own taste but it's delightfully delicate and perfumed and so very pretty.

Please can reader/s let me know what they think it might be best used for. Putting it on breakfast toast is an obvious one but I think it deserves more and I would love to be able to make some daring suggestions to the people who come to my jam stall and show an interest in it.

More on cardis next post!

Cheers Gillian

Friday, September 22, 2006

Cardi Capers

What is it, that pommies have about cardigans? Rhetorical question, because I'm about to theorise at length.

1 We have been brought up to believe that the ever changing weather can best be accommodated for by carrying and if necessary, donning a cardigan. (and carrying a brolly and wearing a vest.)

2 Lord Cardigan, who invented them by turning a jumper into a cardigan by adding buttons down the front, was a time and motion expert and it has since been acknowledged that a cardi is easier to put on than a jumper. (He didn't call his invention ...THE CARDI...someone else did that.)

3 You would think that knitting one to fit would be easy-peasy because you can adjust to fit at so many stages. (and I do!)

4 A well fitting one is a pleasure to wear. It hangs at the right length. It covers other mismatches of clothes and body-figures and it mixes and matches with most of your other things AND it can be taken on and off in flash without losing your ear-rings.

5 You can move to the antipodes and live nearby in Melbourne and still need a cardi because of the 'weather patterns' (Melbourne is famous for having four seasons in one day). So you can accumulate a wardrobe of eight cardis and still believe you need another.
It is a lovely cardi and I have finished it. It has sewn together well. Often garter stitch is a bit stretchy and doesn't hang or drape but this one is fine. It does up nicely as designated by the pattern book (Paton's 1250 Jet). I made it out of Bendigo Rustic and managed in the end to complete it with 5x200 gm balls of the 12 ply.
I had at the end some scraps for a bird's nest which I put out for the blackbirds and a small ball of 5 metres. I was so thrilled at my achievement.

But then I put it on.

I am the wrong shape for this kind of cardi. I am uncomfortable with my bulginess. I have put on 10 kilos since the chemo and am still not used to the shape I have become in the last couple of years. I shall have to be more realistic and less trendy-seeking.
I shall hang the cardi on my stall and maybe someone else will be delighted with it. I tried to take a photo to prove it but the flash blanched the image in the mirror. I showed Robert. He agreed with me. He gently asked me how disappointed I was and I said not as much as I could have been because I now know, not to knit bulky cardis in 12ply for myself and to get out and do some more exercise.

But I wonder how much I have really learned. My next major project is a CARDI. I got the pattern out of the English Women's Weekly a couple of years ago and will use some bargain Bendigo 8 ply cotton.
This one is long to start with so I don't have to do any messing about with the sizes. It does up with buttons, partially down to the bottom and I usually leave the bottom buttons undone anyway. It's a four row lacy pattern and easy to memorise and repeat and I have the 8 ply cotton in my stash.

I'm just off to knit a swatch. Not because I think the cardi will fit any better if I do, but because it will be easier to fiddle with if I know how it knits up. It came in skeins and I wound it into balls this afternoon while the "Spicy Tomato Relish" cooked.

Cheers Gillian

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Frightful Frogging

I haven't done much knitting at all this week. I ran out of dark green wool far too soon even though I knitted as fast as I could. So then I left it for the fairies to come and fix at night but that didn't work either. By the end of the week I had myself believing that the band was only a few centimetres short but this morning I laid it out and the truth was there in front of me. NOT ENOUGH WOOL TO FINISH THE BAND AND TWO SLEEVES WHICH WERE FAR TOO LONG.
The obvious solution is to frog the sleeves to a couple of inches below the oxter (armpit) and reknit to fit the armhole better. This should leave enough wool to finish the band!!!

As you can see from the pattern, the sleeves are a bit long and I dont like my sleeves to end below my wrist bone, so this should be a fine finish.

I still haven't picked up the stitches and started again. The weather is lovely, though, so after lunch I might sit on the verandah and do the pick up stuff.
I only seem to have one pair of 51/2 mm needles out of the millions that I own. Okay, that's a slight exaggeration. I need another pair. So maybe I can justify procrastination until the LYS opens at 10am tomorrow morning. No thanks Sue! Please don"t pop over with a pair. I want an excuse to delay.
I always have trouble with garments fitting. It's my own fault because I fiddle around with different yarns and needles and even though my tension swatches measure up , my garments dont. So I suffer from fear of completion. I will never look like the picture on the pattern so I think I have got it wrong.
Cheers for now Gillian

Friday, September 08, 2006

Five Foods To Eat Before You Die MEME

I was sent this MEME by Melissa from Tummy Rumbles this morning and I'm on to it straight away because I couldn't wait. I've been wanting someone to ask me for my favourite foods/tastes for so long that I had them ready. I have many more than this list but because it's FIVE, I have put them into my own food group classification.

FISH...I can still taste the "Halibut with Prawn Sauce" from a little pub in Hull U.K. in 1974 and the "Steamed Sea Bass with Thyme" home cooked at my sister's place in1984. But unfortunately both these species are now seriously endangered and so if I want you to eat something before you die, and not endanger them further, please buy some MUSSELS from the Mussel Shop in Port Arlington on the Bellarine Peninsula. The season has started and the little beauties can be bought for $4 a kilo. I have eaten many mussels but these have been the best in Oz.

MEAT...I love roast chicken and minced beef in particular but my most memorable taste was something called "Bokkie". This was a goat steak about the size of a small schnitzel. It had been barbecued over wood embers and we ate it under starlight in a prospectors camp in Namibia. I dont know how you can replay this one but you could try a BBQ outside one warm evening soon. Goat meat can be bought around Melbourne. As far as I can remember, it was quite crusty and brown on the outside and only just cooked through and I have absolutely no idea what bit of goat it was.

VEGETABLES...By now you will have noticed my colour co-ordination!
There is only one answer for this section. JERSEY ROYAL NEW POTATOES. These are worth a trip to U.K. for, in their spring. The first ones come in by air from the Island of Jersey in the British Channel ( Le Manche, si vous est Francais). They cost a fortune and are worth every penny. They can only be eaten washed/scrubbed, boiled and then with butter and a light sprinkling of a non invasive herb such as chervil or young parsley.

DAIRY/EGGS...I've often wondered what I could live without most easily. I'll go for a combination cooked by myself as the easiest, tastiest and most delicious quick meal and that way I wont have to give up anything. A MELTING CHEESE OMELETTE MADE WITH FREE RANGE EGGS AND CHEESE SUCH AS MILAWA GOLD, IN A PAN WITH LOTS OF BUTTER.

SWEET...The most memorable sweet taste I have ever had was a HONEYDEW MELON that lived up to its name in 1996. I had to go and wake up someone else to come and taste it for breakfast, because I wanted to make sure I wasn't imagining it. This is probably the most difficult taste to replicate. So many melons, cantaloupes etc taste so BOOOOORING these days I have almost given up buying them. Hey and what does Banana taste like ? Now I know what those children felt like when they got their first ever bananas in England after WW2. My mother used to buy them and cut them into slices about the size of a lolly and we got a couple each.

I shall now send this on to five more "happy" recipients. I dont think there are any rules about the number five so if you are not on this list and want to be please let me know. I suppose you can also claim to hate food and renege.

Taphophile at Unravelled
Beverley at yarNZ4knitters
Becky at Moonlight Frogger
Sue at Knitter Sue
Dot at Twisted Stitches

Cheers for now Gillian

More Marmalade

This batch is Blood Oranges, Red Grapefruit and Ginger. I was going to do Mellie's recipe on Tummy Rumbles but I fancied adding some ginger so I tracked down this one from the internet.
I must admit I'm not a ginger fan because of having been forced to eat preserved ginger with my semolina pudding when I was five. The nuns who fed us our school lunches were tough and even at that age I was not allowed to go out to play until I had cleaned my plate and considered all the poor starving children in the world. Of course I would have been only too glad to share my plate with them. I was watched by my sister, through the window. She had a bad heart and was not bullied so much by the nuns and indeed, she had been allowed to leave her ginger. I loved her dearly but it was such an unfair thing for the nuns to do.

Quite a few people at the market, have asked me if I have ginger in my jams. So I decided to have a go and make something to suit other peoples' tastes and not just my own.

  1. 600 gm Blood Oranges
  2. 600gm Red Grapefruit with most of the pith cut off but using the flesh and hard peel
  3. 50 gm grated Ginger
  4. 125 gm Crystallised Ginger
  5. 1600 gm Sugar
  6. 3 litres water

The oranges and grapefruit were de-seeded and blitzed in a food processor. (I've never done this before, usually I hand cut all the peel, but I decided to follow the recipe for a change). They were put in a pan with all the other stuff except the crystallised ginger and boiled for about an hour.

When it reached 103+ degrees I started testing in on a cold saucer but it took another 15 minutes before it wrinkled when I pushed my finger through it.

I cooled it for a bit, then added the crystallised ginger and then bottled it.

As you can see here, it is quite a reddish colour and looks a bit like broken mozaic. It made just over 9x250 ml jars.

And it tastes divine. Robert and I both had some on toast and the ginger was just right. In fact it was so good that I shall add ginger to more things now. I have some rhubarb growing in the garden and apparently that goes well with ginger too.

On the knitting front, I have completed the main cardi pieces and am now doing the lacy band. It will be a close finish. I have to force myself to do a pattern block at a time because I've now got the worries. If it's not finished then it still might be alright!!!

Cheers Gillian

Thursday, September 07, 2006

B.O.M. Site

If you live in Victoria, Oz then the site I shall link you to here will provide you with a moving radar screen of the rain...if there is any!
I haven't fiddled around for the rest of Oz but it is sure to be there if you live elsewhere.
I post this because it has been raining off and on for the last three days and it is wonderful to be able to see it moving across the screen. Such badly needed and much loved rain.
Cheers Gillian

Trips Away!

Okay. This picture was taken last May when I was in England to check up on the health of my mother(left) and we went out to lunch with her sister and husband.
I show you this because I have no pictures of my last excursion but I shall tell you about it anyway.

Robert and I decided that we needed a bit of a day-away. So I put my hand up for Warracknabeal and he put his hand up for Halls Gap. We managed both.
We set off on Tuesday morning at 8.30am and drove to Ballarat and then north to the Mallee towns of Donald and Warracknabeal. I say this bravely but wondering in fact where the Mallee finishes and the Wimmera starts.
I had seen in a book of "Women's Arts of the 19th and 20th Centuries" that the items in the photos were held in a museum in Warracknabeal. It was wonderful. Marg from the Historical Society opened up for us and gave us an hour of delight. This museum is only open in the afternoon from 2 till 4pm by volunteers but it must be the best museum of its kind that I have encountered. It is housed in the old State Bank and has a wealth of collectables and some very valuable pieces. It is nearly four hours from Melbourne but is a must if you are ever going anywhere within a 100km.
There is also the best second hand shop in Warracknabeal that I have come across for ages. Much cheaper than the city stuff and generally good stuff. Everything from old kitchen whisks to old wooden ladders and lots of books and videos and old furniture.
We ate at the Palace Hotel and then travelled south through Horsham and pulled in at the Best Western in Halls Gap, just past town on the western side. we had done about 400+ km and the last 50 were windy and a sheer drop on the passenger side. Not the sort of road that you want to keep checking the drop from.
We went for a short walk before dinner to check out the shops etc and on our return were just ahead of a mob (family) of kangaroos. Typically, the two young adults bounded across the road but the young one and Mum stopped in the middle of the road to check traffic, the joey popped its head out for a look too. They all made it safely across.
The next morning we ate our breakfast in the cafe which looks across the lake and paddock to the area where about 40 kangaroos were grazing their breakfast.

No pics. I wouldn't have done justice to any of it with my minipixel kodak.

We drove home in the rain all the way but were so thrilled to see water. The previous day we had watched many square km of newly planted wheat looking very stunted because of the lack of rain. We raced home to make sure that we were getting some of it in our own back yard. Lovely wet stuff.

Kitty welcomed us and yes it had been raining quite a lot and is still drizzling even now.
I made some more marmalade today which I shall post about tomorrow. No knitting!!!
Cheers Gillian

Sunday, September 03, 2006

To Market, To Market and How to Get There

It has always been a dream of mine to have a market stall. Probably because I love going to markets so much myself. They seem to promise all sorts of untapped treasures. When we moved to Bacchus Marsh I was thrilled to find out that there were three markets...Darley Market, outdoors every first and third Saturday of the month. Art and Craft Indoor Market, every second Thursday of the month and a Farmers Market. The last one has since closed down but the other two continue strongly.
In order to set myself up I had to
* Get my kitchen renovated and registered by the local council
* Get myself trained in safe food handling techniques.
* Buy equipment such as digital thermometers, jam jars and lids and pans
* Work out how to label everything.

As you can see above I have three basic labels. I hand-write the ones with the red umbrella on them and they give the name of the product, its batch number(in case of recall) and its best before date.
Then on the Food Standards site here I put in the ingredients and print out a food nutrition label. I work out the % ingredients and type that up and cut and paste a label with it all on.
And I have a reel of printed address labels to show the location of manufacture.

First of all I stick on the product label. Then I stick on the address label.
Then I fold up the nutrition/contents label and secure it to the top of the jar with a circle of red cellophane and an elastic band.

To do all this forabout 30 jars, takes a couple of hours, but it is relaxing and it pleases me to see the completed product, totally hand/home made.

Back to knitting! I am halfway up the second sleeve on the "jet" cardigan which I am knitting with Bendigo 12ply Rustic. I have my heart in my mouth because I'm just about to attach the last ball(200gm) and I have all the lace edging to do too. For those of you with the book, it is pattern 1 and as you can see the lace edging takes up quite a bit of yarn. The trouble is you cant shorten the edging like you could the sleeves in order to compensate for lack of yarn and I have already had an emergency call to Bendigo and there is no more in this dyelot. I shall knit on bravely and faster in the hope that I can reach the end before it runs out!!!

Cheers Gillian

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Time for Tea

We've had an exceptionally, early mild spell of weather and the garden has burst into bloom thinking that it is Spring. It isn't and today the skies are grey and the temperature has dropped about eight degrees. Real spring isn't for a month or two yet! It got warm enough to sit out on the back verandah a couple of times though.

I slammed my middle right finger between the freezer door and the sharp-edged shelf above it. Then a couple of days later I sliced a fraction too much off my left thumb while I was chopping stuff to cook. The two injuries stopped me from knitting for quite a few days because they were right where the wool goes over the finger and the thumb moves the needle. But all is well now.

Here are the makings of a tea-cosy knitted in the Daffodil pattern from here It's a very forgiving and stretchy pattern and is easy to fit to any teapot by adding or dropping a tier of flowers.
For this three-cup teapot, I'm doing three tiers in flower colours and then a reduced tier in green. I will be doing nine flowers which is a cast on of 120 stitches.

I adjust the basic pattern by varying the number of flowers or the number of tiers and then I finish off the top to suit whatever colours I have used. The pattern is written for 4 ply but in Oz that is usually baby wool and therefore "baby colours" so I got some 5 ply Paton's Bluebell and some 5 ply Heirloom in more suitable colours. It's a real plasure to knit fine wool on small guage needles and produce dainty and pretty items once in a while. This pattern grows really quickly because the number of stitches decreases rapidly during each tier of flowers and all of a sudden it's done.

I finished it off with a green calyx and stalk. I think I shall call it "Foxglove" Most of the ones I have knitted before have resembled a particular flower and have had floral names.

It is being modelled on a teapot that I hope is about the same size as the recipient and I shall post it off to friend tomorrow so that they can give it to a friend of theirs.

Now I suppose I should get back to the dark green cardigan, or the silk/wool scarf or the black fuzzy wuzzy bolero!

Cardigan it is! It has got a second sleeve started already.
Good knitting and cheers to all,