Friday, July 20, 2007

Cherry jam


It's cherry season here in the UK - suddenly they're everywhere and really cheap. So, jam.

You're going to need a cherry pitter, a couple of lemons and a whole lot of sugar. You're also going to need some cherries. You want the cherries to be a little less ripe than you'd usually eat them. If you can get sour cherries, so much the better.Think about how many cherries you can handle pitting, then buy less than that. Believe me, your ideas will change on about your third punnet. You get about a jar to a lb, so if you really want a lot of jam try to convince a friend to help.

Before you start the jam, sterilise the jars by washing them in soapy water, rinsing them well and baking them in a cool oven (130 C) for 15-20 mins. Then go and find that shirt of your husband's/boyfriend's that you've never liked, or failing that, something black. You can wash your table down afterwards, but your top is likely to get stained. You may also like to put on some encouraging music - in a few minutes time you're going to have cherry juice all over you, so do it now.

Rinse, destem and pit the cherries. Convince yourself you've always wanted a red table and enjoy the stain starting to appear on your shirt. Chop about 3/4 of the cherries so they don't fall off your toast. Zest and juice the lemons. The juice contains pectin as well as acidity and will help to set the jam. The juice will also help to bleach your now pink hands.

In a heavy stockpot over a medium heat, cook the cherries until all the fruit is soft, stirring regularly with a spatula, scraping the bottom of the pan as you do so. Measure the amount of cherry mixture you have, then add about 3/4 of that amount of sugar. E.g. if you have 2 litres of mixture (including liquid), add about 1.5 litres of sugar. Turn up the heat and stir often. Place a saucer in the freezer.

After a while the bubbles will begin to subside and the mixture will become thicker. When it's ready it will coat the spatula, gel-like. Take it off the heat and put a small amount of jam on the frozen saucer. Return it to the freezer for a few minutes. If it wrinkles when you nudge it, it's done. If not, return the mixture to the heat and boil it for another few minutes then test again in the same way.

When it's done, ladle the mixture into the sterilised jars and leave to cool at room temperature.

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Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Margie is...

...relieved she still has four uncles (three by birth, one by civil ceremony)
...hoping that bad things don't come in threes, since two Brenans have had bad health luck this year
...addicted to Facebook

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Day # 1

In a less than fortuitous start to my new career as a trophy wife, the washing machine broke this morning. I assume our rental agency will treat this with their usual professionalism and urgency and I look forward to being able to use the washing machine again in December.

On a more cheerful note, I made some almond creme brulees and a rather nice salad for dinner:

200g quinoa cooked in chicken stock (or fake chicken stock as the case may be)
2/3 capsicum, diced
handful of feta, crumbled
small handful of chopped mint and flat-leaf parsley

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Sunday, July 08, 2007

An interesting week

Owing to an unexpected Visa crisis, tomorrow is my last day at work. On Tuesday I take up a new role - Trophy Wife. I hope it's a temporary measure. In the meantime I plan on wearing pearls everyday and working on my canap├ęs, as well as visiting some of the art galleries and museums I haven't been to, and making the most of the elusive English summer.

In less shattering news, we saw a wonderful production of Sweeney Todd yesterday, with Bryn Terfel merrily butchering the London populace.

As promised...


Photos of Cambridge. One here for good measure, the rest on our Flickr site. We've also finally posted some photos from our trip to Madrid a couple of months ago.

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Monday, July 02, 2007

Defying the odds

The midlands are flooding, there's been almost constant rain for a fortnight, and Vaughn and I manage to get sunburnt in England. Vaughn, particularly, is a quite spectactular shade of pink. In between the freckles.

Nonetheless, we had a lovely day trip to Cambridge yesterday. We were serenaded by a barbershop group while we punted on the Cam, swooned to the glorious sounds of the Kings College choir singing evensong, wandered through some delightful markets where there was a very charismatic Jamaican selling splendid homemade cakes, and found a cafe making wonderful smoothies (very hard to get in London). All in all an excellent day.

Photos of bridges and small boys in top hats to follow.

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