Jam and Jerusalem – well Marmalade actually, and chickens!

Nearly a week has gone by and I don’t seem to have had the time to do anything!  My chickens have been with us a week now and I have already had two eggs (which hubby ate for breakfast).  Tom (number one son) and I have named them from various favourite programmes, so we now have Margot and Barbara (Good Life) and Dorcas, Queenie, Pearl and Ruby (from Lark Rise to Candleford).  They seem quite happy in their new, if somewhat draughty, barn so let’s hope they have a long and happy life away from Mr Fox.

The weather has been either blowing a hooley or fine misty revolting rain and as there are holes in the barn roof I expect that the girls have all been at one end trying to escape the wet.  They do have huge bales of hay to snuggle down into though and don’t seem to upset by the arrangement.

 The only fine, beautiful sunny day was Tuesday so I took the opportunity to get outside and plant my garlic.  The growing season has not quite begun yet but once it gets underway life will be even busier.  As well as crafts, I am also a vegetable fanatic and soon the greenhouse will be bursting with seedlings ready to go out into the veg plot.

I have been planning my Easter crafts for Old Friendship and ordered some fantastic stripey fabric from a company called Deckchair Stripes.  They supply packs of 10 designs in small swatches which are ideal for smaller items as you don’t have to invest in a whole metre, and I am really looking forward to coming up with some hotchpotch designs to sell over on Etsy and Folksy.  Keep watching for more news as and when.  If any fabric companies are listening, how about selling a similar product as this would be greatly helpful to people like me!

A friend of mine, Lisa Dawson, who runs a fantastic local soft furnishings workshop called Lisa Dawson Soft Furnishings, has asked me to do some work for her on an ad-hoc basis.  I have worked with her before making curtains and blinds, so am greatly looking forward to getting back behind my sewing machine to offer customers an express machine-made curtain service on certain fabrics. So, if you live in the North Norfolk area then check out her gorgeous shop and studio and treat yourself to a wide range of furnishing fabrics, trims, curtain poles, paints, wallpapers and home sewing supplies.

Saturday morning has seen the kitchen full of the aroma of oranges as I take on the making of marmalade for the first time.  Armed with a copy of Mary Berry’s Aga Cookbook and Pam Corbin’s Preserves book (purchased for hubby back in December) and thoroughly read by us both, I am attempting some of the orange stuff as it is my preferred covering for toast – and lots of it.  Any extra I thought I could sell at the gate (along with spare eggs if the girls ever get on with it)!

Now Mary suggests you boil the oranges and then cook in the Simmering Oven for Aga owners (other ovens are available – in which case at approx 100 degrees) for about one and a half hours or until they are soft.  This makes the pith easier to scrape out of the orange and easier to cut the peel.  This seemed to go successfully.  Then you cook the liquid and orange insides for a few minutes, squidge through a sieve and put liquid into a preserving pan with the rind and the sugar.  Bring the whole lot to the boil and continue with a rolling boil until the right temperature is reached (104.5C), apparently.

This shot is of the before it’s boiled and the next is the after.  I am slightly concerned that it is much darker but can only put this down to the fact that I used light brown sugar.  It is a bit worrying to know when you have setting point – I had bits of marmalade on plates in the fridge to see if it has ‘creased’ and then I wasn’t quite sure whether it had or it hadn’t.  Anyway, it is what it is and I am very happy with the result.  I just hope that it sets properly in the jar and that it tastes good!

We shall soon see as I am now itching to get it on some toast!  A good days work and  I even made a pot for my mum without any bits!

All that is needed now are some labels and we are good to go.  On the subject of decent labels, I Tweeted recently that these are hard to come by (to my specifications anyway), so I have decided to make my own.  I did a bit of research and found a company that produces clear transfer paper that you can put through an inkjet printer and then iron onto cotton tape to produce a label.  I have ordered some of the paper and will let you know how that goes.  At the same time I found some transfer paper for glass and have decided to do some labels for these jars in white writing and then transferred on.  Apparently it’s washable (by hand) and will hopefully give these jars an individual look.  A conventional label wouldn’t fit, due to the shape of the jar, so this should provide a solution.  I will let you know.

Until then, however, thanks for reading and see you next time at the Old Friendship.  The sun has come out and I need to go and feed ‘the girls’.

Jane xx

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