Saturday, April 30, 2011

Ready, Steady, Cook!

Last night we had some very heavy rain, and it was still dull and grey this morning, which was just as well in a way as I had planned to spend the day in the kitchen.

I started off by making some of my 'special' pastry that needs to rest in the fridge for an hour or two before you can handle it properly. For once I had remembered to take the butter and lard out of the fridge last night so they weren't too hard to use! Next I prepared a box of strawberries to make some jam. Back in Oswestry we had a little green-grocers where I could buy really tiny, though very tasty, strawberries, very cheaply, and they were ideal for jam-making. But that's not the case out here. All season the strawberries are huge and delicious. These look almost too good to cut up for jam don't they, but I had bought an extra half kilo for us to eat as well! I like to get everything together before I begin, so here it all is ready for the off. The full jars at the back of the table are a batch I made last week, which unfortunately, despite the bottles of Certo that Ben brought out for me, didn't set. It tasted lovely but seemed to have a need to escape, so eating toast and jam was a messy affair. I decided I needed to turn it back into the pan and boil it for a bit longer which I did and now it is much better. I made sure today's batch was cooked for long enough so now I have about twenty pounds of jam, which, if not stiff, at least stays on the bread which is all I wanted of it! It's in a rather motley collection of jars, but I have exhausted my own supply and am grateful for any that other people can give me. A sudden shaft of sunlight caught the top row of jars in this picture making them look a quite different colour from the others, but really they are all the same.

While the jam was bubbling away in my preserving pan, I got out my rested pastry and made a pie with the cooking apples I bought at Iceland last week, and had the presence of mind to prepare and cook last night. That will be a rare treat for us tomorrow. My pastry recipe is quite a big mix so I then made a plate pie with mincemeat, a dozen tarts (with the very runny jam) and a dozen sponge filled tarts which we like. They are nearly Bakewells - without the almond flavouring because Chris doesn't like it, and without the glace cherries because neither of us are very keen on them either. So all in all it was a busy but productive day.

All the time I was busy I had an audience of one, plus Chris who popped his head round the door every half hour to see how I was getting on. He was really looking for signs of dinner which he eventually got some time after two o'clock. But Baggins discovered a cardboard beer tray that I had used to store the jars of jam in, and he made himself comfortable in it and just watched me moving around all morning. It's nice to have company.

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