Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Grouchy midweek embroidery

To try out a new-to-me old cross-stitch alphabet that's a little loopier and swirlier than I'm used to, I embroidered a solemn declaration.

Today is fired

(DMC 310 on 35 ct linen, commemorating a grouchy April 23.)

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Clementine and anise marmalade

The best way to deal with a deeply upsetting news day is to fuss over something fiddly in the kitchen!

Clementine and anise marmalade

This clementine and anise marmalade is sweet and mild, though not bland. I prepped the fruit by cutting the peels off in segments, slicing off most of the pith, and chopping the remainder into matchsticks; then I cut the flesh away from the membranes holding it in place, and coarsely chopped it. There are still some chunks of fruit hidden amongst the strips of peel in the finished marmalade, so it's got a nicely unhomogeneous texture.

Chopping peel

Five little oranges prepared thus yielded a total of two cups of chopped fruit, so I set it up to soak in the fridge overnight with two cups of water and a teaspoon of anise seeds in a sachet. This afternoon I boiled the mixture until the peel was tender (testing it was no burden as the peel was remarkably sweet all by itself), added two cups of sugar, and boiled until it reached its setting point, which took about ten minutes. Five more minutes processing in a hot water bath and it was done.

Eileen has been using marmalade to glaze meats (she challenged me to lime, and the gears are turning in my head—mojito marmalade?), and I bet this one would make a really great marinade for grilled chicken. (We are plotting some outdoor grilling adventures with friends for later this month, so I may report back!) So far I have 1) scraped off the leftovers from the bottom of the pot and eaten them directly off a spoon; 2) dropped a spoonful into a cup of black tea; 3) stirred some into plain yoghurt for lunch; 4) eaten some on a toasted English muffin for post-lunch dessert, and it was all pretty awesome.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Marmalade and marmalade-coloured knitting

Over the last couple of weeks I committed a couple of indiscretions in the produce aisle, won over by handsome citrus, so it turns out that I am not quite through marmalading just yet. (Someday I should just move to California or Spain where all the lemons and oranges are.) On Monday night I put up 750mL of Meyer lemon and juniper marmalade (wait! no, don't look at me like that, it tastes beautiful, clear and cold and bright), which didn't set... so this morning I dumped it out into a pot, boiled it for a few minutes, resterilized everything, and put it up again. It turned out that I had optimistically over-estimated its temperature the first time around in my eagerness to can it already and go to bed. This time I had less unrealistic expectations about speed, but it only needed about five minutes at a rolling boil to gel perfectly.

Lemon marmalades

The lemons I used in this batch had slightly darker peel and flesh than the last ones, so the resulting marmalade is slightly more orange than the Meyer lemon and vanilla marmalade of a few weeks ago. It is still pretty true to the colour of the fruit that went into it, which is all I hoped for.

Anyway, indiscretion #2 was these beguiling fellows.

Blushing clementines

The blush on them! I was expecting them to be either blandly sweet or cardboard-textured, but was pleasantly surprised to discover lovely juicy flesh and a robust flavour. They will become the orange and anise preserves I've been daydreaming about.

Kitchen knitting

This knitting is keeping me company in the kitchen while I wait for water to boil and peel to soften. It's #2 in a pair of sportweight socks, which means that the knitting goes pretty fast even though I work on it only intermittently in five-minute sprints. I adapted a couple of patterns from Haapsalu Saal, one for the cuff edge and one for the leg and instep.


My adaptations consisted in rearranging some elements so that the cuff edge would flow seamlessly into the leg; adding some width to the leg pattern repeat that could be decreased away to narrow the leg to the ankle; and beefing up the texture with a lot of bobbles (actually not a lot: there are around a hundred of them in the pair, and none at all on the instep).

Toe shaping

I got a little cute with the toe shaping. These are columns of double decreases spaced at intervals around the toe, decreasing at a rate that averages out to 4 stitches every other round, so the angle the toe comes to is the same as the standard wedge toe. It was a compromise for me—really I wanted my deeply textured ribbed lace instep pattern to keep going all the way to the tip of the toe. At least the centred double decrease columns keep going!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Mending with patchwork (in progress)

I had a frustrating end of the week capped off with a fever, so my achievements have been limited to things that can be accomplished while lying prone on the couch. Fortunately, English paper piecing is a fun lying-down craft activity!

This is the interior of my favourite spring coat. Note the dramatic tears in the lining!

Tattered lining

First I stabilized each tear by cutting a piece of medium-weight fusible interfacing that was bigger than the tear by an inch or so in each direction, slipping it through the tear to the wrong side of the lining, drawing the lips of the tear together, and pressing through a damp cloth. (Now the torn parts are stronger than the lining fabric around them, which is a problem for another time!)

I like Tom of Holland's visible mending projects a lot, though am shy about riotously colourful additions to the outsides of my clothes. Linings, however, are a gift to shy people like me who secretly want brightly patterned stuff but don't want to have to share it with the whole world. So! I cut a few hexagons out of some nice sturdy fabrics and assembled them into a flower, then appliqued it by hand over one of the tears. The most difficult part was taking care to only catch the lining fabric in my stitches, not the exterior fabric or its interfacing.

A patch of patches

The other rip is longer, goes all the way to the edge of the lining, and sits beside some weakened spots in the fabric that will tear soon if I don't do something about them. To cover all the compromised real estate, the patch will have to be a kind of tall backwards L shape that spills out onto the hem. I'm feeling better and more ambitious today, so maybe it'll be made out of tumbling blocks!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Pressing onward

I can't show you the knitting that has occupied my nearly-every waking hour this week, not yet. There are a few pretty exciting things I'll be able to show you soon, but not yet. I can show you my new favourite snack/breakfast/dessert/dessert round 2: the dessertening, though!

Cornmeal pancakes

Cornmeal pancakes, which are the bomb. These are basically quick polenta made by softening fine cornmeal in boiling water for a few minutes, which you then thin out with milk and oil. Mark Bittman stirred vanilla and pine nuts into his, which sounds pretty appealing; I used a splash of vanilla and a generous spoonful of honey for mine. Like many of Bittman's recipes this one scales up or down very easily and you can memorize it in a snap, because there are so few measurements.

Next time I will zest a lemon into the batter and eat them with marmalade!