Tag Archives: jam

Rubens and the Quince..a Retrospective

There are some images which, once imaged on one’s inner eyeball, are almost impossible to erase.  Rather like the earworm, but with eyes.

Take this, for example, which I stumbled upon whilst looking for ways to prepare quince.

“I love the quince’s shape, its generous curves and bulges. It is a voluptuous, even magnificent fruit to look at, like a Rubens bottom.”(Nigel Slater)

Why, yes, Nigel Slater, why yes, I now see that it does, but, sadly, this revelation means  I will never be able to look at a quince in the face again, and certainly not with a straight face, on my own visage. If you would like to see the connection between quinces and Rubens, gaze on these beauties that my forager friend brought me, a few weeks back,

Quinces, faire  and fulsome

Quinces, faire and fulsome, with bay and pear and lemon

Quince, faire and rubenesque

Quince, faire and rubenesque

and, then, check out  the works of Sir Peter Paul Rubens.

Not withstanding the mirthful imagery, Mr Slater did provide an excellent recipe for cooking quinces, first by poaching, then by baking them to persimmon-toned, bejewelled  tenderness. The fresh, delicate, faintly rose like perfume of the quinces filled the kitchen during the slow cooking process. And it made me think how this aroma, so rare for me, and many other modern house-persons,  was, once, long ago, a  more common scent in New Zealand homes.

Poached and baked quinces in Haddon Hall bowl

Poached and baked quinces in  Haddon Hall bowl

 For, even as early as 1820,  the plans for the Kerikeri mission station garden in the North Island of New Zealand contained quince trees.   I wonder if the rubenesque appearance of the fruit crossed the mission’s collective eye . Perhaps they were more interested, as most early settlers were, in the basic food value, rather than the aesthetics, of their garden produce.

George Butler Earp, who wrote  Hand-book for Intending Emigrants to the Southern Settlements of New Zealand, (1851) 3rd ed, W S Orr, London, said of New Zealand gardens  (in 1852) that ” no English garden, however expensively kept up, can for a moment vie with the beauty of a cottagers’ garden in New Zealand in the beauty of its shrubs, to say nothing of the vines, melons, Cape gooseberries, peaches, all English and many tropical fruits, which will grow anywhere in the greatest luxuriance.” (Source: Cottage Gardening in New Zealand by Christine Dann)

I think that Mr Earp’s enthusiastic  ‘anywhere’ may be an overstatement, but, in the beginning  years, settlers had little choice but to make their gardens grow, wherever they found themselves. It was a matter of survival. However, once the  northern hemisphere newcomers had worked hard, and worked out the upside-down growing seasons in  New Zealand, and understood  what grew well, and what didn’t, on their patch of soil, they would have had sufficient fruit to make the jellies and jams and pastes  that they remembered from the old country. (Imagine the excitement of writing home to Mother that you had made your first batch of quince jelly with fruit from your own garden 😉 )

And, if harvests were good, there may have been enough surplus fruit to make  taffety tarts, quince pyes, or apple and quince shortcake.  Or other such scrumptious treats, filled with memories of absent mothers and grandmothers and lands left behind.

Apple shortcake, minus the quince, was a favourite of my young days. For me, it holds the essence of good meals, in the kitchen, and a long tradition of excellence in family baking.   I don’t know if my/our recipe dates back to earlier generations but both my grandmother and great-grandmother were skilled producers of food for the table and pantry. They may well have made shortcake.

Great grandmother circa 1927 working hard on the farm.

Great grandmother circa 1927 working hard on the Harewood farm. I don’t know if she cooked or grew rubenesque quinces but she made a fine parsnip wine, or so I am told.

And, finally, a little more nonsense about the quince…..to counter balance the visual earworm of a Rubens’  posterior, however beautiful it may be.

© silkannthreades

Season for plums or delicious plum-foolery

It is the season for plums. It is the time for plum deliciousness.

Season for Plums

Season for Plums

Plums make:

a perfectly delightful gift for a friend;

Plums, pretty and perfect

Plums, pretty and perfect and a delicious gift

and a beautiful, bounteous, table decoration;

Laden with Plums

Laden with Plums

;

A Vase of Plums

A Vase of Plums

Plums make delectable eatables:

like gleaming, sugar-shimmering, baked compote;

Baked Plums for the Table

Baked Plums for the Table

and rich coffee cake.

Plum Coffee Cake

Plum Coffee Cake

[ take a slice, please do 🙂 ]

An invitation to a slice

An invitation to a slice

And plums are fabulous for frivolous  fool…ishness  ;

and golden jam,

Jono's Jam

Jono’s Jam

and plums make a jolly good story, too, don’t they? 😉

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© silkannthreades

Out of the Gloom come Gems of Loveliness

Continuing on the theme of   surprises ,  it is surprising what gems of loveliness can be found, tucked away,  in the gloom

There be GLOOM!

There be GLOOM!

of the back rooms of our lives.

Inspired by a friend’s gift of plums from her backyard tree,

Plums, pretty and perfect

Plums, pretty and perfect, rich gems of juicy fruit

I was fossicking in the attic,

in search of my books on  JAM , plum jam, when my eyes lit upon the long-forgotten face of Sister Wendy Beckett,

contemplative nun, writer, broadcaster and art lover, who recently appeared on Desert Island Discs, talking of her life, her love of  Schubert’s Serenade , and confessing to the sin of being nasty to her little sister 😦

I was thrilled to see her again and to reconnect with her meditations on peace, and  to realise how greatly she influenced my understanding of art,  in the days before online art galleries and Wiki and blogging.   What a remarkable person, I heard myself saying, communicating, as she does, so clearly, from the silence and  physical confines  of her world. …

not unlike this poem, of which Sister Wendy, defender of Classics and Latin, would surely  approve, which my daughter wrote for me, in  the solitude of her nights in   Far North Queensland

To a  Peony

(in which my daughter remembers the day, when she was extremely sad, and her mother gave her a sweet-scented peony from the garden )

Welcome back Sweet Peony

Welcome back Sweet Peony

Dark leaves, put forth thy anniversary.
Honey may burn; thy nectar rises up
like sugar syrup in a warmer cup,
ribbons the water. And say how can it be,
thou growest so magenta, when the hew
of thy first stock was white? Unless it was
among the hedgehogs and the heucheras
the lost  god stopped and wept his ancient dew.
Colours stand faster in the dimming air;
so in the long grey drizzling afternoon
of dying hope, was thy expressive bloom
placed by a gentle hand into my care;
I see it still, in my mind, in the gloom
unfolding endless petals in my empty room.

*td* (first draft)

© silkannthreades

Medlar, medlar, how does your bletting go?

Until a few days ago, this was as close as I had ever been to a medlar, outside of literature and history;

then, as I mentioned in my previous post, my friend brought me some medlars which she had bought on Mother’s Day, at a country store, in a small farming community about 30 minutes south of our city.  Medlars are a fruit  with an ancient history in Europe but are not widely grown, or known, in my part of the world. I was delighted to see them in the flesh for the first time. They look rather different from the stylised ones on my wallpaper.

To me, the medlars look like a cross between a small russet coloured apple and a gigantic rosehip. The fruit I have is  hard and, in this state, it is inedible. Medlars must be left to blett before they can be eaten or cooked. Blett is a polite way to say decompose which is a polite way to say rot. Blett comes from the French world blettir which means to become over-ripe, or so the dictionary tells me.

So, here is my basket of medlars, beginning their bletting journey; hopefully!

I don’t know how long it will take.   I am keeping them covered in a paper bag and stored in the coolest part of my house, which is the garage. Supposedly, this will encourage their bletting. And when they have bletted, or if they blett, I will decide what to do next.  Maybe medlar jelly, or cheese, or pie, or maybe skinned and straight into my mouth….or the compost! Who knows if I will like rotten fruit 🙂

© silkannthreades

Parting is such sweet sorrow…….

Here, in Christchurch, it is the day after Mother’s Day. And, in a way, I am glad it is the day after. Mother’s Day is always a  bittersweet day for me and, I would say, for one reason or another, it is for most mothers.

This morning, a friend, and fellow mother, came by to bring me some medlars and a jar of feijoa and vanilla jam.  I had provided her with the feijoas (pineapple guavas) from my tree and she had produced her culinary wand and turned them into an utterly delicious spread for my toast and bread, scone and bun (penny one).

Over the garden gate, we discussed our Mother’s Day celebrations. My friend started her Mother’s Day with a farewell to her son at the airport. He is off to work in Australia, our big neighbouring country across the Ditch, aka the Tasman Sea. Her Day was bittersweet. She was proud to have a son making his own way in the world, but sad to see him moving abroad.

This is how it is for many of us in New Zealand. Our generation, generations before and those of today, at some time or another, have moved, and continue to move, away from New Zealand. Some call it their OE (overseas experience), some just go. Some return and some don’t.   I think, if one lives on an island nation, always facing the sea, it is inevitable, that many  of us will, eventually,  feel the pull to see what lies over the horizon; to set upon a journey. Recent estimates of the New Zealand diaspora suggest that about 650,000 of us live outside New Zealand, with about half a million of that number living in Australia.  Amongst my friends and relations and acquaintances, there is scarcely a single one that is  without at least one family member living away from New Zealand.  Our families are, as they were from the very beginning of human settlement in New Zealand, often incomplete; separated by oceans and our vast geographic distance from much of the rest of the world. In my own case, my daughter, my parents and my siblings all live in Australia. And, for years, I lived away from New Zealand too.

On Mother’s Day, I spent some of the day, delighting in the Birth Notices in our local paper. Not something I usually do, but I had a little time to twiddle my thumbs, and the notices caught my eye whilst I was twiddling. They caught my eye mostly because of the names; Sophie, Max, Rose, Lily, Emily, Grace ; some of the short, sweet names reminiscent of names of my grandparents’  and great grandparents’ generations.  As I read the names,  I thought of all these new little ones enjoying their first ever Mother’s Day with their own special Mum. And I wondered, also, where they will all be on Mother’s Day a few decades hence; metaphorically still in their mother’s embrace but, in reality, they may well be far from home. But that is how life goes, with its comings and  goings, its arrivals and departures, interspersed with jam and friends and beauty and randomness. Thus it ever was in families and ever will be. At least in this corner of the world. And maybe in yours too.

‘Parting is such sweet sorrow that I shall say goodnight till it be morrow’  Romeo and Juliet ; this is entirely out of context but the words seem right for my post today.

© silkannthreades

Milk pudding; the mighty comfort food

Milk puddings. You either love them or hate them. My offspring hate them.Baked Rice Pudding

I LOVE them.  I love milk puddings for  themselves.  I love them for their association with grandparents and great aunts and happy memories of long gone kitchens, full of jellies and jams, bottled fruit, and pikelets, sponge cakes, roast dinners, cream, new peas, strawberries, boxes of apricots, flummeries, sponge kisses, sausages  homemade tomato sauce, porridge with cream on top and…….. milk puddings!

Tonight I made a baked rice milk pudding, or a baked rice custard, one of my favourite milk puddings.

Ingredients: I cup of cooked rice; 2 eggs; pinch of salt, 4 tablespoons of sugar; 2 cups of whole milk; a few drops of vanilla essence and some freshly grated nutmeg.

Method: Preheat the oven to 325F (not fanbake) or 140C ( fanbake). Grease a rectangular pie dish. Mine is 21cm by 15cm.   Place the cooked rice in the dish.  Lightly whisk the eggs with the salt and add the sugar and milk and whisk a little more till the ingredients are combined. Don’t over whisk. Add the essence and then pour the mixture over the rice. Grate a little nutmeg over the top of the ingredients.  Place the dish in a dish of water and bake in the oven until the custard is firm and set and golden.  Takes about 45 minutes to an hour in my oven. I like to eat my pudding with stewed fruit and cream.

Milk puddings are extremely good for older people so that means I can eat lots of them 🙂

© silkannthreades