So, like a good bear, come the end of January I wriggled my nose, curled my toes and then stretched languourously before deciding it might be time to get up. This was such an exhausting decision that I had to go back to bed to ponder it more thoroughly.
Of course I did also have to get out of bed in order to do some work, eat a great deal of food, very little of which was my five a day rations, and to watch rubbish on television.
By last weekend I emerged tousle headed and determined to stay awake for the whole weekend. As I had someone staying it seemed like a good hostess type thing to do. Be awake. It is now some months since I have had a free weekend so I was rather grumpy about the whole thing, particularly since my guest is renowned for waking very early. No lazy mornings for me then.
It was therefore ironic that when I dragged myself from my bed at 8.30 on Sunday morning there was not a peep to be heard from the spare bedroom. Admittedly vast quantities of wine had been shipped the night before, and I had some left a very tantalising quantity of books by the bed for midnight and dawn reading material but still... I cleared up from the night before, and laid breakfast. The Loyal Hound and I went for a long walk. We read the remnants of the Saturday paper. We tried not to feel bitter about the fact that we could have still been asleep. Then, like a vision on the road to Damascus, my eye fell upon a plastic bag that one of the supper guests from the night before had brought me. Marmalade oranges. Aaaha. My mission was clear. I must use this time to make marmalade.
I would generally consider myself to be an accomplished cook. I will try most things and have recently merrily made puff pastry, cooked fillet steak for 17 and made a tart that would have been put in pride of place in the window of Patisserie Valerie. How tricky could marmalade possibly be?
Four days later, as I clean up the last of the chaos that one batch of marmalade caused I realise the error of my ways. Making Marmalade it seems, is like travelling to the arctic. You should not set about it unprepared.
Several hours (well, it felt like hours) of squeezing, chopping and weighing later I had the contents in a pan simmering away. The kitchen was a sticky mess of juice, escaped pips and fruit pulp. At this moment my houseguest emerged from her room. Turned out she had woken at four and picked up one of the books I had left for her. unable to put it down she had read it until she finished it then collapsed in a state of exhaustion and slept until 10.30... Sorry. I digress.
So, lucky her comes down for breakfast to find me covered in bits of orange, the kitchen covered in bits of orange and the marmalade simmering on the stove. No sign of any breakfast for her or anything like that. She took it well.
We decided a walk was the way forwards so I put the pan in the oven to carry on doing it's thing and off we went. Upon our return I found that the muslin bag of pulp and pips had gently floated to the top of the pan, like a corpse in a crime drama, and had then scorched itself. MMm. Nice added flavour. I carried on regardless.
My guest, who had a long journey ahead of her and was probably afraid of becoming covered in marmalade, left after an early lunch and I decided to finish making said marmalade. At this point I discover that I didn't have quite as much sugar as I had assumed. What I had was thrown in, along with the coffee sugar that was welded to the bottom of the pot. The marmalade came to the boil and I dumped in the thermometer. Glancing at it, it did seem strange that it was already at a temperature that was nearing the top of the marker. Naturally I did not investigate any further for a good few minutes at which point I discover that the bulb on the thermometer had smashed.
The question is, did it smash in the marmalade, or in the drawer??? What the hell. It was probably in the drawer and as it wasn't a mercury thermometer I was unlikely to have poisoned the batch too badly.
At this point I start hunting for jars to discover that I have been ruthlessly throwing empty jars away and have scarcely any left. A quick sweep around the kitchen turned up a few 'nearly empties' which were ruthlessly scraped clean and washed. It was then time to decant the wretched stuff.
Using a handy plastic jug I then proceeded to spread marmalade all over the kitchen. It dripped on the oven, it slimed down the side of the boiler. It splatted on the floor where I promptly trod on it and spread it all over the kitchen. As I discovered later that day it also dripped on the chair, where I then proceeded to sit on it. Very little of it seemed to actually make it into the jars.
The end result was chaos. The marmalade that made it into the pots looks good but I am too nervous to try it in case I get a bit of glass bulb or thermometer liquid flavour. Then there is the nice undertone of schorched muslin to watch out for. It looks good. But as we know, looks aren't everything. See, here it is:
It wasn't worth it. I'm sticking to jams, jellies and puff pastry as the easier option. Shop marmalade will be just fine thank you. It's not worth risking life and limb for this. The only question left is this: Who wants a pot of marmalade? I have several looking for good homes......
The price of health
1 day ago