Another cooking resolution I hear you say?
Yes. Ludicrous isn’t it? But the Gods of Self Improvement have not been kind to me lately and I’m beginning to wonder exactly why Tony Robbins and Dr. Phil have it in for me.
While I’m certain I’ve convinced you of how effortless it is to complete one resolution a week, so much so that you’ve all begun work on your own list for next year, the truth is this resolution business is not easy, you know?
First of all there’s the scheduling. Trying to slot the resolutions cosily into the 52 weeks is a logistical nightmare—some are dependent on weather, some are booked out too far in advance, some only fall on days that I work—and lately it feels like I’m being thwarted at every turn.
And time consuming. Golly gee is it time consuming. With the researching, the shopping for items, performing the resolutions themselves and making them sound far more interesting than they actually were leaves little room for study or exercise, let alone watching TV and playing Playstation or Wii; unless I can find some way to design a sim to do my resolutions for me. These days I use http://teuxdeux.com to schedule my days to within a minute of their far-too-short life. I’ve begun declining social invitations in favour of completing resolutions which I think is called ‘missing the point’. Then there’re the resolutions you don’t even hear about—the ones with outcomes so disappointing I couldn’t include them because, in some cases, to do so would’ve involved attacking someone’s livelihood—meaning there’s times I’ve had to do two in one week. So yes, it’s pretty tough going.
It’s also expensive and when I first launched my boat out into the resolution waters I did not expect to be so financially challenged, nor to be using such terrible metaphors. Consequently, this week, I needed a bit of a break which is why making preserves was my life preserver. (Oh god, who writes this rubbish?)
Everyone loves a preserve, right? Jams, chutneys, marmalades, butters, curds, ketchups, sauces, salsas and spreads. Me? I relish a relish. I’m jubilant for jam. Crazy for curd.
As there are only so many empty glass bottles in the world I was limited by what I could make. Sparing you the boring, lengthy decision making process I decided to make a) Corn Relish and b) Strawberry Jam Essence De Provence which roughly translates as “with vanilla and lavender.” Set your mouths to water my friends.
Corn relish is so versatile. I love it on toast with cheese or corned beef. I always use a whole jar of it in one of my favourite recipes for Peter Russell Clarke’s vegetable parcels (the recipe calls for a tablespoon). Plus it’s great in muffins. And if you haven’t tried corn relish dip you haven’t lived heartily.
All corn relish recipes are fairly similar but this is the one I worked from: http://www.abc.net.au/tasmania/stories/s1608357.htm
First I mixed together the corn, capsicum and onion with sea salt and let it stand for two hours before draining. Then I chucked the sugar, vinegar, mustard, turmeric and vegies in a saucepan and boiled for 30 mins before thickening with cornflour and bottling.
It turned out okay, although a bit corny for my liking and difficult to slather but I could find nothing on the Internet about how to fix / avoid this. Still, a pantry full of corn relish makes me one happy lady.
While the corn relish ingredients were standing I started on the jam using this recipe: http://www.recipezaar.com/recipe/strawberry-jam-essence-de-provence-425569?scaleto=6&sys=m
After blending the sugar with a chopped vanilla pod and a handful of dried lavender I mixed it with three punnets of washed and quartered strawberries. These I let sit for four hours while the sugar dissolved. Next I added the lemon juice and some butter (I’m not sure why this was necessary) and set the lot to boil. The smell was incredible and I highly suggest everyone make some for the intoxicating scent alone. When the strawberries were stewed I added some powdered pectin and immediately ladled the mixture into the sterilised bottles. It was around this point I began to fret because the jam was not setting. However by the next morning it had become firm. While disgustingly sweet it is delicious and addictive.
A note on sterilising bottles – first I thoroughly washed the bottles and lids in hot soapy water. After rinsing I put the bottles in the oven for 20 mins at 120 deg cel, adding the mixtures while they were still warm. The point of this is to stop mould and bacteria growing to give your condiments a longer shelf life.
That evening there were some harsh words uttered from my parents (not for the first time) about how annoying all this resolution business had become. I swear I was going to wash up but I was just so tired. Clearly I’m not the only one feeling the strain.
Regardless, homemade preserves are fun to prepare and make a great gift. I gave a bottle of jam to some friends and received some mango chutney in return – win! Now looking for some lemon or passionfruit curd if anyone wants to trade.
For the record, I didn’t get the break I needed, instead I spent the week writing 12 page job applications for positions I’m unlikely to get (but am totally, utterly qualified for if you are reading this prospective employer! Plus I come with jam and relish!)