Tuesday, August 17, 2010
This is the sound of settling
After the very unsettled nature of my last post, I have decided to reassure everyone (the tension doesn't last long around here folks!) in a post all about how we have settled into Ireland. This realization came about while chatting with Claire (my sparkly sister on her way to visit in less than a month). What I realized was that when my parents were here we were definitely more Canadian than Irish in our habits. We shared with them an outsiders interest in the various peculiarities of the Irish culture. However, with Claire's visit, I now feel the need to explain myself for the Irish-isms that we have picked up.
I am providing a short list below as a sample illustration:
-hang drying all my laundry... and I mean everything
-hanging laundry on the line, even when it's raining outside
-considering slightly damp clothes, to be dry enough
I could go on, but this was hardly the point of the post. The point is, we have settled in, and this week I have undertaken two projects to this effect.
The first was to convert an old tv stand into a toy for Nikolai. You know, for those big tv's we all had, say 5 years ago... this is a great recycling project because old tv stands are very much unemployed of late, but could easily be retrained into a much more cheery role as a toddler's toy kitchen!
1. Get an old tv stand. This should be easy to do as they are nearly everywhere, and I guarentee you, someone you know is chucking one out right now.
2. Convert the top into a stove top and sink (if you're unskilled with tools, the sink can be of modern design, and simply sit a wash basin on top of the tv stand; or if you have the tools, cut out a hole and insert the wash basin into it).
3. Depending on the design, you may be able to rig an oven door. This will be too much work for us, Nikolai will just have to use his imagination.
4. If you're handy, and you have a drill, add knobs of various types (toddlers all love knobs).
We'll post pics when we're finished ours. We have a very full weekend ahead of us, so it could be a while until we truly tackle this task, but Nikolai was recently given a big bin of play food, so he should be entertained without any conversions.
My other big project was to tackle some canning. I just finished making courgette (zucchini) relish out of a giant courgette. And I intend on making some sort of jam over the next few weeks. All I need is a few good days to go blackberry picking and I'm all set (the whole length of Carton Ave is lined with blackberry bushes down both sides, so I don't expect I'll have a problem, as long as the weather co-operates).
Here is a brief history of what I have learned about canning. In the olden days I learned that everything needs to be properly canned in bernardin canning jars, using a new jar lid every time. Once the item has been placed in the clean, hot jar, and a lid applied; it then needs to boil in a canner for anywhere from 10 minutes to 1.5 hours depending on what is being canned (I have Betty's old pressure canner --in storage-- so my tomatoes wouldn't take that long).
Then I moved to Ireland and have since learned that you don't need to boil jam at all. All you need to do is put boiling jam in a hot jar (any leftover jar kicking around will do), put a little wax paper circle on top (to seal it). It is up for debate as to the best way to sterilize the jars (heat in the oven, boil in water, run in the dishwasher or microwave). Then, once cool, apply a cellophane wrapper with a rubber band. I have purchase a Tala set from Dunnes for this purpose. According to Bernardin... we will probably all die of horrible bacterial diseases.
The other way to can is to take old jars, fill, reuse lid (be careful to avoid the jars from certain flavorful and acidic foods) boil in a pot of water until sterilized. According to Bernardin, glass jars from consumer products are not made for reuse and wont be able to stand up to the heat. Well Bernardin (or any other jar supplier) isn't in Ireland, so I don't have to listen to them!
Well, I can say this about resuing commercial jars:
1. They didn't break (and I just boiled them in my stock pot, with nothing between them and the bottom of the pot, so I was very much worried about explosions. My recent reuse of Ball, Kerr and Bernardin jars has resulted in at least 1 breakage per batch, so I'm not sure about the quality of glass argument).
2. Four of them sealed, and 2 of them didn't.
3. It's a lot cheaper than buying canning jars, even though canning jars are cheap.
4. I still covet Weck jars, but I guess I'll have to go to Germany to get them since they certainly aren't available here... however, they are much, much more pricey than free mayonnaise jars.