Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Winter Sanity Guide, Part 2

Some friends came up from Massachusetts for the weekend and commented, quite tactfully I thought, on how cozy it must feel to not be able to see out our windows, since many of them are buried by snow. Our house reminded them of an igloo, only warm.

Being very creative people themselves, they were just the tonic I needed, bringing news, great new websites to check out, vermouth and delicious homemade kimchee.

As a result of their visit, there’s one thing I’d like add to my Winter Sanity Guide-- besides playing in the snow: Creating stuff for Show and Tell.

The igloo comment reminded me of a tradition among the Canadian Inuit. Every spring Inuit artists come south from Hudson Bay, Baker Lake and other isolated points up north with the artwork they’ve made over the winter. They bring sculptures and prints to art galleries in Montreal, Toronto and Ottawa.

I’ve always loved the idea of having something to show for the challenge that is winter in the north, besides, that is, your own more or less intact self.

There must be something about being thrown back on your own resources without a lot of distraction that makes for an almost perfect creative environment. I wanted something new to show our friends.

Our friends impending visit inspired me to get going on a needle felting project I’d been considering for weeks, and to decoupage some old clogs whose first pass at decoupage had come off. (I used paper the first time, which wasn’t flexible enough to not tear where the shoe bent. This time I used cloth).

It would be nice if you could use winter as a sort of sabbatical in which to finish projects that tend to languish during the gardening months. But life doesn’t stop for a little snow and sleet. There is still work to do, school functions to attend, groceries to buy, appointments to keep. Anyway, it’s been good to elbow some of my pet projects onto my to-do list.

A recipe:

Here is a marmalade that is very easy, in-season and delicious. I got the recipe from Nigella Lawson’s How To Be A Domestic Goddess.

Pink Grapefruit Marmalade

2 pink grapefruits

juice of 2 lemons

5 C sugar

Boil the grapefruits, completely covered in water, for 2 hours. Drain, then chop as finely as you can. Try to get as many seeds out as possible (I did a couple of pulses in the food processor). The grapefruits will be very soft and juicy, the food processor captures the juices very well. Return to the pan and add the lemon juice and sugar. Boil for ten to twelve minutes, or until the mixture looks sort of flat with bubbles on the top. Nigella calls for 15 full minutes of boiling, but I’ve found that to be a little too much, resulting in a very stiff marmalade.You can test the readiness of the marmalade by dipping a cold spoon into the mixture and observing how thickly the marmalade coats the spoon. When ready, pour the mixture into 4 sterilized half pint jars.

I have not sealed my marmalade, because it gets eaten so fast, but you could pop them into a boiling water bath for 12 minutes to seal the lids for posterity.

Next to try: lemon marmalade. What if you boiled 4 lemons for 1-2 hours, checking on softness, and added, say, 4 C sugar? Wouldn’t that be interesting?