There are rules in life for everything – brush your teeth twice a day, always say please and thank you, no wine before 3pm… 2pm? Ok, 1pm but that’s my final offer…
The point is that some of the rules we know and love to live by have solid foundations in the world. “Always look both ways before crossing the street” – great as not many of us wish to be floored by a moving vehicle. Some are made up to keep us in check (see the wine rule) and others… well what are THEY for? “Kids should be in bed by… (insert time here)”. Agreed that bed by 1am is a bit over the top rebellious and not great for their health or your relationships (with your husband or your wine), but more and more I see friends who insist their child is in bed by 7pm (I myself used to have to be tucked up by the first doof’s of the East Enders theme tune) and I wonder to myself “why?”.
If I get home from work at 5:30pm I then must spend half an hour cooking. The next half an hour is spent sitting together answering the most important questions in the world (to my kids) over dinner: “why do I have to eat my veg’ables?”, “why can’t I watch my programmes?” and “mummy, why can’t I have chocolate for dinner?” (I will come to the “chocolate rule” shortly).
That leaves me with half an hour to enjoy my children – although those who subscribe to the bath, book and bed routine have even less than that (we learned long ago that bath is simply a wet playground for our little mermaids -to bath them before bed means certain doom for any feelings of sleepiness… in fact I am fairly sure my girls are in fact mogwai’s, those adorable fluffy creatures that turn into gremlins when they hit water!). In any case bedtime is largely irrelevent if those in bed are still singing/reading/getting up to ask another question before being taken back to bed. In fairness to my children, I am not a sleeper either. I remember many nights as a child where I would be marauding the house and climbing onto chairs for crackers or biscuits long after my parents were in bed (I couldn’t tell the time yet – that’s how small I was) accompanied by my slightly younger brother who also couldn’t sleep. Moving on a few years to when we rented a flat together, the same brother got a job in a nightclub becaus he was “up anyway” and I would finally get out of bed when I heard him come home so we could have a couple of hours sing song before dawn (it all sounds a bit twee but to recover our street cred my bro would be strumming Metallica, Green Day etc. for me to sing along with – I actually walked down the aisle to him playing Green Day’s time of your life on his beloved guitar). Nowadays if my beloved family is asleep I will still prowl, listening for noises that don’t belong or signs that a child may be on the verge of waking with questions or the urge to feed or simply just enjoying the quiet. I needn’t be lonely though as chances are my mum or any of my four brothers would be awake if I chanced a cheeky text. Yet for the most part (barring anaemia related exhaustion) I have been fit, healthy and able to function at normal capacity throughout the day. It is this that I keep in mind when my little fox cubs find fresh energy after having an evening snooze, proceeding to keep us on our toes until we go to bed and in the ensuing silence they join us in the land of nod.
Now, back to the rules surrounding chocolate. East provided us with the usual parental conundrum. When may the first child start on their first egg, how much is too much and when do we fit in meals??? I take my lead from my parents. There were two days in all the year that we termed a chocolate free for all. Boxing day and Easter Sunday. And so yesterday involved many wet wipes as clean up after clean up took place. I don’t know if it was sugar crash but actually both girls slept without disturbance (as I watched a murder mystery series on box set and nibbled chocolate with a glass of water – you can’t beat thick gooey chocolate followed by thin cold water in my book!) And then, when I finally fell asleep, so did I! Then we woke up this morning and realised the conundrum wasn’t actually over. There are still piles of chocolate eggs and chicks and ducks to be eaten but now we have two girls who are operating on Easter rules expecting to sustain themselves primarily on their favourite food stuff! So I ask you… What’s the rule for Easter Monday (and who wrote it???)!?
I tried my hand at jam making for the first time this weekend and since it was a success I thought I’d share with the group. 🙂
1. 300g frozen raspberries
2. 1 lemon, juiced and halved
3. 1 cup granulated sugar
4. 1 frozen side plate or saucer
5. 1 jam jar and wax disc (sterilise the jam jar by putting it in the oven at 150C for the duration of your jam making or by putting it in the dishwasher if you’re lucky enough to have one!)
1. Put both the juice and skin of the lemon into a large saucepan with the raspberries, warm over a medium heat until the fruit is quite mushy, stirring regularly.
2. Add the cup of sugar and stir in thoroughly, turning the heat up high until the mixture reaches a rolling boil (should still be quite turbulent even while you stir it).
3. Once the boiling mixture has begun to thicken and bubble a bit less violently, start timing for 3 minutes.
4. Take saucer/side plate out of the freezer and once the timer signals the end of your boiling time take the saucepan off the heat. Put a little of the jam onto the saucer and allow it to cool for a few minutes.
5. Test the jam by pushing it with your finger and if it wrinkles it’s ready, if it doesn’t then put the saucepan back on the heat for another minute or two and the plate back into the freezer (some people advise different plates but I have a freezer full of food so not enough room for my crockery cupboard in there as well!). Take it back out and once again take the pan off the heat when you’re ready to test again. Repeat as necessary.
6. Once you get that delightful wrinkle get your (very hot!) jam jar and lid out of the oven. Remove the lemon rind from the jam and give it another stir for good measure before tipping it very carefully into your jar. You could use a sterile jam funnel but that would make life simple lol!
7. Pop the wax disc on top of the jar, pop the lid on and turn it upside down for a couple of minutes. I don’t know why, I just read somewhere that you should do it so I did (lemming).
That’s it until it cools. When I first finished I was paranoid it might be solid inside the jar and nearly opened it to check (didn’t want to do that as it was a gift for my mum). Thankfully a good single shake resulted in the jam shooting to the top of the jar and then oozing slowly back down to the bottom when I put it down. I tried a bit from the pan on some crusty bread and butter and was so pleased with it, and since giving it to my mum I have had rave reviews from family, as well as my mum asking if I would consider having a stand at their village summer fete selling cakes and preserves (Woah, only done one jar so far mum lol!).
Would love to know if anyone else has success with this or any other jam recipe.
(Recipe and method from a mish mash of ‘All Recipes’, ‘BBC Good Food’ and several different sites then adapted according to whatever looked right in the pan!)