Where there is a will there is a way

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Making Jam (is easy and fun)

I was nervous to make jam for the first time (as it is with anything new). We inherited two wonderful plum trees when we bought our house, and they've finally come into fruit. I had a feeling of anxiety about not being prepared and wasting their harvest!

However, I scanned in a really good article about the basics, scanned the old-fashioned low-down, and the still currently used manual. I've come up with my simplest method.

The biggest point is to just do it - today standards are so high, that it takes the fun out of everything. Cut up fruit, and boil it with sugar. Pour into sterilized jars. It's really fun!

And after you do it just once or twice - it's simple too.

Sources: Good magazine, Aunt Daisy's Cookbook, Edmonds Cookbook

2.7 kg (6 lbs.) cut up strawberries (obviously without top end with green plant - cut in half)
2.3 kg (5 lbs.) sugar (original recipe calls for 2.7, but I want to be healthier)
Juice of 2 lemons

Water: There is no water added in this recipe. It's weird but the strawberries reduce down and release their water!

Pectin: Some fruits have natural pectin - like apples, and strawberries. So, no additional pectin is needed.

Sterilizing: First, STERILIZE YOUR JARS - 5 to 6 jam jars with bands and dome lids per batch of jam. I used Perfit Utility Preserving Jars (NZ). You can reuse jars you've bought jam or pasta sauce in - but to guarantee long storage, use proper canning jars with bands and dome lids.

First wash the jars with hot soapy water and rinse. Then boil the jars themselves in a large pot, covered over with water, for 5 minutes (lids too if reusing jars).

Put boiled jars in the oven which has been preheated to 150 degrees Celsius. Keep them there until jam is ready to be poured in. Put the bands in there too. Take the lids and place them into a container, ready to have boiling water poured on them just before you need them.

Boiling: Put strawberries in a really huge pot on your stove. Measure out your sugar and put it beside you. It's true, the recipe does not call for any water. Just the strawberries in a pot. As they heat, they will "melt" and all the water will come out. Turn on the burner to Med heat. As strawberries melt, add sugar and stir. Dissolve the sugar until it's all added. Then, TURN UP THE HEAT. ALL THE WAY, AND BOIL LIKE MAD. Watch out for small burning sugar solution meteors though, especially at first. A bit landed on my bare arm, and left a singe mark the exact shape of the drip. BOIL FOR 15-20 MINUTES. Test the jam to see if it's "set up" (is less runny) for the exact time. Near the end of boiling, add the juice of 2 lemons.

Pouring and Sealing: This is my parent's method, from home in Canada. Pour jam up to about 1 cm from the top - up to the rim. Making sure the rim's surface is cleaned of any jam, you place a sterilized dome lid - I poured boiling water on it first - onto the jar. Then screw on the band. The hot jam's vapour pressure forces the air to leave the jar, and the jar is vacuum sealed.

Look how much sugar!

2.7 kg (6 lbs.) cut up plums and strawberries, any ratio
2.3 kg (5 lbs.) sugar
Water - if mostly plums, add 1 cup water. If mostly strawberries, none.
Juice of 1 lemon

Sterilize your jars and lids (as recipe above). Put cut up fruit (and water if any) into a big pot. Cook on medium heat until fruit is soft, adding sugar a cup or so at a time. When sugar is dissolved and fruit is softened, turn the heat up and BOIL LIKE MAD for 15-20 minutes - test. Just before you take it off, add the juice of 1 lemon. Pour and seal (as in recipe above).

2.7 kg (6 lbs.) cut up plums
1 1/4 cups water.
2 kg (4 lbs. 8 ozs.) sugar (don't remove any sugar or it will be bitter)

Pectin: With plums, you can leave the stones in as the mixture boils, then remove them as they rise to surface. Apparently it helps the jam to set. Alternatively, just use "jam setting sugar" or add pectin. (I chose the jam setting sugar for zero waste reasons - pectin was only available at the grocery store in a plastic package.)

Sterilize your jars and lids. Put cut up fruit (and water if any) into a big pot. Cook on medium heat until fruit is soft, adding sugar a cup or so at a time. When sugar is dissolved and fruit is softened, turn the heat up and BOIL LIKE MAD for 15-20 minutes (test). Pour and seal (as above).

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Coal mining in NZ article: "Labour against lignite plans"

by Alan Wood
NOV 8 2011 / Fairfax News

The original article can be found here:

Solid Energy's lignite development plans in Southland have come under fire from the Labour Party which sees wood or biofuels as being the long-term solution to fuel needs.

Labour spokesman for the environment Charles Chauvel, however, was less opposed to existing mining operations run or being ramped up by miners including Solid Energy and Bathurst Resources on the West Coast but did not want a start to lignite development.

Chauvel released Labour's policy to protect the environment on Sunday. Yesterday, he added that Solid Energy should not proceed with Southland plans for lignite-to-liquid fuels until technology to capture and store carbon emissions was available.

He said the natural environment helped define Kiwis, with expats for example returning home to bring up kids.

It also supported tourism and the food industries.

A spokeswoman for Solid Energy said the state-owned enterprise did not want to be drawn into political debate, but it stood by a previous statement relating to its plans to fit in with environmental concerns.

Taking full responsibility for greenhouse gas emissions was a key consideration in all Solid Energy's lignite developments and the company would look at options such as offsetting carbon emissions by biosequestration (planting more trees) or purchasing carbon credits, or capturing emissions.

Carbon capture and storage is said to be an expensive technology still at an experimental stage.
The coalminer is looking to develop new technologies including turning huge amounts of lignite resource into transport fuel and urea.

To take the plan forward, Solid Energy has bought Southland farmland in order to control 1.5 billion tonnes of lignite.

Chauvel said Labour did not think it was appropriate for a government or SOE to spend money on developing lignite when that would "blow out" carbon emissions and lead to climate change.

Chauvel said any plan to grow trees to offset carbon emissions would also face enormous constraints. "Basically you'd have to plant the entire South Island into forests to create a carbon sink to make up for what it would do to emissions from processing that dirty brown stuff under Southland."

The party viewed the export of mined coal, in already consented activities, as a less serious problem, and did not have anything in its policy to ban such mining, he said.

Labour had a plan to ramp up renewables such as geothermal power to create jobs and answer fuel needs. "In transport we're going to get emissions down by 40 per cent by promoting job rich industries like rail, coastal shipping and public transport."

Biofuels, including the use of wood waste as a biofuel source through yet-to-be commercialised techniques, would answer New Zealand's need for fuel, Chauvel said.

Environmental lobby group Coal Action Network welcomed Labour's stance, saying it was a major step in the right direction. "Labour has clearly taken on board the message that mining up to 6 billion tonnes of lignite that lies beneath prime Southland farmland will lead to many billion tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions and also devastate the land, rivers and air of Southland," Network spokesman Tim Jones said.

The Network was also opposed to mining plans by Bathurst Resources coal project reserves in the Buller region.

- © Fairfax NZ News

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

PYO - Pick Your Own (fruit) in Auckland

Hey - we picked our own! (Massey Orchard, Auckland.) I must admit it wasn't just for the children. I had just read about making your own jam, and I wanted practice. But it was a really really great family activity. (And zero plastic container waste was involved!)

They should call it "Find your own" though, not pick your own. Most of the fun comes from trying to find the ripe strawberries amidst the plants. It's a challenge!

We picked two moderately full boxes, as you can see above. They weren't cheap - it came to $80 (NZ).

But it was worth it.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011


While camping I actually finally had time to knit (all the time). It was so fun! Making a baby blanket for my best friend's new baby in Canada gave me a reason to learn enough basic skills.

The beanie at the top is my first ribbing (2 knit, 2 pearl) and addition of colour. I had found a bag of wool at an op shop. There was very fine natural coloured wool - which I thought would work with bright colours as highlights.

I ended up making a stingray for Troy after making a filler piece for the back of that beanie that resembled a stingray. (The construction of the beanie was guessed at as I didn't follow a pattern - now I know how I would do it next time - more like the hourglass shape, one piece, sewn together afterwards at the sides. This beanie needed a filler piece.) Stingrays are very 2D anyways. But when I made Luke a snapper, sewing on knitted triangles at the side made the fish more 3D shaped.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Pilgrim Threads from the Gypsy Fair

We got these beautiful dresses from the Gypsy Fair that came to Orewa in November. (If you are looking for them, look for "Gypsy Fair Original" on http://www.eventfinder.co.nz/ - as they are still travelling all over the North Island of NZ for a few more months. The dresses were made by "Pilgrim Threads". Like the other gypsy fair craftspeople, their products are not sold online. You have to find them in real life at the fairs. I love how I actually feel beautiful and comfortable in them - unlike clothes from the mall, that have the "I feel too ugly and fat for these clothes" effect.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Fun Sewing Project for kids

This is an idea I had from how children learn to draw by giving them a piece of paper and pencil. They learn by drawing anything they wanted. What if you gave kids a big needle and yarn or thick cotton thread, and they had a little circle stretcher (embroidery hoop) to hold the cloth, and they could "doodle" with the needle?

When I tried it though, it was fantastic, but free sewing wasn't the natural outcome. I drew something simple with pencil, and they sewed around it with the big needle and thread. They loved it.

The end result looks good, it's simple, and they learn how to sew. You just need the little hoop - mine was at a local craft store called Ike's Emporium - any craft shop should have these in plastic or wood for embroidery. Mine was $3 NZ. Almost any cloth will do, especially cotton. (I used an old Canadian flour sack.)

By the way - I suggest large needles and thick thread of whatever fibre (e.g. cotton, wool) you wish in general for mending and hand sewing projects. It's simpler, far more desirable - not fiddly. It's satisfying. Better a readily available solid string and big needle than no mending and sewing at all.

Camping at Great Barrier Island

Ah, the simplicity of camping.

We just went camping on beautiful Great Barrier Island. Camping reconnects me with nature, and the way we used to live in it.

Such as the real energy required to clean dirty clothing!

After the rushed city life, disconnected from energy to do things, from the natural environment itself, from having time...it was bliss to have that time.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Baking Soda Fun

Did you know that baking soda actually does a better job than alot of bottled chemical cleaners?

For ceramic stove tops (bench tops), you are supposed to use a certain, exact product - and none other - that they sell just for use on ceramic stoves. But baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) actually works better.

Sprinkle a small pile on and grab a wet cloth (rag). The wet cloth will turn the baking soda into a paste - which will wear away any burnt on material on the stove's surface without damaging it. Try it!

Baking soda also gets permanent marker off smooth surfaces...just get alot of baking soda, eh.