Monday, 2 February 2009

Jobs for February, Both Seasonal and Vintage

Well, in my copy of The Happy Home, A Universal Guide to Household Management, published by The Good Housekeeping Institute sometime in the early 1950s, jobs to do in January are given thus.

Check annual accounts and draw up budget. Extra entertaining. Marmalade making. Turn out linen cupboard, and make a list of necessary replacements; buy these if possible at White Sales.
You'll be glad to know that on the 31st January (last minute Domum strikes again!) I submitted my self-assessment tax return to the Inland Revenue (this, in my view, substitutes "check annual accounts" on the Good Housekeeping list) and made marmalade. My linen cupboard is sadly non-existent so I pickled some beetroot instead.

Now, if you fancy having a go at marmalade making, I urge you to try whilst the Seville oranges are still in the shops. It's not nearly so much of a faff as you'd think and the results are delicious. You need roughly two pounds of oranges and six pounds of sugar to make ten large jars, so it works out as an exercise in frugality, but only if you and yours like the stuff! Here's the 1950s recipe I used, again from Good Housekeeping's The Happy Home.

Seville Orange Marmalade
2 lb bitter oranges
1 lemon
6 pints water
6 lb sugar.
Wipe the fruit, cut in half, and remove the pips, tying them in a muslin bag. Slice the fruit and put it together with the water and bag of pips into a preserving pan or large saucepan. Boil until the rind is tender and the contents of the pan reduced by about one-half (1- 1/2 hours). Remove the bag of pips. Add the sugar, stir until dissolved and boil briskly until the marmalade jells when tested on a cold saucer. Pot and cover immediately.
Now, for marmalade novices, remember to slice your fruit as thinly as you can without going mental through boredom. Also, de-pith your lemon and put this pith in the muslin bag with your orange pips, oh and talking of muslin bags, a clean, child's sock will do for this venture if muslin eludes you. When your rind is tender, wait for the mixture to cool a little because it is best to squeeze out all the pectin gathered from the pips in your muslin bag/sock (a joyously messy business). Make sure you dissolve all the sugar over a low heat before you even begin to think about boiling the marmalade. Email me if you need any further help.

You will be glad to know that in February I shall be turning over a new leaf and do any seasonal household jobs throughout the month rather than in my usual last minute rush. I have perused my vintage household management books, in order to find said seasonal inspiration, and here's what I've found.

From The Happy Home.

Prepare for spring-cleaning by turning out cupboards, drawers, shelves, book-cases etc. Make plans for any interior decorations. Arrange for chimney sweep.
Hmm, not too sure if I approve of this "turning out" business. I like my cupboards crammed full of useful and important junk. Let's have a look at what Aunt Kate's The Housewife's Calender, from 1930s, has in store for this month. Oh, there's such a lot of reading to do! Aunt Kate is so verbose (now there's the pot calling the kettle black) I shall paraphrase.
Buy a melon, tackle your cupboards (oh no, not you too Aunt Kate), brush up on your pancake recipes, sow hardy annuals, make new kitchen curtains (okay then), have a leap year party and invite single people (what larks!).
Aunt Kate is always such a joy. I feel I can fulfill my housewifely duty by buying a melon and having a jolly good knees up (is it a leap year btw?). I am formally ignoring all advice vis a vis cupboards, just so you know. Now let us examine my much beloved A Calender of Country Receipts, by the blessed and much under-appreciated Nell Heaton, again I shall paraphrase, but if you want a recipe mentioned in the list, please email me.
Make beetroot wine, orange curd, lemon wine, honey beer, chilli and onion sauce and remember to waterproof your garden boots.
With your larder stocked with such goodies you could have a mighty fine February knees up. Oh, I think I shall be making the Chilli and Onion Sauce (in fact a chutney) over the next month or so, I'll let you know how it works out.
So to leave you, I give you the view from my front door this morning. Warwickshire schools are still open, and such news my children took as a cruel blow. Anon goode huswives, anon!


Sarah said...

I have to confess--I have NEVER tasted marmalade but am going to get a jar today. I'm not sure I know what a Seville orange is, either.
I like the idea of making up citrus products at this time of the year. Perhaps I'll make some lemon curd.

I made kitchen curtains yesterday, so I"m ahead of the game in the housekeeping department.

Left-Handed Housewife said...

Is a Seville orange the same as a clementine? Oh, I don't know that I'll make the marmalade in either case, but I like the idea of making marmalade, particularly on schedule, very much.

I have a linen closet filled with linens that are almost never used but somehow always need refolding and restacking. I shall get on it straightaway and mark that off my calendar!

I can't believe your children have school today. That much snow would have our schools shut down for a week. We're very wimpy about snow over here in the southern states.


Anonymous said...

Yey for the snow. And your marmalade looks and sounds delish!

Zillah said...

I have to confess I've farmed out my marmalade to my Mum's partner this year. She does make lovely marmalade, and the girls are so time consuming at the moment that I fear a repeat of last year when I got as far as cooking the oranges (I cook mine whole then chop) and had to hastily chuck them in the freezer as I ran out of time. They were still there at the end of the summer and I had to admit defeat. Perhaps next year . . .

Your labels look lovely, DD!

Laughs hollowly at all the seasonal tasks. Will be happy if the debris of the day is picked up by the end of the evening.


Dulce Domum said...

Hi Sarah(Vermont)
Ooh, you ought to try some, it's quite a grown-up taste, I bet you'll like it. You can make it with any citrus fruit, there's an easy recipe for Pink Grapefruit Marmalade in "How to Be a Domestic Goddess." Oh, and a Seville orange is a bitter, thin skinned orange you use especially for marmalade making. I suspect that they're grown for the British market.

Hey, I'm glad you made some you have to tackle your cupboards!

Hi Frances
No, a Seville orange is small, thin skinned and bitter, it's used specifically for marmalade making. You know, I like the *idea* of doing seasonal jobs on schedule too. It's comforting to think of. In one of my books there's a whole chapter on linen, marking the linen for each member of the family, how to darn it properly, how to fold it, what to choose at the White Sales...I found it all such an evocative read! Seeing as you actually have a linen cupboard I think you'd enjoy it!

Oh, the school is closed today. Hurrah! You'll be glad to know that London came to standstill yesterday...Norway and Sweden must be laughing at us!

Hi Sarah
Yes, I'm delighted with the snow. Am eating marmalade on toasted potato bread for breakfast. Yum.

Hi Zillah
Oh, I remember those days so well, and I kind of miss them. It's nice you've got a willing relative on marmalade duty. So glad you like my labels, I coloured them myself and everything!

Seraphim said...

What brilliant books! I must admitt to never having tasted marmalade since the day I picked up my mothers toast by mistake, and had a mouthful of sour lemon marmalade instead of sweet, sweet jam. I was around ten and it was quite traumatic. Perhaps though it is time to give it another try!

Oh and as a tax person myself, I must tsk at you for leaving your return until the 31st ;))

sanjay said...
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