Marmalade Making

an amber treasure

I love canning, and I love all the food preparation that goes into it, except for one: Peeling oranges and lemons for marmalade.  Marmalade is probably our favourite sweet preserve, and it is so expensive to buy good marmalade.

I found Hartley’s prepared Seville oranges at Coyle’s Country Store, and held onto it for a while, and finally when all other canning opportunities were exhausted, I got it ready. This is a 850 gram can of cut and cooked Seville orange rind and pulp. The label says to add sugar and water, cook for fiteen minutes, and bottle. It doesn’t get much easier than that.

It takes a fair amount of sugar – 4 pounds or 1.8 kg – but it makes 5 pints. (Note that the instructions tell the user that it makes 6 pounds, but that doesn’t tell me how many jars I needed. I just prepared extra jars.) I followed the instructions, added the 15 fluid ounces of water – the can is marked – and the bag of sugar, stirred until it boiled and then tasted.


Well, yes, Seville oranges are bitter. I did not add extra sugar, but put in a teaspoon or so of salt. (Salt offsets bitter.) Then I added two diced cored, unpeeled MacIntosh apples and some cinnamon sticks. I boiled it slowly for the required fifteen minutes, ladled it into sterilized jars (put the clean empty jars in the hot water bath canner and bring to a full boil for five minutes) then sealed the top of each jar with disks of waxed paper (use the jar lid as a template for cutting it out, press it down onto the hot contents of the jar) and screwed on the lids. Of course, the jars can be processed or sealed with paraffin, but wax paper is what I had and is acceptable in a sterilized jar for high sugar preserves. I pushed the cinnamon sticks down into the preserves as I filled the jars, one segment to a jar. I did not dice the apples fine enough, so they floated, but this isn’t a big fault.

The flavour is sweet enough for toast but still orangey and spicy enough to glaze a ham or pork roast.

The colour is, of course, more beautiful than any jewel.

We spooned the last of the syrup out of the kettle directly into our mouths – no intermediary bread necessary.

How to Make a Baby Sling

me and "baby"

I wish baby slings were popular when my boys were infants – we had front carriers, back carriers, strollers and infant seats, all of them complicated and sometimes expensive. We were warned, thirty years ago, that we shouldn’t hold our babies too much or we would spoil them and they would be mama’s boys. Well, I wish I had spoiled them and that they were mama’s boys to the extent that they would occasionally write or phone their mama thirty years later!

You can’t spoil a baby by loving it. You can’t ruin your child’s life by holding it. For heaven’s sake, humanity has done this for eons and somehow we turned out competent, feminine women and independent, masculine men despite toting our babies around everywhere. And where was neolithic mom going to put her baby? On the ground? People tied the babies and small children to themselves to keep them warm and safe.

So, Sarah Ann, remember that I had this babysling on first, and a little bit of my heart goes to you and our little dear one with it.

The sling is designed by Handmade- Adelaide and as usual I’ve lost the http, but it is easy to find if you google babysling. It’s made from a washable home decor fabric. I now know how to make a proper French seam, too, which is essential for holding the baby safely. It keeps baby close to your body, and at first I thought it was too snug, but baby is not a designer handbag and needs to be stable against your upper torso. Sarah requested a one-piece sling because the adjustable one didn’t work well for her. We are about the same height so I made it to fit me. I assume that my middle-aged weight and the three layers of clothes I wear added a bit to the snugness.

I was unsure of how to make the pattern from the instructions so I made a scale model before commiting my nice fabric to scissors.

Lil Daddy Caillou

I made one to fit Patience’s Caillou doll. He has her little chipmunk doll “Ashley” in the sling.

And for those who are wondering where I found a newborn baby for my sling – it’s a rolled up towel, baby length and width, with a bonnet tied on for its head. Genuine Amish towel baby.

Friday, Food Waste

does this look good to you?

It’s my Amish bread starter. I’ve neglected it for several weeks because (yes, indeed) I am not baking as much. I am a bit determined to take off a few pounds and since I am home all day, scrumptious baked goods lying around looking like forbidden fruit are not part of my meal plan. Note that the blueberry pie was eaten, nay – devoured – along with its sister whipped cream. Shame. The starter seems to be all right. I gave it some sugar, and shook it, and it foamed up nicely. Fact is, sourdough starters always look like something the dog brought up on an empty stomach.

A couple of weeks or so ago, I published a photo of what our refrigerator looked like after a trip to the farmer’s market in St. Jacobs, the Ontario Promised Land of all farmer’s markets. This is a photo of our refrigerator today:

The produce drawers are empty except for a few carrots, and there is part of a head of cabbage and a green pepper left. Mostly, this is leftovers – casserole, falafel, hummus, salad. (Although we do have one Waterloo Dark and a couple of Blackthorns. For medicinal purposes only.) I have some potatoes and onions in the pantry, along with the canned foods.

most of the contents of the pantry

You can’t tell from this, but there are six kinds of baking chocolate in here.

Lately, I have tossed out three cucumbers – I think they were a bit overripe when I bought them, which is hard to tell until you cut them open and see how big the seeds are. I can only make so much gurkesalat at once – I had a big Pyrex bowl filled with it, and it has dwindled to a small Pyrex flat dish. Gurkesalat is a standard Danish fresh pickle which is so stupidly easy to make that my Danish friends must have wondered why I needed a recipe. (Slice cucumbers and white onion paper thin, sprinkle with sea salt, pour vinegar over to cover. Refrigerate.) And a green pepper developed a slimy habit and was threatening the other produce in the drawer, so I booted it out into the hedge.

Mostly, our leftovers are eaten as meals, even if I have to group some of them together as a kind of smorgasbord. Since the food was good the first time around, we all tuck in gratefully when it reappears.

Plain Clothes on eBay

Plain Ol`Me

If are you looking right now to buy some Plain dresses or men`s clothes, I thought I`d let you know that one of my favourite eBay sellers has quite a good stock at reasonable prices. Go to eBay and look up `grannyljt3uca`. She has Plain dresses, capes and aprons, kapps and a couple of bonnets as well as shawls in stock. She also has some men`s suits and trousers, which can be hard to find pre-owned and inexpensive! I noticed that she has a good variety of sizes, and she sells complete outfits of dress, cape and apron, and kapp. I have bought kapps and cape and apron from her (as seen above, although the kapp isn`t visible.) Her prices range from just a few dollars for single items up to $30-$45 for suits and outfits. Some of this you couldn`t sew yourself for that price. (PS: She doesn`t know I`m posting this, so there`s nothing in it for me except to help my friends.)

Plain Life, Plainly

Plain chores

It looks like we are seeing the leading edge of a Plain revival. The twentieth century left many people stranded spiritually; we moved from an all-encompassing Modern philosophy to a Post-Modern zeitgeist. The Moderns are still in control of most institutions, but those of us outside the mainstream of those same institutions are, from a Post-Modern perspective, looking to the past and lost tradition for a way to follow into the very uncertain future.

What is Modern and Post-Modern? In my context, the Enlightenment of the eighteenth century, a move in academia, society and politics to a philosophy of Progress and optimism based on human achievement, is the beginning of the Modern era. (Most academics would agree, I think.) Post-Modern (don`t be afraid of this term) is based on experience and philosophy of the twentieth century, when the senseless destruction and chaos of the world wars and other conflicts brought into question the legitimacy of Progress. Its seeds were sown in the Enlightenment itself and in the social protests of the nineteenth century. Widespread genocide and ecological destruction reinforced this philosophy amongst academics and influential thinkers. Post-Modernism asks:

How can we believe what we were taught when those beliefs brought so much destruction –

How can chaos and violent anarchy be Progress –

This is the meta-question that has led many of us to find another way. We want a way that follows the teachings of Christ without the excesses of culture that we now reject, such as materialism and consumerism. The cultural churches – the mainline Protestant, Catholic, Orthodox and Anglican institutions – seem to be still enmeshed in the dominant, destructive culture. So in the late twentieth century, other ways of faithful living have been explored, rejuvenated and reworked, such as the New Monasticism and the Plain movement.

I can`t speak to the New Monasticism; while we live in an informal community, it is not ordered in any way except that we are all Anglicans and the centre of our week is Sunday attendance and participation at worship. Nicholas and I are very Plain but have accommodated ourselves to the way of living here in the rectory. We have electricity, a vehicle, an internet connection and television. The house is old and not particularly up to date. But we are unable to garden since that would mean the removal of old trees much valued by the neighbourhood, and recycling is not as efficient as I could wish it. I make my own clothes, do some canning and we interact with other Plain people when we have the opportunity. We are trying to maintain our Plain philosophy in a more worldly church community. I don`t see that we have any influence on them at all.

It is what it is; this is a transition stage for us, and with some matters becoming realized, we should be able to move on to a more suitable place for small scale farming and a self-sufficient life.

I think this is where many of us Plainers are headed. While not Anabaptist in profession, we are looking for suitable places to adopt some of the best of Anabaptist and traditional Quaker ways. (I will acknowledge that not all Plain followers are necessarily traditionally Christian; we need to make room for Quakers and others who are more liberal in their theologies.) I hope that as a movement we do not fall into the sectarian errors we have seen in the past. (Formal shunning and the ban, for instance, are inappropriate. We can avoid close association with those whose influence on us is deleterious, but we cannot withdraw from our witness.)

The great irony, of course, is that one of the tools we use to be a Plain community is the internet. Most of us express some concern and even dismay that this is the best we can do, but I doubt if we can give it up without losing community. I would prefer a more traditional form of communication myself. Scott Savage tried this with Plain magazine, but the funding fell short and he could never exceed a certain circulation number due to the printing technologies he used.  (I have still not written to Scott as I had planned. He`s been through some rough stuff in the last few years, and I don`t want my concern and curiosity to sound as if I am criticizing him for choices he made.) I envision something more like the Amish Budget, a newsletter with many columns written from many locations, giving the local news and views. But publications are supported by advertising, and no one wants to advertise in a publication for people who reject consumerism; we are not a very good market.

I`m not at all sure we can define ourselves yet. We are Plain, but we have so many expressions of that. We don`t have an ordnung and won`t, since we don`t fall under but one authority as a group, and that is Christ. We are working out our salvation with fear and trembling, day by day, question by question, leading by leading. We are drawing on the Anabaptists who have been the living encyclopedia for Plain life, and the traditions of Quakers, monastics and other groups who chose to be isolated from the Modern world. I would prefer that we do not quarrel amongst ourselves – I had enough of that sojourning with the Orthodox and their many cries of `You are not canonical!` (If you have been part of an Orthodox community you know what I mean. The Paedalion is both beacon and cudgel.) This is a weakness in the Anglican church, which will ignore the dissenters until they get tired of the yelping and throw the pups out. (Puritans, Quakers, Methodists and now the Biblical Conservatives, whatever they are going to call themselves.) The Quaker meetings are, in their erudite and polite way, at odds internally all too often.

Let`s keep it simple and courteous. Let`s speak Plain English (not Plain speech, except amongst ourselves) and give the St. Francis sermon – preach with our lives, using words only when necessary.


It’s been a busy week. Nicholas’s son had his first child – we’ll call her Tabitha here – her parents named her something else. It feels like it’s been years rather than a few months! I have some sewing to do before we head East – a baby sling as requested and whatever else I can get done. I am in the process of making a new dress for myself. Now that I have some practice it goes rather quickly. I’ll let you in on WHY later.

I’ve got plenty to write about and will try to free a few seconds this afternoon to get some of it done.