18 December 2008

Success and failure (in the "Jam Factory")

Ambition has always been my tragic flaw. I am, and have very often been, a victim of my own success. This past weekend, amid a myriad of merry-making activities, I attempted (and actually) succeeded in making a batch of “Chunky Grapefruit, Lemon & Lime Marmalade”. (Thank you, Easy British Cooking!)

It turned out sooooo beautifully, and was in fact quite dee-lish! But, could I rest on my laurels and merely enjoy my sweet success? Oh no. In the afterglow and sugar high, I decided and announced that my preserve-making efforts would become the epicenter of my holiday efforts, and that my resulting output would be packaged beautifully and given as gifts to our family and friends. Famous last words.

My fourth day in, and I’m ready to struggle myself with the strings of my cook’s apron!

Last night, as the D.E.B. was in the living room setting up our stout Nordmann Fir tree (from Thelsford Farm, Charlecote), I fretted in the kitchen over “Chunky Marmalade - Round 2”. I was spurred on by the glowing success of finally, finally (yes, finally!) championing the testy and quintessential “Lemon Curd”. Yes, I did it!! Blood, sweat, tears and two lemons yielded two tiny, jam jars of sunshine. Such great effort for such small output. “I need to maximize my output.” I coached myself in a business-like manner.

So, INSTEAD of tackling the next round of the grapefruit, lime and lemon concoction as directed in the cookbook, I decided to attempt some elaborate math(s), and tackle enough for three batches in one go. Of course, as the evening and my energy waned, I got distracted.

After festive glass of wine or two, looking at our lovely, luscious tree in the living room, I decided that I HAD to make a hand-made, keepsake ornament to be the first ornament on our English Christmas tree. I whizzed round, grabbed my scissors, needles and a bit of calico fabric, and made a sweet, little, red heart with a navy blue satin ribbon hang tie. “You always have my heart.” I said to the D.E.B. as I handed him the ornament. A kiss and a cuddle later, and…Grapefruit? What Grapefruit?

By the time I got back to “the Marmalade project,” I had forgotten just how many bits of grapefruit, lime and lemon I’d used. (Zoinks!) This is important because of the “Fruit to Sugar” ratio. Basically, I didn’t know how much sugar I needed to add. So, I overcompensated… Now, I find myself sitting with sticky fingers, sticky hair, a sticky kitchen, and a giant pot of marmalade the color of Marmite, but with the cloying taste of treacle/syrup. Why, why, why didn’t I just relish my lemon curd success, and take my time and work slowly and patiently, working on one batch of marmalade at a time?

I have tried everything to rescue this project, and to spare our family and friends the need for excessive dental work in 2009! We shall see. If ambition is my downfall, tenacity and creativity are my saving graces.

I have learned much from this great preserve-making adventure. I have learned that I have support and resources that I didn’t even imagine. I’ve learned to take good advice, and to trust my own instincts, at least in the case of the notorious and elusive Lemon Curd. Perhaps the lesson from “The Great Grapefruit Marmalade Saga” is that age-old lesson I refuse to learn: patience is a virtue; and it helps to slow down, and take things one step at a time. 


Shes Not From Yorkshire said...

You're making jam! You're such a Delia goddess! Very admirable I say as I sit down to open my Tesco value range for my toast...

Random Thoughts said...

Your ambition and desire to give a homemade gift should be commended. I have had years where I made gifts (especially for mom), they didn't always turn out perfect, but my mom loved them just the same. Of course, they weren't edible so much as decorative....

An American Girl in the UK said...

Thanks for your thoughts, ladies! Hope you both are having happy holidays!
RT: where there is a will there is a way, right?
SNFY: Delia? You mean Nigella! She rocks!