Sunday, December 18, 2011

These are too perfect! Ohmagod!

The CUTEST plates ever! I found mine in the store, but you might be able to find them online here. They're called the "Ladies in Waiting" plate, and I bought mine at Anthropologie. Please go buy them! They are just tooooooo perfect! I don't even want to eat of them - just stare at them and smile. Sigh.

Merry Christmas to me!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Yummy! How to make your own butter and marmalade.

"Bought marmalade? Oh dear, I call that very feeble."
-- Lady Trentham, Gosford Park.

Well, we wouldn't want to disappoint Lady Trentham now would we?

My dad has big citrus trees in his backyard, and every time we go to visit we come home with bags and bags of lemons, oranges and grapefruits. My husband squeezes the lemons for future lemon juice at hand and we usually eat or give away everything else. But this time the oranges were a little bitter, being out of season, so I figured what better to make than marmalade!

Marmalade is super easy, if only a little time consuming. The following recipe also works for lemons. You don't need to add any pectin because the pith has plenty. My mom makes tons of jams and never uses added pectin. 


10 oranges
4 cups water
4 cups sugar

Start by washing and peeling the oranges. Slice the peel into small bite-size strips. Then divide and slice the rest of the oranges in a similar fahsion, removing seeds and stems as you go. Add the peel, oranges and water to a large heavy bottom, non-reactive pot. Bring this to a boil and reduce to simmer for about an hour. Stir occasionally. This will soften the fruit.

Slice the oranges and peels into bite size
pieces and add to your pot.

Boil to soften the fruit before adding sugar. 

Next add the sugar, bring to a boil and then reduce to a gentle boil. Stir more frequently so the bottom doesn't burn. If any pieces do burn, or if any seeds rise to the top, simply remove with a spoon. And don't lick the spoon! Hot sugar is HOT! 

Boil the mixture for about an hour. Depending on how hot your burner is, this step might take as little as 40 minutes or an hour and a half, or more. If you have a candy/deep fry thermometer, you will want it to register at 220 degrees. If you don't have one, never fear, when the mix starts to thicken you can take little dollops and drop them on a cold granite counter or a plate which has been cooled in the freezer. After a minute or so this dollop will cool. If it's the consistency of jam you're done! If not, just keep boiling a little more. 

When the marmalade is done, you can can it, or just store it in the fridge if it will be eaten shortly. To can, I use glass jars. Check out this page on canning, since I don't want to explain it wrong and jeopardize your yummy preserves. If you do can, Avery makes perfect sized labels for the tops. You can print them on the computer or hand write. For gifts, you can add a square of pinked fabric over the lid and secure with a ribbon. A good way to utilize those scraps from your last chintz gown, yes?

Label the tops for future reference.

On to the butter.

Another, even easier (and quicker), yummy thing to make is butter! It is sooooo easy and yet so impressive to others. All you need is some cream for whipping, but you can add a little buttermilk and salt for tang or some honey for sweet honey-butter (or any number of other herbs etc etc). I recommend getting organic cream,  like Straus Family or Clover, on the west coast. Better quality cream means tastier butter. And hey, if you have a cow to milk, lucky you!

My great Grandfather had a dairy farm in New York and as a kid my dad helped his Grandmother make butter with a churn - these days I prefer a Kitchen Aid, but you can use most any kind of mixer: a stand up, a food processor (like a cuisinart), or even a jar with a marble in it. If there are kids around, tell them to shake until the marble makes no more sound, or go the old fashioned way and find a butter churn. You just need to agitate the cream.

Salted Butter

1 pint whipping cream
2 Tbs buttermilk
Ice water (very cold)
Pinch of salt

In a mixer, add the whipping cream and buttermilk. Careful not to splash when it gets going. You want to bring your mixer up to medium/high. The cream will start to turn into whipped cream and then into stiff whipped cream. Keep going. It will take a while, but eventually the fat molecules will attach to each other and you will see lumps (butter) floating in whitish liquid (buttermilk). Let it sit for a moment to let the butter rise to the top a bit. Pour through a fine mesh strainer.

Return the butter to the mixer and add to it a glass-full of the ice water (no ice). Mix again. This "washes" the butter to help it stay fresh longer and not turn sour. Strain again. You may need to repeat the washing a couple times until the water runs clear. When straining, use a spatula to press out as much water as you can from the butter. When confident the water is gone, put the butter in a clean bowl and mix with a pinch of salt (to your taste). If your butter is too cold to mix properly, you can warm the bowl first, by running it under warm water, much like a tea pot. If you want honey butter, and have omited the buttermilk and salt, now would be the time to mix in the honey (to taste), or any other herbs or flavors.

The butter can be kept in the fridge for about a week, or in a butter crock. But I'm sure it will go fast! Especially on toast with your marmalade! Yum!

Careful of the buttermilk splashing!
If your mixer has a shield, do use it.

The whipped cream stage is about to turn
 into the butter/buttermilk stage.

Use a mesh strainer. One with holes too big
will let butter squeeze through.

Be sure to press out all the water.

How cute! Le Cruset butter crock.

Water on the bottom creates a seal to keep
your butter room temperature, but fresh.
Change the water frequently to keep it clean.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Grab the clotted cream and crumpets! It's time for tea.

I love waking up to packages at my door! Today my Blue Canton tea set arrived. I'm in love.

In the 18th century, blue and white "Canton" ware became very popular, and remained so into the 19th century. Canton, now called Guangzhou, is a port city that was along the silk road. The East India company traded through this port and brought back chinese porcelain to Europe. For a much more in depth article, click here.

Vue du port de Canton. Anglo-Chinese School, 1900.

The Washington's had a set of blue and white canton ware at Mount Vernon, as their everyday china. It was left to Martha's granddaughter, Nelly Custis.

To buy reproduction Blue Canton, check out Mottahedeh.

Richard Collins, A Family of Three at Tea, 1727.

Pour the darjeeling, darlings. Cheers!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Victoriana a la Tom Ford

The holidays have started and I have very little time for sewing... but I do have time for shopping! And yesterday I saw the most gorgeous gowns in Tom Ford, from his Autumn/Winter 2011 collection. Don't they look so inspired by the turn of the century. Probably more Edwardian than Victorian, but so fab! All the millions of buttons were actually little beads covered in thread. The gowns appeared to be sheer lace and net over slips, and the gown on the left had some very turn of the century beaded applique. 

Coming back into fashion? One can only hope :)

Here you can see the above right dress in action. Victoria's Secret model Candace Swanepoel wears it at the Moet & Chandon Etoile Awards.

Candice Swanepoel. Image via @CandiceEgypt

Candice with Rosie Huntington-Whiteley. Image via @CandiceEgypt

The Tom Ford dresses seem very reminiscent of these antique dresses, all for sale at Vintage Textile:

Beaded tulle evening gown, c. 1910

Beaded black lace dress, c. 1918

Chantilly lace gown, c. 1905