Saturday, February 24, 2024

Count to Ten, Count to Five


Spring housecleaning this year kicks off with dealing with the jars of coins that have been gathering dust on a shelf in my office. While the science fiction trope of "the before times" became a reality with the start of the pandemic, it wasn't necessarily the bright line we think we remember.

Sure, starting with the national lockdown we all stopped going to stores and leaving or taking pennies from the jar beside the cash register. But only a few weeks into the pandemic my local bank branch closed permanently, a decision I suspect had been made much earlier, as more and more people moved to electronic payments and online banking.

In truth, there hadn't been many deposits to the Blue Door Bank of Hard Money (not FDIC insured) in some years. I maintained four jars, for pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters. For some reason my recollection was that the marvelous CoinStar machines didn't take pennies, so last week I spent some time one evening after dinner counting and wrapping pennies, an evocative activity for me. I recall helping my father wrap pennies. It was an absorbing task for a young child who had just learned to count. Count ten pennies and place them in a neat stack. Count five stacks of pennies. Very satisfying.

When I noticed them, I pulled out the Canadian pennies. I'll toss those into streams that look like they might have spirits in them who could use an offering.  Maybe I'll toss one into the Pacific Ocean.* Dream big.

*I used to pour a little wine into the ocean, but wine now gives me headaches, so a penny now and again will have to do.

Saturday, February 10, 2024

A Marmalade Day


The first Marmalade Day of the year was last Wednesday. Seville or sour oranges, the best type to use for marmalade, are available for only about six weeks, starting in late December. Some years I can find them, some years I can't. In this part of the United States they aren't common.

If I'm able, I'll stock up. I simmer the oranges whole in plenty of water. Then I put on big apron, have a seat, and cut open the oranges, separating the insides from the peels and slicing the peels into shreds. It's a good job to do while listening to the opera or an audio book. Depending on how chapped one's hands are, it's a bit sting-y at first.

In Britain, where they take marmalade seriously, one could buy a special marmalade cutter. I make do with a sharp paring knife, but gosh, isn't the marmalade machine tempting?

Fellows & Bates Marmalade Cutter

I do have a Foley food mill (first picture,) which I use to separate the seeds from the pulp. Seeds, pulp, peel, and poaching liquid are then frozen in single batch sizes, allowing me to make marmalade throughout the year.

Marmalade simmering on the stove is a terrific antidote to a grey winter day, which is why I typically wait until February to make a batch. The house smells like orange Lifesavers and the additional moisture in the dry winter air is welcome.
I give away some to friends and keep a few jars for myself. 

It's remarkable how fast a person can get through a 12 ounce jar marmalade without even trying very hard.