Thursday, January 12, 2017

General Tso's Marmalade

On the Asian lunar calendar 2017 is the Year of the Rooster (technically starting on January 28). Over the summer I took this pic of a giant blue rooster to have to show off now-ish, but I didn't record and can't remember any details, which rather limits commentary. Ah well, Happy New Year!

Giant blue rooster

Apropos of the new year and in tribute to the recently departed Peng Chang-kuei, creator of General Tso's chicken, and for the Food in Jars Mastery Challenge (January is marmalade), I put up a half-batch of what I'm calling General Tso's marmalade. I love its deep orange color and intense orange flavor.

This was my first attempt at making marmalade. I blithely tweaked the original recipe which calls for Tabasco sauce by subbing red pepper flakes for a more Hunan-style flavor. Because it's a cut rind recipe, which eliminates much of the natural pectin in citrus, I was concerned about overly soft set and instead misjudged its done-ness, even with the aid of a thermometer. The set turned out so hard, the marmalade stays in place even if the jar is inverted. Oops. Initially the cook's share had very little fire, but as time passes it's getting hotter and hotter! Next time, I'd cut the peel into bigger pieces than the fine julienne I used this time, include more pith, and work for a softer set and corresponding higher yield.

General Tso's marmalade

The plan is to use the marmalade as a meat glaze. I tried the cook's share on lamb chops and like the flavor better than mint jelly. That texture, though, and the challenge of prising it out of the jar. Happily, the Food in Jars can-along community has suggestions (no crowbar needed!) – gentle warming in a water bath softens the marmalade nicely. The group also has historical perspective: in the Middle Ages, hard set was the standard. So my marmalade isn't too hard, it's medieval! Er, maybe that's not entirely positive either?

I'm not very fond of marmalade, or perhaps I should say I haven't been. Now that I've concentrated and preserved the essence of orange I will readily agree with Maggie Smith as the trenchantly snobbish Constance, Countess of Trentham, in Gosford Park: "Bought marmalade? Oh dear, I call that very feeble." Homemade is so much better than anything storebought that I've tried, there's truly no comparison.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Ends with a Whimper

As sometimes happens at year-end, I came down with the flu. While this one is not the worst ever, it's been a doozy with the full complement of extreme fatigue and weakness, head and body aches, joint pain, fever, chills, and heavy cough – a fitting closeout to a dumpster fire of a year. For fellow US peeps and indeed globally it may well be that the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 were a greater national tragedy and the financial meltdown of September 2008 a greater threat to economic stability and well-being. But 2016 was chock full of its own exceptional stinkiness. So between periods of blank misery, I made a dumpster fire ornament and put it on my Christmas tree. Of course.

Dumpster fire 2016

DH claims it's not a proper dumpster because it lacks a lid; ergo, it's not a dumpster fire but a mere fire in a box. Everyone's a critic.

At least this year's knitting went reasonably well. I had a decent 10th anniversary Sock Madness – I advanced to Round 4, a personal best, then missed a spot in Round 5 by 35 minutes. That translates to a modicum of glory, a quartet of lovely socks: SlipStripeSpiral, Rose & Thorn Socks, Waimakariri, Sweet Nuttins.

SlipStripeSpiral   Rose & Thorn Socks   Waimakariri   Sweet Nuttins

Camp Loopy 2016 was similarly gratifying, not least because I knit my first skirt. Dunno why it took me so long – I love knitted skirts – nor why I still haven't taken a decent FO photo. The same could be said for my Tour de Fleece spinning – I fractal-spun some truly lovely fiber, yet have largely been ignoring it.

At year end, the Singleton Socks of Shame collectively form a bright ray – in 2016, one sock came down from the clothesline of shame, none went up for a total of seven Socks of Shame. That's tied with 2011, 2012, and 2014 for the minimum.

Singleton Socks of Shame, year end 2016

Singleton Socks of Shame 2016, left to right, oldest to newest: Meadowlands, Fawkes, Julesokker, Love Me Knot, Chain Link, Hanauma Bay, handspun Queen of Diamonds.

That'll just have to do. Onward to 2017!

Saturday, December 17, 2016

What's New, PussyHat?

With the holidaze well upon us roundabout Exit 151, there hasn't been much time for knitting or blogging (cough) at casa Jersey Knitter beyond the occasional row for the PussyHat Project. But, today is a snow day, so after shoveling and errands I fixed some tasty beverages and settled in for a little wordsmithing. (Note: these whiskey sours are not all for me.)

Whiskey sour fixings

Ah! I do love a classic cocktail with lots of fruit. Citrus and Maraschino cherries, yes please. Mmm.

It should scarcely surprise gentle readers that I'm getting my marching boots ready for the Women's March on Washington, January 21, 2017, despite some misgivings. Or that part of the preparations include knitting PussyHats for myself and others. Here's progress so far: first one done, second in progress.

PussyHats 1&2

The pattern by Kat Coyle is simplicity itself. I prefer its suggestion of cat ears; others have been pinching the top corners of the hat to make the effect more explicit. PussyHat 1 is knit in the round with a three-needle BO, which results in a speedy knit with minimal seaming. I'm not sure I like the depth of the hat or the seam at the top, so PussyHat 2, in progress, will have the ribbing knit in the round and the crown knit in rows and seamed. We'll see if the fuss is worth it.

It's troubling to add the intersection of women's rights and knitting is becoming an increasingly familiar place as the progress made within my own lifetime gets ground away. Suffice to say that for me, fuss in this area is definitely worth it, and I'm looking forward to marching.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Observer Effects

Whilst reviewing my blog stats, I was surprised to see traffic has tripled over the usual, both on new posts and on old posts. Uh, wow. Hello, gentle readers! Thank you for looking around so thoroughly. I hope you're enjoying what you see – and do come again.

The sense of being observed does rather act as a spur to blogging, at least for me. So, gentle readers, here's how far I got on my Morning Walk, which was my project for the Fall Sweater Challenge.

Morning Walk, as far as it went

Alas, the verb was is operative. At this point it became apparent there is Not Enough Yarn to complete the project. Further, the lovely yarn, BMFA Targhee Worsted, colorway Vine Ripened Red, is produced in a way that each batch is essentially a one-off. I could order more, but there's little likelihood the new yarn and the old yarn would be compatible – sometimes artisinal yarn from the same dyelot doesn't match, let alone from different batches. When one has been there, done that, there's no need to repeat the experience. Sigh. To the frog pond we go.

Morning Walk, frogged

Pity. I love the yarn, just need to recondition it and find a more suitable pattern pairing.

Meanwhile, it's the Thanksgiving holiday weekend in the U.S., which is also the traditional start of the winter holiday season of shopping, gift-giving, year-end parties, family gatherings, and religious observances. So let me wish gentle readers a bountiful and blessed T-Day, and see you on the other side.

Friday, November 18, 2016


In case you missed it, the U.S. had a General Election for president and other offices last week on Tuesday, November 8. I was in NYC on Monday to have dinner with my sister, and we meandered over to Rockefeller Center, which was crazy-resplendent with flags, bunting, lights projected on the buildings and the skating rink, and tent-like outdoor broadcast booths and cameras on booms all set up in preparation for the next day. The vibe seemed hectic, even a bit hellish to me, but my sister loved it.

Rockefeller Center, November 7, 2016

Election Day was a beautiful, mild day roundabout Exit 151 and indeed across the country = no excuses for not getting to the polls. Heavy turnout usually favors Democrats, yet there were two whispers of trouble ahead for the Democratic candidate for president. My polling place is in the sapphire blue bellybutton of New Jersey and while there was a line to vote, turnout was noticeably less than in 2008. And one voter in line began talking very loudly and unpleasantly about exclusionary voter ID laws, generally a Republican issue, often with racist overtones. Hindsight is 20/20, and in retrospect that seems a presage of what was to come.

Maybe there was a third sign: I baked a patriotic confetti cake, and it was awful. In more skilled hands or to other palates it might have been acceptable (a master cake baker I'm not), but to me the cake was overly sweet from the candy sprinkles, with an overly soft, almost gooey, collapsing center. A metaphor, perhaps.

Awful confetti cake

Tuesday evening as the polls closed and the voting returns trickled in it became increasingly clear the opinion polls predicting a landslide victory for Hillary Clinton and a chance to flip the Senate to the Democrats had been stunningly wrong. Reflecting the confusion, Wednesday's print NY Times had one headline, while their website had another. In the sober light of morning, it turned out Republican Donald Trump had prevailed by carrying the Electoral College but not winning the popular vote. Trump was president-elect, and his party retained control of both houses of Congress and a majority of governorships and state houses, and is poised to appoint the majority in the Supreme Court.

NY Times headlines

In the ten days since the election, I finally finished my Debate Socks, knit in Blue Moon Fiber Arts Super Sparkle, colorway Star Speckled Skein. Amazing to relate, the 8% Lurex content is not only adorable, but also comfortable, not scratchy at all. Now that's a win-win.

Debate Socks, modeled

Round town there's been some trouble with ugly winners, which in some cases has taken on a life of its own. Notably, after a small business near the train station was defaced by graffiti expressing coarse pro-Trump sentiments, some children painted it over with a cheery mural, which was again vandalized. Rinse, repeat, repeat, repeat. The sixth iteration is pictured below.

Vandalized 6X

It was defaced as well. But this time the vandals did not get away with it. Train commuters had noticed the mural would be fine through the evening commute, but would be marked up by the morning commute. So the business owner and a buddy camped out overnight, spotted two older adults in the very act, and called police, who made the arrest.

There have been other upsets, so there's going to be a community march and vigil tomorrow afternoon from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m., starting at the main library and ending at the WW1 memorial. I have tickets for a show with an 8:00 o'clock curtain, but I'll go for a while. It's important. To be continued....