Can Do!

03-29-2013 017As I mentioned previously, I have a huge backlog of fruit waiting to be canned in my freezer.  But before I could even face that task, I had a sad failure to face down:  my last batch of marmalade.  In fact, I haven’t broken out my canner since I made it MONTHS ago.  The recipe was for a Grapefruit Marmalade with Vanilla and Rosewater (strange, I know.  But soooooo good), and I don’t know where I went wrong!  It tasted and smelled divine, but as time passed it became clear that it just wasn’t going to gel.  Bummer.  But since I am a very stubborn so and so, I refused to throw out those perfectly sealed jars, and instead called the Pomona’s Pectin Jamline.  Pomona’s is a special kind of two part pectin, which doesn’t rely on sugar to gel, so you can use only as much sugar as your taste dictates rather than the insane pile of the stuff that ordinary pectin demands. The lady who answered my call was so helpful, and it’s a good thing I called because from what she said, the way I was going to attempt to reprocess (reheating the marmalade and sprinkling in some pectin powder) would have been a disgusting failure.  See,  if there is already a large proportion of sugar, as was the case, the pectin would not have distributed properly and instead would have formed nasty globs and grains.  Eeeew.  What I was told to do instead was dissolve the pectin separately in a cup of boiling water, stir vigorously until it dissolved, and then dump the mess (which looked suspiciously like frogspawn at this point) into my heated marmalade, and can from there.  I would share the recipe, but as I said it didn’t work initially, and you don’t want to take the same convoluted path I took to get here, trust me!  Perhaps an edited version is in order…  But how did it turn out?  Beautifully!  The chewy bits of peel taste like those old fashioned orange section candies, with just enough grapefruit bitterness to keep it interesting, and a touch of sweet vanilla and just the faintest suggestion of rose.  Perfect for all those sophisticated high teas that I serve to highfallutin’ ladies in frilly white lace frocks.  At my trailer in the boondocks, yeah….  And awesome on an English Muffin.  Maybe with Nutella, oh boy!   The Boonville Farmer’s Market will be opening before you know it in early April, so if you’ve got to try some come see me there!

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Lavender and Vanilla

Vesta

The latest from my shop!

This week has been full of inspiration. I love to hear from friends about their favorite scent combinations, and then riff on the theme. One friend told me of her mother’s favorite combination, lavender and vanilla. The effect is very comforting and harmonious. I started with a homemade oil infusion of vanilla beans, which I heated very slowly over the course of a week in order to coax the fragrance of the pods into the almond oil which I used as carrier.

By the way, it’s unbelievably easy to make your own vanilla extract.  The most challenging part is finding an affordable source of the beans.  I was fortunate to find organic beans on E-bay.  All you need to do is take a few beans, carefully slice them down the length and scrape out the seeds into a jar.  I chopped the remaining pods into 1 inch pieces, or you could just leave them whole.  Then you take a high proof, neutral flavored alcohol like Everclear or Vodka, and pour over just enough to cover the beans and pods.  Leave this mixture somewhere dark for about a month and give it a shake about once a day.  It will turn from clear to rich amber brown and fragrant. All you need to do now is filter out the beans and pods and you are left with vanilla extract.  Don’t throw away those beans and pods, they can be put back in a jar, and covered with alcohol to make a whole new batch, over and over again until you notice the scent fading.

Back to the perfume making!  Since this was already such a precious base, I turned to a very high quality lavender oil, a variety from France.  Lavender is the classic oil for relaxation, so gentle and calming.  It’s scent can be used to soothe a headache, and it has great antiseptic and wound healing properties.

Lavender

Lavender, THE classic relaxation herb

To increase the depth of the blend I added my tonka bean infused oil.  Tonka was once added to vanilla extract, and as I said in my previous post, it has an almond-like or fresh cut hay scent.  Balsam Peru is a resin with a sweet, almost syrupy smell which can overpower easily if used carelessly.  The whole character of an oil can change drastically depending on dosage, and this was no exception, so I used only a drop or two and am very happy with the results. Finally, to give this blend some roots, I added the incomparable sandalwood

Wood

Sandalwood’s appeal is broad and it is a wonderful aide to meditation

Sandalwood is such an amazing scent, at once sweet and earthy, crown and root, sacred and profane. Commonly used to make incense, it has been long used as an aide to achieving a meditative state of mind, including tantric meditation. It is non toxic and suitable for all skin types, and has been used in traditional Chinese medicine and Ayurveda for digestive, respiratory, and mental healing.

This blend is charming in the bottle, and on the skin it blooms into a lovely dose of the comforts of a  happy, well kept, and well loved home. This is one aspect of the divine feminine principal as exemplified by Hestia, or Vesta: goddess of the home and peace, whose name means “the essence”. She left the Pantheon, finding their quarreling tiresome and made her home instead on earth. She is the gentlest of the Olympians, and refused to take part in the attempt to overthrow Zeus, as well as the Pantheon’s many other “grand” battles. She symbolizes the sanctity of home as refuge and temple. An interesting counterpoint to my previous blend, which as you may recall was all about wide open spaces and animal musk!
On their own, each scent in the blend has a distinct personality, but once you combine two or more which share an affinity, a synergy occurs and something new is born.

Vesta

Vesta, the goddess of domestic bliss, keeper of the homefires

So gentle readers do tell me, what is YOUR favorite scent combination?