Where did December go? Actually, where did 2019 go? It’s hardly imaginable that it’s a year ago that I talked turkey. Three things defined last month: fire, Christmas and peaches. All in the space of three weeks.
The fire, nothing like those happening in Australia, did leave a trail of destruction. It started on the other side of the mountains to the south of the village. Fanned by strong winds, it crossed the mountains and burnt its way through the valleys and kranse, down east of the village.
At one point the fire line was about 7 km long – just on this side of the Sondereinde Mountains. To give you a sense of scale: McGregor’s main thoroughfare, from the top of the village to its entrance, is just over 1 km.
On the other side it was much longer and destroyed an entire wine farm. On this side of the mountain, friends of ours lost a family home. Although it was used as holiday accommodation, it had been built, stone for stone by the family patriarch. It was razed to the ground. Also destroyed was the nursery essential to the propagation of proteas which is the farm’s major source of income. I wrote a little about this here.
As I’ve mentioned, we’ve had our own experience with fire; so we don’t panic. We watch and wait. Also, having that the privilege in one of my last projects, to work with firefighters, I do know that if evacuation was on the cards, we’d have been told. Instead we were asked for refreshments for the teams. We, and the village obliged. It was the least we could do.
Then, two days later, the wind dropped. Just like that. It allowed air reconnaissance and aerial firefighting in inaccessible areas. By Christmas Eve, they were mopping up and happily, that evening, Jan Boer told us that the fire had gone around the homestead. Marky told us that it had stopped close to, if not on, the boundary of their farm. It was a very long night for them, the 23rd of December.
Christmas in the village was fire and smoke free.
Normal programming resumed and we headed to the local on the Friday after Christmas. Then Jan Boer arrived – as is his wont. As he walked by, he looked at the regulars and said:
“There are peaches in the bakkie (pickup). Kry vir jou“.
For various reasons, this hasn’t happened in a few years, so us “oldies” rushed to the kitchen to find a suitable receptacle. Armed with a wine box, The Husband and I filled it to the brim with beautiful yellow cling peaches.
Yes, they’re a little blemished and a bit bruised, but that’s a small price to pay for what are, effectively oorskot (under grade, surplus).
Then came the big decision: what to do with nearly 8 kg of peaches. After some serious consideration, jam won. I’d made chutney before, but not jam. Also, there had been requests for peach jam at the market. I have memories of peach jam from boarding school. We didn’t get it often, and when we did, it was devoured with gusto. I remember the golden slivers and the syrupy sweet taste of the somewhat runny jam. The deal was sealed.
I looked for recipes in my trusty books and then consulted GoG. Browsers at the market often ask, “Does this contain sugar?”
Well, jams and marmalades do contain sugar. A lot. Sugar’s a preservative so they’re essential to the process. It also helps with setting. When the fruit is naturally sweet and one doesn’t have a sweet tooth, sugar content does really become a conundrum. In my search I happened on a recipe in which the ratio of sugar to fruit was very different from what I expected: less than half to the quantity of fruit. Usually it’s 1:1. What’s more, the quantity of water is minuscule which a little extra liquid courtesy of the juice of two lemons.
I gave it a bash and decided not to peel the peaches. I’d learned about that the hard way when I made chutney a few years ago. I also decided to keep some slices so that the jam is chunky.
Yield: 1,5 kg
2,5 kg yellow cling peaches
1 kg Sugar
2 lemons – juice and reserve pips
2 sticks cinnamon
½ cup boiling water
What to do
Stone and roughly chop the peaches. It’s not really necessary to peel them. I admit, I don’t like the fur, so if I eat them fresh, I peel them.
Warm the sugar in the oven at 130°C for about 15 minutes and then pour the warmed sugar over the peaches and cinnamon (in a large saucepan/stock pot) and then add the lemon juice and boiling water. Warm slowly over a very low heat until the sugar has dissolved – shake the pot every now and again to loosen and to make sure that the contents don’t stick. Do not stir – stirring before it’s dissolved will probably cause the jam to crystallise. I learned this the hard way.
This takes about half an hour. Once sugar has dissolved, and there is a goodly amount of liquid in the pot, stir well. Tie the lemon pips into a piece of muslin and suspend on a long string into the pot. The lemon juice and the pips are the source of pectin to help the jam to set – peaches have no pectin. You can make peach jam without either lemons or pectin (which is also sold separately), but I like natural pectin and the flavour of the lemon with the cinnamon. Both are ever so subtle.
At this point, turn up the heat to high and bring to a rapid boil; stir often until setting point is reached. It takes about 1,5 hours and the quantity in the pot is reduced by about half. Remove the cinnamon bits. Pot in sterilised jars and seal.
- I was startled at the yield: a total of 3,5 kg of ingredients yielded about 1,5 kg of jam. Both times I made peach jam using this recipe.
- Adapted from this recipe
A last word or three
Regular readers know that I blog from WordPress to the crypto blogging platform, Steemit. Once a month, @streetstyle hosts an initiative where Steemians “power up”. Essentially, it’s (re)investing all one’s earnings in the platform. It’s dubbed “SPUD” or Steem Power Up Day. Today, I powered up a peachy 40-plus Steem. I’m not unhappy about this considering I managed only three posts during December.
Also, as I am starting a couple of new projects, one of which will keep me quite busy, I may not be able to blog as regularly as I’d like. The bug will bit, though, I’m sure and you’ll hear from me.
Finally, may this new decade bring us all what we wish for. And more.
Until next time
The Sandbag House
McGregor, South Africa
In addition to WordPress I blog on a number of platforms:
- Steemit – a crypto, social network and blogging platform, to which I post from WordPress using the SteemPress plugin.
- If you’d also like to use your WordPress blog to earn crypto, join us on SteemPress.
- My WordPress site is hosted by fellow Steemian, @gmuxx, with fees paid in crypto currency: Steem Based Dollars. If you want more information, join the Steemblogs Club on Discord
- Should you join the Steem platform, you are welcome to contact me on Discord on be sure to look out for the Steem Terminal – a dynamic team of folk who will happily guide you through the apparent quagmire of blogging on blockchain.
- Instagram is a mostly visual platform where I post microblogs about fluff: usually food and the cats as well as posts that sometimes
promisehint about future WordPress posts.