My friend Celia keeps a small flock of Ryland sheep.
They are friendly, inquisitive creatures and will come up to the fence if you walk past their field, curious to see you. Celia uses them for both showing and breeding but in the past couple of years she has also had their fleece spun into yarn.
We were chatting about the different weight yarns produced and the possiblity of mixing it with other yarn from different breeds to get different colours and eventually got onto the subject of natural dyes. Now I am no expert by any means but I have had success using onion skins to dye yarn in the past.
I got our local farm shop to save me all their loose onion skins and then I dyed one of the balls of yarn. I did take photos of the process but to be honest, pots of murky looking liquid bubbling away on the stove are not that picturesque! (And not a great advert for my cooking skills!)
But to cut a long story short... this is the result and this is what I have knitted from them.... a pair of very warm and cosy chunky mitts. Do you have any idea how difficult it is to get a selfie of your own hand? Let's just say there were several out of focus shots of my thumb!
They really are the most wonderful shade of deep gold. And talking of gold (she says neatly segueing into a completely unrelated subject)... I also picked these fabulous quinces from an absolutely fully laden tree outside the gym that I go to very occasionally. Fortunately for me I decided to go for a swim on Monday!
Much as I enjoyed looking at a bowl full of them just like this, I thought I ought to make something with them. The first small batch I made up into a quince jam, using a recipe from the Honey & Co Baking Book. If you have ever cooked quince you will know that they are rock solid, even when ripe and the job of coring and peeling them was a bit of a faff even though the end result is a lovely dense pink jam. So after my Pilates class on Tuesday I picked some more and turned these into quince jelly, which doesn't require the removal of skin and core... but in the interests of recipe development I had a little play around and came up with a fragrant quince and orange jelly.
I had about 1.5 kg of quinces which I chopped up into small pieces... core, skin, the lot! I then added the juice of one lemon and the juice and rind of one large orange. This was all bubbled together with 1.5 L water until everything was soft and mushy. This was then let to drip through a jelly bag overnight.
I then measured the juice (which wasn't as much as I had hoped so maybe I should have used more water) and added 500g of granulated sugar for every 600 ml of juice. This was then heated slowly to dissolve the juice and then boiled rapidly until it reached setting point. This didn't take very long as the quinces are so full of pectin. I then skimmed off the scum that had formed on the surface, added a few tablespoons of orange liqueur and then potted it into sterilised jars. It made almost three full 1lb jars of wonderful rose gold jelly.
Which goes very nicely with my new golden mitts!
(Did you see what I did there!)
In between knitting and playing around with recipes, I'm still teaching machine embroidery and this week I've been getting ready to go back to Missenden Abbey for the weekend. Looking forward to seeing what my students have produced over the summer. (No pressure if you are reading)
Have a good weekend!