Sunday, January 12, 2014

Canning Show 2013

     I do go on a bit about the Perth Royal Show (state fair equivalent here in Western Australia) but there is much to be said about the county fairs like the Canning Show. To be fair, I was never really big on county fairs back home. They seemed to be poor distant relations to the state fair rather than the local celebration that they actually are. My tune has changed a bit.  I still like huge playground atmosphere of the Big Show but my tolerance for crowds, noise and extraneous nonsense has lowered significantly.  A local show offers a manageable experience for those with very small children, crowd or mobility issues.
     The Canning Show, like other regional shows or county fairs, has a little bit of everything: rides for kids, buskers and entertainment, a  few animals, bakery and art competitions, cotton candy and worthless treasures to buy, hawkers selling wares and someone in a back room counting money.  Almost hiding is the hobbyist exhibition hall.  Various societies are happy to show off their lace-making, embroidery, model trains, little airplanes, taxidermy skills  and model police car collections.  They also dearly wish to boost their membership numbers from within the viewing public...if the public can make it up the hill to the hall.
     Of course my appearance at the Canning Show is, well, mostly about my canning efforts. Yes, I do go on a bit about that also.  This year, out of nine entries (including two photographic entries I was utterly mad to enter) I received two (2) First Place winners and two (2) Third Place winners in the Preservation division.
Judge didn't save much for me.
    The winners were Strawberry Jam which the judge used for a scone demo later (also known as "staff breakfast") I had just enough left in the jar to spread on one piece of toast when I got it back and  Red Cabbage ( I reworked a loser at the Royal Show into a big winner at Canning.)    Third place holders were the Apple Butter and Fig Jam.  The figs were raining from a neighbor's tree, so I caught a few and put them through their paces.  My first effort with that fruit and the PRS judges liked it also. 
    My cookie entries went nowhere. They tasted the gingerbread star but ignored the apricot  swirl and the fruited oatmeal.  Less far than those went were the brandied marmalade and OPAL-orange, pineapple, apricot and lemon marmalade.  Again, the judges at Canning didn't always agree with the PRS judges but that's OK.  I'm good with four winners. *:) happy
    A big surprise for me  was when one of the executive committee (who helped empty  my strawberry Jam jar in the demo) asked if I would help teach a jam making class in January.  Gee whiz!  At first I thought, "There are MANY people who are much better than I am" and after more thought realized that my jam journey is more contemporary to the newbies who will be in the class than folks who have been around for a hundred years.  Presentation plans are forming in my head.
    As are plans for 2014's entries.  Mango jam is already first in the queue.

The Twelve Days of Christmas...Day 18

     O.K. the Epiphany (twelfth day of Christmas) was last week but the nativity scene was still up at my church this morning.  I don't mind, it's friendly and its creativity is mesmerizing. The young Spaniard priest in our parish was responsible for its design and a new element was unexpected. Circling about the bottom of the display are tubed lights: one green and one blue.  You've seen this tubing containing relay lights in shop displays  or around the car chassis or license plates of certain young men who like to announce their arrival on the road.  Rather question-raising these racing lights when first seen  but after awhile they seem to add a vital dynamic element to a motionless vignette.
    While we are talking about twelve days, I was completely surprised to learn that there is a real story speculated behind the song, The Twelve Days of Christmas.  For me it was always a bit of an endurance exercise because of its length and the stretching required of one's memory.  What nationality are those hens? How many geese? Where are those pipers piping (hopefully not near me)?  Why are the lords leaping anyway?  The only interesting part of it was to see each year how much it would cost to assemble this gift list. Some group or other always made the calculations (they rented ballet dancers instead of getting real lords of the realm, the cheaters) and announced it to the press.  Like anyone was planning it for me. Yeah. 
     This seemingly endless ditty was a "catechetical tool for teaching children the basics of the faith" during the sixteenth-century English Reformation when tenants of the Catholic faith could not be openly taught. It must have been very comical to see my jaw drop when I read that:  a partridge in a pear tree symbolizes Christ on the cross.  Two turtle doves refers to the Old and New Testaments. Three French hens has duo-explanations in the three gifts of the Spirit, "Faith, Hope and Love" or, because French hens were so valuable, represent the gifts of the three wise men. Four calling birds recall the four major prophets of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Daniel   and/or the Gospel writers of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Those five gold rings represent the first five books of the bible and the six geese laid six days of creation. The seven swimming swans refer to the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit (1Cor 12:9-10) and those eight milk maids represent the same number of beatitudes on the Sermon on the Mount. Nine ladies dancing were the nine fruits of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-23) and those ten leaping ballet lords count the Commandments.  We have left eleven pipers representing the eleven faithful apostles and finally, twelve drummers counting the twelve points of belief expressed in the Apostles' Creed.
    Really?  I must have missed a lesson somewhere because the TDofC usually told me I'd have to wait an agonizing five and a half minutes before the next song. I don't think the nativity will see Day 19 ( I forget the reason why it is still here now) but I rather appreciate the challenge its design and the song provided this season. 

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

FRUITCAKE...Magnificent and Maligned

    Yesterday that most Christmas of confections arrived in my mailbox. A fruitcake.  Hold it a minute, you say, Christmas was two weeks ago. Well, yeah, and this fruitcake was mailed four weeks before that but it went from Texas to France first before being redirected to Perth, Australia. But that's another story.  Can we get on? This slice is winking at me.
     Now if you,  gentle reader, are in North America the very word "fruitcake" tends to elicit a derisive snort. Oh, what a shocking reputation it has as a Z-grade foodstuff. The universal holiday whipping boy. Everybody has a family story or joke of how the same indestructible-in-a-nuclear-blast blob of dubious origin is now used as a doorstop or has been passed from relative to relative for the past six years. Few confess in public to actually eating it. And I have to admit there are some very scarey versions being sold to an unwary public. I've tasted some of them. Ewwwww.
©Collin Street Bakery
      Contrary to this reaction is the one fruitcake receives in the hands of the British (or any of their colonies.) It's sold year round and happily served with tea. Family recipes are guarded jealously and the competition at bake-offs and shows is fierce. Such is a measure of its esteem that it is the traditional wedding cake in the British realm. Even I'm chuckling at that one.
      The well-traveled fruitcake that was sent to me came from my eldest brother's favorite bakery in Texas. He swears by the Collin Street Bakery and is happy to spread the good news. And it is tasty even if the the company is confused between Paris and Perth. It makes the journey intact. (O.K., no mean-spirited jokes here, thank you.)
©Gethsemani Farms
      I don't remember how I came upon my favorite but its charms are apparent as soon as one opens the lid.  This fruitcake is made by monks at the Abbey of Gethsemani  in Trappist, Kentucky and  have been around since 1848.  (No mean-spirited jokes here either, thank you.) The secret to their success (besides prayer)?  Each cake is soaked in Kentucky bourbon.  Jim Beam to be exact. To answer that question now in your mind: the inventory of bourbon is very carefully monitored.  In keeping with tradition (I married an Australian)  I ordered this for my wedding as a secondary or 'groom's cake'.
      It's a funny and absolutely true story-- if a bit colorful-- about this order.  It hadn't arrived early, so Kev was dispatched to pick it up at the post office before he drove up for the wedding.  His far-from-refined Aussie accent was unfamiliar to the postal worker and I'm afraid there was a bit of a communication gap.
       Kev:  "Oiym heer to pik up a coiyk."
       Postal lady:  "Excuse me, sir?"
       Kev: "Oiym heer to pik up a coiyk.  Should be whyting for myee."
       Postal lady: "Sir, we do not use that kind of language around here!"
       Kev: "Oi?"
     It was a few moments before  each understood that Kev was there to pick up a fruitcake, not a female of a certain religious faith.  He started to speak a bit more clearly after that.