About 18 months ago, I decided we needed a retaining wall built behind our garage. I was reluctant to call the guy who had built another wall for us. It was not that the garden wall he had built was not good – in fact, it was bloody good. The problem was he took ages and ages to come. I remember ringing him on a regular basis until, finally, he arrived. When he did come, he came with a smile, did a good job and did things over and above what was called for.
In the end, I decided to risk it and called, let us name him, ***.
Within a reasonable period of time, *** came to check out the job. We had a good chat, he talked about what he could do in the circumstances and gave us a quote. He noted that he was very busy and would not be able to do the job for three months. Knowing what he was like, I was happy with three months. This is the country when all is said and done. I am retired, I could afford to learn a little patience. I said I was happy to wait three months as long as I was on his list and moved up it. I did not want to be perpetually on the bottom of the list, pushed down as locals and friends and more important jobs and any one else he thought more worthy than me, were moved ahead of us. *** assured me he would never do that to me.
Well, three months came and went, as did six months and nine months. Eek!! Bloody country people. After nine months, it was time to give *** a friendly reminder. ***, of course, does not have a mobile phone so all I could do was leave a message on his home phone. I reminded him that he said he would do it in three months and it was now nine months since he gave us a quote. I also reminded him that he promised not to keep putting us at the bottom of his list. A few days later, we had a visit from ***. No, he hadn’t forgotten us. He looked at the job again, said “Yes” he could do it and, reassuringly, suggested the same solution as he had done ten months before. He said he would be able to do it within two or three weeks. Great! Nine months wasn’t toooo bad in the circumstances.
Two or three weeks came and went and so did four and five and six. I was getting grumpy now. So I rang *** again and left another message on his bloody answering machine. I reminded him he promised to do the job, that twelve months ago he said he wouldn’t keep pushing us to the bottom of his list and would he please tell us if he didn’t intend doing the job so we could get someone else.
A week or so passed with no word from ***. We went back to Perth despondent. But when we came back to Bridgetown, there was a card under our door. “Hello ladies, I haven’t forgotten you.” If thoughts could kill!!
By this stage, I had resolved to give up. Bugger him. There must be someone else in town. And so time passed.
Then, one Wednesday, on our way to take the dogs for a walk, as we turned a corner, we spotted ***. I asked Maus to stop the car and I called out to him, “When are you bloody coming to our place?”, to which he replied, “When I finish my current job, which could be tomorrow.”
Now, I didn’t expect anyone in the country to come on a Friday so I was not disappointed when he didn’t but I was a little put out when Monday came and went and we heard nothing from ***.
But then, miracles of all miracles, *** turned up mid-morning Tuesday “to have a look”. He looked at the job, confirmed he could do it and suggested the same solution he had on the two previous occasions. In answer to the question, “When will you be back?” he indicated he had to go to the chiropractor as he had “done his back in”. When his back was better, he would be here. Oooooh! Nooooooo! 😦
A few days passed, I think it was later in the same week, when *** TURNED UP, smiling from ear to ear, to do the job. “See, I said I would come,” he gleamed. I was ecstatic and I think it showed. And he came again, off and on over the next couple of weeks. He worked and he chatted and he did a bit more work and he chatted a bit more. He brought me a bucket of apples and chatted a bit more. He asked if I wanted some more apples and some quinces and I said “Yes” and I asked him if he wanted a passionfruit vine and he said “Yes”.
And then the job was done, very, very well done.
And, yes, this is the country life. I don’t know if I will ever get used to it.
Quince and apple jelly
Quince and apple jelly tastes great and is so easy to make. The reason is that both fruits are high in pectin so there is no issue about whether the jelly will set or not. It will! And it will, very quickly. I am no jam maker but I succeed every time I try a preserve with either quince or apple in it. You really can’t go wrong.
You can use any quantity of fruit you want, as long as you have equal quantity, by weight, of quince and apples. I used 500g of each fruit which made three small jars of jelly.
- 500g quinces
- 500g Granny Smith apples (you could also use crab apples)
- 900mls water
- Approximately 450g sugar
- 15mls lemon juice
- Chop the quinces and the apples. Do not peel or core the fruit.
- Place the chopped fruit in a large saucepan and add the water.
- Cover the pan and simmer very gently until the fruit has become pulp – this takes quite a while. Don’t hurry it.
- Strain the fruit through muslin, an old tea towel, an old sheet or anything else you have. Do not press the fruit down to get all the juice – just let it drip.
- Add 15mls of lemon juice to the quince and apple juice.
- Measure the juice: for every 600mls of juice, use 450g of sugar. I had 575mls of juice so I calculated I needed 430g of sugar. Add the sugar to the juice and stir over a low heat until it has dissolved.
- Boil rapidly until setting point is reached. This took no time at all. To check for setting point, put a saucer in your freezer. When cold, put a teaspoon of jelly onto the saucer and put the saucer back in the freezer. When cold, check to see whether the jelly has jelled. Alternatively, check the temperature of the jelly – it should be 104°C.
- Pour the jelly into sterilised jars and seal.
Preserved apples and preserved quince
To preserve the apples, I used this technique. To preserve the quinces, I did the same thing but, instead of cooking them for 5 minutes, I cooked them for 12 minutes. I am not sure whether the quinces will be cooked enough but 12 minutes was the longest cooking time I found from all the recipes I read. In any event, if they are not cooked enough, I can easily poach them a little longer when I use them.