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Monday, February 20, 2012

A Tea Party With Jane

Note my genuine, small tomato paste can/cutter

Slow but sure; medium heat

Fit for Jane A and her fans

I awoke reluctantly this morning, drenched in dreams and silently yearning for another hour of sleep. My wife leaned my way and whispered she had a Jane Austen party to go to and would I make something kind of Englishy to wow the lovely ladies she hangs with.  She didn’t actually use the words “would you.”
“Sure,” I said, both because I’m a nice guy and because I’m terminally task oriented and dedicated to public service.
“I have to leave in about an hour,” she purred.  Which put the pedal to the metal on the “would you make” part of the conversation.
“Jane Austen is an interesting person in a spinsterish sort of way,” I murmured.  “Never married.  Published her novels anonymously, Sense and Sensibility being her first, and she died in 1817, at the age of 42.  Buried in Winchester Cathedral. Now please let her haunt my dreams a little longer.”
“We’re going to watch the six hour BBC version of Pride and Prejudice, but you’re not invited.”
What joy flooded my happy veins! One brief task and the scullery lad would have the rest of the day to amuse himself!  All I need do was stylishly create some biscuits, some jam, arrange them with delightful aplomb, peck the wife on the cheek, and hurry her off to the hencoop.
            With my heart aflutter I scurried to the kitchen.  Over the years, I’ve become adept at scurrying.  When I lived in the States, I was named ‘Best Scurrier’ in a three county area. 
Plus, my giant culinary brain already had a plan.  What is more English than a selection of dainty biscuits, and a pot of home made apple-ginger jam?  All of that can be made in less than an hour.
You already know the biscuit recipe and if you don’t, hold out your hand, while I fetch my ruler.  2 Cups flour, 3 Tablespoons baking powder, 1 teaspoon salt, and 6 pats of butter.  Blend well.  Add 1 Cup of milk to make a dough.
To turn the J.A. party into a rollicking good time, I decided to bake three flavors of biscuits:  sweet, savory, and cheese.  First, I divided the dough into three equal balls.  To one ball, I added 1/4cup of sugar.  To the second, I added a 1/2 cup of shredded cheese. (use sharp cheddar if you’ve got it)  To the final ball, I added generous portions of oregano, basil, and black pepper.  Hey, jump in and help!  Roll the balls out separately to about the thickness of your forefinger. After the sugar biscuits are rolled and cut, pat a little more sugar on top. You should come out with 6 to 8 small biscuits of each flavor.
I like to vary the biscuit shapes and for the dainty digits of the Jane A. aficionados, I made them smaller than usual.  The sweet and the savory biscuits were round and the cheese biscuits square. 
Now do your part.  Put all the biscuits on a non-greased baking sheet and slide them into a pre-heated 450ºF or 230ºC oven.  Bake for about 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, make a very simple apple-ginger jam.  I used Pink Ladies, but would have preferred a variety more tart, such as Macintosh.  The more tart the apple, the deeper the apple flavor.  But, when you have exactly one hour, and the flames of a woman’s scorn are lapping at your heels, you use what you’re got.
            Peel, core and finely chop 2 apples.  Put them in a pan with 1 cup of white sugar, 1/2 cup brown sugar, and turn the heat to medium.  Sprinkle on powdered ginger.  Finely diced fresh ginger would have been even better. (refer to last sentence of the previous paragraph)  Stir often and watch to see that the jam doesn’t get too thick.  This can be deceptive, as the juice flows out of the apples and the sugar melts, making the jam seem runnier than it really is.  Every now and then, put of a drop or two of the jam on the counter to test the viscosity.   When the jam is as thickened as you want it, it’s ready.  If it gets too thick, add a couple of tablespoons of water.
The oven timer rings.  Tasks complete.  Now what the hell am I going to do with myself for the whole day?  Ah ha!  She carelessly left me her copy of Sense and Sensibility.


  1. Sounds like you missed a great afternoon becoming familiar with the proper way to draw a pils at the local gasthaus. Ein rahmschnitzel mit pils, bitte.

  2. I'm sure you're right. However, life got in the way. Besides, outside of England, I'm not much of a beer drinker. Of course, I'm mincing words. Could have had an excellent Riesling. Matter of fact, I downed a glass of super Dornfelder.