It's not about the house.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Are You Jellin' YET?

Okay, so this is the third time I've tried to make this g-d jelly.

The first time, when I mentioned it last Thursday, I spent about six hours in the kitchen. Actually, first I spent four and a half hours on the Sunday before boiling the grapes down into concentrated juice and straining out the pulp. That was fun. My kitchen looked like a crime scene. I think the only thing more gorey-looking than grape juice in a porcelain sink is beet juice all over the counter -- next to actual gore, of course. Not that I'd know.


I was following the Joy of Cooking recipe -- which is the recipe I always use and which has always worked before. The old Joy, the original, not the new Rachel-Ray wanna-be version with good-for-you recipes and probably without a listing for woodchuck in the index. P'shaw! Nope, in this house, we make our jelly the old-fashioned way: we burn it.

Just kidding, I just couldn't resist the rhyme.

Really, according to the Joy, we bring the juice to a simmer very, very slowly, never allowing it to actually boil. We add a quartered apple for the extra pectin and we stir constantly until -- oh my god stop stirring NOW -- then we add as much sugar as juice (if not more), stir only until the sugar is dissolved, then simmer simmer simmer (never never never boil) until it sheets off the spoon just like the picture in the book.


...until it sheets off the spoon just like the picture in the book...

Oh hell, it's been boiling for a half an hour, just can the damn stuff already.

So that was Thursday. Needless to say it didn't set up proper. Sort of, but not really. More like an ice cream topping than a breakfast spread (yum! Mom, can we have grape jelly on ice cream for dessert? And then run circles around the house screaming in tongues until we collapse in a convulsing sugar coma? Please!?).

So on Saturday I tried again. I'd been assured (by someone who shall remain nameless but who goes reluctantly by the intitials MD) that I could open up those jars of jelly-syrup, dump them out into a pot, boil it all up again with some (gasp) store-bought pectin, re-can it, and have jelly just like new.

Might've worked, too, if I hadn't decided I could guess at the amount of pectin it would need to make it jell for real, and then divided that amount in two because, well, it was halfway ther already, wasn't it? Also maybe if I hadn't used the five-year-old envelope of liquid pectin that was leftover from the time Johnny and I got in a fight before completing whatever artsy-fartsy project had temporarily possessed us into believing we were Charles and Caroline (that's Ma and Pa Ingalls, for those of you who don't re-read the Little House books regularly well into your own happy golden years). And yes, I know they didn't have packaged pectin on the prairie, but I'm sure if Nellie Olsen's father had sold it at the general store, Pa would have surprised Ma with it some month instead of buying shoelaces or something, and she would have blushed and used it happily. Or maybe she would have picked a fight with him because the car wouldn't start and dumped the marmalade down the garbage disposal and then left the pectin in the refrigerator for five years. You don't know.

Where was I? Oh yeah. Jelly came out worse the second time.

I mean, it tasted fine, and I appreciated the second batch of jelly-foam, though by then we were out of saltine crackers because it's kind of a rule in my house that whenever there are saltines around I have to eat them three meals a day until they're gone, which is why we never buy them except for special occasions -- which is why if you come over to my house for a party, instead of getting fancy-dancy, butterfly-shaped or whole-grain crackers, you're going to get saltines with your sharp white cheddar cheese. But anyway... it was even more runny the second time.

So today. Today I went to the grocery store and I bought new pectin. I read the directions. AND I followed them.

One package of pectin for six cups of jelly (well, technically it said six cups of juice, but it's a little late for that, now, isn't it?), stir in and bring to a rolling boil, stirring constantly (really? okay...). Add the sugar (again, bit late for that, what?) and full-boil for one minute (seriously? just one minute? if you say so...) then remove from heat and skim foam if necessary (well, of course it's necessary; we may be out of saltine crackers but we've still got french bread, have we not?). Fill hot jars etc., etc. -- and then water-process for ten minutes?

Really? Are you absolutely sure? I have never heard of water-processing jelly before. But then, I usually seal my jelly with wax, and water-processing wax would just be stupid. I decided to use lids this year instead because I want to give some of it away (I have to give most of it away: I got two gallons of it for god's sake) and I don't want to freak people out if they don't know about the wax thing (then again, if any of them are reading this, they might be freaked out already -- hey, everybody I know, ignore this post, okay?). Anyway, so I water-processed the damn stuff.

I think it's going to be fine.

Oh, except the grocery store I went to only had two things of pectin left. Six cups each. And I believe I mentioned that I got two gallons. And that's just from the concord grapes. There's another gallon of jelly made from white grapes that needs to be re-done as well. So I have to do this again. And again. And maybe one more time.

Know what makes a good hot-board for putting three gallons worth of pints of jelly on so as not to burn your table? The shelf from the closet in your office that you still haven't got around to finishing:

This week, I swear. Or maybe next. As soon as I'm done with all this g-d jelly...


MD said...

ok so several things, incidently from New Orleans, you could add several apples as they have mucho pectin, boil the heck out of it without stirring, and use powdered pectin as I really think it works so much better than the liquid. But I think you are just doing this to eat the foam.

Janice said...

you know, you didn't have to make ALL the grapes into jelly:

Janice said...

try this:
better than sex

EGE said...

Oh sure NOW you tell me...

Meryl said...

You are my cooking soul sister! Eh, just throw in a little of this, a little of that--it'll all come out in the end. I love it!