Well, this morning the unemployed folk are fighting off the nasty cold virus that everyone in New York seems to be fighting. I’ve a feeling, though, that once I get a little mushroom barley soup, and maybe a pierogi or two, in me, I will take back a little of the resistance that I lost yesterday, skipping around from Zabar’s (where I bought mason jars) to the post office (where I mailed most, but not all, of my Christmas presents [note to self: prepare begging-of-forgiveness speech to everyone who will be getting their presents after Christmas]) to the confines of my own kitchen, where I hoisted the big copper kettle onto the hob and cranked out sixteen jars of paradise jelly (and there’s much, much more jelly to come):
More fruit in bags. Turns out I had so much fruit in bags that I decided to experiment this year, and ran it all through the food mill. It’s in the fridge now, and as soon as I feel less hit by the truck, I’m going to investigate whether I can turn it into paradise butter.
Had I been clever, I would have taken a picture of the juice in the kettle before I added the lemon juice and sugar. The difference between the pretty-but-cloudy juice and the clear jelly is one of my favorite little phenomena of kitchen science. The next batch will be much better documented than this, dear friends.
All clear, all set, all ready to be decanted into jars and sealed. Which I did. Only...In general I am a fan of a gentle set in jelly, not liquid, but not firm, either. If you are familiar with European fruit preserves, or the jams and jellies of the Alsatian pastry chef Christine Ferber, you will have a sense of the texture I like. Nigel Slater describes it in a sweet, funny essay, “The Setting of Jam,” in his new collection of essays, Eating for England: “...a texture poised somewhere in that heavenly state between syrup and a lightly set jelly...that slides sexily off the mound of clotted cream and dribbles down the edge of the scone (an exquisite moment if ever there was one).” This is what I made yesterday, a gorgeous, just-set, shimmering jelly. Alas, I am not making 30 jars of jelly for our own consumption. These jellies are destined as gifts, and the majority of the giftees like something of a firmer set to their jellies. I might hold back a few for ourselves and our fellow soft-jelly fans, and recook the rest. C’est la vie.
Of course, it’s not all about the jelly here. I’ve also taken this swell birthday present from a dear friend:
and turned it into this:
Well, of course there will be recipes. For now, though, mushroom barley soup, and a pierogi or two, awaits.