Friday 11 September 2020

The Joy of Apple Jelly

One of the problems with reporting on the Saddest News in the World is that it very often makes me sad, and sometimes it gives me nightmares, so even sleep is not always a relief. However, there are people who manage to stay joyful and calm even in the worst circumstances, and I want to be one of them. Thus, to help towards this goal, I will try to write a joyful thing a day. 

Today's joyful thing is that my apple jelly has set. I have never made apple jelly before, and it was a long time ago that I last made jelly. That was at my parents' house, where jam and jelly making is an ordinary thing. My mother made red currant jelly just last month. 

When I was a child, we lived in a house with a pear tree in the garden. For some years, my parents ordered us all out of the kitchen, affixed a baby gate to the doorway and made jars and jars of pear jam. I got very bored with pear jam, but of course now I go into transports whenever I taste something that reminds me of it. 

Yesterday I chopped up 2 kilos of apples, cooked them in 1.25 litres of water, and left them to drip in a muslin-covered plastic colander set over a cooling rack set over a bowl. This got me about 5.5 cups of juice to boil down into jelly this morning.  I added 115 g of sugar and as much lemon juice as I could squeeze out of a lemon. As I could not get the recommended 2 Tbsps out of it, I threw half the lemon peel to boil along for awhile. 

I bought a candy thermometer from Hobby Craft yesterday evening ("Made in China"--alas), which was necessary to see that it really does take a long time for apple-juice-and-sugar to reach 220 F.  It may have taken 45 minutes, and I had to watch the pot carefully to make sure it didn't boil over. At one point it did boil over, sadly, but I managed to clean up the mess quickly. Meanwhile, I kept dripping boiling juice hopefully into a glass of cold water, looking for threads, and onto a cold plate, looking for gel. 

When the apple juice finally gelled on the cold plate, I was delighted. I turned off the heat, put on oven mitts and filled 5 sterilised jars with hot, red-gold jelly. Obeying the British recipe, I put circles of baking parchment on four of them, screwed down the lids and, lacking cellophane, sealed them extra-shut with sellotape. The fifth jar was only half-full, so we will eat it up first. 

One of the wonderful things about apples is that they are so full of pectin, you don't need to buy any pectin to make apple jelly. And now that I have made our first batch of ordinary jelly, I will experiment by making other jellies with our apples. Next week B.A. and I will collect brambles (blackberries) from the bushes. According to tradition, brambles have to be picked before St. Michael's Day. On St. Michael's Day the devil spits on them or rolls about on them peevishly or carries out some other petty and vengeful act upon them.  

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