Wednesday, October 14, 2015

intuition jellish

Two things collided in my senses – one, my friend Julie calling excitedly about the wealth of walnut+-sized crabapples weighing down her tree. I had stolen those crab-apples two years ago when she had been gone, the first year she’d owned the property, and made jelly out of them. Full of pectin they were, and jelled solidly, so solid that I had to melt it and add a bit more liquid  before jarring it. The flavor was not entirely full but still really good. I cannot remember if I added sugar to them, but I think a minute amount.

Last year there were no apples. Bad year. Bad, bad year.

The second thing that happened was that just about the time I got Julie’s message I was worshiping at the throne of some Anaheim peppers that I’d bought at the Market from Alchemy Garden. They were sweet and bursting with juicy flavor and hot without being at all scorching. My Oh My, I thought, Julie’s crabapples and Lindsay and Scott’s peppers are a match made in heaven. No. THEY might have been made in some kind of fruity heaven but it was up to me to make the match: The apple-sweet pectin and minced peppers, a bit of garlic, some onion, perhaps tarragon for dragon’s breath? Divine jelly.

On second thought... in addition... and, too,  a small parcel of tiny sweet red peppers – almost a peppadew (was there just a tinge of sweet heat?) – sat in my fridge needing to be used in a constructive way. Waiting to be needed, in other words.

So there I went, travelled to the crabapple tree, bowed down, asked... She said yes and I partook of 2 or 3 pounds of her less-than-golfball-sized fruit. I sorted them at home in the kitchen sink and cleaned them and ignored spots that did not seem made by critters – few were – and put them into my slow-cooker and let them come to juice. I drained them – hung them in cheesecloth and let the juices drip into the bowl beneath. On Saturday I bought two pounds of Anaheim chilis along with a few hotter peppers and in due time cored them and ground them together with two cloves of garlic and a small shallot. I say ground them, and I did mean to get my grandmother’s old meat-grinder out and clamp it to a table and actually grind them – I craved
that authentic texture – but it turns out it was getting late in the evening and I was tired so my super-conscious evidently, like a bossy husband, decided not to remind my sub-conscious mind of my intention... and they got all chopped up in the food processor. 

By that time I was thinking of sugar, and of looking up a proper recipe for proper Pepper Jelly, and so I did, and it called for cider vinegar and 5 cups of sugar to 4 cups of peppers. Although my aim was jell, it was not a boatload of sugar. Perhaps it would turn out to be a relish.

I decided I needed a little more apple juice and so I went up to other friends’ summer house and picked the last of their apples from their ancient and heritage trees. That proved to be maybe half a dozen big ones, and went home and cleaned them up and put them in the slow cooker for a few hours. 

By the time I poured those into cheesecloth to drip their juice into a bowl to add to the already crabapple juice I had decided that when I added those three mixtures together (the peppers and the two juices), on the morrow, and cooked them down, the apple juice would be purer pectin and probably they would be sweet without added sugar and jelled without added pectin, which was another thing I was worrying: Adding pectin. And by the time I had done this, it was late and I went to my rest. 

On Sunday, the bespoke morrow (and, incidentally, the day I write this), I did not rest more, but first – after thought – boiled down the two juices to half their beginning volume – instead of cooking the life out of the pepper mash at the same time – but at the last minute remembered those tiny red bell peppers and I slit them and found so few seeds that I didn’t bother with them and just tossed them – stems and all into the juice.
I think just now, as they are cooking away, that I will save them in a separate jar, their tiny sweetness just cured in the hot. They will be good with cream cheese.

In a few hours, when the juices are reduced, I will add the pepper mash and cook that together with the juices and then decide whether it needs more pectin to be proper jell, and/or more sugar. I doubt both, but perhaps a bit of that cider vinegar.

We shall see.

Later, and quite a bit, it is still liquidy and I am going to put a stem of tarragon to it and then a cover on it and put it on the porch overnight. Tomorrow I will put it, whatever its consistency, into jars and that will be that.

​​Monday noon report: This is really peppery and appley  quite piquant, if not really hot, and a great pleasure to eat on tortilla chips with Greek Yogurt, which I've been doing all morning. It'll be great on any roasted meat, fish, or fowl, as well as slathered over a block of cream cheese. Hmm, I'm even thinking about it topping triple chocolate ice cream.

The little sweet red peppers? They should have been stemmed. 

It's not quite jelled yet but I'm thinking it is jelled quite enough. It's jarred and going in the fridge.
And although I have made this sound like a long and drawn-out process, that long process has only been a series of moments not all counting for much time each in itself.

It will snow soon enough. Do yourself a favor and follow a jellish whim. It can’t hurt.


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