If either of you thought, is that post title a Pink Floyd reference that hasn’t been topical for at least 30 years and even that’s really pushing it, then you deserve to have it confirmed that yes, yes it is. I feel maybe slightly bad that I wanted to do this blog and then I left it for over two weeks without any updates, but I won’t waste your time whining about that now. And anyway, my cowriter has written a little.
My holiday gift jelly project is coming along pretty nicely – I even started a pinboard to keep track of the more unusual jelly and jam recipes I’ve encountered online. I’m really not very interested in the more ordinary types of jelly – strawberry, grape, all that stuff you’d pick up a pint of for $2.50 at the store, but I’m keenly interested in all the stuff that is weird that you wouldn’t see for sale most places. For instance, I found recipes for root beer jelly, stout beer jelly, and something called carrot cake jam. I honestly couldn’t say whether any of these would actually taste good in the end, but my sense of curiosity surrounding all three pretty much ensures that I’m going to have to make them at some point. Thankfully, I’ve gotten the art of hot water jelly and jam canning down to a pretty manageable process.
After I made my first batch of the pinot noir jelly, Rissy came over to have dinner and spend an evening chatting, and I asked if she wanted a little taste of it. She really liked it! In fact, I think her love for the jelly might even qualify as “ravening”. So I decided I had a winner and I started putting together my extended holiday list and deciding out how many batches I’d need and of what exactly. At less than $2 a half pint jar for the Charles Shaw jellies and not too much time and effort expended for a batch of 7 jars, along with a good shelf life, I felt like I’d found a real sweet spot at the intersection of effort, cost and how long I could prepare things in advance.
I knew I was going to need to make at least a few nonalcoholic jellies – since I didn’t think everyone I know would be able to enjoy the wine jellies. I don’t want to be the clueless jerk who gives the nice LDS lady at work a holiday gift that directly contradicts her church’s teachings. I also wouldn’t want to give wine jelly to someone who is a recovering alcoholic. Or to people who just don’t like the taste of wine.
So my first nonalcoholic jelly was really a jam – I’d found this kiwi jam recipe and was curious to try it out. I mean, I love kiwi fruit fresh, so maybe it’d make a good jam? Side note – I just realized that website, while it has some neat stuff on it, is completely obnoxious in that it plays music that you can’t turn off. So be warned.
The kiwi jam turned out with a nice texture, but I got so caught up in the process while I was making it that I didn’t taste it before canning. What I found was that after I tasted the stuff left over in the pot, it tasted more, just, sweet than anything else. What I like most about the taste of kiwi is that tartness, but the amount of sugar that you use in jam seemed to have kinda killed that. I experimented with what I had left and added some lemon juice to it, which seemed to help the flavor. I think I can still give it as gifts and people will enjoy it, but if I ever make it again I’ll make sure to sour it up again with lemon juice. My jelly ravening taste tester and our other chick friend both enjoyed the lemon juice version, so I think I’ll go with that in future.
After the kiwi jam, I figured I should do another wine jelly. After all, they’re very easy to do. So I did a jelly with Charles Shaw sauvignon blanc next, using the recipe from last time. I thought it tasted pretty decent, maybe not as good as the red wine jelly, but good. I brought some to work for a friend who was interested, and she said she had it with cheese and crackers and liked it. With the white wine jelly, I experimented and used some Certo Sure-Jell liquid pectin that I ordered in bulk off Amazon instead of the powdered Sure-Jell I’d used before. I thought the liquid stuff did decently well, but it didn’t give as firm a set. If I turn the jar the jelly slides a little. But nobody complained, so hey.
Personally I didn’t find the pale wine color very appetizing, but then again, I’m used to jellies being reddish or whatever. Note the hard water stains on the lids – I’ve been considering adding a little vinegar to the boiling water to see if that helps keep mineral deposits from forming on the jars! As it is now I have to scrub them after their final set to get the hard water deposits off.
The last jelly I did was an apple pie jam, which I felt had great promise but I think I screwed it up somehow! First, it tastes delicious so it really does have that spiced apple pie flavor. No complaints there. However, on reflection I must have not chopped the apples finely enough, and I also thought the jelly didn’t set up as firmly as it looked like it was supposed to from the pictures. I could tell as I was stirring it that my apples were all floating at the top and they were probably too big, but I didn’t really know what to do about it at that point. Get out the potato masher and go to town? I didn’t, so moot point.
I’m still going to do the apple pie jam as gifts because it tastes so good, but I think if I make it again I might run the apples briefly in the food processor to see if that helps them stay better distributed, and I’ll also plan to let it simmer down a little longer before adding the sugar, since I thought it didn’t set up all that well. No worries, taste is terrific and I think it would be the exact right texture to stir into hot oatmeal this winter!
On the topic of apples, I was going to make the apple pie jelly again with my few remaining apples last Monday when Rissy came over to hang out after work, but instead something took ahold of me and I impulsively made delicious apple fritters instead. Who knew fritters were so easy. I mean, I already knew they were delicious, but they’re actually not very hard to make! It’s just, well, dealing with the oil. Highly recommend this recipe. I rolled mine in cinnamon sugar, because, well, duh, it’s delicious. Forgot to take a single picture of them because they were so delicious.
Finally, a couple comments about how I plan to package my jellies for gifting – first of all, Ball sells these dissolving labels that you can write out and put on the sides of canning jars. They’re cute and oval shaped and better yet, they’re just…easy. I don’t have an inkjet printer at home, and I didn’t want to buy one just to print up cute labels (and oh how cute some of those free templates online are!). So I took a super fine tip Sharpie and just wrote the name of the jelly and the expiration date on the label.
I also wanted to decorate the tops of the jars somehow. I had a couple of packs of nice paper around and I had the idea that I could use a winter themed rubber stamp to decorate a circle and then put the recipient’s name on it. I’m really not slightly even talented when it comes to paper crafts, and this was my first rubber stamp and ink pad purchase, but I like how it turned out. This paper is actually “ivory” resume paper that has been around the house for ages. But pretty much nobody does resumes on fancy paper anymore, so I can use it up this way.
Anyway, this is only one of the projects I’ve been up to lately. I haven’t been thrifting in just ages at this point, but I’ve been doing other stuff that in theory could qualify as “thrifty” at home! I’ll try to keep you guys posted again soon.