I promised you I’m full of mistakes, here’s some more proof!
By Sunday I had a case of overripe mangoes, a bag of lemons, an overladen gooseberry bush and an overfull freezer. Something had to be done. I decided on a mango marmalade to use up the mangoes and lemons, gooseberry jam for the bush, and to make the compost heap jelly I’d been planning on since filling up my freezer with apple cores and lemon peels. The compost heap jelly recipe/idea is from the River Cottage Preserves book – which I highly recommend.
I decided to make them all at once to be more efficient. I went out to pick the gooseberries and ran into mistake number one. Plan a lot of time for harvest when you’re working with berries. Especially berries with thorns. Ugh.
Mistake number two was preparing the berries. Make sure you have the right tools for the job! I also got the gooseberry jam recipe from the River Cottage book, and she recommends using scissors to top and tail goosegogs (as my mum calls them). If someone who has been making jam for 20 years or more tells you to use scissors – use scissors. I started off with a knife because I was too lazy to search for scissors after breaking my last pair (a good two months ago – apparently I’m also too lazy to go get more too). Luckily the man intervened and fetched a pair but I wasted even more time. The consequence was that the actual jam making was going to have to happen right at naptime. And naptime is a bad time – because, and I say this without any blame or judgement, apparently the man cannot enforce the nap. At all.
So, I started making the three jams at once, which really was more efficient, and I *will* do that again. Then the naptime meltdown started. The gooseberry jam was hurriedly thrown in jars and processed, and I’m lucky that it set at all. I wasn’t able to check the setting point for any of them. I usually throw a saucer or plate (or in this case 6) in the fridge before I start making the jam. Then you drop a little jam on the cold plate, wait a minute and if it wrinkles when you touch it the jam is good to go. I didn’t have time for that with the caterwauling from the other room. So, I finished off the gooseberry jam, yelled instructions for the mango marmalade – add mangoes at this time – and ran off to deal with naptime. I forgot to say “AND WATCH THE BOTTOM OF THE PAN FOR BURNING”. So, I now have some nice “blackened” mango marmalade. I’m thinking BBQ sauce for that one. Sigh.
Mistake number three – the compost heap jelly. Actually I think this one is numbers 3-5. One. Don’t freeze this stuff hoping to cut down on waste if you only have a fridge freezer. It takes up too much room. I should have waited until we got our chest freezer. I had to clear it out on Sunday because I knew I was coming home that night with 20 pounds of pork from my Butchering class – see my next post for info on that – and got stuck with the choice of throwing it all out or making the jelly. Two, pay attention to your ratios. You want more apple than anything else, as it provides your pectin. Apple cores are PERFECT for this jelly, and I think they should make up 60-80% of your ingredients, to make sure you have enough pectin. I think I had 30% apple and I got a thick syrup. Not quite good enough. Three, if you’re making this jelly and want to process it with other jams you are making, boil the scraps the night before. As with all jellies, straining the fruit for 24 hours helps keep the jelly clear. Strain in a cheesecloth. You’ll be adding the sugar the next day, but you’ll still need to cover it. I boiled it on the same day as the others, but my syrup didn’t end up too cloudy. If it had set though, I’d be complaining about the cloudiness. In the end it made a fantastic glaze for the pork shank I brought home. I don’t think I’ll have a problem finding a use for the other 3 jars either – it’s great for dressings, drinks and marinades. In fact, a little part of me is happy it’s not jelly as I don’t eat a ton of jam. I know, HERESY!
Other mistakes this weekend? I still haven’t planted my winter garden. I’m late!