Sick today. Full body mutiny. An angel in jeans and cool red boots showed up around noon bearing a cornucopia of grapes – tiny, delicate green interlaken and heavy clusters of dusty indigo concorde grapes fresh from the Okanagan valley via Greyhound. (Angels are actually quite fashionable, you know. Far hipper than me, even on their way to IKEA.)
Until then the idea of food did not appeal, but the juicy, sweet-tart winey grapes were like the food of the gods.
M made W chicken tortellini (from Safeway, tossed with pesto from a jar) for dinner, and I moved tentatively on to a piece of toast to accompany my grapes, which by then I had eaten far too many of.
Ben and Emily were here for the afternoon though, and I had promised we’d make jelly. The apples on my tree are starting to blush at the arrival of fall, and something needed to be done with them quick, before they dropped to the lawn and turned to applesauce. So there are currently pots and pots of apples in varying stages of readiness in the kitchen, and sticky spills all over, but at least she got her teacher gifts done well in advance of Christmas. I think I understand now why Turtles are so popular.
(The floaties in the jelly are cinnamon sticks, which we put into the jars before ladling the hot jelly over. Please note the peanut butter finger smears and dog nose marks on the glass behind; I do take special care when foodstyling.)
Just Plain Apple / Apple-Black Currant / Apple-Plum / Apple-Cranberry / Apple-Mint, -Basil, Rosemary or -Lemon Balm Jelly
As many apples as you have picked off your tree, or bought at the market
A cup or more of currants, pitted and quartered plums, or cranberries (optional)
A handful or two of torn fresh mint, basil or lemon balm
Wash, stem and coarsely chop or just quarter the apples and put them in a large pot. (Don’t bother to peel or core them.) Add a few handfuls of black currants or cranberries or a few pitted and quartered plums, if you like. Add enough water to just cover them and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer for 20-25 minutes, until the apples are very soft. Mash the whole lot with a big spoon or potato masher and cook for another few minutes.
Spoon the mixture into a colander lined with cheesecloth (or use a jelly bag if you have one) set over a large bowl or pot, and let the juice drain out. Stir the pulp around a bit if you want to hurry it up.
Measure the resulting juice into a pot (this is easy if you drain it into a pot with measurements marked on the side) and add 3/4 cup sugar for every cup of juice. Bring to a boil over high heat and boil rapidly, stirring often, until the mixture reaches 210°F on a candy thermometer, or until a small amount placed on a cold plate and put into the freezer turns to gel. This should take about 20 minutes.
While it’s still hot, pour the jelly into hot jars, skim off any foam that rises to the top with a spoon, and seal with lids. Set aside to cool. The lids should pop inward as they cool. If any don’t, store them in the fridge.
To make Spiced Apple Jelly, add a couple of cinnamon sticks, about a tablespoon of whole cloves and a tablespoon of whole allspice along with 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar to the apples during the initial cooking (these measurements work for roughly 3 lbs. of apples – use more or less as you see fit).