Thursday, May 5, 2011

Whinge disguised as help

So I just wanted to talk about that time I made apple jelly. It was a few weeks ago now but I've been thinking about how the recipe could have been a bit more helpful.

I was making David Lebovitz’z apple jelly. You know, I was kind of worried about it. Thinking, really I just add sugar to apple juice and it makes jelly? I read all the comments just in case there were any other hints (of course there weren’t and it was just a useless bunch of “oooh, David, that looks amaaaaazing”) and then set about making it. The recipe looked so simple (as you can see for yourself) and in some ways it is. You do just chop apples and let them drain in some cheese cloth over night. You do just put the juice in a pot with some sugar and lemon juice, boil to 104°C and check if it sets by putting a drop in the freezer and voilĂ , apple jelly. But it is all the details that are missing that could have made this so much less anxiety producing. And you know what, it made me really appreciate Deb again. Sure Smitten Kitchen is not what it used to be, but if Deb has an issue in the kitchen she lets you know about it so that you won’t have that problem. And I really, really needed that yesterday.

The Perfect Scoop pretty much changed my ice cream making life, and I am in no way coming down on DL, but I realised I don’t think that I’ve ever cooked from his website before and I don’t know if all his recipes on the site are like this, but I felt a little tricked by this simple recipe.I'm all for cutting the bullshit, but a little more exposition really would have helped.

Firstly, he tells you not to press on the apples while they are draining because you will get a cloudy jelly. But Mate, when the juice is all drained IT’S CLOUDY! . It was cloudy and there was nothing I could have done about that, but just a little note to assure one that cloudy is normal and your jelly will clear up would have made me feel better going into it.

Secondly, did you know that to heat juice and sugar to 104°C it is going to bubble the shit out if itself? He says use a large stock pot but, dude, that pot needs to be double the size of the liquid amount because it really just bubbles like a bastard. Moreover did you know that to get juice and sugar to 104°C you really need to keep the flame high? Real high and that if your pot isn’t big enough that shit will spill everywhere? Well it’s true.

Just a few simple notes like this and I think that the whole process would have been so much quicker and smoother. But as it was I had to change pots and keep turning the heat down then up because of the bubble factor and it meant that I didn’t think I would ever get to 104°C or that the jelly would ever jelly up. It was stressful. But eventually when I got it in the giant pot and could keep that flame up the jelly became the beautiful jelly DL promises.

And yet, the annoyance did not end there. Because right towards the end of jarring up one of the jars broke right into the jelly! I was holding the jars over the jelly because of the spillage factor and a jar just broke. The heat I guess. And while it was the cleanest break I have ever seen (seriously, when you put the broken piece back against the jar you can’t even tell it has been broken) I felt like I could not keep jarring up in case there was a sliver in there and the jelly had to go. It was only one jar worth really, maybe two, but what a total drag.

Well, I hope this hasn’t been too much of a downer, at least if you ever try to make apple jelly perhaps you will have a better experience. On the upside I did get to use my lovely new measuring spoons.

And I learnt some valuable lessens.

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