Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Notes On Apple Jelly With Rose Petals

The thing about reading a recipe written by a master with many years of experience and trial and error behind her is that it's written mostly for her and her level of expertise. Oh there may be a couple of notes added for the newbie, but it's hard to remember what it was like to start out and not know anything about a subject and to remember all the little details that would make replication easier. Of course replication of the result, spoonfeeding, may not have been the goal of the author of Mes Confitures at all. Maybe the reader is expected to pay her dues too and to have to figure some things out by experimentation. Whether that was the goal or just the outcome, right now (having just finished ladling the jelly into the jars over the rose petals) I am all kerfluffled!

Little green apples from my vet clinic
My conundrums began last night when I sat down to prepare my little green apples. The book is organized by season with the fruits that should be ready for harvest grouped accordingly. However there are a lot of apple recipes in the "spring" section, and apples don't ripen until fall. The recipes do call for green apples, but only one of them (the basic green apple jelly which you make to serve as pectin stock for other jams and jellies whose fruits are too low in pectin to set on their own) calls specifically for very green, unripe apples from the beginning of July. Now you might think that order of the recipes would play a part, and if the author mentioned very green and from the start of July once, it would apply to all successive recipes calling for green apples. But the green apple pectin jelly recipe comes 82 pages later than the recipe I used for the green apple and rose petal jelly. So did she mean any variety of ripe green apple or any green--as in unripe--apple? The book is translated from French, and I begin to wish I had the original. I punted and used my little green unripe apples which I expect to be higher in pectin and lower in flavor than ripe apples would be.

My green apple goop
The next question came when I was cutting up the apples. The instructions say to remove the stems and leave the peels, but they don't say anything about the seeds. Should I also remove the seeds before cooking the apples? Will the seeds add bitterness? Are they desirable? Okay? No clue. I removed most of the seeds (as many as I could by hand without cutting into the apples).

From conundrum I moved to overzealous and a probable mistake. The recipe directs one to bring the apples to a boil in 6 1/3 c. of water and then let them simmer for half an hour on low heat. When I looked at them after half an hour on low I realized that low on my Mom's electric stove doesn't keep that much mass at a simmer--there were no bubbles. So I turned it up and cooked the apples another 10-15 minutes at a true simmer. Next I was supposed to pour the mixture into a chinois and to gently press against the apples with my skimmer. I was agitated by that time and I pressed the hell out of them. I was trying to get juice out of them when I bet the actual goal was just to get some apple-flavored water. After I mashed up everything in the chinois, I put the resulting juice through a cheesecloth (as instructed) but there was so much gummy, pectiny pulp that it just sat there and not much juice went through. Giving up for the night, I put it all in the fridge--the cheesecloth in a strainer with the pulpy mess in it suspended over a bowl to catch the juice--as I was supposed to let the sediment settle overnight anyway. Then I went to bed fretting.

Macerating the rose petals
This morning I arose to find a large mass of goo, and 2 1/2 c. of juice instead of the 4 1/4 called for. Oh dear. Deciding at this point that it's all a learning experience, I dumped the goop out of the cheesecloth (it came out in a pretty solid mass) and poured cold water through the cheesecloth into the juice until I had 4 1/4 c. of liquid.

Next I went outside to harvest the roses. There were plenty of floribunda and old-fashioned (likely Bourbon) peach colored roses that I initially mistook for a standard Peace rose, and the old-fashioned roses have lots of little tiny petals that might not be so pretty in jelly. But they were what I had, their color was good, and there were enough of them, so I snipped off the heads and brought them inside to denude them of their petals.

Bringing the jelly to a boil
The rest of the process went pretty much as it seemed to be supposed to. I brought the majority of the rose petals to a simmer and then macerated them for an hour. After the hour was up I strained them through a cheese cloth with no mishap (though I might have--again--been overzealous in my desire to extract as much liquid as possible as I couldn't refrain from squeezing the cheesecloth. I squeezed gently, but nonetheless.

Rose petals saved to put in
the jars with the jelly
Then I cooked the juice up (again) with sugar and lemon juice (squeezed fresh) until it boiled and (seemed to) set. How to tell when juice "sets" becoming proto-jelly and ready to put up in jars is a mystery still. However I started the day with an overabundance of pectin so I figured it wouldn't be a problem and just (mostly) followed the directions for time. While I was waiting for the juice to boil up I put some rose petals in the bottoms of my sterilized jelly jars and measured out the rose water to add to the jelly at the end.

Upside down jars of jelly
waiting to set
I figured I wasn't going to get more than six small jars of jelly so I only sterilized six, so of course I got six and a half. The last half jar necessitated a quick microwave sterilization and a run to the garden for one more rose. Had I not filled the other jars so full (the book says to fill the jars all the way to the top so I tried that too, but it's messy so I stopped) I probably would have ended up with seven finished jars of jelly.

Now the jars are resting upside down with the rose petals floated to the bottom. When they have cooled a bit more and started to set up, I will gently shake them to distribute the rose petals through the jelly, and I'll set them right side up. Let's hope they cool fast enough that I can flip them before I leave to catch my plane! I will NOT be making the plain green apple jelly for pectin today. One jelly a day is enough.

*Note as I get ready to leave for the plane: The jelly did not set up adequately. Guess I should have fretted more about that part of the process and less about others!

1 comment:

Bill said...

You rarely strike me as fretful.