Why in the world would someone spend the better part of a beautiful fall day to make eight small jars of jelly?
I like to think that it was, in some way, a nod to all those forebears of mine -- women who took pride in their plump and succulent preserves and found joy in a perfect pot of jam or the clear jewel-like glimmer of a jar of jelly.
It began when I spotted that mystery fruit tree in the pasture HERE. It was indeed a wild crabapple and a few days ago I gathered as many of the charming little fruits as I could reach. They were absolutely perfect and unblemished -- unlike our regular apples.
The time had come to make jelly -- something I've only done once or twice in my life and with less than inspiring results. But wild crabapple jelly -- it has such a romantic sound -- and I had to do something with all that fruit.
Heeding what the Ball canning book said about small batches, I put half the apple pieces into a pot with water to almost cover and boiled then simmered till the pieces were soft and had given up their juices.
The pulp went into a dish towel- lined colander and some juice began to drip into the waiting bowl beneath but nothing near the four cups I'd been led to expect.
When at last I had four cups of juice, I added a great deal of sugar (I think it was 3 or 3 1/2 cups) and stirred and brought it to a boil. This is the exacting, almost alchemical, part of the process. In order to jell, the sugared juice has to reach 8 degrees Fahrenheit above the temperature of boiling water. And since that differs with altitude, the jelly maker is advised to determine it for herself. (It's 205 here -- so I was aiming for 213 as my jelling point.)
Or one can rely on the sheeting test -- dip a metal spoon in the hot liquid -- when the jelly begins to form two drips rather than one, you're close. Soon it will flake from the spoon in a sheet. and it's time to remove the jelly from the heat, skim off the white foam around the edges, and pour into sterilized, self-sealing jars -- four of them with a bit left over for tasting and breakfast. ( very good -- very sweet -- a little goes a long way.)
And then the second batch. I feel so in touch with my roots . . .