I prefer winter and Fall, when you feel the bone structure of the landscape — the loneliness of it, the dead feeling of winter. Something waits beneath it, the whole story doesn’t show. ~Andrew Wyeth

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Looking Back on a Day of Jelly Making

Think of the cooling shadows of summer which benevolent Nature spreads over her darling forests and gardens.....summer shadows of wonderful depth and brilliancy like the wings of a mother bird over her young."
~John Muir~ from a journal, 1913?~
This is what we woke up to this morning....
We have not had clouds in our skies for a while and to wake up this morning and see this... well, it kind of made my day. All the technical reasons for this summer sky, with words like "fronts" and "lows" and "relative humidity", just pale in comparison to the beauty of standing outside looking up into a sky like this. I, of course, grabbed my camera.
So, it's a good thing that I saw this before I heard the Prospector say, "If you think that's amazing, look at this." I turned around to see this...
A huge branch of our beautiful Flowering Pear tree had broken away from the trunk and the wonderful limb that has shaded our kitchen window and patio for the last few years was resting on the front porch roof.
So, instead of writing my post about the amazing Jelly Making endeavor, I spent the morning helping my husband cut and remove this huge branch that decide to fall. not during a storm or massive winds, or from some accidentental UPS diver that didn't stop soon enough. Oh no!
Sometime during the calm and beautiful night this tree limb just decided to take a dive for no apparent reason other than gravity. I'm very glad that the limb landed on the porch roof and not on my kitchen garden window, with all the McCoy pottery in it. In fact...no damage was done at all, except for a few cuts and scrapes on the two old farmhands (that would be us) that spent the morning doing something that they had not expected to do.
I think it looks much cleaner and I'm glad it didn't fall on anyone sitting in it's shade....like me.... with my ice tea, enjoying my well deserved rest yesterday afternoon after making jelly.
See how nice it looks...
 We lost a good amount of shade but it's a lot safer.
Ok, on to the jelly making.....

 I first want to say that without a website called Pick Your Own, I would have probably floundered more miserably at my first foray into making jelly. These are the most precise directions I have ever seen and I needed PRECISE directions. I think that this website is even better than having my husband's grandmother right there in the kitchen with me.
I loved ya Vannie! You showed me how to use lettuce cores instead of throwing them away and you taught me not to whine about things; which stuck like gum on the bathroom ceiling until gravity let it fall. You didn't live long enough to see this computer revolution but you would be amazed at the information that can be found.
Even the Sure Jell directions didn't explain this process as well as Benivia at Pick Your Own. I just want everyone to know that she leaves nothing to guess at....she even has pictures. She has prices and where to find everything you need.  She made it look easy. Now, that's where I think she failed me.
I have made Jam lots of times. I just make a batch of Strawberry jam a few weeks back. Jam is easy. Jelly is easy once you get to the "cook it and put it in the jars" part. I don't want to bore you with details but I probably will. I just want to say that 5 lbs of fresh grapes does not always equal 5 cups of grape juice. Mushing the grapes with a potato masher looks easy in theory but it's a bear and .... the juice does not FLOW through the jelly strainer. It sits there and looks at you. It takes an hour, with a spoon, not 20 minutes. Benivia called it "decanting" the clear liquid. I call it a mess.
 Now I know why women wore aprons all the time. They made serious messes....for serious domestic goddess jobs.
That might as well be blood on my foot. I feel like I sweat blood over all of this... but it's just some crushed grapes that decided to leave the debacle in the kitchen while they still had a chance. I know, I should have shoes on but I love being domestic in my bare feet. Sorry Vannie. I know it's just not fittin'.
So I finally got enough juice to make the jelly... and yes, I squeezed the bag.
Benivia said that I could stop after this step. I could even finish the next day. That was tempting but I didn't want to get tartrate crystals in my jelly and have to strain the damn juice again. It was lunchtime and I needed to eat something. I went straight for the Ben & Jerry's Coffee Heath Bar Crunch ice cream.
After "lunch" I added the dry pectin (with about 1/4 cup of the sugar) and cooked the juice over medium to high heat in a BIG pot. Do you think the pot was big enough?
Because I used the "no sugar" pectin I only had to use 4 cups of sugar instead of 7 cups. But you still have to use sugar in the "no sugar" pectin. That's weird. Benivia says it tastes better. Well, yes. Everything tastes better with sugar in it...especially Jam and Jelly. These are the mysteries of making jelly that confuse me. Why would it say "no sugar" if you still have to put sugar in it. and....she says that she,"... never has success using NO added sugar with the no-sugar pectin." What?
I followed the directions and added 4 cups of sugar and even though I need to work on controlling the MESS...
I finally got the Jelly in the jars and processed those little guys....
Cleaned up the kitchen....
....at least 3 or 4 times.
Did you know that you have to process things longer at higher altitudes? I didn't. In fact, and here comes a confession, I usually don't process my jam at all. I just ladle the hot jam into the hot sterile jars, put the sterilized lids and rings on, invert them and wait for the lid to "pop". I will process from now on, for 10 minutes, just to be safe. It said that if you live between 1001ft. - 6000ft. (I'm on the low end of the range) you should boil them for 10 minutes. Of course the water took that long to re-boil once I got the jars in the water, so I may have done it for 20 mins. or so.... but they are PROCESSED.
I removed the jars, carefully, with my new lifter tongs and let them cool. They all "popped". Then I 
 cleaned up the kitchen for the 5th time and  took a nap.
Look pretty don't they. It's very satisfying to look at my work...MY JELLY IN JARS. I figure that with buying all the equipment and my day of labor, each bottle is worth about $20.00 per jar.
I still have another 5# of grapes in the garage. Anyone interested? They're yours.
Don't ask me if I'm going to make Jelly again.... at least until next summer.


  1. My goodness! You sure had a mess there - and lotsa memories to share!!! Bet your concoction will taste great, however!

  2. LOLOL! *laughing with you - not at you* ;) Now do you see why I gave up canning, preserving, jelly and jam making, pickles, and the like? I loved seeing the finished product, but I hated the mess and time it took to make my own shelf "jewels". They sure did look pretty sitting on the shelf though.
    The last time I canned, I did 10 quarts of Indian Blood peaches from up near Shadd's reservoir, and about a gazillion quarts of tomatoes. It took weeks for the skin to grow back on my hands after the acid in those 'maters, and I said never again!
    I did do a couple of pints of apples this morning, but I just cooked 'em up in the microwave, and put 'em in the freezer.

    Now... $20 a jar for home made grape jelly? SOLD! ;)

  3. Beautiful jelly! Grape is hubby's favorite! Sorry you lost that limb and your shade but glad no damage was done.


  4. Great post! I've been waiting all day to read the full story of making jelly. Now I know why I only do the Domestic Goddess things that are easy. Can you make grape jam as opposed to grape jelly? If making jam is easier, why not do that with your extra 5 lbs of grapes? I’m so glad no (serious) damage was done by the tree branch. And, yes, the newly-naked area does look very nice. Amazing (and, thank god) that it didn’t fall on you while you were enjoying a rest in its shade.
    What a cute idea of putting the shutters inside your garden window. And I love the idea of displaying your McCoy there. This is giving me some great ideas!!!! Hope you don’t mind if I steal! One question: are you sure your McCoy isn’t fading any in the sunlight? My garden window is on the west side of the house and gets all the afternoon sun, year round. Fading of my items on display worries me a little. Are you planning on some French toast with grape jelly in the morning?? ~Dawn

  5. Clouds
    "Think of the cooling shadows of summer..." I have news for John Muir; apparently he didn't spend much time in the midwest in summer. Clouds here do not make cooling shadows; they bring in the thunder & lightening, tornadoes and power failures. Come on autumn, I'm counting the days!!! ~Dawn

  6. Wasn't it a glorious day? Your jelly looks so yummy. So sorry about the tree limb on your deck. OUCH! Lucky it didn't wipe out the window. I am so ready for fall and cooler temperatures. I am also ready for the snakes to hibernate. We're going to have to meet at Susan's Place sometime soon.

  7. Sorry your shade is gone, but glad the limb did not damage the house. The clouds photo is just beautiful. Making jelly is a tiring chore. Glad yours turned out. Have a blessed day. Madeline

  8. Thankyou for visiting my blog. I enjoyed reading about your jelly making. I,m afraid I am a bit of a lazy cook, I prefer to experiment rather than follow cook books. I picked some blackcurrants recently and made a cake with them (my experiment) and it turned out lovely, tangy and sweet, even my OH enjoyed it.

  9. Man oh Man is canning ever messy!But it's oh so satisfying. I have a teenie weenie kitchen and can not have anyone else within 3 feet of me. It sure uses up a lot of water too...when you have water from a well, this time of year, you watch every drop. Anyway, Bravo! p.s I love that website as well...and yeah, whats with the 'no sugar' thing??!!

  10. I always do my domestic goddess stuff barefooted. Wow that was a big endeavor for 6 little jars. Don't quit. Make grape jam out of the rest. It'll be easier. After all you bought all the equipment! This is one of those practice makes easier tasks. When you get more product for your work it is more encouraging. If your grapes are seedless you can just put them in a pot skins and all and cook them with sugar. I never use pectin. I just cook the fruit down. In the old days they didn't have any of our stuff, like recipes and boxes of pectin. They just cooked the fruit with sugar and a little lemon if they had it until it got thick and had reduced. Then can it. It's actually very good and not so messy.
    We cook our peach crop that way. This year the bugs, and worms wrecked the peach crop. I think if I had all those grapes I might try making WINE!
    and you can always just eat them up. You can freeze grapes.

  11. Yes make grape jam Farmlady, I was given 3 bushels of organic grapes last summer & I made jam & I like it better than jelly it has more substance. My Mum used to make grape jam & I remember it was delicious. I don't process mine either, but if there's room I keep it in the fridge.
    I think harvest snakes are less dangerous than rattlesnakes?!

  12. Wow! That was a hard working post! I don't know which task I'd find the most tiring, the tree trimming or the jelly making. Both involve clearing up the mess, don't they? I like the look of your house minus the branch, hope you don't miss the shade too much. I'm a barefooted in the kitchen girl and it always amuses me if I get a mess on my feet. Jam and jelly making sure is messy! But the feeling of achievement is almost as satisfying as the sight of your handiwork. Well done!


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