Monday, August 27, 2012

Qualifying Exams and Homemade Champagne Jelly

I survived my doctoral qualifying exams. And, apparently, now I make jam...and sometimes jelly.

We took a quick trip for our anniversary weekend (the beginning of July), and after getting back , I spent between two and eight hours a day studying, up til the exam. And then, it was two six hour days of sitting in a freezing cold computer lab typing as fast as possible. It sounds worse than it was. Or not....

At any rate, I decided that the best way to unwind from the exams was to indulge in my latest hobby- canning. I'm still figuring this out, but thanks to the internet and a couple books, I seem to be managing. I have fallen deeply in love with Liana Krissoff's book Canning for a New Generation . The recipes are creative and delicious (and I love that they rely on pectin from green apples, rather than commercial pectin).

What struck my fancy upon the conclusion of my exams was the recipe for champagne jelly. This starts with a green apple pectin stock.


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 Take 3lbs of Granny Smith apples and remove the stems. Cut the apples into eights, and put them in a large  pot or pan. Pour in six cups of water, cover, and bring them to a boil over high heat. Boil, stirring occasionally until the apples have broken down and peels have separated from the pulp, about 30-40 minutes. Then strain out the solids - this guy placed over a mixing bowl worked quite well for me.

The recipe states that you should have about 5 1/2 cups of juice, which you should return to the stove and cook down to about 3 cups. Since I only had a little more than 3 cups of juice, I skipped that step.

And then on to the champagne jelly itself....the recipe states that you don't need an expensive champagne, so I went with my bubbly of choice for festive occasions on a graduate student budget.

1 (750 ml) bottle Champagne or sparkling white or rose wine
3 cups green apple pectin stock (see above)
1/4 cup strained fresh lemon juice
3 1/4 cups sugar

It takes FOREVER to heat water for water bath canning, so it's wise to start early, in order to have jars sterilized and ready to go once the jelly is done.

Pour the wine into the pot and boil until it reduces to about 2 cups (around 20 minutes)
Then, stir in the pectin stock, lemon juice, and sugar into the wine. Bring to a boil,and cook stirring occasionally. The book advises you to boil the mixture until it registers around 220 on a candy thermometer, or until a small dab of it spooned onto a plate and placed into the freezer for a minute wrinkles when nudged. I haven't yet acquired a candy thermometer, but the wrinkling jelly on the plate from the freezer trick seems to work decently. According to the recipe, this should have taken 25-30 minutes, it took approximately 40 minutes for me. Then, pour the hot jelly into sterilized jars, place the lids on, and boil for 5 minutes (the recipe says 5, but I have a paranoid husband who wants to be sure things are sterilized and properly sealed. So at our house, we boiled our jars for around 10 minutes).

And ta-da! Five jars of champagne jelly.

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I've passed along a couple jars to my studying buddies. The jelly is delicious- sweet and tangy, delightful on scones. I think this (or the quite similar Cabernet Sauvignon Jelly) may well become my trademark housewarming or graduation gift. And I'm quite optimistic that this interest in preserving food and making things that can be spread on bread will become a way for us to provide friends and family members with Christmas gifts that fit in a graduate student budget and don't suck.

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