I haven’t made a jelly for a while, and I had forgotten how satisfying it is to see the little dribble that you have let cool on a saucer wrinkle when you push it with your finger. It must be the feeling that every scientist gets when an experiment goes right, something to do with achieving the result you want with the instructions you have. I am not a scientist by any stretch of the imagination – far too dreamy for such a profession – but I can imagine how satisfying it must be to have a simple conclusion – succeed or fail – mission accomplished or start again.
Life, of course, is not black or white, but shades of grey – or rainbows of colours, depending where you fall on the optimism scale. Once in a while it’s good to have something that can be fitted neatly in to a box, with a beginning a middle and a definite end. In that way preserving is a wonderful antidote to the freneticism of the technology fuelled ‘on standby’ lives that we all lead.
Preparing to make a jelly is such a lovely, satisfying labour of love. Chopping fruits, boiling them and then putting them into a jelly bag or muslin, takes time and slows you down. Leaving them overnight and then coming down to a lovely, pale, sweetly fragranced juice is a great start to the day.
Watching your creation come to a rolling boil and splutter with the effort of moving its sugar-heavy form around at high speed, adds excitement to the gentle art of preserving. Will it boil over and leave a thick layer of hot goo all over my kitchen, or can I control this thing just enough to keep it in the pan? Skimming off the scum is strangely satisfying, ideal for anyone who has tendencies towards OCD, as there is a battle to be had to maintain a lovely, clear liquid.
And after all the excitement, a chance to relax (well, clear up anyway) as you gently stir soft sage into your golden nectar, coming back every five minutes to stir again, as gently as you can, whilst observing the liquid slowly transforming into something much more akin to a jelly, before hitting on the perfect moment to pour it into eagerly waiting washed and sterilised jars. And yet the feeling I get as I gently and lovingly stir in the sage, surely that can’t be science? Surely that feeling is about creativity, about nurturing, about making – those things are not scientific are they?
Is preserving (or cooking in fact) a work of art or a scientific act? I’d love to know what you think.
It was a morning well spent, whatever you decide. The musky taste of sage sits well in this sweet jelly and it is delicious with roast pork and then again the next day spooned into a baguette stuffed with the left over meat. Enjoy!
Tracklements’ Apple and Sage Jelly (makes 6 small jars)
1kg of cooking apples (approximately 4 large)
1 litre of water
For each litre of juice that you make you will need:
1kg raw cane sugar
25ml lemon juice
20g finely chopped sage
- Chop the cooking apples roughly, put in a pan and cover with water.
- Boil them for about 20 minutes, or until they have started to disintegrate in the water.
- Pour the apples into a jelly bag or muslin over a pan or a measuring jun and then leave to drain overnight. Do not squeeze the muslin or the jelly will end up cloudy.
- Follow the instructions in the ingredients list. From the quantities given you should have about 1 litre of juice, so you would need to use 1kg raw sugar and 25ml of lemon juice as well as 20g finely chopped sage.
- Bring the juice up to the boil in a saucepan or preserving pan, and stir in the sugar, stirring until its completely dissolved. Skim off any scum with a sieve as it rises to the surface.
- Bring back to a rolling boil and add the lemon juice, continuing to skim off any scum as it appears. Boil until the liquid reaches setting point, about 20 minutes.
- To test the jelly, drop a teaspoonful onto a saucer (if you put the saucer in the fridge it will set quicker for you) and push with your finger. If it wrinkles then the setting point has been reached.
- Add the finely chopped sage and stir gently. Keep stirring gently every 5 minutes whilst the jelly cools down to ensure that the sage is evenly distributed through the jelly. You don’t want to stir too roughly or the jelly will be cloudy and unattractive.
- When the jelly has cooled down enough so that its still liquid but the sage has stopped rising, about , you can pour into jars.