We had been sitting on the tractor together all morning and into the afternoon, tossing green grapes and raisins out of the endless ton-bins resting on the red tractors. We talked about traveling, languages, and fruit - and kept circling back to pectin. I was disappointed that my first batch of pinot noir jelly (made from the very fruit we were sorting through) had been more of a syrup than something spreadable. The next day, Susanna brought me the solution: ten pounds of sour apples from her backyard.
She also brought me a cookbook. From the 50's, the previously red cover had faded to the pinkish brown of dying roses. The pages cracked as I turned them, revealing other small pieces of paper that Susanna had tucked in as notes to herself.
Although I was focused on pectin, of course I looked through the rest of the recipes: watermelon rind pickles, quince chutneys, citrus marmelades, spiced meat concoctions.
A few of my favorites:
Honey Rose Petal Preserve -
Pick the petals from fresh sweet roses gathered after the dew has dried off...
Tongue in Fat -
Cook tongue by any recipe. Pack in fat. Store in a crock or large glass jar.
The book was obviously assuming a level of expertise concerning the proper treatment of tongue that I was unfamiliar with, but regardless, it was great. If only I had a calf's foot, and I could have experimented with Calf's Foot Jelly.
Alas, I had apples and herbs. Rose Geranium, to be precise. An herb also included in certain special absinthe recipes that I'm known to be rather fond of.
So instead of plucking pink rose petals, I sliced sour apples, boiled them down with their cores and stems, and arrived at a final few cups of apple juice. Mixed with sugar, boiled down to a thick jelly, and then with a final infusion of fresh rose geranium leaves swirled into the sugar substance, I had a rose geranium jelly. Slightly tart, with an herbacious yet still floral, and yes, rose-like quality, the jelly spread across our morning toast quite nicely, and even held it's appropriate jelly form.
If you stumble upon a calf's foot or a loose tongue, feel free to share the knowledge.
Rose Geranium Jelly
note: can be made with any number of herbs. lemon verbena would be delicious, or you could lean towards something to go with more savory fare, like rosemary, mint, or thyme.
Take your apples. You may have five pounds, you may have ten. Chop them roughly, taking no care to remove cores. In fact, cores are essential.
Put them in a large pot over medium heat. Cover. Let cook down for about an hour. The apples should be completely broken down.
Strain. Reserve solids (minus seeds) for applesauce, if you like. Measure juice.
Return juice to stove. In a ratio of 2:1, juice to sugar, add sugar. Boil gently until mixture sheets off the back of a spoon. Turn off heat.
Add herbs to heated juice. Swirl for 30 seconds to five minutes, depending on how strong you want the flavor. Taste. Return to heat, return to boil.
Pour into prepared jars, seal, and process in a hot water bath.