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Sunday, November 21, 2004

Do I post about anything but jelly and bicycles? 

No, no I do not.

Jelly: I dug the ghost of crab apples past out of the deep freeze earlier this week, thawed it, and with nothing more than the application of 7.5 cups of sugar, some pectin, just a bit of lemon juice, and an hour or so of work, I have a couple of quarts of jelly in pretty little jars, suitable for giving.

I used the lessons of the Summer's work: I went and bought real canning jars with real snap-lids and canned for real. I also learned an important lesson about, well, being easygoing regarding food safety.

No, I'm not going to poison anyone. But I bought, more or less by chance, Bernardin pectin and jars. Each came with dire warnings about the horrible gastric tortures and deadly molds that would visit anyone who dared make jelly without using strict, boil-for-ten-minutes-after-canning techniques. It appeared these spectres would probably come in threes, most likely late at night on Christmas Eve. Also, no heating the jars in the oven.

Now, most of my Summer jelly was a gastronomic triumph, but a food-preservation disaster, and I essentially treated the whole batch as freezer jams (keep it cold to prevent mold). I wanted more out of these latest jellies, but I didn't have any stupid canning boilers, and was under the impression they were serious overkill for normal jams and jellies, which simply are not as prone to disaster as odder preserves.

My mother-in-law confirmed that canning would be overkill, and suggested just relaxing. Then I checked out Kraft's website, which has jam and jelly-making guides as an adjunct to their Certo pectin. They said to relax too.

Well, maybe it's the spectre of a tort-crazed world, or the sheer number of cooks, chemists, and lawyers Kraft likely has working for them, but when a huge trans-national corporation tells me it's okay to just heat the jars, put hot jelly in 'em, and seal the works up, I'm willing to put my mouth where their money is. And yours too, if you get one of these jars from me.

So I just jellied everything up, popped very hot jelly into very hot jars, and relaxed. The result is an aesthetic triumph, and seems just as tasty as before (I get to clean the pots afterwards.

Jam or jelly is one of those great, nerdy procedural types of cooking that should naturally appeal to men. You have a schedule, you have merciless chemistry issues that can preserve your food beautifully or kill you, and you have rigid (though, as my example above shows, sometimes completely contradicted) strictures on Doing It Right. For me at least, it's a satisfying sort of effort. It helps a lot that since tasting it for the first time, I have come to believe that crab apple jelly is the Lord's own fruity manna (sure, it sounds quasi-blasphemous, but we are talking about crab apples harvested from a tree in a churchyard, so cut me some slack). Despite the mess and effort, I find jelly-making pleasant work, and I'm pleased that after a season of practice, I think I've finally produced jelly made to a high standard of taste, aesthetics, and safety.

Bicycles: still fighting my stupid shoulder ache, I got on the bicycle for my usual Saturday morning ride. It doesn't really hurt on the bike. The pain is hardly noticeable on the bike. My neck even felt a bit more relaxed after a few hours on the bike. Huh. I really like cycling.

It was a chilly but sunny day out, with enough moisture in the air to suck the warmth from your bones, but enough sun in the sky to make you smile and think about how pleasant it was to live somewhere where riding a bicycle in mid-November could be pleasant.

Tune in next time to a very special posting on Wired Cola. The Lovely One speaks!

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