November 2007 Archives


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This evening I decided to just sort out all the jelly work that needed to be done. That was: making jelly from the quince juice and the green tomato juice, and re-doing the asian pear jelly that did not set up properly.

I tested the two juices I had for pectin by putting a tablespoon of each juice in a little mise-en-place bowl and then adding the same amount of rubbing alcohol. This congeals the pectin and shows you what you have to work with. Predictably, the tomato juice had very little pectin:

Not much pectin

While the quince juice had lots:

Lots of pectin

I worked in batches. First I opened the asian pear jelly and cooked that up, adding some pectin (I hadn't added any during the initial cooking). While that was processing in the water bath, I began work on the quince jelly. Noel asked for it to be quite firm, so in addition to the natural pectin I added half a packet of the commercial stuff.

One of the things I love about making jelly is this. You have this sort of cloudy juice that gets even cloudier when you add the sugar:

Quince juice plus sugar

But then a moment later it clarifies into this shiny clear jelly:

Quince jelly clarifies

Anyway, I ended up making the tomato jelly very simple: I had four and half cups of juice, to which I added half a cup of cider vinegar, then a packet of no-sugar pectin. That gave me five cups of a very simple, no-added-sugar tomato gel that can be used on meats or as a savoury.

Lots of jars

The other theme of this evening was "use up odd ends of jars."

I hate hate hate those wide flat ones at the front: they don't fit nicely in the water bath, they don't work well in the fridge, and even worse, they don't stack nicely on each other: the bottoms are designed so they slide off the stack at the slightest provocation.

Just behind them are the little upright jelly jars, which are quite nice and neat. They're a little bit of a pain to fill because of the narrower mouth, but not bad, and they go in the fridge nicely once opened. And of course they stack properly.

And behind those are the traditional wide-mouth half-pints. Nice jars, very traditional, stack well, and fill easily. They're a bit of a tighter squeeze in the water bath than the little jelly jars, but they work just fine.

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Green Tomato Jelly - Part One

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If you grow tomatoes, you end up with green tomatoes at the end of the season. For us, this was not so much because we had a frost (our first frost is generally in December or January), but because we just got tired of having tomatoes come ripe every week and I decided to chop down perfectly fine tomato plants.

How fine? Well, this one was still flowering like mad when I felled it.

Tomatoes flowering like crazy

At any rate, I ended up with a bucket full of green tomatoes, and decided to try my hand at green tomato jelly. Don't do a web search for this, because oh god the recipes are horrific, largely involving jello. Since I refuse to use jello that way, I will be working out my own recipe and sharing it here. This time: the juice.

My first step was to wash the tomatoes and remove the bad bits. Mostly the stem ends and any russeting that had occurred. Then I put them in a big pot on the stove and filled it with water to not cover but come close to covering the tomatoes.

Then I simmered. I simmered the tomatoes for about two hours, which may or may not be the case for you. This is not a high-attention simmer: you can leave this on the stove and go fold laundry or work on your architectural thesis as needed. But when it's done, the tomatoes should be soft enough to mush them with a wooden spoon, and the water should be fairly thick with tomato ooginess.

Simmering tomatoes in water

Learning from the quince jelly experience, I put the whole mess through the food mill to make a nice mash. This squeezed quite a bit more juice out of the tomatoes than there would have been.

Milling tomatoes for mash

Then it was the usual jelly business: put the mash in a jelly bag and leave it to drip for about 24 hours. Don't squeeze the bag. If you must squeeze the bag, squeeze it into a separate container and make cloudy jelly with that one.

Here you have the first pour-off of juice: I had so much mashed boiled tomato that I poured the juice off once at the beginning then again at the end. The mash then makes a totally fantastic addition to the compost heap or worm bin.

Tomato juice

Next time: flavouring and jellying. I'm still working out ideas for adding some spice to the jelly.

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This page is an archive of entries from November 2007 listed from newest to oldest.

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