Thursday, October 3, 2013

Delicious Failure

"Success," said Winston Churchill, "consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm." By this metric, I am an incredibly successful man.

I'm an odd and contrary dude. I generally don't enjoy reading books by people I agree with, and I don't enjoy cooking foods I know how to make. This means I cook a lot of things for the first time. They're usually decent... it's harder than you'd think to really destroy a from-scratch dish if you follow the recipe. Of course, my favorite dishes don't have recipes that I've been able to find... that's why I want to start writing them down.
Normally I wouldn't write about something I made until I'd nailed it at least once, but my failure to make jelly has been delicious.  Backstory follows:
The stuff that makes jelly jel is called "pectin" and it's found in many natural foods, but apples are especially high in it. Specifically, apple peels and cores are high in it. That means if you use the flesh of an apple for cooking (these, for example), you could still use the skin and cores to make jelly. But isn't an apple jelly pretty bland? Of course it is. Solution: add jalapenos.
I threw all of my apple leftovers in a pot and added water until they were covered. Then I started boiling. I added a double handful of chopped jalapenos (we keep "nacho style" pickled jalapeno slices in the fridge) and cooked until the cooking liquid looked almost brown. I poured the liquid into a multi-cup measure (it was almost exactly 3 cups), got rid of the solids, poured the liquids back into the pot, and added 3/4 C of sugar and a shake of cinnamon for every cup of liquid.
Here's my mistake: I added extra water from the tap. I prefer jams to jellies because james are more spreadable, and I worried that I'd have too much pectin in the soup and that it would set up into a "hard" jelly that doesn't spread well out of the fridge. So I added one cup of water, cooked until the liquid was 220 degrees Fahrenheit, poured off into jars, and refrigerated.
That extra cup of water killed me. Instead of having a nice spicy jelly, I have something more the consistency of maple syrup. It drips everywhere. And it is delicious.

Seriously, it's incredible. It starts out tasting like apple honey, and then when you swallow it you get the bite from the peppers. It's awesome. I've had it by the spoon, over muffins, on peanut butter, and stirred into a glass of water. Next up: pancakes and pork chops (not at the same time).
I'll try making this again, and this time I'll leave out the extra water. I may go easier on the jalapenos, because it has enough kick that nobody else in the family will eat it. But I might leave the heat alone... that might be a valuable feature.

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