Wednesday, October 13, 2010

How to screw up a recipe - twice!

It seems this is not my month. Colette and I did our latest Canjam creation last night ( recipe and more on that in another post) and we had a minor glitch. Our jelly was gorgeous and delicious but the pectin was granulated and it remained gritty even after processing. This was likely because we used a no sugar version of pectin in a recipe that required a ton of sugar. This is a rookie mistake; we both know better but we used what we had on hand and hoped for the best. And in all honesty it wasn't terrible. The texture was not the best but it was certainly edible. But I wasn't content- since I started teaching canning workshops this summer I've become a lot more picky about the results. In addition, I have begun to sell some of my preserves at local markets so my standards have gotten higher. In addition to proper sterilization techniques, which I have always be strict about, I am also more concerned with things like appearance and texture. After all if someone is going to pay for one of my products they deserve the best quality I can make. I do all my canning for sale in a commercial kitchen (to abide by local health regulations) but a lot of my test runs are still done at home, where we can taste the results ( and the mistakes.)

So when I checked the jelly this morning and it was no better, I decided to see what could be done to fix it. First I called the pectin manufacturer and was thoroughly chastised by the rep for using the wrong product- very helpful. She actually had no answers and was unable to comment on my suggestions, thanks for nothing. I tried the internets with similar results- no help there. So I decided to empty all the jars back into a pot and reheat it. Sure enough, all the granules began to homogenize, but now there's another problem. Reheating destroyed the pectin so now I had a lovely runny syrup. The instructions that come inside the pectin do have advice on what do if your jelly doesn't set. You use another package of pectin, dissolved in water and heated to boiling and add it back to the jelly. Boil the jelly for 30 secs, then turn off heat and stir for 5 more minutes. I used only half the package ( and water), followed the instructions to the letter and got something that no longer even resembles food! I'm serious- this stuff began to gel as soon as I turned the heat off and stirring only made it worse. When I attempted to pour it in jars it fell in chunks. I processed it anyhow in case the heat of the canner would help somehow but there is no saving this stuff. It resembles chunks of rubber cement with bits of pepper and tastes about the same.

This is one batch that is headed straight for the green bin - but at least I can reuse the jars!

On that appetizing note, I will be selling my Backyard Farms preserves at the Drake Hotel in Toronto this weekend as part of their Fall Market. The market is free and happens rain or shine - I will be there Saturday and Sunday from 10 -4 so if you are in the area, come by and say hi!

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