It seemed like a good idea at the time.
We had many opened-and-recorked bottles of red wine in the house, because Tom was preparing an article about Chianti Classico for publication in QRW. He’d received a lot of sample bottles, of which we’d tasted only a few ounces from each. Much as we both love Chianti, there’s a limit to how many consecutive dinners we want to drink it with. And though recorked, it wouldn’t keep the way never-opened bottles do.
And those are only the tip of the iceberg.
So, after I’d filled the vinegar making crock up to the brim, I began musing about ways to cook with some of that wine. In stews, sauces, marinades . . . . But there’s also a limit to how many dishes of that sort one wants to eat in close succession. Aha! What about some wine jelly? That would be an interesting experiment: I’d never made jelly before. I’m a jam person. But it looked easy enough, I had the equipment, and I had one envelope of pectin left from the strawberry, peach, and pineapple jams I’d made in the summer and fall.
So off I went, following a recipe from the Internet that used a whole bottle of wine to make four cups of jelly. I liked it because, instead of briefly boiling all the wine with sugar, as most recipes do, it called for taking some of the wine and separately boiling it way down, to intensify the flavor, before adding it to the standard wine-sugar mix. So I did that while the rest of the wine was simmering with sugar and the jelly jars were sterilizing in a big pot of water.
The cooking didn’t take long, and I quickly ladled the mixture of sugared wine, pectin, lemon juice, a speck of butter (for anti-foaming), and the reduced wine into one-cup jelly jars
and set them into my steam processor, so they’d be preserved for long-term storage in the pantry.
After 10 minutes under the steam dome I took the jars out and left them to cool on a rack and sit undisturbed for 24 hours. The recipe assured me that, though the jelly would still be fluid at first, it would gel properly after that much time.
Well, it didn’t.
The next day the syrup in each jar was just as thin as when it came off the stove. So my jelly failed. I don’t feel entitled to blame the recipe, though. I confess that the envelope of pectin I used had been in my freezer for months. When I’d put it in there I had no idea whether pectin could survive defrosting, but I thought I’d take a chance with it. Now I rather strongly suspect that it can’t. We live and learn.
Anyway, the wine wasn’t entirely wasted. After tasting the syrup, I poached pears in it.
For that, it was just fine.