I’m not sure what’s up with me lately, but I seem to be going through a domestic rash of wanting to see if I can make things from scratch. I have been operating on that great hubris-inspired motto – “How hard can it be?”
The answer – as it usually is to this question – is “harder than I thought.”
Now, generally, I think I’m a decent cook. I was raised by and around good cooks and I’ve never been intimidated by the process. I find it fun and interesting to try new recipes and it usually works out fine. Not so this week.
Project one: pepper jelly. I was actually first introduced to this stuff just a few months ago when I went to Seattle. While in the Pike Place market, I spent quite a lot of time at Mick’s Peppourri Pepper Jelly shop tasting samples. (I’m going to recommend the spicy raspberry but there were a lot of great ones.) Then when we were in Hawaii, we went to the Kapi’olani Saturday Farmers Market and found these guys. I bought the spicy passion fruit one and we had it with boursin cheese and it was sublime.
And then I looked at the side of the jar. Here’s what it said: Passion Fruit, Sugar, Pectin, Chili. That’s it. And I thought to myself, “Just hang on a second here, self; surely you can replicate this.”
So I came home and read several pepper jelly recipes on the internet. If you have ever done such a thing, or if you’ve gone so far as to make it, you probably thought the same thing I thought, which was, “Holy crap, that’s a lot of sugar!” For those of you who haven’t done this and were happy in their ignorant jam-eating bliss, I’m about to wreck it for you, so look away now if you’re a blue pill kind of person. Here it is: jam generally has twice as much sugar as fruit in it, sometimes more.
But whatever. Due to the fact that passion fruit is not easy to find here, I decided to go with cranberry and lots of red chilis. I halved the sugar, because surely that had to be a typo or something. And I more or less followed some instructions.
What I ended up with was some very tasty cranberry pepper juice. Further research has since told me that the extreme amounts of sugar are necessary to make the jelly set. It’s something to do with chemistry. I almost got a B in chemistry once, and I’ll admit I might have trash-talked it a little in revenge. So here that is coming back to bite me in the ass. Karma’s a bitch.
If you have thoughts on things to do with spicy cranberry juice, let me know. I have a feeling it would make a nice glaze for a ham, but I don’t eat ham, so that’s kind of moot.
Project 2 – yogurt. We eat a lot of yogurt. A cup each every morning. Yogurt comes in plastic tubs of 750 mL and we’ve been feeling pretty guilty about all the plastic. Even recycling it, it’s still a lot of plastic. So on Sunday when I saw a recipe to make yogurt that looked pretty easy and did not involve a special yogurt making machine, I figured I should give it a try.
The instructions were to mix two tablespoons of room temperature yogurt with two cups of warm milk. I was to preheat the oven to 350 degrees and then turn it off and put my milk mixture in there in a glass dish with a lid all wrapped in a towel and leave it there for six hours.
After six hours I had sour milk. So I tried adding another two tablespoons of yogurt and preheating to 400 degrees. I gave it another several hours. It’s closer. Now it is definitely yogurt-like. It is, however, very thin. Like a yogurt drink. Progress I suppose, but now I am plotting my next move.
I think it might involve cheesecloth.