So I went to the Superstition Ranch Market in Apache Junction and bought strawberries to make jam. Only, I got a little excited by the cheapness of the berries (3 pounds for buck!) and bought 25 pounds. Then I called Melanie, who told me I only need 2 pounds for a batch. Errrr....
Yeah, exactly. I started to sweat. So I stopped at the nearby Wal-Mart to get more jars and pectin, where I saw lots more people without teeth than I normally see in the general population. Then I came home and started to work.
Guess what! Canning fruit is way more fun than canning meat! There is no fleshy, bloody mess, and the cooking fruit smells hot-sugary-good like IHOP. (I know you always come here for my practical advice and insights. So there you go. Now you know.)
And my jam was good! And so easy! And I made strawberry syrup, too. And it was good, and even easier!
So after that, I got terribly cocky. And smug. It was really unattractive. I began to think I had Martha-like-super-hero-jam-skillz. So it was in this self-righteous state of mind that I thought, I should make marmalade.
Because I have this whole tree full of lemons. And because I found this website in England where people talk about making their marmalade, and putting it in their bread and butter puds (short for pudding, I think), and on their blueberry scones with their clotted cream, and I started to get hungry.
Oh! And I can't forget to mention that these people are serious about their marmalade. They do not, under any circumstances, use pectin from their Sainsburys or Marks & Spencers. They wrap their pips (seeds, I think) and pith in cheesecloth and simmer it with their tiny pieces of hand cut rind for 2 hours, then squeeze the gooey mess out of the cheesecloth and into the pot to make sure there are no artificial flavors in their hoity-toity, life-changing marmalade.
One of them even said she is the Queen's Official Marmalader. (No, I'm lying. I'm sure the Marmalader is a hereditary position, and that person would never share tips and recipes on the internets. Duh.)
Anyhow, I was totally buying the aristocratic, Euro-style jam they were selling. Course, they would never actually sell it. For money. Isn't classy. (Like the word classy isn't classy. Is fun irony, no?)
So, everything went fairly well through the simmering, but then when I squeezed in my pithy sludge and added sugar, things went horribly wrong. They said to turn the heat up extra high for 15 minutes. But they didn't say that bits of flying lemon sugar would leap angrily from the pot like fiery projectiles of volcanic ash, burning my hands and arms, and parts of my forehead. I ran out to the garage to get safety goggles.
And to check the recipe and comments again. Cause nobody mentioned that she got marmalade in her bangs (fringe, she might call it) when she cooked up her Seville oranges and Meyer lemons on her antique wood-burning stove in her little cottage on the sea in Cornwall, or that he got second degree burns on his knees from wearing a kilt while attempting to stir grapefruit conserves in his castle in the Scottish highlands.
When I got back, it was burned. Lemon toffee. I canned it anyhow.
So that when I look at it, I will remember when I tried to be a fancy Jammer, ran before I could walk, and crashed and burned (am literally burned. Is a hard lesson).
Please, people. If you can learn anything from my failure, learn this:
Just go to the Dog Track Wal-Mart* and buy some pectin. Don't get uppity. Smile wide and friendly at the people with no teeth. They know what you didn't: that pectin in boxes is a miracle of the modern world, like contact lenses and TIVO.
I wonder if Amish people use Sure Gell?
* The Wal-Mart in Apache Junction shares its parking lot with the dog track. No, I'm not kidding.
Have you even made jam? Did it work?
What is your biggest kitchen failure?