I wish I’d watched a bit more closely and carefully when Mom was making jelly. There were lots of opportunities; she’d make various kinds every year when I was growing up. Apple and blackberry would come from our own produce. Peach would come from our trips to the orchard. In my barely paying attention-sourced recollections, it seemed to me she’d cook the jelly for quite a while. I remember the foam that formed in the big saucepan as she’d stir. I also remember getting to eat the foam after she’d skimmed it off.
I remember small jars lined up on the countertop, almost filled with jelly, leaving just enough room for a layer of paraffin. After the jelly had cooled overnight, she’d melt those waxy bars over a pan of boiling water, then tilt into each jar a clear runny layer that soon turned white in its cooling. After that, she’d screw on lids. Mom gave away jelly at Christmas pretty much every year but always had more than enough left over to last the season for her own family.
I thought of her last night while I was trying my hand at making apple cider jelly. Flavor-wise, it was a fine success. I followed the directions right to the letter or at least to the best of my ability to follow the back-and-forth the way the directions were laid out in the Sure-Jell™ pamphlet. In my case, turns out the trademark is a bit misleading. I guess Sort-of Jell wouldn’t pack the same punch in the consumer’s mind but that’s exactly what I ended up with.
It’s not a total shock since the pamphlet also included a significant section about “What to do if your jelly doesn’t jell…” I haven’t decided yet what I’m going to do about that. I remember that sometimes Mom’s jelly didn’t set up the way she wanted it. She didn’t give those batches away as gifts but she didn’t throw them away either. “It’ll be thick enough once it’s set in the refrigerator a while. Besides,” she’d say with a grin, “that just makes it spread easier.”
It’s easier to live with some failures than others. Especially those that taste great on a warm piece of buttered toast.