An Update From the DIY Trenches

So, remember how last week I was all DO ALL THE THINGS!!

Well, we did!

We started two projects in the last week. The first was to redo our stairs — from carpet to wood — and the second was to make our own apple jelly.

Remember when you were younger, and you would go out with friends and drink a lot, and then wake up the next morning and swear “I am NEVER. DRINKING. AGAIN”?

Well, unless things improve in the next 12 hours… I am NEVER. MAKING. APPLE. JELLY. AGAIN.

I started out full of excitement and optimism. I got a family recipe, which instructed me to buy 20 lbs of apples. So I did. Well, I bought 18 pounds, which was, as it turns out, way too many apples.

More on that later.

I also bought a packet of Certo and some jars and lids. I duly washed and sterilized them in preparation.

So the next thing to do was peel and core the apples, putting the peels and cores into a pot and the apple into the freezer for pies and whatnot. Done! But I was only halfway through my bags of apples and my biggest pot was getting dangerously full. So I figured, I can do another batch.


So the next instruction was to put water in the pot and boil the peels and cores until they were soft. Which I did. I boiled those suckers for an hour, until they were nice and mushy and made lots of good juice.


It was then I opened the packet of Certo, because my recipe said at this point to follow the instructions. And that is where it all went to hell in a handcart.

Because I learned two valuable things at this point: one, that you need A METRIC CRAPTON OF SUGAR to make jelly, and two, YOU ACTUALLY NEED TO FOLLOW THE INSTRUCTIONS GIVEN BY YOUR PECTIN MAKER AND MEASURE EXACTLY OR IT WILL ALL GO TO SHIT.

Which, of course, I hadn’t. Because I didn’t realize that there WAS a recipe until THAT VERY SECOND. I had not measured my apples. I didn’t measure my water. I certainly had no idea that I would need THAT MUCH SUGAR.

So I quickly got in the car and went out and bought a couple of kilos of sugar, and raced home again.

I tried to carry on, following the recipe as best I could, adding the sugar and the lemon juice and the pectin and the cinnamon as precisely as possible, but by that time, I had no idea how much liquid I was dealing with. But rough estimates put it at WAY TOO FUCKING MUCH. I had to divide my batch in two, and the recipe was all DON’T TRY TO MAKE TOO MUCH IN ONE BATCH, YOU FOOL! IT WILL ALL END IN TEARS!

And it did. Well, not really. What it ended in was essentially apple-flavoured sugar water, which did not set up very much at all, except to become kind of syrupy.

18 JARS OF GOLDEN APPLE SLOSH. I was fucked right off, let me tell you.

So off to the interwebs raced I, to see what the hell I could do. And that is where I learned that yes, you must DO EXACTLY WHAT IT SAYS ON THE PECTIN BOX OR YOU ARE SO FUCKING SCREWED. I also learned that you can reboil your mix, add in more pectin/sugar/lemon juice/crushed fairy wings/unicorn tears and a little witchcraft and maybe, just maybe, it will work out.

So, once again today, I went to the store, bought more pectin and whatnot, and came home. I emptied out all the apple syrup into a big pot, and washed and sterilized all the stupid goddamn jars and rings and lids. I measured everything EXACTLY. And then I stood in a hot steamy kitchen in 32 degree humidex and tried to salvage this mess.

It went differently, certainly. For one thing, I had to use an entirely different brand and type of pectin, but it did boil and foam and do what was expected by the recipe. It also seemed to be gelling a little bit as I was ladling it into jars. So that was promising.

And some jar lids were making that happy popping sealing sound as they began to cool, which gave me momentary hope.

But… it’s not looking good. Well, one half the batch might be okay. It’s starting to seem to have the consistency of very loose jello. But the other?

Still looking sloshy.

Now, I am a pretty good cook, by all accounts. I can make stews and soups and sauces and meats. I can bake the everloving crap out of just about any recipe for baked goods you care to name.

But this? This gelatinous apple monstrosity? Has got me beaten.

And I tell you truly, I am tired and sticky and pissed. AND I have 10 pounds of apples still sitting on my basement floor.

WHAT THE HELL AM I GOING TO DO WITH 10 POUNDS OF APPLES? Nobody in this family even EATS apples, unless they are incorporated into something else. And I honestly don’t even want to LOOK at another apple for a few days.

So we’ll have a look at the jars tomorrow but if things don’t improve, I am dumping that mess down the sink. I am tired of messing with it.

Now, I could tell you about our construction project… but I am sticky and foul and need a shower. So it will have to wait.

But I will have pictures to show you so that will be fun.

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