(Happy-Go-Lucky Memoirs of a Foodie and her Husband)

Friday, July 17, 2015

"Would Ya Please Pass The Jelly?"

I had a very large bottle of wine, opened and with not much of it drank, left at my house by a friend after an event that Husband and I hosted.  I am not much of a wine person, especially white wine, so I had no idea what to do with it; and because it was Moscato, it would be too sweet for cooking with.  After lamenting in passing about this “dilemma” in the proximity of other friends (I do hate to waste things, even if I didn’t pay for them), it was suggested that I make jelly out of it.  I didn’t know one could make jelly out of wine, but what the hell, right?  To the Internets I went researching, and soon enough, I had a plan and a box of pectin.  This, was, let’s not forget, my first foray into any kind of canning other than pickles, and I would most certainly categorize it as an experiment.  I will tell this story mostly via pictures.  Here goes...

The instructions that came with the Pectin - part 1.
The instructions that came with the Pectin - part 2.  I used the recipe shown
here for Sweet Grape juice.  (If you click on the photo, you should get a bigger version on
which the type should be large enough to read clearly.

The wine (this was a double-size bottle), after I poured what conveniently
amounted to exactly 4 cups of liquid into the pans); and the Pectin package.

Jar lids and bands, ready to be boiled.

Boiling the jars.
Pectin being scooped into the boiling liquid in the blender.

Blending the Pectin into the 1 cup of boiled wine.

After the jars were filled, back into the water they went to be boiled for 10 minutes.

Bubbles coming up and out.  (I had to put my glass casserole lid on top to weigh them down
because I didn't have enough product to fill both jars enough, and they wanted to float.)

Cooling down.

The next morning, I tried it out on an English muffin.  It's not the best color for photographing,
but when starting with white wine, there's not much that can be done about that.

Thoughts, musings, and what mt brain absorbed:
  1. I found it odd that this recipe didn’t call for any sugar at all.  I am sure when staring with actual fruit or fruit juice, it’s no big deal.  But I think the fact that I started with wine turned this out far less sweet than I would have wanted, despite the fact that Moscato is a pretty sweet wine to begin with.  The jelly is not bad and I won’t throw it away or call it a failure – but I can only give it a “meh” review for flavor.  Bottom line – I should have added sugar anyways.

  2. Regarding the Calcium Water – this brand of pectin and its instructions and website make it sound like using the calcium water is absolutely essential, or else their particular kind of pectin just won’t do its thing.  I don’t know about that.  After researching about pectin, liquid versus powdered, etc., I feel like the calcium water wasn’t truly necessary.  But I followed the instructions anyways because having some extra calcium in the jelly can’t hurt.

  3. Speaking of liquid versus powdered pectin – the original recipe that I found online and was planning to use called for liquid pectin and was simpler than this one, but we couldn’t find liquid pectin at the store.  So, I followed the package insert instructions from the brand we did find, exactly.  However, I did do a bunch of research about when and how to use liquid versus powdered pectin, and I feel confident now that I know what to do next time and/or can modify a recipe that calls for one or the other.  According to these links (Liquid Pectin Vs. Powdered Pectin and Canning 101: How to Substitute Pectin), the basic tenet is if you are using liquid pectin, you can throw it in close to the end of cooking; but if you’re using powdered, you should mix it into the sugar before you combine it with the fruit because it responds better when you cook it the entire time and also avoids the risk of pectin clumping that can happen if you add powdered pectin at the end of cooking.

  4. I want smaller canning jars.  The unused leftover ones I had on hand from when I made pickles were just too big, and I ended up with only two 3/4 full jars -- which is probably still too much jelly for us to consume before it goes bad after opening.  I will get some smaller ones for any future jelly making.
In the end, I feel as though I learned a lot insofar as the basics of canning (general method / basic concepts / procedure / order of operations).  I feel much more confident and less intimidated about it all and look forward to giving it another try sometime soon.  I also plan to try jams, preserves, some no-pectin recipes, etc.

Sometimes at work you were researching liquid v. powdered pectin, and leave the package
insert on your desk when you go to lunch, then this happens. Lol.  (That's my boss' handwriting.)

EDITED TO ADD:  After chatting with my boss about the bland-ish taste my jelly ended up with, she suggested (thinking in the realm of wine/food pairings) that next time I put some basil in the jelly.  Hmmm, very interesting.  Given how well hot peppers go in sweet jellies, I think this sounds like a good idea.  I am even considering melting this jelly down and re-canning it (because that’s a thing that can technically be done) into smaller jars, with the added basil.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

One Month of Veganism - Results

Today is the last official day of “One Month of Veganism.”  Out of the 30 days in June, I stuck to full veganism and followed the other prescribed “rules” (low salt, whole grains only, etc.) on 17 days.  For 8 days - I definitely “cheated” either all day or for parts thereof.  And the other 5 days, I didn’t keep good enough records to know for sure which way it went.  So, depending on how you look at those 5 mystery days (lumping them in with the 17 or the 8), I either succeeded 73.33% of the time, or succeeded 56.66% of the time.  Splitting the difference, let’s say I was vegan and followed the parameters an even 65% of the time.  Not great, but I made my choices knowingly, so it is what it is.  And it’s okay.  I’ll call it more positive than not.

Now, it wasn’t that it was difficult to stay on plan.  I wasn’t suffering in any way whatsoever.  I didn’t feel deprived or hungry – not in the least.  In fact, I really, really enjoyed this time.  We explored lots of new recipes, learned some new concepts, and picked up a few new cooking techniques.  It truly was an awesome adventure.

Food was SOOO good.  I mean, seriously, just lookit all them pretty colors!!  <--- pssst, click the link to see my Facebook album about all of this. 

Did I lose weight?  You bet.  On the days where I was consistent, I averaged -0.9 pounds per day.  But then I would cheat, which would either stop or temporarily reverse progress.  When all is said and done, I dropped about 10 pounds total (1/3 of a pound per day)….without exercising for one second, mind you!  It’s not as high a number as it could have been if I didn’t jump on and off the wagon the way I did, but that’s alright, because more importantly, at this stage, other changes in my body are pretty clear: clothes are fitting looser, cellulite is disappearing, things that were previously lumpy are flattening out, other stuff has tightened up, and while I haven’t had any blood tests or anything like that done, I do know that my resting pulse has dropped to below 70 (I just measured it right now).  That’s certainly an indication of improvement.  I have a regular doctor’s appointment in August, and will have everything else (cholesterol, liver values, kidney function, sugars, blood pressure, etc.) re-tested then.  Bottom line – I just feel great and I am happy.

So, what have I learned (or reinforced for myself) overall, insofar as eating goes?
  1. My body just feels better eating this way  -- less sluggish, more functional; seems more balanced, consistent and steady.  Also (TMI warning) -- less gassy, bloated, and....stiff, if that makes any sense at all.
  2. I am lactose intolerant.  Gluten?....I can say for sure has some effect on at least my gut that isn't nothing, though not at all anything major or serious or probably medically diagnosable or to the point of unhealthy/dangerous or that will make me stop eating gluten-y things entirely.  Same for lactose-y things.
  3. Most of the time, I like to think of animal products as a side dish rather the main event.
  4. We don’t need animal products every day, and because of that, we can be much, much pickier about where those that we do eat come from.
  5. Food is not a cure for boredom.
  6. Eating shouldn’t happen just because it’s “time to eat” or because there’s a spread looking you in the face at a party or somemsuch – i.e. only eat when you are actually hungry.
  7. Cooking at home is almost always better and tastier than eating out, and of course it's much easier to control things at home. 
  8. I need much less meat and cheese than I had been previously providing myself with, to be satisfied by them; the flavors go a long way without so much physical volume.
  9. I don’t tend to feel stuffed after meals anymore, and I require a lot less food in general than I used to think I did to be completely satiated.
  10. There is no need to suffer, or be deprived, or miss out, just because you are “eating right.”
  11. There is, of course, a time and place for total indulgence.  ;)
There's probably more but that's all I can remember right now.

I am not where I want to be weight-wise yet, and that’s my own fault.  I could have been much closer to it by now if I didn’t waver.  But I’ve landed myself on a very good trajectory, as expected, and as I stated in my original post, while I can't say "I am a vegan now" or that I will cut out any particular thing or set of items completely (frankly, I think it's unreasonable, and maybe too hard, and definitely no fun, to be that strict) -- I do plan to continue eating Nutritarian (pure, clean, whole, mostly vegan, low salt, low sugar, low fat) the majority of the time, and permanently, if for no other reason than it feels good and right to me.  I simply like it.  Thoughtful moderation. Sustainable personal choices.  It will bring me to my final goals sooner or later (probably sooner – like by the end of the summer, I truly believe).  And sure, I’ll stray when it’s rare and appropriate.  Like now, I just got back from a sushi lunch celebrating the month wrapping up.  Cheers!!

PS:  I know a lot of this sounds pretty food snobby and hippie-ish, and maybe preachy.  Sure, I am a food snob....and a bit of a hippie, I accept and embrace that -- but what I'm not is a preacher.  If someone asks me for advice or for my thoughts, I'll give them.  But I am not here to judge anyone else.  For example, if I go to an event and there's food, or someone cooks a meal and serves it to me, or I'm at a restaurant where I don't want to be a huge pain in the ass -- I'm not going to start asking questions about where the ingredients came from or how it was made, etc.  I will gladly and appreciatively take what is given.  Food is love.  And I love food of all kinds.