Have you ever made jelly at home? When I was first married, I had never known anyone who grew a garden, did any of their own canning or Put-Up their own jelly. See, I moved around... a LOT.
Shortly after marrying, I began to learn something about my good hubby-buddy; he was practically a Pioneer. When he said he was gonna' grow a garden, that is exactly what he set out to do; grow a real, live garden. In an earlier post, I told all about the first garden we ever had. If you read that post, this one prob'ly won't surprise you. On the other hand, if you haven't read that post and you are in the habit of making your own jelly, you might wanna' sit down to read the rest of this post...
We'd been married a couple of years and our first baby was only a month old. Having moved into the country to live, we (I) fully expected life to come to me, filled with romantic embellishments; sewing all our clothes, growing a garden, chopping wood... by now, you are pro'lly gettin' a pretty good picture of my distorted image of country living.
One day, shortly after my good hubby-buddy had left for work... 84 miles away... to work the graveyard shift, I was puttering around in the house and tending to the baby. Since I was a new mama and we had only been in the country about a week, I was feeling very Wifely and Mama-ish. I hadn't yet had a chance to learn the truth about country living; that there's just as much work, if not more, than anywhere else.
When the phone rang, I was quite surprised because very few people knew us in our new High-Desert community. Come to think of it, there weren't very many people TO know because neighbors were few and far-between. But that's a story for another day.
Anyway, as I was saying, the phone rang an' I jumped. I answered it, wondering if someone from my previous neighborhood was missing me; not likely, since I didn't know many people there, either. Much to my surprise, someone was about to give me my first hands-on lesson in how to survive away from the city and the suburbs.
"Would you like some jelly to put-up?" I had just met this lady the day before and those were the first words she spoke; no greetings or prelude to conversation.
I recall blinking a few times, before answering, "Put-up? You want me to store some jelly for you?"
"No, no! Haven't you ever made your own jelly?" She must have thought I was a total dunce.
I answered with as much dignity an' intelligence as I could muster, "Uuuuuuuuhhhhh... "
It seemed to me that her next words were spoken very slowly, as though she were explaining to a small child... or a simpleton. "Sweetie. All - you - hafta' - do - is - pour - it - in - a - jar - an' - pour - some - paraffin-wax - over - it. I've already mixed it up."
"Oh, is that all? I could do that." I was so blindly Naïve as to think I could actually accomplish what I perceived as child's play.
"Why, sure you can," she replied. Her confidence in me was contagious.
Soon, I was happily Putting-Up my own jelly. Thoughts of how proud my good hubby-buddy would be kept me from asking any further questions. After all, I didn't wanna' seem dumb... again.
Fast-forward six months: Again, we had moved (someday, I'll tell you 'bout the horror of living in that last place; it was not pretty). As we sat down to the dinner table, I decided that jelly would go very nicely with whatever other food we were having, so I naturally reached for the jelly I had personally Put-Up.
Imagine my shock when that homemade jelly didn't taste anything like ANY jelly I had ever tasted. Why, that woman was a terrible cook, I concluded. Turned out that my good hubby-buddy was a much better judge of where the problem lay. He started laughing. And kept laughing, until tears were running down his cheeks. I. Was. Not. Impressed.
"This isn't jelly," he finally stated. "This is wine!"
I wasn't sure whether to laugh or cry. That woman had Tricked me! "Why would she DO that," I demanded. "I Trusted her! She said all I hadda' do was pour it in jars an' pour paraffin-wax on top an' let it set an' I would have jelly." I was irate.
Suddenly, the laughing stopped and... did I detect a tone of PATIENCE when he spoke? "It's not her fault. She told you to use jars; NOT plastic drinking glasses! The plastic allowed the jelly to turn to wine." Although a grin tugged at the corners of his lips, I must give him credit for not laughing again.
I was devastated. I had made wine from perfectly good jelly-juice. I'm sure that summa' my descriptions aren't technically correct, so I hope you'll forgive me if you know the proper terms. Since I hardly ever cook, much less grow, Can or put-up anything for future consumption, that was my one and only effort at Putting-Up jelly. The stress level was jus' too much for me.
By the way, I jus' found this on University of Minnesota/Extension website ~ Note: Jelly jars and paraffin are no longer recommended. An incomplete seal with paraffin and the absence of a heat treatment may result in mold growth and toxin production in the jelly. Persons continuing to use the paraffin/no water bath method should be aware of the potential health risk.
Until the next time, keep a hug on.