today was a battle between personal pursuits versus work responsbilities. i promised myself the errands i'd need to run would take up a few early hours at most, then i could spent the rest of the day devoted to coding. good in theory, bad in practice. i ended up working very little today, which means a cram session sunday night building something for a monday delivery.
the mail arrived early this morning for some reason (usually it doesn't come until midafternoon), the regular mailman must be taking a day off. on my doorstep was a package from dealextreme. i'd been waiting for a whole month for my stuff to arrive, and normally this would be the highlight of the day, but i was preoccupied with my other activities. i did test out the new rear bike light though. it was supposed to be super bright, but i don't think it's better than my old rear bike light (the one that's broken and will turn off whenever i hit anything on the road). this one only has 3 LED's while my old one has 9 LED's. the new light does have a magnifying lens while makes one of the LED's seem super bright - but only if you look at it directly.
so off i went via motorcycle to the assembly square mall. i knew k-mart sells canning jars, at least according to their website. they carried an assortment of different jars, sold by the dozen, from wide mouth 16 oz. jars, to new quilted style, to smaller 8 oz. sizes. they even sold replacement caps and packets of jellifying pectin. i memorized the prices and figured i'd do some comparison shopping in case there was a better deal in one of the other nearby stores. i also checked out some bicycle tires and inner tubes.
next i went to tj maxx. i thought maybe there large home goods department would carry some canning jars, but the closest thing they had were individual decorative jars. i went to bed bath and beyond. surely they must carry some! i asked somebody for help, and he directed me to several empty shelves where the jars should be. the guy told me usually when people buy them it's by the boxes, so their stock of canning jars go out the door pretty fast. he said come back next week, when they get fresh inventory. i went to ac moore. a crafts store would carry canning jars, for sure! they had jars, but only the larger 32 oz. sizes, which i already have several (from my father) but entirely unsuitable as jelly jars (way too big). finally, the christmas tree shoppe. canning jars seem like something right up there alley. unfortunately they were similar to tj maxx, expensive decorative jars only.
so after more than 30 minutes worth of additional comparison shopping, i went back to k-mart to pick up my jars. i ended up going with the last box of standard 16 oz., the pint size, which equals 2 cups. i also grabbed a new bicycle tire with comfort treads instead of mountain bike treads. it was a 26" bell brand tire ($15.99), suitable for wheel widths between 1.75" to 2.125" (mine was 2.00"). it has an embedded ring of kevlar to prevent punctures. i also grabbed a 26" inner tube. i went with the slightly more expensive self sealing variety ($8.39), figuring the couple of extra bucks would ensure i wouldn't get a flat tire.
so the plan was to get back home, cook my jelly, then get to work. unfortunately i had to sterilize the canning jars in the dishwasher first, which takes a while. i could've used that time to do some coding, but instead i went to work on the bicycle wheel. like i said yesterday, i'd never worked on another bicycle before. this morning i was using the soapy water technique to try and find the leak on the old tube. when that didn't work, i filled enough of the bathtub to submerged the tube (no small feat, i forgot that a filled tube tends to float). i still couldn't find the leak. if i had to guess, i think the air is probably coming out from that double patched point. it wasn't like i was trying to put the tube back (now when i bought a fancy new self-sealing tube), but it'd be nice to a fixed tube as a backup in case i ever run across another flat (no chance on this particular wheel with the self-sealing and the kevlar).
the first and only time i ever reassembled a bicycle wheel was last year with the help of that one older roommate who never left the house and smoked all the time (he actually wasn't a bad roommate, i sort of miss him actually). anyway, he had some bicycle repair skills from years of riding them in china as a kid. he was the only one who actually put in the tube and then the tire for me, while i stood around to supervise, so it was nice to finally change a bike tire on my own. everything was going great until i got to the final piece of tire. i just couldn't tuck it into the rim. it was a real feat of strength, and after a length struggle, i finally popped it through. that's when i realized the treads were facing in the wrong direction. i read this actually doesn't matter for street bikes, but it's the principle of it all, so i ended up disassembling everything (harder than putting on the tire for some reason) then putting it all back together again for a second time.
it's kind of an overkill, installing a fancy wheel on such a crappy bike. i'm just afraid that i'll get too involved with the repairs and not realize the money i spend fixing it up could be used to simply buy a new bike instead. besides the brake and clutch lines (which are essential, and needs to be replaced before the bike is rideable), the bike could also use a new seat, and definitely a rear bike rack if i want to use it to carry stuff. it also needs some lights for night riding (or at least the mounts so i can clip on my normal set of bike lights).
with the jars almost finished washing, it was time to boil the quince juice. earlier i combined the juices from the two extraction pots and then scoops everything into another pot to figure out how many cups of juice i had. surprisingly, it was 8 cups, same as last time. i was expecting more for some reason, since i had a better mesh colander (maybe it doesn't make a difference).
same steps as before, except this time i stirred constantly, to prevent the foam from forming into a layer of surface jelly. i began at 3:10 and didn't finish until an hour later, just constantly stirring with a spoon. you think it'd be boring, but it actually went by pretty quick. 8 cups of juice meant 8 cups of sugar, which increased the amount of liquid by a significant amount. all that would be reduced though, boiling as much water, leaving just quince essence and sugar. the mistake i made last time was i was simmering more than i was boiling. this time i turned up the heat as much as possible, turning it down only when it looked like it might overflow. maybe if i had a taller pot this wouldn't be a concern; in my case, i only had about an inch worth of clearance. the boiling prevents the surface from cooling, so there was no jellified surface, but i had to keep on stirring to prevent it from boiling over.
boiling quince juice takes me back to 8th grade, when we performed a fractional distillation of wood in science class. more than 2 decades later, i still remember that epochal experiment!
once the temperature reach 105°C, it was time to do the cold plate test. the first few drips turned soupy solid. that was when i stopped the boiling the last time, but i was determined to reach the magical jelly point. the semi-solid jelly was so delicious i found myself shamelessly licking the plate clean. i kept on boiling, stirring constantly, and testing on the plate. finally i reached a point where the drops solidified completely.
here's where i made my last mistake. as soon as i stopped boiling, the foamy surface of the liquified jelly quickly solidified. i should've just skimmed it off first, but i pushed it to the side while i worked quickly to fill my canning jars. i managed fill 2 jars completely, before all i had left was ugly leftovers in the pot. i turned on the stove, hoping i could boil the foamy chunks back into liquid again, but it was too late, and any additional boiling might scorch the jelly. i ended up just mixing everything together and pouring it into one last jar. even though, i still had some left over, while i poured into a porcelain spoon, bonus jelly.
the first thing i noticed was the sexy dark amber coloration of jelly 2.0. i thought jelly 1.0 was pretty, but i know now that was just orange; jelly 2.0 is really a reddish amber. filling 3 16 oz. jars meant i managed to produce 6 cups worth of jelly from 8 cups of quince juice and 8 cups of sugar. how does 16 cups of something produce only 6 cups of something else? where did the other 12 cups go? evaporated? this is jelly magic! and i'm not jelly scientist, so i don't have an answer.
taste-wise i think 2.0 tastes like 1.0, except 2.0 is more solid (jelly-like), while 1.0, more than a week later, is still a little soupy. freshly made quince jelly does have a very complex flavor. i also found out why so many jelly recipes ask for the addition of lemon juice. apparently for jelly to form, you need pectin, sugar, and acid. quince, being naturally high in pectin and sour like nobody's business, doesn't require any additional acidity provided by the lemon. quinces are essentially the perfect jelly fruit, minus the sugar.
so what's next? i still have enough quince fruits to make two more batches of jelly. i maybe try my hands at making quince marmalade for 3.0. also the 16 oz. jars are still too big. i think the 8 oz. sizes make for better jelly jars. i may pick some up this weekend, saving the 16 oz. for some future canning projects.
did i get back to work? only marginally. i looked over some stuff, but never got around to any actual coding. today was just one of those days where i didn't feel like working. of course this means at least parts of the weekend will be sacrificed in to make up for this, but that's how procrastination works. why do something today when you can do it tomorrow?
since i basically gave up on being productive today (work-related, anyway), i went further in my decadence and downloaded a copy of AMC's walking dead that's been circulating on the internet. that first episode was awesome and now i'm hooked. not sure if the same mad men audience will flock to a series about the zombie apocalypse, but i applaud AMC for having the guts to put a show like this on basic cable. not even HBO has a zombie series! (although they do have the supernatural true blood). walking dead is shockingly graphic in its depiction of violence and gore, which kind of goes without saying for any zombie projects. there's nothing subtle about zombies.
i had a can of raviolis for dinner while pau had his fried potatoes and fried porkchop. later he said a group of astrophysicists were getting together in central square and asked if i wanted to come. "it's 10:00 already!" i said incredulously, probably inadvertently revealing how old i really am. after pau left, i made myself some instant yang rou paomo (shredded bread dipped in mutton soup).