like yesterday, pau went to work an hour later than usual, around 11:00. he borrow my "action mount" so he could attach his point-and-shoot camera onto the handlebar of his bicycle and make a movie of his ride to the office on a colorful new england autumn day.1
i began the next step of the quince jelly making process: collecting the dripped juices. to my surprise, even though i used less quince, i ended up with 10 cups of liquid, the most i've ever had. what gives? i don't think it's because i added more water: just the usual, an inch above the chopped quince layer. maybe it's because i boiled the fruit a bit longer to get a more liquefied mash with less solids. the leftover purée looked drier than usual. i was actually worried that i got so much juice. would everything fit into the boiling pot? bear in mind that also includes 10 cups of sugar.
i went down to the basement to install the newly-fixed rear wheel back onto the trek bicycle. with a bucket of warm water and a sponge i washed the bike in the backyard. i decided to take it out and give it a test ride; up to this point i've only ever ridden it for a few yards in the confines of the cafe basement. this would also give me a chance to see what else is broken and needs fixing. a made a short trip to the dollar store, looking for some steel wool (they didn't have any). the bike is taller than what i'm used to, and the 26" wheels feel like i'm going a bit farther was less pedaling. sitting on the seat, i can still touch the ground with my tiptoes if i lean it a little bit. i didn't like the mountain bike style front wheel; it seemed more to grip than actually rolling. i could change it so it matches the comfort style treads on the rear tire, but for now i'll hold off, don't want to spend anymore money on this bike than necessary. both brakes worked fine with responsive stopping power. however, none of the gear shifts worked. the knob for the front gear seemed stuck, and although the rear shifter managed to hit all 7 points, nothing was happening to the derailleur. at the very least the shifter cables needed to be replaced.
i came home to switch rides; with my motorcycle i headed off to the somerville target, looking for some replacement bike cables. 2 young women were camped out in the bicycle aisle, one was absorbed with texting, with another was trying out various bike helmets. "i like this one, it matches my outfit," she said to her friend, who just nodded without looking up from her smartphone. anyway, no cables at target. i was surprised they carried some bell stuff as well, just like at k-mart. having said that, next i went to home depot to finally get some steel wool (00 grade, good for metal polishing) before dropping by k-mart. they didn't have any cables the last time, and they still haven't restocked the shelves yet. i left empty-handed, but decided to try the sporting goods store a few automatic sliding doors down. they had a whole fleet of bicycles for sale (mostly diamondback brand in unimaginative hybrid styles) and sure enough they carried what i was looking for.2
i started to gather up the equipment for the final quince juice boil. that's when i realized i might not have enough sugar to make it to 10 cups. i went across the street and bought a brick of sugar just in case. it was another unseasonably warm day, but most likely the last one, according to the weather forecasters. i felt sad knowing this would be the last time it'd be this warm for a while. starting tomorrow, daytime temperature will be back in the 50's and 40's.
turns out i didn't need to buy extra sugar after all, since i ended up with exactly 10 cups of sugar with what i already had. boiling still had to wait until i could disinfect all the 8 oz. jelly jars in the dish washer first.
while waiting for the dish washer to finish, i continued working on the trek bike, now inside the house in the back of the kitchen. in order to replace the brake and shifter cables i first had to remove the old ones. that was easier said than done unfortunately. since this bike was never washed and seemed to have spent some time in salt water conditions (thanks to new england winters), a lot of the bolts were rusted shut. i couldn't release the pinch bolt on the front derailleur, nor the one holding the rear brake cable in place. despite the fact that the brakes seemed to be working, the rubber brake pads felt like hard plastic from being so old and would need to be replaced...if only i could release the 5mm hex bolts, all four rusted shut.
with the jars nearly done in the washer, it was time to boil. i was afraid the added sugar would overflow the liquid in the pot, but it wasn't that bad. i definitely had less headroom to work with, but as long as i monitor the boiling rate of the quince juice, it should be okay.
i started at 5:13 and officially turned off the heat by 6:10, so nearly an hour. the whole time i was stirring nonstop. instead of slowly adding the sugar like in the past 2 times, i dumped it all in in quick succession. that was a mistake, as the sugar congealed into a translucent blob that blocked the juice from properly boiling and big angry bubbles started to form. i stirred the pot more diligently, breaking apart as much sugar as i could. stirring is the key. stepping away for just a few seconds and the foam on the surface will solidify. the only way to prevent that without constant stirring is to turn up the heat for a more vigorous boil, but that in turn creates more foam, risking the danger of an overflow. the trick is to find that happy medium and to continue stirring, denying the foam a change to become weak surface jelly.
once the temperature reached 105°C, i turned off the stove. i wasn't entirely happy with the cold plate test: the droplets were solidifying, but i wasn't quite sure if it was as solid as jelly 1.0, which i was trying to recreate. i decided over the weekend (through some taste testing) that a softer more liquid jelly is better than the harder drier jelly. softer jelly sort of melts in your mouth while harder jelly just hangs around. harder jelly is more like the jelly you buy in stores, but softer jelly is what makes homemade jelly more special.
with the boiling stopped, it was time to pour the liquified jelly into the 8 oz. jars. learning from my mistake last time, i scooped out the foam jelly on the surface to enhance the purity of the jelly experience, free of unsightly foam bits. i found a ladle with 2 pouring spouts which greatly eased the transfer. i ended up with 9 jars of quince jelly (72 oz. total).
while researching quince jelly recipes, i came across a description that particularly stuck in my mind: that quince jelly is like bottling the essence of autumn in a jar. each jar of amber colored jelly is so beautiful, i almost don't want to eat them, and would be perfectly happy to put them on a windowsill as decorations. the 8 oz. quilted jars are definitely a better fit than the 16 oz. canning jars i got a week earlier. i like listening to them pop as one by one the heat vacuum seals the jars. i also liked holding the warm jars in my hands and admiring my handiwork.
pau didn't get home until well after 1:00, which was for the best, since i decided to do a load of laundry around midnight (noisy), and only just finished drying (noisier) right before he got back. yes, even in the middle of the night, clean clothes is very important to me. my roommate not being home thursday evening meant i was spared having to watch the big bang theory. i watched it anyway though, since the show i'd normally be watching - community - was postponed until 8:30. zombie theme! too bad i was simultaneously websurfing and didn't pay close attention to the show (i'll watch it again later as a download).
1 below is a snippet of the movie pau shot from his bicycle this morning on his way to work (i couldn't get it to play back in a browser window; try saving it to your desktop if you want to watch the video). the quality is surprisingly good. i was expecting more shaking, but since the camera is mounted to the handlebar, the effect is similar to a smooth continuous tracking shot, with the occasional jitter due to a pot hole. with his panasonic point-and-shoot capturing at 848x480 highest quality, 7:11 minutes of footage saved out to 683MB, about the size of a standard CD-ROM disc. the next project would be to mount the camera onto a helmet, but i expect there to be more shaking.
2 it was only after i opened the package of bicycle cables did i realize they wouldn't work with my bike. indexed shifters need special cable housing in order to work (parallel wires instead of wired spiral), not the ones that i got (bell sports bike fix cable set, $4.99). i may keep them anyway to repair a few old bikes, if the store wouldn't allow me to return it (i had to cut the packaging in order to get to the cables; it was impossible to get to them otherwise).