Ten years of Valentines Days with Greg and I can scarcely think of one when we had a traditional romantic date. That's just not our thing. One year I stood in a line at the Seattle airport for five hours waiting for a flight to San Francisco, where Greg spent his day waiting for me. Usually we order takeout and watch a movie at home. Of course, the very first year we stumbled upon a performance at the Civic Center in Des Moines--show tunes and love songs and the Des Moines symphony. Dressed to the nines in pajama pants and tennis shoes, we convinced the attendants to let us in for free just after intermission, our most convincing argument being that "We're beautiful people." It was meant as a joke, but next thing we knew, there we were sitting next to couples decked out in tuxedos and sequined gowns. The unexpected magic of that moment seems to have set the stage for the last decade, and I find myself not needing February's calendar to remember how lucky in love I am.
Greg and I may not exchange gifts on this holiday, but that's not to say that a couple of heart-covered, chocolate-filled packages don't find their way to my mailbox each year. One of these is always from my mom, and the other is always from my mom's and my dear friend, Sue.
My mom, who has a Mary Poppins-like ability to fill a box with three times the treats and trinkets than should physically be able to fit into it, layers tissue paper and confetti and dried flowers between her gifts. Keep looking, and there's always another treasure peeking out from somewhere. Sue, who is really one of the classiest women I know, maintains a tradition of covering the outside of her Valentines packages with Snoopy valentines and stickers. You can't miss it. Her yearly gift typically has a mix of homemade goodies, store-bought delicacies, and a frivolous pink feathered thing or two.
These women are magnificent and this year I finally realized that it is high time they each received a heart-covered package of love from me. When I came across this post on Lottie + Doof, I knew these apple jellies must be attempted. And then sent across country as a token of my sugar-coated love. I promptly went out to purchase seven organic apples, and proceeded to spend the next four days making these apple treats. That's not quite accurate. I made them, but it took longer than expected for the jellies to become fully stable...thus the four days. I haven't made homemade candies since middle school, so this adventure was great fun. And delicious!
Happy Valentines Day to everyone, especially my mom and Sue, the two women who first taught me the joy of food.
Apple Jellies, found on Lottie + Doof, originally from Alice Water's The Art of Simple Food
3 lbs of apples (about 7 or 8), washed, quartered and cored
1 C water
1 1/2 C sugar
Juice of 1 lemon
Prep an 8x8 inch pan by rubbing with flavorless oil. Line the pan with parchment paper and lightly oil the parchment.
In a large pot, combine the apples and water. Cover and cook over medium heat until soft, about 20 min.
Next you're supposed to pass the mixture through a food mill. Or, if you want to hate this recipe, apparently you can manually do this using a sieve. (I tried the potato ricer that Sue gave me some years back--it worked pretty well. The peels will get discarded during this step, as they will separate from the apple pulp.) Return the puree to the pot and stir in the sugar and lemon juice.
Simmer over low heat, stirring often, for 60-90 min. As the mixture cooks, it thickens. Stir and scrape the bottom of the pan fairly frequently so nothing sticks or burns. You know it's done when you scrape the pot and the mixture keeps its shape rather than re-filling the spot you just scraped out.
Spread the mixture evenly in the prepared pan. Cool for several hours or overnight at room temperature. When cooled completely, invert onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Remove the top layer of parchment and let dry out overnight. The paste should be firm enough to cut. If it's not, you can bake it at 150 F for an hour or more. (Mine seemed firm on the outside, but when I cut it, it wasn't solid on the inside. I baked it and it was still only mostly firm. I then cut it into pieces and left it to dry on the counter for another day and a half. That worked!)
The jellies can be stored whole or in pieces; wrap tightly in plastic. Store at room temp or refrigerated for up to a year. Before serving, toss the pieces in granulated sugar. (If you do this ahead of time, the jellies simply absorb the sugar after a day or two.)