Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Someone is not in the kitchen with Dona (revisited)

This entry is from November 2005.

Contrary to popular belief, I am not a domestic goddess.

No siree.  Far from it.

Okay, so there is evidence that every now and then I venture into the kitchen and emerge with homemade goodies. But, truth be told, I really don't shine in the kitchen.

The first time I made jelly by myself, I almost burned down the house and ruined a brand new stove.  Just the year before I had learned how to make grape jelly at the home of my friend, Bona.  And she warned me, more than once, don't try to make jelly by yourself.  You should always have someone helping, especially once the fruit, sugar, and water mixture starts boiling.

So one fall evening a couple of years ago I wanted to make some more grape jelly for Christmas gifts.  Bona was supposed to help, but her back was flaring up and she was down for the day.  Same for Sam, who had put in a doubly full day at work and was physically drained.  Fresh grapes are only fresh for a short time, and I had picked these grapes days before, so I decided not to wait any longer.  I gathered all the necessary tools and ingredients and got cookin'.

I turned the solid grapes into liquid, and ended up with about 12 cups of juice.  Into the pot goes 8 cups of juice and 5 cups of sugar (shock!  yes, 5 cups).  Set heat to high and wait for mixture to boil.

They say a watched pot never boils.  Oh, it does.  The second you take your eyes off it.

I'm keeping one eye on the mixture while I get the jars ready to receive the hot liquid.  The jelly pot is close to boiling when I turned my back just long enough to line up some of the jars so I can begin to spoon the jelly into them.  Both my hands are full of glass jars when out of the corner of my eye I see the liquid level in the pot quickly rise to the top...and begin to spill over.  In horror I put the jars down on the counter, shut off the burner and remove the pot from the heat, after grabbing two pot holders, of course.  Safety first, you know.  Too late.  Our stove is electric, not gas, and is one of those solid surface types that take forever and a day to cool down after the heat element is turned off.

The pot is no longer into a rolling boil, but now smoke is billowing...quite profusely I might add...off the stove top.  Thick, grey sugary sweet smoke.


Switch on the overhead exhaust fan. Forget trying to wipe the sugary mess off the stove, the heat has now crystalized the sugar and bonded it to the stovetop, which is still pretty hot and doing a mighty fine job of filling the kitchen with smoke.


Run around the kitchen, opening every window and the door.  The stove is still smoking and the exhaust fan isn't exhausting.  My heart is pounding and my mind is racing while visions of fire fighters rushing into my home armed with axes and fire hoses immediately come to mind.

This would be an appropriate time to panic before the smoke detectors start going off.

Run around the house, calling out to the hubby who is downstairs in the family room.  Continue to open doors and all available windows...continue to panic.  The living room is now filling up with smoke.

It's a rather eerie feeling to open the front door of your home and literally watch thick, grey smoke being sucked outside.  A tad unsettling as well.

Walk back to the kitchen and banish the thought of trying to cover up my little faux pas.  I'll never get away with hiding the evidence now.  Busted!  The look on Sam's face when he walked into the kitchen was....well, in a word, indescribable.  And I won't repeat what he said.  I've choosen to forget.

An hour later, the smoke finally cleared.  Two hours later Sam finished scraping the burned grape syrup off the brand new stove top.  That was my version of 'How to break in a new appliance.'  And a darn good hootin' job I did of that if I may say so! When all was said and done, I called Bona, knowing she could use a good laugh.

To this day I can't stand in front of that stove and watch something boil without thinking back.

I now own a very tall stock pot which I use to make my jelly in and I never fill it more than one-quarter full.  The jars get set up before I make the jelly mixture.  And to look at the stove, you'd never know what happened three years ago.  Not a trace of burned sugar remains.

What happened to that batch of jelly?  Well, it became grape syrup; it never got the chance to become jelly.  A lot of work goes into turning solid grapes into juice and I wasn't about to toss all that work down the drain.  Pissed as I was at myself, I just couldn't throw that stupid stuff away.

Looking back, I probably should have and written it off as an offering to appease the kitchen muse.

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