i never did attempt apple butter again

I never did attempt apple butter again this fall, even though I went to a farm and picked half a bushel of apples specifically for the purpose of trying to make apple butter and instead Other Half and I just ate the whole half bushel without cooking any of them. Oh, except that I tried to make apple brown betty, which involves apples, brown sugar (for reals, for once), diced up wheat bread and an entire cow’s worth of butter, and I think it was generally successful except that Other Half took a bite and said, I dunno, it just tastes like apples on buttered wheat bread to me. So if that’s what we’re going for with apple brown betty, then YAY FOR ME, America, I’m the next Top Chef. (If that’s not what we were going for…somebody let me know.)

The other tragedy, following the failure to make apple butter, is that I correspondingly failed to make apple leather from the apple butter. Apple leather seems to be a thin, flat, dried version of apple butter, which I think is supposed to be like homemade fruit roll-ups. I don’t have any idea why you would want to make your own fruit roll-ups, unless maybe you’re a hipster mom who wants her kids to Have My Childhood! Except Without Chemicals (and to be fair, if I had kids, I might be one of those too).

But now we’re out of apple season and into cold weather, I feel justified into moving in the Candy section of my home and hearth cookbook. I bought a candy thermometer yesterday, and now I’m going to attempt marshmallows. I actually have a meat thermometer, and I considered just using that – what’s the difference? It reads heat, right? – but my meat thermometer groups temperatures in ranges by animal: “beef & lamb” “poultry”, etc., and it will creep me out to think about cooking up pork marshmallows. It’s bad enough I have to use gelatin (hint: don’t google “what’s in gelatin”).

More later.

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^&%%$$!@.!! &&**! also, &*(&(*^^??>:!

Yeah. It’s later.

Holy &*(%. Apologies to candy makers everywhere, but you are crazy people. Making marshmallows = TOTAL %^$@! MAYHEM.

I’m instructed to cook up a syrup while the gelatin softens up in another bowl, then to very carefully pour in the sugar syrup and mix until the substance is “very white, stiff, and sticky”. Spread into pan, cool, cut into squares. Coat in confectioners sugar or cocoa. Easy enough, right? I decide to do both, so I prepare two pans, one with cocoa and one with confectioners sugar. I will have a sampler set! It’s going to be beautiful.

And the cooking part seemed to go so well, too. I clipped on the candy thermometer, the corn syrup/sugar stuff boiled merrily away, it reached 240 degrees and I “very carefully” poured the syrup into the gelatin mixture.

And it went all to hell.

It started boiling up and I had this sudden terror that I’d made an enormous mistake using a glass mixing bowl – what if it shattered? Didn’t that happen sometimes with glass bowls? But it didn’t seem to be cracking so I started with the mixing. Almost immediately I realize I have a problem: the syrup has coated the sides of the bowl with a thin layer of boiled sugar, which has instantly hardened into shellac. I know, because I start trying to scrape it down with a (“lightly oiled”) spatula, and it is not happening. Apparently I will have a shellacked glass bowl for life. But I am gamely mixing the rest of the sugar mix, which is rapidly – maybe too rapidly – thickening and climbing the beaters. I am trying to scrape it down and keep mixing so it doesn’t harden up but the froth is beginning to immobilize the beaters, so much so that I have to keep lifting it and scraping down so they can move again and then marshmallow bits start flying around the kitchen. And it’s sticking to every surface like glue – I can’t get it off one surface because it sticks to the spatula and I can’t get it off the spatula because it sticks to the spoon and I DON’T HAVE ENOUGH HANDS FOR THIS!! Must keep mixing!! And right in the middle of this one of the beaters has a complete nervous breakdown and literally hurls itself out of the mixer across my countertops (smearing a path of marshmallow goo in its wake). I start trying to jam it back in and I can practically hear it screaming, “Don’t send me back in! Don’t send me back in there, Warden, I’ll be good!” Well, I can’t mix with one beater so I have to get brutal with it (“what we have heah, is a failure ta communicate”, I hiss at it), but this requires grasping the whole beater and forcing it back into the mixer. Now I have marshmallow coating my entire right hand, which means I can’t scrape at all (unlooked-for side effect: I have a newfound appreciation for the complexities of Spiderman’s daily life). The beater makes another suicidal jump and I decide I have to move to the next step of spreading into the 8×8 pan to cool – it’s not white yet but it is stiff and goddamn is it sticky, so in it goes. Or as much as I can, because now it’s sticking to the bowl and I can’t get it out into the pan because it sticks to the spatula and I can’t get it off the spatula with anything – my right hand might be permanently glued to the glass bowl, I’m not sure – I get a second (“lightly oiled”) spatula to help and it’s immediately and helplessly trapped in the Marshmallow Pit of Despair as well. (Wasn’t that the final obstacle of the original Candyland? It should have been, if not.) There are webs of marshmallow from countertop to cabinet to bowl to spatula to hands and I can’t get ANY OF IT in the **((!@ PAN. Why am I compelled to do things like this?! Like they don’t sell marshmallows at the grocery store? Am I really going to improve upon the process?

In the end, about half a cup of marshmallow goo is forced into each pan, which means I am probably going to end up with 3-4 total marshmallows. (That’s if they actually harden up into a block I can cut apart, and I admit I am eyeing it doubtfully, as it seems to just be lounging about like the ectoplasm in Ghostbusters II).

Another experiment, another catastrophic failure. Sigh.

In happier news, though, I am currently percolating Toasted Walnut Brandy in my pantry, which involves toasting walnuts and then letting them sit in brandy for 4 weeks. It’s true I burned the walnuts…but I’m sure it’s all going to work out in the end.

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