Alchemy and hot fat

It’s easy to make jam–just fruit, sugar and cook until thick. You don’t have to worry much about it–it can be a little dense or a little runny, but it still spreads.  Jelly is a different thing entirely; you have to get the timing just right or you have syrup or cement. With jelly, an alchemical change takes place, which is nowhere more dramatic than with pineapple guavas.

These little green ovals aren’t wonderful raw, and as you cook them up, they look like the most unappetizing murky greenish-brown glop. The strained liquid doesn’t look much better.




But after it boils up over 200 degrees, it transforms. In the bubble and seethe, it changes to a clear pinkish gold liquid.

You wait till the boiling liquid drips off the spoon in sheets–two drops at a time instead of one stream, and when you take it off the flame your glop has transformed into a jewel of jelly.

It’s a small mystery of fruit, sugar, heat and time, and extremely satisfying to effect, and even better to eat.

And for any of you making latkes, after experimenting with several recipes, I’ve come up with my favorite–and pretty healthy, too, for fried food.  No exact measurements–you can make as many or as few as you want.

Meryl’s Latkes

Equal parts grated potato*, celery root, and parsnip (I grate in a food processor!)
1/4 that amount of minced (not grated) onions (more or less, according to taste)
nice handful of chopped parsely
minced garlic, salt, and pepper to taste
enough beaten egg and Matzoh meal so the mix holds together in firm patties (about 1 egg and 1/2 C meal for 3 cups of vegetables)

* Good, reliable russet potatoes, unpeeled, are fine.  Grate these first, and squeeze out extra liquid with cheesecloth or a loosely woven dishtowel.

Mix all of the above (this will keep overnight in the fridge).

Heat about an inch of vegetable oil (not olive or coconut!) in a (preferably cast iron) pan. Don’t skimp–you can strain and reuse the oil, but you need a good amount to fry quickly and evenly.

Make patties (I use about 1/4 cup each) and flatten in the pan with a spatula. Fry till brown on one side.  Flip, press, fry, and drain.

Serve with Greek yoghurt and applesauce. Eat happily by the light of many candles.


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