Cranberry Pear Fruit Jellies Recipe
My mom is a medical technologist. She works in the blood bank of a local hospital and if you are in a situation where you are in need of blood, she is the go-to person. Everything I know about her job I learned as a Brownie. Each year or two my mom would welcome my Brownie troop to her lab where she would tell us about her job. You know "take your daughter to work day"?....This was "take your brownie troop to work day." Highlights typically included me volunteering to have one of her co-workers stick a needle in my arm and have my blood drawn. I would do my best to play the role of the good patient who didn't ever cry or squirm. My brownie troop was never around our house during some of my lesser moments, when for example, I had symptoms of Strep throat and my mom would try to get a throat culture by shoving one of those giant cotton swabs into my tonsils.
There was a gift shop just across the hall from the laboratory and I always begged to go in at the end of our visit, before our little mob was piled back into a fleet of station wagons and ferried back to Los Gatos. The gift shop had two things that interested me -- the candy stripe girls who volunteered at the hospital hung out there. They all looked very grown up and Aqua-net sophisticated (they couldn't have been more than 14 or 15), I desperately wanted one of their striped outfits. On the other end of the spectrum, the little kid in me was still dazzled by the overflowing basket of individually wrapped Sunkist Fruit Gems that sat right next to the cash register. The fruit gems were five for a quarter, and you could choose from any of the three citrus flavors (lemon, lime, and orange), or raspberry, or grapefruit. Grapefruit (white), and raspberry (red) were my favorites. If I knew I was going to the hospital to visit my mom, I would ferret away pocket change for days to cash in on the sugary soft gems.
No surprise to anyone, I still love fruit jellies. I clipped this recipe from Gourmet last month, and then was reminded again of how much I miss them when I saw the shelf of assorted fruit jellies at Citizen Cake last week when I went in for lunch. They looked like a perfect spectrum of stained glass squares sitting there on their little display shelf.
Part of what initially attracted me to this specific Gourmet recipe is that it is liquid pectin based -- many other recipes I've seen are gelatin-based -- bad if you want to share these with your vegetarian or vegan friends. This recipe couldn't be any more seasonal with its pears and cranberries. I also thought it would be nice to try a dessert recipe that isn't completely over the top -- just a little something sweet for the end of the meal that isn't super heavy.
I had two pouches of pectin in the cupboard so all I needed from the market was three pears and a bag of cranberries. Although this recipe is time consuming, it was straightforward (pretty much). Essentially, I cooked the fruit, pureed the fruit, cooked the pureed fruit for what seemed like 2 hours (it was), and then poured it into a baking dish to set. I left it overnight to set in the refrigerator, and then took it out to cut this afternoon. Here's the problem. As the jellies come up to room temp they get weepy and tacky (I've had this problem making marshmallows before too) - like, you couldn't stack these and you couldn't really put them in a cellophane bag and give them as a gift because the bag would get gooey and sticky. Wayne said it best when he commented, "these were better when they came out of the freezer"....How did they end up in the freezer you might be wondering? --The recipe instructs you to test little blobs in the freezer to see if you've cooked down the puree enough. The taste? Well, they are strong -- really sweet and really tart, very condensed flavor - I mean, one was enough for me.
The first time isn't always a charm -- I feel like these were 90% there - they needed to be dryer at room temp and the flavor a shade less intense. One of the tough things about working with pectin (not that I know a ton) is that you have to take into consideration the natural pectin level of each fruit in order to know how much sugar and packaged pecting to add to your recipe. Every fruit has a different natural pectin level and it can even differ depending on when the fruit is picked (ripeness, etc)...
Anyways, I'll keep working at it. I think if I can figure out a good base method and recipe here these would make nice little treats for friends and cute housewarming presents. If I make any headway on this I'll post the recipe(s).... if any of you out there have done a pectin-based fruit jellies before and have tips or insight, let me know.
If you want to try this recipe out for yourself (it got two good reviews on Epicurious), click here.
p.s. The precious little plate in the picture came from Miette Organic Patisserie. They have them in pink, light blue, and a soft green -- I think I bought the last white. It looks like Miette is going to be doing mail-order soon as well for you out-of-town fans, so you can send sweet treats to friends nation-wide.