I’d bought the last of the summer plums at the farmer’s market and hauled them home. I’d combined them with sugar, vodka, lemon peel, and spices, and then waited the long 3 months and two weeks for the fruit to infuse. Before I’d tasted the liqueur I’d just hoped it wouldn’t kill me. It seemed that surely some crazy new bacteria that only exists in basement apartments in Brooklyn had gotten into the infusion. But then I tasted it. My first thought was that it didn’t taste much like plums; it was more like strawberries, but not even strawberries: strawberries that have been liquified, boiled, turned into a gas, and then inhaled as a vapor. It tasted sweet and pure and profound. It tasted like what you imagine wine to taste like before you’ve ever tasted it: like the word ‘wine’ as the word is slipping from your tongue.

Make this for Christmas. Or actually, screw Christmas, make it for yourself and hoard it and hide it from your friends.


Adapted from The Washington Post

2 ½ lbs prune plums

1 ½ cups sugar

2 1-inch pieces lemon peel

4 cups vodka (plus more if needed)

2 wide mouth half gallon jars

2 cinnamon sticks

1.)    Making sure each fruit is perfect and without bruising before cutting, pierce each fruit to the put with a knife, cutting each plum several times.

2.)    Pack fruit into jars and add sugar, cinnamon, and peel. Pour in enough vodka to cover plums completely and secure lids on jars.



3.)    Keep jars in a cool, dark place and turn them once a day for two weeks until the sugar has dissolved.

4.)    Keeping them right side up, leave them in the cool, dark place for 90 days.

5.)    Strain first through a cheesecloth, discarding fruit, peel, and cinnamon, and then strain the liquid  through a coffee filter.



Wine Jelly



The guy working at my wine store looked at me like I had two heads when I told him I needed a dry white to make wine jelly out of. The guys who work at my wine store are of a species of fake connoisseurs that I like to think of as dumb nerds. In my years as a college professor I’ve taught many such people: young kids who know a little something about something that’s got a whiff of sophistication to it. They’re not experts, but they take on the mean-spirited and arrogant demeanor that they believe an expert would have. Not that wine jelly is the least bit sophisticated. I was just amused by the look of horror on the face of my liquor store man when I told him what my wine was getting used for.

Wine jelly is incredibly easy to make. It’s already liquid and seeing as you’ve got to use liquid pectin to make it, there’s not a lot of time that goes into this. All you need to worry about is sterilizing your jars, bands, and lids for canning. That takes a little time, but the jelly making is very simple.

Herbes de Provence Wine Jelly

Adapted from the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving

2 cups dry white wine

1 tbsp herbes de Provence

2 cups sugar

1 pouch (3 oz) liquid pectin

1.)   Start heating the water in water bath canner.

2.)   Combine wine and herbs and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and steep for 20 minutes.


3.)   Line a mesh strainer with cheesecloth and strain mixture.


4.)   Measure out 1 3/4ths cups of infused wine.

5.)   Prepare canner, jars, and lids.

6.)   Put wine in a saucepan and stir in sugar. Stir constantly over high heat until it reaches a high boil. Stir in pectin and boil, constantly stirring, 2 minutes. Remove from heat and use the freezer test. Skim off foam and pour jelly into prepared jars. Screw on lids and bands until fingertip tight.

7.)   Place jars in the canner, making sure they’re covered with water. Bring to a boil and process for 10 minutes. Remove canner lid, wait 5 minutes, then remove jars.

8.)   Leave jelly jars on a damp towel on counter top overnight.

Apple Jelly

IMG_0534            IMG_0562

I kept thinking on Nietzsche while I was making this jelly. My boyfriend and I had gone to the farm, picked the apples from the trees, and then hauled them all the way home. That was just the beginning. Then came the jelly-making process, two days of boiling, juice dripping, mashing, cooking, and finally canning. The process by which the Dionysian fruits of the earth are transformed into formally perfect Apollonian objects had never been clearer to me. I’ll never look at a jar of Smucker’s the same again.

Apple Jelly

Adapted from David Lebowitz

8 lbs apples

10 cups water

6 cups sugar

Juice of 1 lemon

1 tablespoon Calvados or other brandy

1.)   Wash and chop apples into coarse chunks, and put everything, including the cores and the seeds into your largest pot.


2.)   Pour in water and boil. When boiling, reduce the heat, leave the lid off slightly, and cook for about a half hour until the apples are cooked.


3.)   Line a wire-rimmed strainer with cheesecloth and set it over a large, deep bowl. Ladle the apple into the strainer and allow to stand overnight. Do not press down on the apples ever as this will make your jelly cloudy.


4.)   The next day you should have about 8 cups of juice. Take the leftover fruit pulp and mash it through a strainer for applesauce.


5.)   Pour the jelly into a good solid jelly-making pot and attach a candy thermometer to the pot. Add sugar and lemon juice and bring to a boil, skimming off the scum that rises to the surface.


6.)   Cook until the candy thermometer reads 220 degrees Fahrenheit. At this temperature you can begin testing the jelly using the freezer method. If the jelly holds its shape, it’s done; if not continue to cook it and test it again in the freezer. The jelly-making process could take a long time, up to a couple of hours.

7.)   Sterilize jars, lids, and bands, and water bath process the filled jars for ten minutes.