Not that it ever worked out perfectly. We children would spend the evening of jam-kitchen day scraping spattered paraffin off counters and windows?and the next several months drizzling batches of strawberry "sauce" over ice cream and pound cake and whatnot.
Cranking up the Soup to Nuts jam kitchen this year, we've got the luxury of not having to fuss with paraffin. We've also got the benefit of Pomona's Universal Pectin, and the comfort of knowing our speed dial's hotlinked us to Pomona's invaluable Jamline?we swear, there really is one. Pomona's little operation, nestled in Greenfield, MA, deals exclusively in pectin?so we assume they know what they're doing. Unlike most other brands of paraffin, this stuff's pure. Derived from citrus peels and pulp, it contains no added sugar, acid or preservatives. Since the stuff's jelling power isn't sugar-activated, the proportions of sugar to fruit aren't as critical, so it's difficult to botch the jelling process. It also means that you can control the sweetness by adding more sugar (or honey) or less, or none at all.
Another good thing about Pomona's pectin is that it's packaged with a matrix offering the correct proportions for successfully jamming all sorts of organic matter, and that provides thorough canning instructions.
And then there's the Jamline which you ought to call if you persist in your confusion. Ourselves, we dialed it up and spoke with a certain nurturing Connie, a softly drawling young Western Mass gal with a rose-hip New England freshness about her wholesome cheeks...and wearing chaste tennies, no doubt...and a pencil jabbed through the loose amber bun of her delicious hair, fragrant with applewood and Berkshire flowers...and a cashmere twinset swaddling her pure and burgeoning bosoms...and a prairie skirt draping haunches sweet as a north country snowfall... Come to us, eternal pioneer maiden Connie, and redeem us, in these, the cramped slum jam kitchens of deepest Brooklyn...
Well, at any rate, she sure was patient.
A cranberry jam recipe for the new year:
12 oz. cranberries 1-1/2 C. water 1/4 C. lime juice 1 t. calcium water (calcium powder comes in the Pomona's box) 1 to 1-1/2 C. sugar 1-1/2 t. pectin
Bring water and cranberries to a boil. Cover and simmer till the cranberries have thoroughly burst. Stir in the lime juice and calcium water. Bring the mixture to a boil again. Combine 1/2 C. sugar and the pectin in a small bowl and mix till pectin is fully incorporated. Add to pulp. Add 1/2 to 1 C. more sugar, according to taste. Stir vigorously, 1-2 minutes. Bring to a boil, then follow instructions for canning.
Pomona's Universal Pectin is available at health food stores or through mail order. Write to Workstead Industries, P.O. Box 1083, Greenfield, MA 01302, or call the Jamline at 413-772-6816. Ask for Connie.
It isn't too early to sign up for the Winter Wine Dinner being offered at Opaline?the subterranean restaurant at 85 Ave. A that isn't Sweet's?on Tues., Jan. 25. Opaline's executive chef Sara Kangas is presiding over the dinner in conjunction with the Australian Wine Commission, which means that the wines will be Australian and the menu will look like this: hors d'oeuvres with champagne; then beggars purses with a sauvignon semillion and a chardonnay; then smoked shrimp with a rosé and a grenache; then a fennel and mint consomme; then a poussin roasted with foie gras and apples and chestnut sauce and served with something called Mount Langhi Ghiran Billi Billi Creek and something called a Katncock Coonawarra Cabernet, which we're sure are just fine, so take our word for it; then a vanilla bavarois and chocolate truffles. The dinner costs $100, tax and tip included. Opaline's at 85 Ave. A between 5th & 6th Sts. (And be absolutely certain you don't wander into Sweet's?because if you do, you'll certainly be in the wrong place.) Call 475-5050 for reservations, or else e-mail the number of people in your party to firstname.lastname@example.org and see what happens.
Verdi's favorite pasta! Rossini's favorite beef! Caruso's favorite dessert! Three voracious Italian sons of bitches! And what they liked to eat, you'll learn to cook, at least if you attend what looks like the quite charming Big Opera Dinner being held at the Italian Culinary Institute on Friday, Jan. 14. We've attended events at the Culinary Institute in the past, and found them wonderful?low-key evenings with kind strangers and a lot of alcohol around communal tables in the place's vast institutional demo-kitchen, with the intricacies of each dish explained to the respectfully hushed crowd by white-smocked instructor-chefs who prepare the food at the top of the room under a reflecting mirror that beams each nuance of the paring knife back to the punters in the far seats. Then you hang around for a while and meet your neighbors until the food issues from the ovens and gets served to you by smiling, um, Italian girls. And then you eat it, and so on and so forth, and nobody's ever the worse for wear.
This time around the Institute's promulgating some favorite recipes of men almost as famous for eating as they were for composing or singing. We're told that "Every course will be paired with a different aria," which sounds potentially heinous, but so be it. No word on how much this evening costs, but you can find that out by calling the Institute at 889-9057. The Italian Culinary Institute's located at 230 5th Ave., ste. 1100, in the Flatiron district near the top of Madison Square Park.
Contributors: Beth Broome, Andrey Slivka. E-mail tips and comments to souptonuts @nypress.com or fax to 244-9864.