I made pâte de fruit (aka fruit jelly) for the first time and it gave me endless grief. I am relieved that it turned out well at last. Yes, there are plenty of lessons I learned. First and foremost, it’s fun! I know I called the experience frustrating but that was only because I slipped and slide on the learning curve. Secondly, make use of all that I learned from making jam. The knowledge is transferrable and the processes are remarkably similar. Third, I yearn to master the basics so I can let my culinary imagination run wild. There are so many flavours and ingredients that I want to turn into bite size jiggly candies.
I marvel at the ruby red sour cherry pâte de fruit as they glisten under the sunlight. With only a handful of ingredients, they capture the essence of summer fruit. Where do summer fruit come from in the middle of March? My freezer of course! I squirreled away precious stash of pitted sour cherries and they are absolutely perfect.
I followed Dan Lepard’s recipe for Victorian Plum Jelly in Short & Sweet. The recipe called for 500g of fruit, 250g of water, 30mL of lemon juice, and 50mL of liquid pectin. I knew that plum is one of the easiest fruit to make jam because of its abundance of pectin. Since it is not plum season and sour cherries are readily available from my freezer, I decided to use what I have at home. I hoped the lower pectin fruit would be alright.
I cooked the fruit puree to 223F, a slightly higher temperature than jam’s setting point of 218-220F. Dumped in all the liquid pectin and returned to boil for a minute. Then I waited. The next morning, the edges began to set a little but otherwise it was still a pan of puree. I looked up the online version of Lepard’s recipe and noticed it uses 125mL of liquid pectin. Thank goodness of modern technology, I got an answer from Mr. Lepard within an hour of my query over twitter! He said the correct amount should be 125mL and the printed version will be amended in future.
I emptied the puree into my pan and brought it back to 223F. I added some extra liquid pectin and checked on them the next morning. Much to my dismay, it still didn’t set enough. The top half layer set sufficiently but the bottom was all liquid. Undeterred, I repeated the cooking once more and used all the remaining liquid pectin. The finally tally was 175mL of liquid pectin and I started forming back up plans just in case. Luckily, third time’s a charm and it sets!
I cut my 18cm square pan of jelly into 36 pieces and dredged them in vanilla sugar. They dried overnight on wire rack and I dredged them once more. The fresh taste of sour cherries got a bit muted due to repeated cooking but otherwise the texture was exactly what I wanted. I cannot wait until summer arrives when I can turn apricots, raspberries, black currants into a rainbow of pâte de fruit. In the mean time, I want to experiment with using agar agar powder. The cooking process is slightly different and I have the freedom to use alcohol or other liquid infusion. Sangria, jasmine green tea, umeshu, and root beer are just some of the flavours I can’t wait to experiment.