It took me two years to make it to the Vermont Sheep and Wool Festival.
Happy sheep on festival day even with cold and rain. Wait, I have no idea if the sheep were happy or not, but they made me happy. We watched the Shetland Sheep show. I learned about ruminants, and I learned that a sheep can die if you feed it 24 hours before sheering. You need flat-heeled wool elf shoes to sheer a sheep, and you have to be strong. My mom doesn’t think I can sheer a sheep. I think I’m strong. We didn’t eat a lamb burger.
The train back to the city took 11 hours. I caught a cold. Probably when the train ran out of water and no one was able to wash their hands. The cold lasted a week with one full Sunday in bed. When the pressure in my head was too much to bear and I could no longer blow my nose, I self medicated with spice. Not the spice of Dune, not nutmeg and cinnamon, but hot clear-your-sinuses chili pepper spice.
Chop 1 1/2 cups of very hot chilis into large chunks–leave the seeds in. I don’t know what kind of pepper I bought but they were $2 per pint at the market. Just make sure they’re hot.
Chop 4 lbs. Granny Smith apples without removing the skin or the cores. Slice 6 Jalapeño peppers in half. Leave the seeds in 4 of them, remove the seeds from 2. Remove the seeds from 1 red bell pepper and chop (the pepper). Put apples, all peppers, 3 cups water, and 3 cups white vinegar into a pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and, stirring occasionally, simmer for 20 minutes or until apples and peppers are soft. Crush everything up with a potato masher until you have something that resembles apple sauce. Spoon into a few layers of cheese cloth suspended over a bowl and let strain for at least an hour. You should end up with about 4 cups of juice.
Anyway, measure your juice and pour into a thick bottomed pot. Add sugar–7/8 cup of sugar for each cup of juice (4 cups juice=3 1/12 cups sugar). Heat gently to dissolve sugar and bring to a boil. Stir frequently. As you are cooking, gross white scum will appear on the surface. Remove this with a spoon. Cook until jelly reaches 220-222 degrees F on a candy thermometer. It might take a long time. Make sure your jelly is ready by dropping a spoonful onto a plate that has been chilled in the freezer. If the jelly is runny, it’s not ready. If it wrinkles up when pushed with your finger, it is ready. Pour into sterilized canning jars. Most popular way to eat: on Ritz-type crackers with cream cheese and a plop of jelly. My favorite way to eat: on toast with butter.