Well, aside from some shopping and planning and general freaking out, I didn’t actually get stuck in and start cooking until last night. I made two jars of chutney for the tapas buffet (apple, mango) and I’m hoping to get some tomato chutney and onion confit done tonight. I’m also aiming to get the tomato sauce for my albóndigas done and in the freezer, although that may wait until tomorrow, as it can simmer away happily enough while I’m shovelling out Phil’s man cave. I want to get a batch of savoury/spicy cooking out of the way before I start the cookie and bread dough, to avoid contaminating my sugar cookies with pimentón. I may be contemplating putting some orange blossom and rosewater in my shortbread, but pimentón is a bit too avant garde for me. (Look at me gettin’ all fancy with the italics and accents there!)
I came down with a case of botulism paranoia, and instead of just doing what I used to do when making jam and chutney-ish stuff, and putting blazing hot food into oven-sterilised jars, then sealing immediately, I bought a preserving rack and some lifting tongs, and water bath sterilised everything. This is how we canned (jarred?) stewed tomatoes when I was growing up, so I knew how to do it, but up until now, I’ve never felt the need, because I generally stick with jams, confits, and chutneys, and frankly, I’ve never read a British recipe for any of those things that called for the water bath. Instead, you get a much more laid-back “eh, sterilise the jars and seals, and don’t touch the insides when you’re potting up.” And I think they are probably right, and I’ve never had a poisoned or spoilt jar yet, but Google and the various USDA sources that land high on its searches feel VERY VERY STRONGLY that using anything but a water bath to preserve will kill you deader than hell.
And I’d roll my eyes, and do it the way I always have, because I am a rebel, but I’m also feeding 20 other people who might not share my cavalier attitude, including elderly people in uncertain health, and youngish children, so a water bath it had to be. (And I’m probably going to store it in the fridge as well, because thanks for the paranoia, USDA.) It was a pain in the arse, but I did find the sound of the seals popping into place strangely satisfying.
Oh god, I have so much to do. I hypothetically love this sort of thing, and I love the feeling of satisfaction that I get after it’s all done, and I’m slumped in a chair, with only my husband and cat to witness my exhaustion and oh thank god it’s over exhilaration, and there are no more guests and only a pile of leftovers to feed us over the next few days, but actually getting there, well, it’s complicated.
(Written and wandered away from on 8 December. I want this published, so I can remind myself of what this all takes, if I’m ever tempted to do this again.)