I have this bottle of wine that makes me crazy. It was a gift from a lovely friend. She meant well; but it’s really not good. And she’s really, really nice. She just sucks at buying wine. I mean, there’s a meter on the label that places it somewhere just this side of cotton candy. It’s really not my kind of wine. I’d feel guilty throwing it away. I’d have thought that somewhere in the last couple of years I’d have found someone to drink it. Instead, it sits on the rack. The bottle of red that I forget about. There must have been a dozen times in the past year when I’ve gone to the rack, pulled it out thinking it was some wonderful, overlooked treat only to see that Banty rooster on the label. I like chickens, and roosters even. You wouldn’t think so if you heard me the other night when I pulled out the LAST bottle of Merlot only to find- Banty Red. Then it occurred to me: why not cook it up into jelly?
The only real problem was the sugar. There was already sooo much in there. I thought it would be okay if I tamed it with some spices. Maybe a spicy-wine-jelly to serve with cheese? I knew that peppercorns were needed. Then, after searching the pantry for possibilities, I settled on allspice and star anise. Do you see how these are packaged? They came from the “international” section of the market. These spices are normally way too expensive to buy on a whim. Like $5 for a tiny little jar. In the foreign food section, though, they run about $1 a bag. It’s like we’re the dumb American tourists paying too much for everything, only it’s in our own town! Anyway, do you know why I picked allspice? Me either, but it sounded good. And star anise: I picked it because it’s pretty. I’ve been wanting to open the bag just to play with those perfect little flowers. And the cool little seeds inside. How cute is that thing? So, first I followed the advise of America’s Test Kitchen and reduced some of the wine (about 2 cups). While it was reducing I simmered the rest of the wine with the spices. After about 20 minutes I increased the heat, added 3 Tblsp of (low sugar) pectin, 2 Tblsp lemon juice and brought it to a full rolling boil. Then I stirred in another cup of sugar, returned it to a boil for one minute. I added the reduced wine, strained out the spices and somehow an entire 750ml of wine plus sugar only added up to 2 cups of spiced wine jelly (plus about 2 ounces that we used for tasting). Do you see all those jars lined up? What was I thinking??? That bottle had seemed like such a big, annoying thing and now it’s just two little jars of jelly. It’s still a bit sweet for my taste- it needs a sharp cheese to tame that sugar. My son PJ, who’s 11, thinks it’s just delicious. Don’t worry, the alcohol cooked out.