Yesterday morning I noticed that our water was a lot hotter than it normally is. I really like to take long, hot showers, so I popped in and indulged myself. I could take them all the time, but I don’t want to waste the energy keeping our water that hot, so I keep it turned it down to something more reasonable. I made a mental note to look into this extra-hot water though.

Today I noticed that the water was hardly hot at all. I went down to the basement and opened up the water heater (don’t ever call it a “hot” water heater in front of my Dad – that’s one of his pet peeves). I took a photo of the upper thermostat so I could read the number on it.

Water heater thermostat.

Water heater thermostat.

I also pressed that red button (it’s a circuit breaker), and it went “click!” so I knew that it had experienced some over-current. I figured I should replace the heating elements too, because there’s nothing else in the circuit other than heating elements and a thermostat.

After two trips to Tilton to Bryant & Lawrence Hardware (one of my favorite stores anywhere), I had the parts I needed (a lower thermostat and a heating element). To make a long story shorter… we now have “normal” hot water again.

On to another topic.

Last week Va asked me what we should do with a couple of left-over packages of candy canes. I hate to throw that kind of thing out, even though they are very inexpensive. So I told her I would find a use for them. My first stab was to Google “leftover candy canes,” which garners 130,000 hits. I didn’t read them all, but I read enough of them to know I wasn’t going to try any of those things. Valentine hearts with candy canes? Really?

David pointed out that getting 130,000 hits on that phrase was an indictment of candy canes. Outside of the Christmas season, they are just not very popular, and there’s a reason for that. They are more for decoration than for eating.
You never hear people ask what they should do with leftover “good” candy, like Reece’s Peanut Butter Cups. That’s because there’s never any of that left over.

I came up with my own idea for the candy canes. I got all my blackberries out of the freezer to try a new invention – Blackberry Candy Cane Jam. Hopefully this will go better than the chocolate soup experiment. Candy canes are little more than sugar and flavoring. You already need sugar to make jam, and I thought peppermint might make an interesting addition to the blackberry flavor.

But there was also an important thing I wanted to subtract – blackberry seeds! I had read you could use a jelly bag to filter them out, but I don’t have one of those, and I have never used one or even seen one being used. But I figured… how hard could that be? Famous last words.

Novice at work

Novice at work

I squished the blackberries through my chinois, and then bundled them into a piece of cloth, twisted the top together, and then began squeezing the juice through the cloth. It didn’t want to come out, so I upped the pressure. That’s when the pressure in the improvised jelly bag exceeded the pressure asserted by my grip on the top of the bag. A nice little spout opened up, and you can see the results.

And just so you know, blackberries do stain painted drywall.

Sigh. I cleaned that off the wall as best I could and continued my efforts. I finally got 90% of the seeds (and probably 50% of the juice and pulp) removed. Then I broke up the candy canes, added some sugar & pectin, and boiled it for… I don’t know how long. It was long enough to dissolve the candy canes.

Don't look at the trivet!

Don’t look at the trivet!

Just try to remember that I don’t really know what I’m doing. They say to boil jam until it runs off the spoon “in sheets”. I don’t think I ever got it to that stage, even after an hour of boiling. Maybe I needed more sugar. Maybe I should have measured the blackberries and the sugar (I think you need equal amounts). But it looked like it was getting close to “sheets” so I called it good enough and poured it into some jars. I got two and a half pints. I cleaned my big pot (to some extent) with a slice of bread. I can say that it tasted pretty interesting, and not at all bad.

And now I have a big mess to clean up. Turns out bread doesn’t do a great job on a big jam-covered pot.