Friday, 20 May 2011

It burns... it burns!

I don't know how many jars of preserves I have made in the 12 or so years that I have been making jam and chutney but it must be a fair few. When you think about it, it is quite a hazardous occupation, particularly when it comes to decanting the finished preserve into jars. I do take the precaution of not wearing sandals when I do this, even though it is something I often do at the height of summer. I also use an oven glove when handling the hot jars, a jar funnel and a ladle to lessen spillages and drips . I should perhaps also wear googles but somehow that just seems a bit silly. So far, these precautions have been sufficient to prevent injury.

This week, I made a rather spicy tomato sauce with a good chilli kick. I don't have much tolerance for chilli but I do believe in tasting everything I make so I had tried this one with a tentative dab on the tongue. Several minutes later as I was bottling it my tongue was still gently humming to the chilli tune.

My usual technique for bottling is to ladle the preserve, hot from the pan, into the jar through an jam funnel into jars warmed in the oven. When the jar is full, I remove the funnel, place the lid on the jar and gently twist then pick the whole thing up by the lid into a gloved hand to give the lid a final twist to firmly close. Potentially dangerous maybe but I have never burnt myself doing this...

... until this week when as I picked up the jar by the lid the lid came off and in one graceful movement I dropped the jar the short drop to the work surface and stuck the full length of my thumb into the jar of hot tomato sauce.

Reflexes are undoubtedly a good thing and do on the whole save you from injury and danger. Unfortunately, they occur without wasting time consulting the brain. In this situation I had two reflex reactions. The first was to pull my thumb rapidly out of the hot liquid (sensible). This had the unfortunate side-effect of sending the jar of sauce toppling over, spilling its contents all over the work surface, splashing hot sauce onto my other arm in the process. The second reaction was to stick my thumb in my mouth, complete with its coating of chilli sauce!

For the next few minutes I wasn't quite sure what to do with myself but it did involve copious amounts of cold water.

I'm pleased to say that no serious harm was done. I had a couple of very small burns on my arm and my thumb kind of felt like I'd trapped it in a door for the rest of the day. My tingling tongue stopped buzzing after about an hour too!

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