How to make Jelly / CM

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To avoid mistakes or disappointments, please read these directions all the way through before beginning to make jelly.

Fruit for jelly making should be under-ripe rather than over-ripe, since under-ripe fruit contains more pectin (the substance which causes jelly to "set-up" or jell naturally. However, some of it may be thoroughly ripe which adds to the color and flavor of the finished jelly. If all of the fruit on hand is over-ripe, then packaged pectin should be added (alternatively, pectin can be prepared at home using apples).

It is better to make small batches of jelly at one time, using 4 to 6 pounds of fruit; if a large batch is prepared, it is more likely that the batch may fail to set up properly.

Step 1. Pick over and thoroughly wash fruit in cold water. If the fruit that is being used is not organically grown, a few drops of white or cider vinegar may be added to the washing water to help remove spray residues. Discard overly ripe, very soft or bruised fruit. Use only fresh fruit for the best product.

Remove stems. Apples, pears, and fruits with cores should be quartered. Cores and seeds may remain.

Step 2. Crush soft fruits (berries, cherries, currants, plums, etc.) with a potato masher in a large enamel or stainless steel (do not use alumimum) kettle with about 1 inch of water. Hard fruits such as apples and pears should be just barely covered with water.

Step 3. Bring fruit to boil and cook until soft, about 20 to 25 minutes. This can be determined by testing with a fork.

Step 4. Turn fruit into a moistened cloth jelly bag or a clean cheesecloth lined colander and allow it drain into a large stainless steel or ceramic bowl (fruit juice can stain plastic and may cause a reaction if an aluminum bowl is used). Do not squeeze bag, but shift or turn fruit gently once or twice. Squeezed fruit makes cloudy jelly.

Step 5. Measure juice and put into a large wide kettle. It will boil over if kettle is too small, and will take too long to evaporate the excess moisture if the kettle is not wide enough. It will jell faster and the quality will be improved when prepared in a large kettle.

Step 6. Bring juice to a rolling boil and let it boil 10 minutes. Skim foam from surface as necessary.

Step 7. Add 3/4 cup to 1 cup granulated sugar, depending on tartness of fruit, for each cup of juice. Boil again and cook until mixture is ready to jell. Test with a jelly thermometer, which should register between 220 and 222F - or test by lifting a cooking spoonful of the boiling mixture about 12 inches above the kettle and letting it run off the side of the spoon and back into the kettle. When the last of the mixture forms a thin sheet as it falls off the spoon and leaves the edge clean, the jelly is done.

Step 8. Remove from heat at once. Pour into sterilized hot jars or jelly glasses. Each cup of juice will make about one 5 or 6 ounce glass of jelly, but have extra glasses ready.

Note: In the past, our grandmothers poured melted paraffin over their jelly and they were done. If you're following an old recipe which uses paraffin and doesn't call for a boiling water bath, keep it in the refrigerator for safety's sake.

Modern science tells us to process 1/2 pints jars of jelly in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes, at which point, the jelly may be stored safely in the pantry with no refrigeration. Strong light and heat are the enemies of vitamins, so choose a cool, dark storage area.

A third, more recent development in home preserving is to use a freezer for storage of jellies. Freezer jellies require less sugar, since the sugar isn't needed for preservation or to help the fruit jell. However, the freezer method requires the use of store-bought pectin specifically formulated for freezer use; follow the directions on the box for best results. Here, we offer both previous discussed methods (paraffin or two piece lids) so that you may decide which best suits your needs.

Step 9. Top glasses or jelly jars with melted food-grade paraffin if storing under refrigeration. If using jars with two piece lids, tighten two lids on jars and process for 10 minutes.

Step 10. When jelly has cooled, label and store in a cool dark place. Grandma sometimes covered jelly jars with a frilly edged paper or crocheted miniature doily (available in craft stores) and tied it into a bow made from pretty ribbon or raffia string with a tag attached for gift giving.

Warning: Melting paraffin can catch fire. Never melt it with container over direct flame. Cut up wax and place in a container in pan of boiling water (or double boiler) to melt.


Make apple jelly as directed above. In Step 6, for each 6 cups of juice add 1/2 cup chopped fresh mint leaves and stems and a few drops of green food coloring. After the 10 minutes boiling, strain the mint out and continue with Step 7. If the juice does not taste tart enough, add 2 tablespoons lemon juice with the sugar.

Submitted by: CM
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