It wasn’t that long ago, that I knew NOTHING about making Jelly. I was so intimidated by pectin, and canning and all of it. Now as I look back, I was missing out on so much fun.
The learning curve to pectin is simple, the firmer you want your jelly the more pectin you need. I was advised by friends to carefully follow recipes and found myself often disappointed with how the jellies weren’t set as firm as store bought ones. What I really was making was a fruit spread. If you want to make a jelly with a nice firm “set” like you would get in the grocery store, I have found you really do need to increase the amount of pectin.
I was lucky to know a lovely woman named Barbra who had grapes growing on her porch, her daughter Carla and I picked grapes and I learned that year just how magical and wonderful it is to make Jelly. I’ve never looked back, and now just a few years later, I can’t imagine not having jelly making in my life. So much so that I planted my own little grape vine and this is the first year that I am making jelly from my own grapes!
Concord Grape Jelly
6 1/2 cups of Concord Grape Juice
7 cups sugar
2 pouches Sure Jell Fruit Pectin
10 clean and sterilized 1/2 pint jelly jars with seals and lids – or whichever size you would prefer, really
Making jelly is so easy! Start with your juice, heat it up, add your lemon juice. Add the pectin and bring it to a simmer. Stir in the pectin well to help it dissolve – no lumps of pectin allowed! It really isn’t hard, the pectin wants to dissolve anyhow.
Once the pectin is all dissolved and you have some simmer action happening – not a boil, not yet anyway – Add in your sugar. Jelly making, for many, is an eye opening experience into realizing just how much sugar is actually in jelly. It’s a lot, but the good thing is – this is just regular plain sugar. Granulated sugar is much better for you than some high fructose corn syrup. So if you are going to indulge in some jelly every now and then make it homemade, and something YOU made.
So important once again to stir in the sugar to help it dissolve completely. You don’t want any errant sugar crystals lingering around. Once the sugar is dissolved all the way, increase your heat. You now want to bring this to a full rolling boil. As the heat increases and the boil gets more pronounced what is happening is – water is evaporating out of the mix, and this is a big part of jelly making. You really have to get to the pronounced boiling stage. Where your liquid does not stop boiling even when you are stirring.
Once you’ve gotten to the rolling boil stage, you are ready to start filling your cans and start canning!
One thing I have not talked about is your canning set up. You need a large pot with a lid and a rack that can fit in the bottom – so the jars, never come into contact with the bottom of the pan.
Back to Jelly – make sure your jars are clean and sterilized, run them through the dishwasher. And start filling them with the jelly. Be careful because the glass jars will quickly heat up as soon as they are full of the jelly.
Have your canning pot halfway full of water and boiling before you add your jars. Once the jars are in – and they need to be completely submerged in the water – you need to reach a rolling boil stage before you can start timing. A rolling boil is different from a boil. It’s more intense – also I find that I almost can’t get a to rolling boil stage if I don’t keep the lid on the pan while it is heating and also during the canning process. If you watch the video you’ll see a really good example of the difference between a boil and a rolling boil. Anyhow, once you have reached the rolling boil stage start a ten minute timer.
When the timer goes off, turn off the heat. Let the boil subside a bit and use a pair of canning tongs to get the jars out of the bath. Set the jars on a wooden cutting board, or on a towel and let them sit and cool. The final and, for me, the most satisfying part of canning is when you hear the cans seal. This happens as they cool and the seal is sucked down with a very satisfying “Plonk” You’ve done it – pat your self on the back, have some toast and jelly.
The jars sealed, will last for a year. Which is fine, because next year you’ll be making more. I know I will be.
Each fruit has it’s own unique color when you turn it into jelly, and I am obsessed with each one. Unique and beautiful. Almost like a precious gem.