The Last of the Jams, maybe
The other day, I mentioned to the husband casually that I was running out of jars for canning. He gave me a look. A long one.
Then he said, “I thought you were canning less this year?”
“Weeeellll, yyeeeesss, I have, sort of.”
It is true, I have canned fewer jars of jam than last year, but I have more of some things. This year, in addition to jam, we also have plum sauce, peach bbq sauce, peach salsa, and applesauce. We also canned more peaches and pickles than last year. Overall, we have more food put up than we did last year, but we have less jam, ummm, maybe. I haven’t actually counted the jars.
Let’s just ignore the overflowing cabinets for a moment and talk about, surprise!, apples. You didn’t think I was going to skip making apple jammy goodness just because I already have a gazillion jars of jam, do you? No.
Just to make things interesting, though I did play around a little bit.
Firstly, I made apple-grape jelly.
The boys love grape jelly, and I was able to find some organic “wine” grapes at Whole Foods one day, so I thought I would give jelly a try. I combined the grapes with apples to make it a) cheaper, b) easier to set, and c) use up some of our mountain of apples.
Jelly is easy, but you do need a special setup. The first step is easy; just chop up the apples, get all the grapes off of the stem, toss them in a pot with a little apple juice or water, and boil until everything is soft.
The next step is the crucial one. You need to buy a jelly bag and bag holder or, you can use several layers of cheesecloth in a strainer. Suspend the bag or strainer over a large bowl and scoop the hot, soft, cooked fruit into it.
The only thing you have to remember is this: Do Not Ever Press Down on the fruit in the strainer. This could cause fruit bits to get through the cloth and then your jelly will be cloudy. I know this seems counter intuitive. After all, don’t you want as much juice as possible? Well, yes, but you have to let gravity and time do the work, not you.
After about 24 hours, you have juice. In this case, I had about 3 cups of juice. Now, at this point, if your juice looks cloudy, even though you did not press down on the fruit in the cloth, it is ok. Jelly making is a little magical. Watch what happens next.
I added 3 ounces of lemon juice and 16 ounces of sugar to the juice and set it over medium heat. As the sugar dissolves and the mixture gets hot, the juice turns clear. See?
Ok, I know it’s a little hard to tell in this photo, but trust me, it was so clear that I could see the bottom of the pot. I told you it was magical. Anyway, the next part is easy. Boil the mixture until the setting point is reached. This basically means that if you put a few drops of the jelly on a frozen spoon or dish, it will gel up after a minute or two. You will be able to turn the plate or spoon vertically and the jelly will not move or it will move very slowly. If you push a finger through it, the surface will wrinkle. It took my jelly about 15 minutes to get to this point. I suggest checking every five minutes or so.
Then, you shut off the heat, skim all the foam off the surface, ladle into your prepared jars, and process. I got barely 3 half pint jars from this batch. I think the boys will be happy to have this in the pb&j sandwiches.
Wow, this turned out to be a longer post than I was expecting. I think I will have to tell you about my unconventional apple butter next time.
Recipe for Apple Jelly, a summary
Basically, I wrote all the directions in the post above, so I am just going to list the ingredients here for easy reference and give the basic skeleton of directions.
2 pounds wine grapes, or any other seeded grape will do. Someday, if I ever find organic concord grapes, I want to try those.
2 pounds apples, any variety, but tart ones and small ones will have more pectin and set more quickly
1 cup apple cider
1 pound sugar
3 ounces lemon juice, about 2 lemons
Jelly bag and frame or cheesecloth and a strainer
3-4 teaspoons or saucers placed in the freezer for testing
3-4 half pint jam jars with lids and seals, sterilized and ready for processing
1. Wash, chop, and cook fruit with a little juice.
2. Strain juice through the jelly bag for 24 hours.
3. Place spoons or saucers in the freezer, prep jars for canning.
4. Boil juice with sugar and lemon juice until setting point is reached.
5. Divide jelly among jars and process.
6. Store jam and try not to eat it all at once.
makes about 3 half pint jars of jam that will keep for a year
Next: Apple Butter, revised.