Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Tips for Jelly Making

The 2006 canning season has come and gone at my house. Though it's possible that I'll can a small batch here and there throughout the year, if there's a great sale at the grocery store. Or, maybe I'll get an inkling to make jelly, which is easy to make from unsweetened 100% juice. We'll see.

In the meantime, I thought I'd share some jelly making tips. It took me a few years to get up the nerve to make my own jelly, but I finally did it and there's no turning back now. I haven't bought jelly from the grocery store in ages. Sure, I mess it up sometimes and end up with a runny mess, But, hey, the runny mess is still yummy and usually makes a nice syrup for ice cream, pie, or even pancakes! Sure, you can dump the runny mess into a pot, add more pectin, and redo the whole thing, but I've never had the energy.

Anyway, here are those tips:
-- Make sure that your fruit is just ripe, or even under ripe. Fruit loses it's pectin as it ripens (pectin is the stuff that makes jelly gel) and so overripe fruit will make for softer, perhaps even runny, jelly.
-- Use the exact measurements found in your recipe. Too much or too little will spell runny disaster.
-- Use the exact ingredients called for in the recipe. This is an exact science.
-- Don't double the batch. This is because the recipe is formulated to take into account the amount of liquid that is evaporated in the cooking. More jelly in a pot will have less evaporation and you're back to the runny mess. I told you this was an exact science.
-- You can substitute frozen fruit for fresh. Just make sure that there is no sugar added. Just fruit and no syrup.
-- Make sure that you bring the boil up rapidly so as not to break down the pectin.
-- Boil the exact length of time called for in the recipe.
-- You don't have to buy a canning book. The package of pectin will have all the basic recipes inside.
-- Wet your cheesecloth before pouring your fruit into it. Better the cheesecloth soak up water than your precious fruit juice.
-- Don't squeeze the juice out of the cheesecloth. This makes for cloudy jelly. Better to just let it sit for a few hours and drip.

If you like jam here's a nice website that has step-by-step pictures.

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