Food & Drink

Make jelly at home

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Homemade jelly
Homemade jelly recipes have been passed down from generation to generation--and they all still warm the soul
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Here's how to make homemade treats to feed your spirit.

It certainly isn't logical. The grocery stores are full of jelly. So why are you at the farm stand, eying the Concord grapes and wondering what it would like to make jelly at home? Simplify your life? Well, messing up the kitchen doesn't exactly do that. 


There's a nip to the wind, and you've got a funny feeling. Not the warm one you get chasing a couple of eggs around a bowl with a fork, recognizing that generations of women before you have done the same thing, pretty much the same way.


The other feeling—the edgy little worry that winter's coming and you have nothing put by. Once again, you're in touch with all those women. Time was, your family depended on the food you grew, harvested, and put by to survive until spring. Now they survive on your PIN number. Grapes are just ripe, not overly ripe. Buy them, and let's go home—you're making jelly. 


What you need:


Large deep pot; stainless steel or enamel (not aluminum), six-to-eight-quart capacity

Another pot, same, three-to-four-quart capacity
Metal spoon
Metal tongs
Cheese cloth or a piece of old sheet
White butcher's or package twine
Large (three quart) stainless steel or glass bowl
Mason jars or jelly glasses, one-half-pint size if possible
Several dishtowels
Bottled lemon juice
A box of paraffin wax and an old coffee-can to melt it in, if your jars don't have lids
Jelly thermometer (optional)


Because making jelly is no longer a regular household chore, you may need to search craft- or cooking-equipment-catalogs for these supplies.


Jelly-making is a two-stage process. Do it all in one day or divide it over two.


Stage One: Fruit to Juice


Grapes are a soft, high-pectin fruit. Pectin makes jelly jell. Other high-pectin fruits include apples, currants, crabapples and quince. Peaches, pears, plums and berries may need the addition of lemon juice or commercial pectin to make good jelly. Wash and cut large fruit in chunks, and put it in a large pot with one cup of water for each three-to-four cups of fruit. There is no need to remove peels or cores. Soft fruit, like berries, need to be just covered with water.


Bring fruit/water to a boil, lower heat till fruit is soft (10-30 minutes). 

While fruit cooks, line colander with wet, wrung-out cheesecloth (two-to-three layers) or other fabric—wetting fabric prevents it from soaking up fruit juice. Place lined colander in large bowl. 


Pour cooked fruit and juice into lined colander.

Gather edges of fabric to make a bag; tie with twine.

Hang or tie bag on a cupboard knob or handle, raising juice-bag four-to-12 inches above bowl.


Leave to drip overnight if possible, or most of the day. Large amounts of fruit may mean two bags and bowls or two drip-sessions.


When dripping stops, don't squeeze the bag (squeezing produces cloudy jelly). Throw bag and fruit pulp away.



Stage Two: Juice to Jelly 

Line your larger pot with two dish towels, add six inches of water; fill jars with water, place(not touching) on towels. Separate lids from rings, if your jars came with lids; add to pot. Boil 10 min. to sterilize jars, keep hot till you fill them with jelly.


If you have more than four cups of juice, you'll be making more than one batch of jelly. (Doubling jelly recipes results in overcooking and underjelling.)

For each cup of fruit juice, add a three-fourth-cup sugar, stir and taste. If you do not notice a bit of tartness, add about two tablespoons of lemon juice.


Cook at low boil till liquid measures 220 on a jelly thermometer, or use the older "sheeting" test: Dip metal spoon in jelly, hold away from pot. If liquid coats spoon and drips off in clots, it's jelled. Or put a spoonful on a saucer in the refrigerator; cool it. Run a finger through the middle of the jelly; if the line your finger makes stays clear, you're re jelled. Pour it into hot, drained jars and add lids; screw rings on just till they're fully, not tightly, on. Let jars sit undisturbed on a dish towel till jelly cools and lids set tight. If you have no lids, cover open jars with paper or towel, let cool a bit. Put paraffin in old coffee can, set in smaller pot to which you've added four inches of water. Over med/low heat, melt paraffin. Pour a one-fourth-inch layer on each jar (run a toothpick around the edge so bubbles do not spoil a tight seal.Cover paraffined jars with paper, store in a cool dry place.

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