Easy Southern Cooking

Easy Southern Cooking/ Making Jelly

Making Jelly:

Beautiful, clear jelly can be easily made with fresh fruit and sugar.  Commercial pectin such as Sure-Jel can be used to speed the cooking, but often is not necessary if you are willing to cook for a longer period and watch for the jelling point.  Recipes using commercial pectin use more sugar and cannot be doubled.

To make jelly without pectin you need fruit that has a high natural pectin content.  Do not use overripe fruit as the pectin content is lower in very ripe fruit and the jelly will not jell.  Use some under ripe fruit to increase the pectin content.  Berries and other fruits low in pectin content will require the addition of fruit high in pectin or the use of commercial pectin products.

Prepare fresh fruit by washing and trimming out any defects.  Do not use frozen or canned fruit, their pectin content is too low for jelling.  Do not peel or core the fruit.  The peel will add color to the jelly.  Cook the fruit to a soft pulp, but do not overcook.  Pour the fruit into a jelly bag or a muslim lined strainer and allow to drain naturally, do not squeeze.  Squeezing the bag may hasten the process, but will produce a cloudy juice and ultimately a cloudy jelly. 

The acid content is important in order to enable the pectin to jell.  Some fruits require the addition of acid, usually in the form of lemon juice.  Do not leave out or substitute for the lemon juice in the recipe. 
The sugar is necessary to preserve the jelly and aid in jelling.  Do not reduce or substitute the sugar content in the recipe.  If less sugar is desired, use a recipe specifically designed for less sugar.  Add the sugar and any other called for ingredients to the juice in a large pot or kettle and boil rapidly until the jelling point is reached.  A large kettle is necessary as jelly tends to boil up and foam.  If foaming is a problem, a ¼ teaspoon of butter or margarine may be added.  Skim the foam off the jelly at the end of boiling, just before pouring into jars. 


The Jelling Point

As the juice-sugar mixture nears the jelling point, test frequently. Dip a spoon into the boiling jelly. Remove and allow the juice to drip from the side of the spoon. As the jelling point nears it will drip from a tipped spoon in two drops ¼ to ½ inch apart. When the jelling point is reached the two drops will run together and drop off in one sheet. 

A candy thermometer may be used instead of the jelly test to determine the proper jelly stage. At sea level the temperature should reach 200 to 222 degrees F. At higher altitudes it is reached at a slightly lower temperature. For each 960 feet above sea level, lower the temperature by 1.8 degrees.


Preparing the Jars and Sealing the Jelly

Many older recipes call for sealing the jelly with paraffin.  This method is no longer recommended, as spoilage is possible and not as harmless as once thought.  Current methods call for the jelly to be sealed and processed in a boiling water bath.  The processing time depends on the size of the jar and the altitude.  

Clean and inspect the jars carefully for nicks or cracks.  The rim of the jar must be nick free or the jar will not seal.  Jars and rings may be reused, but you should use new lids each time.   Place the clean jars into a large kettle or canner.  Cover with water and bring to a boil.  Boil for 10 minutes, then maintain a simmer until ready to add the jelly.  Process the lids according to the manufacturers instructions.

When the jelly is ready, remove the jars from the water bath and drain quickly,   Do not worry about drying.  Skim the jelly and pour into the jars quickly, filling to within ¼ inch of the rim.  (Leave a ¼ inch head space.)  The use of a canning funnel helps prevent spills.  Wipe the jar rim with a damp towel to remove any jelly that may have landed on it and prevent sealing.  Put the lid and ring on the jar and hand tighten.  Put the filled and sealed jars back into the boiling water for the recommended time.  Remove and set on the counter to cool.  When the jars are cool, test the seals to be sure they sealed.  Any jar that did not seal should be put into the refrigerator for immediate use.

Jelly That Did Not Jell

If the jelly does not jell, you have several options.  First, you could call it syrup and pretend it is perfect.  But, if jelly is your desire you have several options. 

For fruits high in pectin, you can remake the jelly by adding 2 tablespoons bottled lemon juice to each quart of jelly.  Clean and re-sterilize the jars.  Heat jelly and lemon juice to the boiling point and boil again, testing for the jelling point as previously described.  Fill the sterile jars and seal again with new lids.  Repeat the sealing process as described.
You can also remake using commercial pectin. Clean and re-sterilize the jars.   For each quart of jelly, add ¼ cup sugar, ½ cup water, 2 tablespoons bottled lemon juice and 4 teaspoons powdered pectin. Bring to a rolling boil over high heat, stirring constantly. Boil hard 1 minute. Remove from heat, quickly skim foam off jelly and fill clean sterile jars, leaving ¼-inch headspace. Adjust new lids and process again as recommended.




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