Monday, September 24, 2012

Jelly Making 101

The weather has cooled, and I needed to stay close to home today, so I decided it was the perfect time to make jelly!

My favorite kind of jelly is black raspberry.  It's nearly impossible to find in a grocery...once in a while you may see black raspberry jam, but to me, it's just not the same. 

Black raspberries have a very short season.  I live near Philadelphia, and in this zone, we have about a three-week window around July 4th to pick the berries.  Highland Orchards near West Chester, Pa.,  ( has several rows, and I've had good luck filling my trays there.  Black raspberries have thorns, so you can get a little scratched up if you don't wear long sleeves.  They aren't cheap, but the end product is worth it! 
Don't they look delicious?!

After picking, I bring the berries home and juice them right away to get the freshest flavor.  I have this juicing pan called the Meju-Mahu.  I don't think they sell them in the States anymore, but perhaps one could be found online?  It is like a triple-boiler...there is a pan at the bottom for water, then a pan that sits on top of that to collect the juice, and then a large pan with a colander insert for the fruit that sits on top of the juice pan.  A lid covers it all.  The steam from the bottom pan releases the juice from the berries, and all that's left after about a half hour of steaming is the pulp and seeds. 
I usually freeze the juice in plastic containers, because it's just too hot to make jelly in the summer!  When my supply of jelly from last year is getting low, I'll get a couple of containers of juice out of the freezer and get to work. 
 Two batches made 13 half-pint jars, plus one 4 oz. jar.
Having done this for several years, I kinda have it down to an assembly line production.
1.   I wash the jars and put them in a large baking dish; I pour boiling water over them to keep them hot. 
2.  In another pan of boiling water, I put the new lids and rings. 
3.  Three cups of  berry juice, 1/4 cup of lemon juice and 5 cups of sugar go into my largest pot over high heat, and I stand and stir it constantly until it boils.  Then I add Certo (a liquid fruit pectin), return the jelly to a boil for one minute, and then remove it from the heat. 
4.  Working quickly, I ladle the jelly into the jars, wipe the lip of the jars clean, put on a lid and close each jar with the ring.  
Most recipes will tell you that you must process the jelly in a hot-water canner for a few minutes, but I don't.  I just put my jars on a cutting board, and allow them to cool.  As they do, a vacuum is created inside the jar, and you hear the lid 'pop' loudly as it seals.  I check each jar after about 2 hours, just to be sure they all have sealed properly.  If one hasn't, I pop it into the refrigerator and use it within the next couple of weeks.  My mom made jelly for years and never processed it in a hot-water canner.  I guess old habits die hard.  Another thing I never do -- double the recipe!  I'm afraid that it won't jell properly, so after the first 7 jars were done, I washed the pans and started a new batch. 
Some of this will be given as gifts...but most of it will be spread on piping hot home-made biscuits.  Yum!

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