Saturday, July 18, 2015

Mid-July Jelly

One of my favorite daily "chores" is to wander around the yard and see what fresh fruits and veg are ready for picking.  Some days, it's a glut of squash and cucumbers.  Other days, it's fresh chard, kale and lettuces.  But my happiest days are right now, when currants, raspberries and gooseberries are ripening daily.  While many don't make it into the house, devoured by the handful as Head Gardener perks, those that do make it in get transformed into something to be enjoyed in colder months.  Sometimes it's jam, chunky and seedy and deliciously simple.  But other times, I like to do the slow process of making homemade jelly.

Jelly is, actually, very simple to make.  It just takes time, because you need to first process the fruit, then allow it to drip through a jelly bag overnight.  The slow drip-drip-drip from the jelly bag is soothing, a promise of delights to come.  The next day, the actual jelly making begins.  After measuring the juice, and measuring out an equal amount of sugar, it's onto the stove to come to a rolling boil.  A packet or two of liquid pectin followed by a hard boil for one minute, ladle into clean sterilized jars and process for the allotted time, and there you have it: beautiful clear jelly to stock the pantry and give as gifts.

Generally, I start with four cups of juice (you can add a cup or two of water as needed to make this amount) with an equal amount of sugar.  The above jelly, made from black and red raspberries and my first crop of delicious gooseberries, measured 2 1/2 cups after dripping all night so I added enough to make up the difference to reach my four-cup measurement.  I put the juice and sugar into a large saucepan and bring to a boil.  Usually, I add two pouches of liquid pectin (I use Certo brand as my mainstay) and then bring it up to a very hard boil for one minute, stirring constantly.  Don't stop stirring, and don't let it boil over!  It is very hot, and will burn both you and whatever it it stinks like heck if it gets on the burner.  Jelly notoriously gets a foam on top, but its easy to remove if you let the jelly cool for a minute and then use a metal spoon to scoop the foam off the surface of the jelly.  Ladle into the hot jars, and process for fifteen minutes in a hot water bath canner.

Four cups of juice will yield about six half-pints of jelly, more than enough to enjoy and give away as presents.  I don't make huge batches of jelly, because who can eat that much?  I much prefer my daily wanders through the garden, and making small batches of delicious, jewel toned goodness.  Plus, you can call it anything you want: Mid-July Jelly?  Yes, please.

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