Perhaps the prettiest sight in the kitchen is homemade jelly—there is nothing like a row of clear translucent, stained-glass colors to warm a housewife’s (or husband's) heart and enrich the family table.
What is Jelly?
Jelly contains just the juice of a fruit, whereas jam and preserves consist of bits and pieces of the fruit itself. This is why jelly is so smooth compared to jam and can easily be spread with a spoon.
Jelly Making Tips
- Jellies generally use the whole fruit, including the peel and core which contain a lot of pectin, the natural sugar within a fruit to make it JELL.
- When making jelly, use open stainless-steel cookware and add only the amount of water called for by the recipe. Too much water will scorch the fruit. Cover, bring to boil and cook the fruit until it is soft and the juices are flowing (berries only need a couple minutes; hard fruit like apples may need anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes).
- Suspend a jelly bag (or a cheesecloth) over a colander over a large bowl, and pour the cooked fruit into the bag. For the best results, let it sit overnight. If you squeeze the bag to extract the juice faster, you’ll still get good juice, but it will be cloudy, and so will your jelly.
- Remember: acid thickens the juice while pectin will jell the juice when it is cooked. With some fruits, the extracted juice will contain all of the necessary ingredients without supplement, like tart apples, blackberries, and some grapes. With others, such as apricots, peaches, and raspberries, you will have to add either acid, pectin, or both. Additional pectin must be added to these types of fruits to make them jell properly. You can buy artificial pectin at your local grocery store (available in both powdered and liquid form), and be sure to follow the manufacturer's directions. You can use lemon juice as a substitute for acid.
- Don't forget sugar! Sugar increases the volume of the juice, sweetens it, sets the gel, and helps prevent mold and fermentation. Low-pectin fruit jelly can be made by combining the low-pectin juice with apple, half and half, and using 2/3 cup of sugar for each cup of juice. If you are using blueberries or strawberries, add 1 tablespoon lemon juice for every 2 cups of jelly juice.
- From the exact combination of juice, acid, pectin, and sugar to the temperature you heat your jelly to, everything has to be exact. In general, when no added pectin is used, the jelly stage is reached at 8°F above the boiling point of water. The boiling point for water is about 212°F at 1,000 feet or less. You can use a candy thermometer to determine the actual temperature at which water breaks into a boil in your own kitchen.
- There are several ways you can test whether or not your jelly is jelled. Use a candy thermometer, but if you don’t have one, take a spoonful of the juice five minutes after you’ve added the sugar, let it cool for a minute, then tip the spoon back into the kettle. If the juice runs together at the edge and “sheets” off the spoon, then you're ready to pour. Also, you could take a saucer of the juice and stick it in the freezer for a few minutes. If it firms in that time, you’re good to go.
- Wash and sterilize your jars and caps beforehand by heating a pot of cold water that is gradually brought to a boiling point. Turn off the heat and leave the glasses in the pot until you are ready to use them (they should still be hot when you pour in the jelly). Drain the glasses and place them on a level surface.
- Skim the foam of the jelly, and ladle it into your jars as soon as it is ready. Be careful not to slop any over the sides. If you do, wipe it off before you put the tops on. After you pour the jelly, stir it around once with a teaspoon to eliminate air bubbles.
Of course, these are general guidelines one can follow while making jelly, but you should always follow the recipe. What? You don’t have a jelly recipe? Borrow one of ours!
- Basic Apple or Crab Apple Jelly
- Grape Jelly
- Venison Jelly (Spiced Grape Jelly)
- October Jelly (Spiced Grape Jelly)
- Cranberry Jelly
- Mint Jelly with Vinegar
- Ruth Feeney’s Blackberry Jelly
- Fresh Mint Jelly
- Blackberry Crab-Apple Jelly
- Crab-Apple Jelly
- Dandelion Jelly
- Tammy’s Apple Jelly
Want more jelly recipes? Browse our Almanac Recipe archives!