STITCH LINES...... Ramblings on life as a quilter, stitcher, traveler, photographer, gardener and lover of books, cats and fine chocolate....

Monday, September 26, 2011

Spiced Apple Jelly Recipe

Several readers asked for the Apple Jelly recipe, so here you go. First, I should tell you that jelly is a rather finicky thing to make, so if you have never tried jelly before, I strongly recommend doing it with an experienced jelly-maker for the first time or two, as it is something that's hard to do just from written instructions. Much better to have someone "show you" - especially when it comes to knowing when the juice has cooked long enough and is ready for bottling. I speak from experience - I have undercooked and overcooked, it can be hard to get it "just right".
This is an old family recipe- from my Grandmother Kelly. Her name was Lil, short for Lillian. I barely remember her- the only thing I can clearly remember is that she always kept maple buds (chocolate candy) on the top shelf in her kitchen cupboard, for treating her grandchildren. And she was a great cook! Funny what kids remember, eh?
Of course you will need a jelly bag- you can purchase a stand with a bag to use, or you can make your own from unbleached muslin or an old pillowcase which is what I did. Choose a clean pillowcase you no longer use, but make sure the fabric is still strong and it has NO holes. I simply cut several slits in the hemmed end, and threaded through a strong string or cord- I actually used a length of double fold bias tape - the length you need will be determined by where you are going to hang your bag, and how high it will need to be. I hang mine in the basement from a nail driven in a floor joist, and the large bowl under it sits on top of my freezer. It's out of the way and can hang undisturbed for a day or two. It would be wise to figure out where you will hang your jelly bag before you begin, and make your drawstring ties the appropriate length.

Lil's Spiced Apple Jelly:

Ingredients: Apples or crabapples or a combination of both - firm, not too ripe
water and white vinegar
2 or 3 cinnamon sticks
1 Tblsp. whole cloves
white sugar

I usually use a combination of crabapples and apples. I try to find crabs with nice red skins, so I get good red color. This year I picked up a 3 litre basket at the farmer's market. I add at least 10-12 large apples, usually Paula Reds or Macs- again, I choose apples with nice red skins if possible. The ripeness of the fruit is important- they cannot be under-ripe or over-ripe. (Degree of ripeness affects the level of pectin in the fruit- VERY important when making jelly as pectin is what makes it gel.) I usually make an apple pie the same day (Gravensteins) and I add those peels and cores with seeds to the apple mixture as well, ensuring I will have lots of pectin.
Wash the apples and crabs, and cut up into your stockpot. Remove stem and blossom end, but use everything else- leave skins on and core and seeds go into the pot as well. The small crabs I just cut in half- the large apples I cut into eighths.  Add equal amounts of water and white vinegar until you can just see the liquid through the apples. Add cinnamon sticks and cloves. Bring to a boil, then boil gently until all apple pieces are softened, stirring often to prevent scorching on the bottom. Do not overcook. Wet your jelly bag and wring out, place it in bowl you will use to catch the juice. Ladle or pour the hot apple mixture into your jelly bag, (juice will start to run through bag immediately) and hang to drip overnight. (it is really great to have a second pair of hands to help you hang your bag as it will be HOT!!) Use the largest bowl you own to catch all that beautiful red juice.
Day Two: (My Mum always told me- never boil jelly on a rainy day- wait for a dry day, so you can store the juice in refrigerator for a few days, if need be, while you wait for a dry day.) Wash and prepare your bottles for sterilizing. I use 250 ml. (1 cup) jelly jars, the type with sealer caps and rings. See photo with Sept. 21 post. Take down your jelly bag, being careful not to dip it into the juice. (I put all the "apple mash" into my compost pile.) Measure the juice exactly and place in large pot or stockpot. (If you have a good amount of juice, divide it into two batches- don't boil more than about 5 cups of juice at a time- otherwise it takes too long.) Measure an equal amount of white sugar- place into another large bowl and put in your oven at 200-225F to warm. Bring juice to a full rolling boil and time for 8 minutes. Skim off any foam that forms. After 8 minutes add the warmed sugar, stirring well. Place bottles in oven to sterilize. Return juice to full rolling boil, continuing to skim off any foam. Knowing when it is done is the crucial ( and tricky!) part. I do not use a thermometer although  I am considering getting one. Consulting an experienced jelly-maker at this point would be invaluable..... I use the "drops from the spoon" test: at first the drip from your spoon will be light and syrupy - running in one drop. As it cooks and thickens, it will eventually form two drops along the edge of the spoon. When those two drops come together and fall as a single drop, it is done! [ The required cooking time will vary depending on the type of fruit used, the amount of pectin (degree of ripeness), the amount of sugar and the amount of juice you are cooking (more juice = longer time). It may range from 8 - 30 minutes.]
Remove hot bottles from oven and fill with the hot juice, to within 1/2 " of top. I place a metal spoon in the bottle to absorb some of the heat, as I fill each bottle. I seal my jelly with paraffin wax, then top with the sealer tops and rings. Let sit until completely cool - I actually let them sit in the same spot for at least a day, before storing in the coldroom. Good Luck!


"The preparation of good food is merely another expression of art, one of the joys of civilized living."
~Dione Lucas


GailM. said...

OK. I'm so glad that you live nearby. When I'm ready to tackle this, I'll check with you to see what your schedule is like. Thanks sooo much for taking the time to write it up. I'd love to make it before Thanksgiving. I'm expecting a big crowd, and wouldn't it be nice to give each family a bottle to take home.

Laura Hubbard said...

Ollie wasn't curious of the bowl of juice? Good kitty!

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