Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Jelly. The facts.

The hit of this summer, when it comes to things to spread on toast in the morning and gobble down with a good strong cup of coffee, was blackcurrant and apple jelly. It was a particularly satisfying thing to make, because not only was it very delicious, but I used blackcurrants that I'd picked myself, for free, from a farm in the Moutere Valley, and windfall apples that I'd found when out on a wee bike ride one day. I wish I could show you a photo of it, but we ate it all up or gave it away as gifts, so I have none left.
However, I did get my jelly stride on again last weekend, and made a batch of old-fashioned grape jelly from the grapes that trail over our garden fence from our neighbour's house. To make old-fashioned grape jelly you pick over the grapes, removing all the sneaky spiders that like to hide on the stalks. Give the sorted grapes a wee wash and then boil them up with a little water, say, 1/2 C to a kilo of grapes, until it's all juicy and pulpy. Simmer for about 40 min or so, then pour into cheesecloth and let the juice drip through. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: For GOODNESS SAKES, don't squeeze the jelly bag. Old people who know about jelly will hit you on your hand for doing that, and they'll berate you about making cloudy jelly.
After all, or at least most, of the juice has dripped through, boil it up with an equal amount of sugar (500 mL juice, 500 g sugar) and some lemon juice or citric acid (1/2 a teaspoon or so) if you have no lemons. Boil until you reach the setting point. You know what a setting point looks like right? If you put a little on a saucer, cool it, and then push your finger through it, it will form wrinkles on the surface. Hey presto! Old-fashioned grape jelly!
I learned to make jelly when I was a teenager, when I should have been hanging out with naughty friends my parents disapproved of, and experimenting with cigarettes. Sigh...so many regrets, so many regrets. 
When I'm making jelly I almost always just boil the fruit up, strain it, then add equal quantities of sugar and a little lemon juice to the strained juice. It always works, but if you want to be a true jelly expert then look out for this book:
It's the Otago University Extension Bulletin from 1966. What it can't tell you about making jelly isn't worth knowing. Does anyone want a copy of the chapter on jelly? I will load it up if you're interested. You can make jelly from most fruity fruits, you know, apples, berryfruits, citrus, currants, plums, elderberries, grapes, quinces, even rowanberries. If you're into it, that is. You might find it more fun to hang out with naughty friends and experiment with cigarettes, but I can't say for sure. One thing I do know is that when you tally up the cost of jelly made with free fruit the inner tight wad does a little jig with its short arms tucked firmly into its deep pockets.
Have a great week everyone!
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  1. ha! i love that last comment. the inner tightwad, what a treasure.

    that jelly looks so fine. i can't wait to crack into the jar of blackcurrant jelly you gave us.

  2. Thanks! We seem to have a local bumper crop of delicious muscat grapes, I can get a kilo for $2!! I was pondering jelly, this is timely. :) Also, I wanted to let you know I made laundry soap and deodorant from your inspiration, both work well!

    What about preserving it? Do you put it in sterile jars with a tight lid in a dark place? Water bath? Fridge?

  3. ugh. I want to slap internet-me for excessive use of exclamation points. No one should be so excited about jelly...

  4. You are the jelly Queen and I think I'll take a leaf out of your book and have a go at plum and apple jelly, with the windfalls of course. got to keep it in the spirit of true economy.

  5. Nice looking jelly Miss Smith - I hear your teen clean jelly and raise you a hand pieced quilt. Oh that's right you made one of those too.

  6. I knew there was something missing when we were hanging around being naughty. Not with cigarettes, mind. Off to scout out cheap, glorious fruit items ...

  7. I am yet to give jelly a go, but am more and more interested every time you do a piece on it, even if it is just to squeeze the bag! Argh! Too many naughty friends. You know I just can't help it! vx

  8. Inspired as usual by your recipes Miss Smith. Making the jelly today. Made and bottled grape juice concentrate yesterday, recipe from friend:
    Clean and pick grapes from bunches.
    Just cover grapes with water.
    Boil 45 min.
    Add 1c sugar to 1 pint juice.I made it slightly less sweet. Could use
    Sterilise jars at 100C.
    Mouli or strain mix.
    Reheat and bottle. Seal.
    To drink dilute with water to taste about 3:1. Enjoy the fuits of your labour.

  9. oops sorry last post not quite correct, should have proof read better. Mouli or strain pulp first then add sugar to juice. I am sure you picked this up!