Having rediscovered the delights of hand-crafted jams, encouraged by winning two blue ribbons at the 2010 Marin County Fair, I’ve been venturing into new territory this summer. Saturday (AUG 28th) made jelly ~ my first time ever. Several of my cookbooks mention apple jelly to use as a base for its versatile, high natural pectin content, and combining or flavoring it with other fruits.
I’ve always been interested in edible flowers and unusual garden produce, so thought it would be a fun creative experiment to make fuchsia berry jelly. Both fuchsia petals and their soft juicy dark berries are edible and make very pretty dessert garnishes with great colors, but they lack flavor.
Only have one fuchsia ‘Jingle Bells’ growing under my kitchen window large enough to harvest berries from. It yielded less than one cup the day I picked them. Not nearly enough to make jelly or jam. Put that first bunch in the frig, but they spoiled very quickly before I could get to using them. (Darn!)
Picked a second batch the following weekend, not nearly as many, so had to change my strategy. Figured I could use the berries as a jelly color source in a classic apple jelly base.
Bought 5lbs of Gravenstein apples at the farmers market in the morning. Cooked 4lbs to a soft mush following this traditional apple jelly recipe.
CLASSIC APPLE JELLY (Lemony Fuchsia Berry variation)
YIELD: About 5 cups (10-8oz jars)
Recipe from A Passion for Preserves by Frederica Langeland, pg.34
The author introduces the recipe as follows: This is the ultimate “basic” jelly, the perfect vehicle for your favorite herbs or blossoms.
* 4 pounds Organic tart Apples (Gravensteins, Green MacIntosh, Granny Smiths)
* Organic Sugar (OPTIONAL: 1/2 cup organic Meyer Lemon Sugar)
* As many fresh organically grown, washed, fuchsia berries as you can harvest. (I had 1/3 cup)
* Add several organically grown. freshly washed and trimmed. red rose petals for additional color. (SEE: rose petal prep techniques in this other post.)
~ WASH & stem the apples; roughly chop the skins, cores, seeds and all.
~ PUT in a large pot with filtered water just enough to cover.
COMMENT: Apples float, so press them down with a spoon to check on the water level.
~ BRING to a boil, and simmer, covered, for 30-45 minutes or until the apples are very soft (fall apart tender).
COMMENT: The Gravensteins I used cooked faster, about 20-25 minutes was enough.
Initiated my jelly bag I had purchased several years before for drip-draining the apple pulp juice into a bowl, before adding sugar and cooking it into jelly.
~ STRAIN through a jelly bag for 4-6 hours or overnight. (3-4 hours was plenty of time. Cook your apples in the morning, strain, and then you can finish the jelly late the same day.) For a clear jelly avoid squeezing the bag.
COMMENT: If discarding all that juicy pulp bothers you, save the pulp in the refrigerator (will keep for a week or so) or in the freezer to make apple butter. Apple butter’s easy to make.
~ MEASURE the juice obtained. Do not process more than 4 cups at one time.
~ PUT the juice in a wide, deep, non-reactive (stainless steel or enamel) saucepan.
~ BOIL for 20 minutes.
~ In the meantime, sterilize the clean washed jars in a 200F oven for 10-15 minutes, while soaking the jar bands in boiling water in a metal or ceramic bowl. Add the lids after the water’s cooled for 2-3 minutes.
COMMENT: These sterilizing techniques are SO much easier than doing the whole clumsy, deep water bath, boiling routine!!
Read recently if the lids are put in boiling water, the lining material may fail to make a tight seal. And in fact, I did have trouble with two of my apple butter jars (post to come soon). Lost their seal after several excessively warm autumn days. I didn’t notice ’til the spoiled contents started oozing down the side of the jar!
~ ADD one cup of sugar for each cup of juice measured into the pan. Stir until the sugar is dissolved.
~ ADD the fuchsia berries and rose petals.
~ BOIL rapidly for 5 minutes.
~ During cooking, SKIM off the foam and discard to keep the finished jelly clear. (Although I cooked the jelly at a roiling boil with lots of sugar syrup bubbles, there was relatively little-to-no foam.)
~ STRAIN the jelly syrup through a metal sieve to remove berry parts and rose petals.
~ Return to heat and begin testing for set: When the jelly sheets from the side of a tipped spoon or forms two drip blobs at the same time….rather than one or a thin stream of juice, it’s ready!
COMMENT: I didn’t refresh MY memory on how to recognize when the jelly is set…..cooked it MUCH too long and ended up with 3 jars of beautiful mauve pink edible rubber cement! Fortunately, ‘siezed’ jelly & jam is easily salvageable. You simply put it back into a clean pan with a bit of apple cider or water, reheat to boiling, and refill your clean jars.
~ POUR into hot sterilized jars, leaving 1/4 in headspace (fill up to first line of screw threads).
COMMENT: I attempted to suspend whole flowers in the jelly…and with the reprocessed jelly, suspend the berries. Wasn’t terribly successful at doing so. The flowers and berries tend to float on the jelly. If you gently turn the jars around and upside down as the jelly cools, you can get them to float a bit below the surface. But it takes extra patience…if you have it!
~ WIPE the rims and threads clean with a damp dishcloth, put the lids in place and tighten down.
~ INVERT the jars for a few minutes to complete the seal, then return to upright and let cool completely. As the vacuum forms the jar lids will “pop” down. Once cool, check the seals by touching the tops of the lids to see if they are indented slightly from the vacuum.
~ LABEL and store in a dry, dark, cool cupboard or pantry. Will keep for up to 2 years. After that the flavor fades.
* * *
Cynthe’s TIP: Let your freshly made jellies & jams mellow for a month before serving. The flavors change, sometimes dramatically, in that first month. Most often improving, but not always…
And in the case of this jelly, it lost it’s lemony zing, becoming bland and uninteresting. The texture and color is great, even after reprocessing. It’s possible the double cooking destroyed the volatile lemon zest oils….although it tasted nicely lemony right after cooking. Next time, I will use more lemon sugar, perhaps add lemon juice to the apple juice, or put in a drop or two of pure lemon essential oil to give it a flavor boost.
NOTE: Tthe fuchsia berries would have to be used in a larger quantity to truly affect the finished jelly color. I made a different apple jelly recipe a few days later without the berries and compared the colors, this one was barely almost imperceptibly a deeper shade.
If you’re interested in growing your OWN Gravenstein apple tree(s) there are some excellent e-retailers, one of which is Orange Pippin Fruit Trees. www.OrangePippin.com their main website recounts the fascinating history of many varieties of apples & readers’ taste testing reviews.