I made homemade jelly.
Like, I took juice, and I boiled it, and I canned it, and I made jelly.
Not very good jelly, but its still mine and its still homemade, so shut up.
It all started when my FIL asked me if I wanted some juice to make jelly because he has quite a collection in his freezer he needs to get rid of. I, of course, agreed. The problem with my FIL and I is that he knows how to do all these fun things, but doesn’t have time to do them all. So he asks me if I want to do them, and even though I have NO CLUE what I am doing I always say yes, because the more you know in the kitchen the better off you are. It is always a fun adventure when I get into a new project brought on by free food from my In-laws.
So, a week or so after asking me, he brings me containers of juice marked 2010. 2010. This man has juice in his freezer from 2010, I didn’t even know my husband in 2010. Mental note: in case of zombie apocalypse, go to in-laws house they have way more than enough food.
Seriously though, they have blueberry bushes and currant bushes and grapes and all kinds of things that I very seriously considered to be myth outside of huge farms that grow them for a living. Not only do they have them, but they actively utilize them. They pick berries and grow garden and are about the closest things to homesteaders that I have ever known (this may be attributed to the fact that FIL works for the historical center and is really into neat stuff like that).
I stuck the juice in the freezer and figured I would get to it eventually, not like it was going to go bad or anything! I slowly collected some canning jars and lids and a big pot and FIL gave me a book on preserving things. He swore up and down that its super easy to make grape jelly, you just boil the juice and the sugar and put it in the jar. Easy peasy!
So, this week while I was in the throws of a nervous breakdown and needing to bake and cook everything I could get my hands on I decided it was time to make jelly. I ran down to get the juice from the freezer excited to make grape jelly (because its “oh so easy”), except, I have currant juice. I have two big ruby red containers of currant juice. My preserves book says nothing about currant jelly. Panic sets in. I texted FIL, I googled currant jelly. I slowly make some progress.
The general run down in the preserves book is such:
- Make your juice (well no shit)
- prep your lids and jars
- boil your juice
- add your sugar
- boil to 220 degrees
- ladle into jars leaving 1/4 inch head space
- wipe the rims and put the lids on
- process the filled jars in a boiling water bath for 5 minutes
- allow jars to cool and check seal
So for those of us who were ignoring Mother when she was trying to teach us how to can as kids let me explain some of this since it took me hours to Google it all. By “prepping your lids” you should wash them with hot soapy water then rinse them off. Then there is some disagreement about what to do with the clean lids, some say just let them lay, some say drop them in the pot with the jars, some say put them in a separate pot to keep them hot but not boiling. I opted for leaving them on the counter. By “prepping your jars” you should wash your jars with hot soapy water and then drop them into a pot of boiling water for ten minutes to get sterilized. A “boiling water bath” means that once you have it all done and over with and your jars are filled and the lids are on and you are feeling good, you put your jars into a pot of boiling water (make sure the water is boiling before you put the jars in, you’ll see) for ten minutes to heat them up and get the seal to pop.
I put a big pot on the stove and filled it with water to boil while I scrubbed down all my jars and lids. When it still wasn’t boiling after that, I figured hot was just as good as boiling for sterilizing and dropped the jars in to sterilize. The preserves book said to boil your juice and make your jelly while the jars were sterilizing because they have to stay hot between sterilizing and filling so they won’t break when the boiling hot liquid gets spooned in. Trying to be a good little student and follow the recipe I put my juice on and slowly stirred in my sugar. The book also said to stir it constantly, so I got out my awesome little gadget that is an automatic stirer (another gift from the in-laws, its like they know what my future holds! you can get yours here, they are amazing!!) and let it go while I worked on the rest of the recipe.
The juice mixture has to heat up to exactly 220 degrees at a rolling boil (that means a crazy boil that you are convinced is going to get out of hand and burn down your house) for at least 1 minute before it will hit the gelling point. While that was all taking place, my jars STILL were not boiling in their pot. I got out my candy thermometer (guess who got me this? yep, in-laws) and started trying to following the auto-stirer around the pot to test the temp. It only took me about 3 minutes to figure out that there is a clip on the thermometer so you can clip it on the side of the pot and be hand free. Yay!
When the juice mix was boiling rapidly and was at 220 degrees, the jars still hadn’t boiled. I figured they were probably sanitized and there would be more than enough time between filling them up and getting them ready for their boiling bath that it would surely boil. So, I ladled the mix into the jars and screwed their lids on. I was feeling pretty good about myself by now because I had done all of this with no incidents. Although, I was feeling nervous because I am used to tasting as I go but there is seriously no way to check jelly while you are doing it. You jut have to kind of hope for the best.
When all my little jars of jelly were lined up on the counter waiting for their boiling bath, I realized my pot of water still was not boiling. What the eff? This pot has been on the stove now for like three hours, why is it not boiling? I know its big, but seriously? I didn’t want the jars to cool down too much so I plopped them into the pot anyway thinking that surely it would boil soon. Yea right. After twenty minutes more of the jars sitting sadly in their hot-but-not-boiling bath I pulled them out and let them sit on the counter for several hours before going to check their seal. Amazingly enough, they had all sealed. Normally you can tell they are sealing because you can actually hear them pop, but sometimes they seal quietly. You can check the seal by pushing on the top of the lid, the button shouldn’t move. You can take the rim off and gently pull up on the lid to make sure its stuck fast, or you can do the spoon method (this one was weird and I couldn’t figure it out).
The jars may have sealed, but my jelly was pretty pitiful. Instead of a thick gelled jelly, I had a runny sloppy jelly. However, it tastes delicious, and its HOME MADE. I got 5 jars of jelly out of about 3 cups of juice.
I am not sure how only four jars made it into this picture, I already opened the top one so I could taste it and check how it gelled up.
Since I have several more containers of juice in the basement, I foresee many more ventures into jelly making this summer. Now, if you’ll excuse me I am going to go eat a whole loaf of bread with homemade jelly for dinner.