Wednesday, November 27, 2013

First Time Making Jelly

Despite all the jams and other fruity things I put in jars, I've never made jelly. It's the extra step of having to strain the fruit that has deterred me. In general, I avoid canning recipes that involve too many steps or points in the process where you have to wait on something, since I'm not very good at planning ahead. I did try to make jelly once last year, or should we say started to make jelly. Once I strained the fruit, I lost interest in turning it into jelly and just drank the juice. Oops.

This year I ended up with several bags of fruit that need to be turned into jelly - high bush cranberries, salmonberries (thanks, Mom!), and rose hips. We don't have a chest freezer so it has been a priority of mine to get some of these things into jars so I can put other things in our tiny freezer. Last weekend I finally tackled it.

I made both salmonberry jelly and high bush cranberry jelly over the course of the weekend. On Saturday I cooked the fruit down and put it in strainers. As simple as it sounds, that caused me a lot of anguish and turned my kitchen into a pink fruit juice spattered mess (I'm still finding splatters in odd places). The main problem was that I wasn't sure what the best straining set up was nor how to get the hot fruity stuff into the straining bags (somehow I always manage to make things harder than they should be). I bought a neat little jelly strainer stand and bag, but it was neither sturdy nor adjustable (as the package indicated). I can't remember what the brand was, but it looked like this. I didn't end up using it. The string on the bag is pretty handy though and I was able to hang that around the knob on our of our cabinet doors (the idea came courtesy of Patrick). I had some other strainer bags I'd picked up somewhere else and found they fit perfectly over my Vitamix. Another I put over a tall Mason jar. I let them all strain over night. I'm still not sure what the best way to get the fruit into the bags is, especially the one that got hung on the cabinet, but I managed to get it done and only burned myself a little. I suppose I could wait for it to cool, but that would just add one more step and more planning...

The next day I mixed the salmonberry juice with about an equal amount of cranberry pomegranate juice to make it go farther and give it a little extra flavor. The cranberry juice was mixed with about an equal amount of apple juice. High bush cranberries have a very strong, tart taste (and a very distinct smell), so I wanted to tone that down but just enough that the cranberry flavor was still there. I added the usual sugar and pectin to both, put in jars, and hoped for the best!

I don't think high bush cranberries have very much natural pectin, so I put those jars in the fridge overnight hoping it would help the jelly set. It did!

The salmonberry jelly turned out delicious (as I would expect since I followed my mom's recipe) and the cranberry set just enough to be called jelly. It's pretty tart, but I love tart fruit and I love the high bush cranberry flavor (some people, I won't name names, think I'm crazy).

salmonberry on the left and high bush cranberry on the right
p.s. If you are wondering if Ryan is still on St. George, the answer is yes. There is a flight tonight, so fingers crossed he makes it home! If not, he'll be eating fresh reindeer and getting paid so it's hard to complain.


  1. I was about to say, 'I tie my jelly bag onto one of my cabinet knobs', and then I saw the reference to me. Anyway, I much prefer jelly because then you don't have to get all anal about leaves and sticks and such. Much easier in my mind. Also High bush cranberry is the absolute best and I like it un adulterated (smelling like old socks). Patrick

  2. I agree about not having to worry about sticks and leaves. I can't believe there is somebody else who likes high bush cranberries as much as I do! There are tons of them right outside our condo - easy picking!

  3. Looks awesome Molly!! Yummy! I need to start canning year. That's the downfall of a chest freezer, you keep putting it off!!