The days are still fairly warm here in Arkansas, even if the evenings and mornings are chilly- I keep waiting for colder weather to get here, but last year it never really did (save for a few ice storms and then immediate warm weather that followed which is manic and kind of cool- snow boots one day, flip flops the next, literally).
On cold mornings my favorite thing to do is cuddle under a fleece throw with the chickadee while I guzzle a hot cup of coffee and start my day as she wakes up to some Doc McStuffins- although she is outgrowing both the show and the practice of an early morning cuddle.
I’ve taken to perusing sites on boondocking in your RV (which is off the grid RV camping) and Pinterest for jelly recipes for my new canning obsession.
Since last we spoke I have successfully made tomato jam (which was excellent and we have blown through all 4 jars of it, using it in place of ketchup and also i have started eating it on crackers- I’m making more today and will document the process for you), the apple butter I posted about, and finally hot pepper jelly.
Getting to the point where I could say I successfully made jelly was a process, guys.
I started with that coffee jelly recipe I mentioned in my apple butter post; excited, because my love of coffee is deep and real and because the poster made this sound so divine I assembled everything I needed and followed the instructions to the letter.
I poured what I thought would be my first successful attempt at making jelly into the prepared canning jars I had out on my counter and processed them in a canning bath for 15 minutes- then removed them one by one, thrilled that every single jar sealed properly.
I left them alone overnight, thinking, you know- they will do their thang and in the morning I will have some delicious coffee jelly to put on anything toasted I see fit.
When I came downstairs in the morning I found, to my dismay, that the jars were still filled with liquid.
It didn’t set up or gel at all- not even a soft set.
I was disappointed but followed the instructions the poster included to get the jelly to set up if the first attempt failed- that also didn’t work for me (which could be my inexperience working against me), and by the time I was done trying to fix it the coffee jelly mixture had charred and smelled awful.
At that point, even if it had set up, I don’t think I would want to eat it.
I plan to try that again but have not- in the meantime, the best advice I received from an experienced jelly maker was to follow a recipe included in the Sure Jell leaflet as those tend to be foolproof and get some experience with a jelly that is going to set so when I go to make the coffee jelly again I will know if it’s working.
My next stop in the adventure was hot pepper jelly, using this recipe from Sure Jell– I chose this for 2 reasons;
- The ingredients were super inexpensive.
- I love hot pepper jelly and hate spending over 4 dollars a jar on it at the store.
So armed with everything I needed I got to work; it seems the key to getting jelly to set is getting the pectin in the Sure Jell powder to release in the hot liquid.
To do this, I had to have everything ready; all the ingredients for the jelly itself in the pot of course, plus the recommended amount of sugar measured out in a separate bowl and the Sure Jell at the ready.
If you tend to be the kind of home cook that preps as you cook (which is my thing) when you’re making jelly is not the time to stick with that tradition- have everything ready to go because time is of the essence.
So you get your peppers, pectin (Sure Jell) and apple cider vinegar into the pot and get the heat under it- medium high heat works best.
Within a few moments you should achieve a rolling boil- this means that you are getting bubbles in the liquid that don’t stop when you stir it; when you reach this stage let it boil for 60 seconds before you add the sugar.
It’s that time frame in the boiling liquid that helps the pectin start releasing, which will give you a set on your jelly.
After the 60 seconds is up, you pour in your sugar- and when it returns to a rolling boil let it boil for exactly 60 more seconds and then kill the heat under it.
Ladle into prepared jars and leave alone overnight.
Now, at this point I had never heard about throwing a little jelly on a chilled plate to see if a set would be achieved- I realized mine would set because I was one jar short on my prep and therefore put the remaining jelly in a clean plastic container and tossed it into my refrigerator.
An hour later, when I went to get the Chickadee some milk, it was already setting up.
But just in case you are forward thinking enough to process an adequate amount of prepared storage jars, this is the chilled plate test;
You chill a plate while you’re preparing your jelly.
When you are about to start ladling your finished product into jars, ladle just a little on the chilled plate.
If it is going to set, it should do so immediately- drag your finger through to see if you can leave a “tunnel”.
If so, you’re in business and should proceed- if not follow manufacturer instructions in the leaflet describing the best way to fix the set before you process in the jars for long-term storage.
This jelly can be stored in a cool, dark place for one year.
It’s delicious- tangy, spicy and sweet.
(Photo courtesy of The Comfort of Cooking.)
I love to put a little of this goodness over cream cheese on Flipsides crackers from Keebler (you know the ones- pretzel on one side, townhouse on the other, perfect for people like me with a decision making disorder) for an easy appetizer or on half a toasted bagel.
It’s sweeter than you would expect and I did find a low sugar version in my America’s Test Kitchen Foolproof Canning Cookbook that I am anxious to try- I will let you know how that works out when I do.
Who out there loves to can?
Whether it’s jam, jelly, veggies or pickles let me know what you love to “put up” for your family when you have a little time on your hands!
Until next time!
The Chick and Her Chickadee