April Can Jam – Herbs in Jars

This month’s can jam challenge was herbs that must be water bath processed. We’re still sitting on a lot of pickles and I don’t really have any seasonal veggies right for pickling right now but I do have a monster rosemary bush (honestly, it’s devious) and a huge box of rotting apples in the garage that I need to get off my butt and process. I made up some apple jelly to preserve my rosemary for posterity’s sake. Or for a nice pork loin, whichever comes first.

I’ve always wanted to make apple jelly and still have it on my list of things to do from last October that had somehow slipped behind the espresso maker and lay there out of sight until last week. Kizmet, no?

I thought my friend Joshua was brilliant last fall bringing lavender plum jam to the canning barter party so I can’t wait to pull this out in October. “Oh, just a little something I whipped up.” I’ll say nonchalantly.

Here’s the incredibly cool thing about apples – they are super high in pectin. Boy do I feel dumb sitting on a 1# bag of Pomona’s pectin that I bought when I first had this wild hair to grow or put up all our food. I thought I was so smart buying it in bulk for all the preserves I make. But then after rhubarb and strawberry season were over I realized I could make old fashioned preserves by either cooking stone fruit sufficiently to gel or by making my own pectin from apples. I made tomato, blackberry, apricot, plum, peach and jalapeno jams and jellies plus the orange and lemon rosemary marmalade for can jam in January all without pectin.

At least I can use my Pomona’s pectin to make homemade jello.

As apples come back into season I’ll be posting on how to make pectin from apples that you can use to make other preserves. I planted an early crab apple tree just for cider and pectin. Am I nutty or what? But on to this recipe.

Making apple jelly is simple but it does take a longer boil than you might be used to if you’ve only ever used store-bought pectin.

I’m basing these measurements loosely on those from The Herbfarm Cookbook which is a personal favorite of mine.

Herbed Apple Jelly

4 pounds organic unripe or tart apples, washed with skins on
8 cups filtered water

Cook the apples in the water at a simmer for about 45 minutes until they begin to fall apart. Line a colander with a porous tea towel or cheesecloth. Place the colander over a deep pot. Pour in the apples and let them drain for about 6-8 hours without pressuring it.

Discard the apples and place the pan with the apple liquid on the stove. Add 3 cups of sugar and bring it to a boil. Boil it until you hit the gel stage.

The gel stage is essentially that mysterious point where you’ve managed to boil out enough of the water to allow your mixture to set up, although it’s not exactly that simple. It’s not as simple as reaching a certain temperature because you might hit it before you reach that temperature depending on altitude and weather, all related to the boiling point of water. More on that here for you geeky types.

To test the gel stage you’ll want to have a cooled plate in the fridge waiting. I usually start checking for gel around 205 degrees Fahrenheit and then check every 5 or 10 minutes thereafter. When making this apple jelly my thermometer never registered above 205 yet at some point it hit gel stage regardless of the temperature not climbing.

Remove your chilled plate from the fridge and pour a small amount of liquid onto it then return the plate to the refrigerator. After 1 or 2 minutes remove it. If you can wipe a line through the liquid with your finger that remains you are there. If the liquid runs right into your newly made line and fills it up then you need to cook the jelly longer.

There are several other ways to tell you’ve hit gel stage as well, including pouring liquid off the spoon and gauging the shape it makes as it pours (it’s ready when it “sheets”) but the plate method is the easiest for you to replicate without seeing pictures of sheeting liquid.

Once you’ve hit gel stage pour your hot jelly into sterilized half pint jars and insert a sprig of your herb of choice, then water bath process for 5 minutes.

Note: inserting the sprig works great with woody herbs such as lavender, rosemary or thyme. If you are using a tender herb you may want to steep it in the jelly for 15 minutes before removing it and canning the jelly. A more tender herb would likely break down in the jelly over time, making it unattractive.

How will I use this jelly? I’ll probably use it as a glaze for pork, chicken or winter squash. It would also be great spread on crackers with Camembert.

10 Responses to April Can Jam – Herbs in Jars

  1. Wow! That sounds delicious. You are so ambitious – making your own pectin is something I know very well can be done but just never would enter my mind to do.

  2. wow, kudos! The apple + rosemary combo sounds fabulous, and you’re spot on with thinking of pairing it with pork, sounds really good!

    I live up in Bothell and have an apple tree and plum tree, so I’d love to see how you make your pectin with your apples this fall!

  3. Mmm…that sounds delicious!!

  4. Fabulous. I love apple and rosemary! But, may I ask: did you really mean 205 degrees? You don’t even let it get to the boiling point? I usually don’t check for gel stage until 215 degrees. And I usually pull it when it starts climbing above 224, unless I want candy. Am I missing something, or was that a typo?

  5. Julia, I did mean 205. 220 is the boiling point of water but if you have other things like salt or sugar in the liquid it boils much sooner. I am at sea level here and that plays a large role in our differences as well. It’s interesting how variable gel set can be depending on weather, altitude and ingredients, eh? If you want that perfect consistency to jelly you need to check for gel set not using a thermometer. Mine actually set up stiffer than I wanted it to and never went over 205. I used granny smith’s which likely had more pectin than a sweeter apple would have.

  6. I’m confused. 212 degrees is the temperature at which water boils. I’m also at sea level, for the record. I use a thermometer just for back up, and check every other way, including intuition and I never get too much of a jell under 218 degrees. What gives? Just so curious!

  7. Hi Julia, 212 is the temp that water boils at, sorry. 220 is the temp you generally take marmalade to. So the thing here is that you aren’t cooking just water. When you add sugar or water to water it changes the temperature that your concoction boils at so my boiled much sooner since it had so much sugar and other ingredients in it. It also makes a difference how much atmospheric pressure there is (ie barometric pressure and air humidity.)

    It’s an interesting science experiment.

  8. And I meant to say when you add sugar or salt to water. See, I can’t type while Pickle Man is having a tantrum like he is right now.

  9. and I see a couple other typos in there. Pickle Man on floor screaming in the background. Can you hear him? La la la la blogging.

  10. Ha ha! I figured it was a typo. Don’t know how you do it all!

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