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.