How to make natural pectin jelly.
Although I make cases of jam every year, I seldom make jelly. Jelly is made from juice and needs pectin to set. Not many fruits have enough pectin of their own and require adding boxed pectin. Boxed pectin sets up too firm for me and gives me an upset stomach. Plus, jelly seems to “waste” so much of the fruit. All that waste goes against my thrifty Yankee nature.
But jelly looks so beautiful in a jar, and it has a taste and texture that is quite different from jam, so every year I make a couple jars of natural pectin jelly. Last year I made apple-plum jelly but hadn’t done any yet this year. Luckily the Food in Jars March Mastery Challenge is jelly!
Making Natural Pectin Jelly
Making jelly really isn’t difficult, it just requires a little more patience while waiting for the fruit to release its juice. Commercial juice usually won’t work because the pectin is broken down in the pasteurization process and then filtered out. So, if you want to make jelly using store-bought juice, you will probably need a recipe that uses boxed pectin.
Making a natural pectin jelly requires either making your own pectin and using it in your desired recipe, or making a jelly recipe that takes advantage of fruits with a lot of natural pectin. This recipe follows the latter approach. Both apples and kiwis have lots of natural pectin, allowing the jelly to set up with just those two fruits.
What is Kirsch?
Kirsch, also known as kirschwasser, is a colorless cherry brandy. It serves two purposes in this recipe:
- Cherry and kiwi naturally go together and make wonderful flavor partners
- Some flavor compounds dissolve in alcohol better than in any other solution, yielding an intense flavor. The alcohol burns off during the cooking process, leaving intense flavor behind.
Apple Kiwi Kirsch jelly has a delicate sweet-tart flavor reminiscent of strawberries and other berries. It is richer than apple jelly, with subtle cherry flavor. I used two different kinds of apples, and kiwis in varying degrees of ripeness. The color comes from the apples, so I recommend using at least a few red apples.
Figuring Out How Much Sugar To Use
The amount of juice you get from the fruit will vary based on the particular fruit, how patient you are, etc. Use this rule of thumb:
- Use 3/4 the amount of sugar as you have juice. For example, if you have 3 cups of juice use 2 1/4 cups sugar. If you have 1 cup of juice use 3/4 cup sugar.
If you are still having trouble with the math, check out the Kitchen Math worksheet and podcast to get it all figured out.
Sterilize Your Jars
You do have to sterilize your canning jars when making jelly. Any product processed at least 10 minutes only requires clean canning jars. Jelly is only processed 5 minutes, so the jars must be sterilized. Don’t be tempted to process the jelly for 10 minutes, it may break down and lose its gel!
- 2½ lbs organic apples
- 1 lb kiwis
- ¼ cup Kirsch
- 3 cups water
- Approx. 2cups sugar
- Prepare juice: Wash apples. Do not peel or core. Cut apples into wedges.
- Repeat with kiwi.
- Add fruit to a large pot with Kirsch and water.
- Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until fruit is soft. Let cool slightly.
- Strain juice through a damp jelly bag or layers of cheesecloth.
- Make the Jelly: Measure the juice. You should have about 2 ¾ cups of juice.
- Pour juice into a large pot. Add sugar.
- Note: The amount of juice may vary. Use ¾ as much sugar as you have of juice.
- Stir to dissolve sugar.
- Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring constantly.
- Cook and stir until jelly has set; usually at 8 degrees above boiling water temperature or about 220 degrees.
- Or, use the sheet test method to determine if the jelly has set.
- Remove from heat, skim foam if necessary.
- Ladle into sterilized jars leaving ¼ inch headspace.
- Process in a water bath canner for 5 minutes.
My jelly created LOTS of foam! Since I am basically lazy, this is how I dealt with it:
- Remove cooked jelly from heat. Let sit for a few minutes.
- Stir gently until foam has collapsed.
As you can see, I wasn’t patient enough to wait for the foam bubbles to completely disappear, leaving some teeny bubbles in my jelly. Oh well, it adds character.