Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Homemade Jelly as Wedding Favors

A dear friend of mine is getting married and she chose to make jelly for her guests as favors. (Which means she totally stole my idea.) The jars will be way more personal than a baggie of mints and it turns out the prices aren’t all that different. However this approach does take a hell of a lot more time than pouring custom printed M&Ms from a bag to a cute little box. That is where I come in.

“Canary can you help me?” - Friend

“Of course I would love to. Lets figure out when we both have time and we can do it up.” – Me

It turns out that the first time when we could both get together was… um… never ago. We went back and forth over weekends and 2 hour chunks of days until the wedding was…uh…like tomorrow. Well not literally tomorrow…more like tomorrow in wedding years. So I packed up every canning utensil, apparatus, instrument, and ideology I own and drove to another state to help my friend make this thing happen.

We started with a 25 lb bag of sugar (omg groooooooooss), and a couple of jugs each of 100% apple and grape juices (Welch’s I think on both counts?) and a dozen times 13 jars (156 I have been told was our number). Oh yeah and enough pectin to make time stand still.
Stacks of jars lids and bands competing for real-estate.
A brides maid was around for the first 45 minutes to help plan and get the first batch of madness underway and the fiance popped in and out at critical times to stir and move and stack and wash and generally do what we had run out of hands to handle. From committing the first recipe sketches to paper to setting the final jar on a table to cool it took us almost exactly 8 hours. (Which is not bad considering I was planning to stay for 3 days if I had to.)

We used and slightly abused the recipes given in the boxes of pectin and we didn’t get too fancy because we did NOT want any do-overs. We did toss in some spices because I cannot be content to let well enough alone. I had eyes rolled at me but I won and it was worth it.
Always write out your recipe even if it only makes sense to you. And when you are dumping in more than 4 of anything make sure you tally...just in case.
We started with the Apple Jelly because it is first in the alphabet. Honest. We didn’t have everything washed or warmed before our jelly was boiling the first time so it was a little bit chaotic and oh hellish. Oops. So after that we regrouped and planned out the rest of our adventure with our fingers crossed that we would fill all the jars. We never really came up with a fail proof system because we had very little counter/table space and nothing was beside anything else in a way that made sense for a real assembly line. Instead, we did a lot of shuffling jars back and forth on baking trays, passing each other in a skinny kitchen, one person with full jars needing lids and another with empties needing to be filled. It was not ideal BUT IT WORKED!
We ended up making 6 batches of apple in 2 rounds and 4 batches of grape in 2 rounds before we were through. (See recipes below) We added a little extra headspace to each jar to stretch our jelly a little farther but even with that as a consideration we ended up with way more jelly than predicted from the original recipes. We filled 74 jars with apple jelly and 82 with grape. When we were done filling jars we had just enough jelly to spread on toast (or a finger) to try out our handiwork.

The apple plus spices combo comes out exactly like apple pie in jelly form and the grape is well…grape.
If you look closely you can actually see the flecks of spice in the jelly.
We also used a 2 quart Crockpot set to warm for the lids. I dumped about a cup of vinegar in the bottom of the pot before I put the lids in and covered them with water and that seems to have kept the lids from staining the pot. I also vinegared up the water in the water bath canner and there weren’t water spots on the jars after they cooled and then racks didn’t stain the canner. New idea? I think so.

We did not decorate the jars in that 8 hour time frame. We aren’t magical sleeping beauty fairies and the bride to be hadn’t actually settled on a design yet. I will try to get some pictures of the for real finished product after the wedding.
Our yield visualized 2 ways. Each box represents a dozen jars...or you can just count the jar army instead.
Special Equipment: Water Bath Canner, Jars, bands, lids, jar racks, canning funnel, bubble tool, patience, teamwork

Apple Pie Jelly
(Based on the Ball Liquid Pectin insert recipe for Apple Jelly from Bottled Juice)

2 C unsweetend 100% apple juice (Which is still plenty sweet)
3-1/2 C sugar
1 bag liquid pectin (we used 4 of Ball then 2 of Sure-Jell Certo)
Pumpkin Pie Spice

1. Add juice and sugar to saucepan (or stock pot in our case) on high heat. Shake in enough spice that you can see the spice when it is stirred into the liquid.
2. While stirring constantly, bring to a galloping boil that cannot be stirred down
3. Add pectin quickly, squeezing out entire contents of package
4. Return to boil and boil for 1 minute while stirring constantly
5. Remove from heat and fill jars (see Processing Instructions below)

a. The Ball Liquid Pectin insert was the only one that had a recipe for jelly from prepared juice. We compared other recipes between the Ball and Certo inserts and found them to be the same or very similar so we used the Ball recipe with the Certo pectin. Yes different types of pectin are not universally interchangeable but sometimes they are. Just pay attention.
b. We quadrupled this recipe the first time with Ball pectin and doubled it the second time with Certo pectin (based on the brands and envelopes we had on hand) and we got good results each time. Yes multiplying recipes can change results and if you cook pectin too long it may not gel. You can also make so much product that it starts to gel before you get it in jars. 4 at a time was the reasonable limit of what we could cook properly on our stove and jar before gelling.
Cookie sheets were indispensable for moving jars around and keeping the counter from getting excessively sticky. Also that top picture represents the full extent of our counter space.
Grape Jelly (with apple juice)
(Based on the Sure Jell Reduced Sugar Pectin insert recipe for Cooked Grape Jelly from Whole Grapes and Cooked Apple Jelly from Whole Apples)

4 C unsweetened 100% Grape Juice
1 7/8 C Unsweetened 100% apple Juice
3 7/8 C Sugar, divided
1 Box low sugar pectin (we used Sure Jell in the pink box)

1. Measure sugar in a separate bowl
2. Add juices to saucepan or stockpot and whisk in each box of pectin plus ¼ c of sugar per box of pectin used
3. Bring to a galloping boil over high heat while stirring constantly
4. Dump in remaining sugar all at once and stir in
5. Return to boil and boil for 1 minute
6. Remove from heat and fill jars (see Processing Instructions below)

a. Again the only recipe we found for jelly from prepared juice came from the Ball Liquid Pectin box so we were winging it a little bit.
b. We were pretty sure we needed 4 batches to fill all the jars but we only had enough grape juice for 3 boxes. We added a single batch of the recipe for apple jelly to get an extra batch. We designed the recipe for 4 batches at once and cut it in half for our use. Then I cut it in half again for the above recipe which is why the volume is a little odd. These recipes are very similar in ingredient volume so feel free to sub grape in for apple if you have it and you should have fine results.
c. We added 2 T of whole cloves to a spice bag and put it in with the juice at the beginning and removed it when we added the sugar. You couldn’t taste it at all. Next time I would try adding 1/8 t ground cloves per batch.
Grape Jelly: Jarred, Lidded, and Banded. Kapow!

Processing Instructions

0. Before you start making the jelly you should have the water bath canner on the stove heating up because it takes forever
1. Quickly ladle hot jelly into jars leaving 1/8 in headspace
2. Wipe rims and threads of jars with damp paper towel
3. Center lid on jar and screw band down to finger tip tight (jar will be hot- reminds you that you are alive. Suck it up wuss…or use a pot holder.)
4. Place jars in canner
5. Return water in canner to boil and process jars for 10 minutes
6. Remove jars from canner and place somewhere out of the way to cool
7. Check seals in 24 hours and reprocess or store as necessary.

a. We had more like ½ in to ¼ in headspace in our jars because we were trying to stretch our jelly as far as we could. Don’t leave more than ½ in. If you have enough for most of a jar, make yourself toast and try it out.
b. You get a lot of foam with jelly. We did not remove and discard the foam because it is just gelled jelly with lots of air stuck in it. We put the foam in the jars, added a little extra jelly to make up for the air in the bubbles and processed the jar. The high temp of boiling will re-melt the jelly and when the mixture cools after processing the jelly will be clear.
c. Apparently according to the Sure-Jell instructions we could have processed our grape jelly for 5 minutes instead of 10 but we didn’t read the directions and over processed. Everything turned out fine anyway.

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