Monday, June 28, 2010

How to Make Strawberry Jelly

Jelly making.  Add that to the list of things I would have never imagined myself doing.

Only hippies and grannies make their own jelly.  I'm not a granny, but I'm probably on the road headed straight for hippy.

A few years ago as we were beginning to change the way we ate, I realized that the jelly I bought for my kids contained a ton of high fructose corn syrup.  I wanted to eliminate that junk from our diets.  I also wanted to continue to eat jelly and feed my children jelly.  I had two options:  a.  pay a lot of money for real-fruit jelly...and I mean a lot since the real fruit jelly jars are tiny and my family is...well...not tiny.  b.  make my own.

Option B was really the only option since Aaron wasn't interested in getting another job or selling an organ.  Now that we've made jelly several times, it is one of my favorite things to do.  You can't beat the taste of homemade jelly, and I love that I get to know exactly what's in it. 

Kirby and I made jelly this week and wrote down the directions, complete with pictures.  I hope this inspires others to grab a friend and some strawberries this summer and make some jelly.  Even if you're not a granny or a hippy, this is a great experience.  You'll be glad you canned something.  Makes you feel you are on Fried Green Tomatoes (minus the cutting a guy up and barbecuing him part.)


Before making your jelly for the love...start with a crystal clean kitchen.  Trust us.  This makes a huge difference.  If your kitchen is a mess before will break down and lose it once your jelly making is in progress.  Jelly making is messy.  Kids decide to do the most awful things when momma is in the kitchen making jelly.  No matter how excited you are to get started, trust us...clean that kitchen up little lady!

What you need for one batch of jelly (four 16 oz. jars):

2.5 one pound cartons of strawberries
1/4 cup lemon juice
7.5 cups sugar (you will need a four pound bag of sugar per batch)
2 pouches of certo (liquid fruit pectin)
4 mason jars
4 rings
4 flat lids
large canning pot (try to use a real canning pot with some sort of rack in the bottom of the pot so that the glass jars do not get too hot)
jelly funnel
jar gripping tongs
lots of clean dishtowels and rags on hand

Wash your jars and rings in the dishwasher.  Start making jelly once your jars are drying on high heat in the dishwasher.  Keep the jars toasty hot in the dishwasher until you need them.

Put water in your canning pot and begin to bring it to a boil.  This takes some time.  Add the lid to speed up the boiling process.

Wash strawberries. Remove tops.  Cut in half.

Put strawberries in a food processor.

You have to take it easy with the food processor.  You want the strawberries to look chopped...not pureed.

Your mixture should look like this....

From your blended strawberries you need to measure out 3 3/4 cups.  Pour 3 3/4 cup chopped strawberries in large bowl.  Add 1/4 cup lemon juice and 7 1/2 cups sugar.  Set aside.

That's a lot of sugar.  I know.  You are welcome to experiment with other sweeteners, however changing the kind of sweetener or reducing the amount of sugar has the potential to adversely affect the way your jelly sets.  We can only guarantee your jelly if you follow these directions exactly.  If anyone experiments with other healthier sweeteners and your jelly sets up well, please let us know.  We'll gladly try your recipe and link to it.  We have used organic sugar and it worked great, but have been too chicken to try other healthier sweeteners.

Boil a small saucepan of water.  Once the water is boiling, turn the water off and place your flat  lids in the hot water.  Let those sit in the hot water until ready to use.

Once the water in your large canning pot is boiling, turn the water down to simmer.  Now it is time to start cooking the strawberry mixture.  Place the strawberry/sugar/lemon juice in a large, separate pot.

Bring mixture to a full rolling boil (a boil that doesn't stop bubbling even when you stir it).  Use high heat.  STIR CONSTANTLY.

Here's where things get a tad bit stressful.  It's only stressful for a few minutes though.  Sort of like a jelly making contraction.

Get your certo packages ready.

Once the strawberry mixture is boiling (full rolling boil) stir in two packages of Certo quickly.

Return to a full rolling boil and then boil exactly 1 minute (set the timer on the microwave or your phone).  Stir constantly.  After one minute, remove from heat.

With a metal spoon, skim off any foam.

Put the foam in a small bowl.   Once the foam cools, find a cute little kid and let him eat it right out of the bowl with his finger.  It's a must.

Remove four hot jars from the dishwasher.  There are six in this picture, but you get the point.

Pour the heated strawberry mixture quickly into the jars using your jelly funnel.  Leave 1/8 inch of space at the top of the jars.

With a wet rag, quickly clean the tops of the jars.  The tops of your jars need to be nice and clean so wipe off any jelly that got on the tops while you were pouring the mixture in the jars.

Remove flat lids from hot water and dry the rubber seals really well with a dry rag.

Cover jelly jars with two piece lids.  Screw bands tightly.

Using your tongs, place the jars of jelly into the canning pot and bring water to a boil.  There needs to be an inch or two of water covering the tops of your jelly jars.

As soon as water is boiling, set a timer for 5 minutes.  Let the jelly sit in the boiling water for a full 5 minutes.

After five minutes, remove the jars of jelly with your tongs.  You may need to set the jars on towels so they don't harm your counter tops.  Let cool.  After the jars have completely cooled (this takes several hours), check the seals by pressing on the top of the seal.  If the seal pops up and down, the jar is not sealed.  If that happens, place the unsealed jars of jelly in the refrigerator.  For the jars that have sealed, let them sit for 24 hours before moving them.  Then you can store them in your pantry up to one year.

Random tips:

We bought tons of mason jars from garage sales.  That's the way to go.  Then all you have to buy is new, flat lids.  The first time you make jelly it will be more expensive because you'll have to buy jars.  However, once you invest in jars, you'll use the same ones over and over.

You can use your rings and jars over and over again (unless the rings get rusty).  Every time you can something you have to buy new, flat lids.

Borrow.  Borrow.  Borrow.  This is the perfect time to email all the older ladies in your church and ask if they have the supplies you'll need for making jelly.  Maybe you could even ask them to come help you.  Once you decide if canning is going to be your "new thing" then you can slowly collect the canning items.  We bought lots of supplies (big pots, pressure cookers) at garage sales.

We've been told that Certo is the best liquid pectin if you are trying to eliminate high fructose corn syrup from your diet.  The other brands are basically high fructose corn what's the point?

For jelly, we have found that the jars need to be no bigger than 16 ounce.  Any larger and the jelly does not set well...probably from not getting hot enough in the hot water bath (the method for canning we use for jelly).

It's no fun to make jelly by yourself, and may be impossible.  Invite a friend.  You'll need extra hands.  If you have small children you will need someone there to watch them.  For real.

Jelly making is fun, rewarding but a huge mess.  We make giant batches.  This time we made 29 jars between the two of us.  However, you should only do one batch at a time (no doubling or tripling the recipe.  It will mess up.)  Kirby and I will make jelly one more time this summer with peaches and do about the same amount.  So...two jelly days for us and we have jelly for the entire year and some to give away at Christmas.  We have found it's better to mess up the kitchen twice and have a couple long days than to make a huge mess several times a summer.   

The end result.  Yum.  Who wants a biscuit?


Lara said...

Niice! It does look stressful though. Just yesterday my husband was complaining about our tiny jar of "real" jelly. I told him the big jars are all the HFC stuff. Ridiculous that it's not sold in bulk! I never thought I would find myself choosing cloth diapers and no cable. Wierd how we change, huh?

Megan Fletcher said...

I buy organic strawberry jelly at Costco (Kirkland Signature brand) in a big jar for about $6-8 and it's only contents are strawberries, sugar, pectin, and citric acid. It's also organic. Just in case someone doesn't want to make their own and has a Costco nearby.

Bob & Judy said...

Nothing prettier than shiny jars of jelly lined up on the shelf. It's like a pat on the back every time you look at them.

Mommy, M.D. said...

This year I tried the "no sugar needed" pectin. They have it at the Brenham HEB! I sweetened with peach nectar, white grape juice, and honey. I made freezer jam this time too, which shaves off some time. It was easy and turned out great! I think I actually like the freezer jam better; it tastes fresher, less cooked. I made my batch when organic strawberries were on sale for $2/lb, so it was the perfect opportunity.

Fairfield peaches are out! I have a box sitting on the kitchen counter, staring at me right now...

Hendrick Family said...

I'm so glad to hear that the no sugar pectin works. I always eye it at the store, but chicken out because I didn't want to go to the trouble of making jelly only to have it flop.

Yes...I agree...the freezer jelly is so good and works great if you have freezer space. I think it's the way to go for sure.

Me too on the peaches. Ryan picked some up yesterday from Fairfield. Let's just say the entire family is making a lot of trips to the bathroom today. Totally worth it though.


mandi said...

john gave me jar tongs in my stocking this year! i had been using my normal tongs for the past couple of years- i guess he got tired of me dropping hot jars of food on the floor. and almost cussing.

about the no sugar needed pectin. doesn't that have aspertame in it?

i like to use pamona's universal pectin. that way i can sweeten with local honey.

Mommy, M.D. said...

No, it doesn't have aspartame. There are some that do (reduced sugar maybe? don't remember the name) but I found one at HEB that doesn't. It's in a pink box. The recipes require fruit juice, and you can optionally add other sweeteners to taste.

Rachel said...

I use this strawberry jam recipe without pectin, but lots of sugar:

I guess pectin weirds me out a bit.

Your jars look beautiful!

Mommy, M.D. said...

My bad, green box. "Ball no-sugar needed fruit pectin." there is a pink box that allows you to lose "less" sugar and doesn't have artificial sweeteners, but this is the one that uses juice and honey.