Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Honey Sweetened Grape Jelly with apples for pectin

I just finished grape jelly and it was a success! Now I'm waiting for the canner to cool down so that I can dump it out and return it to a friend. It is the coolest canner ever. Joel agrees that we should find one because it just made my canning days a million times easier.

Part of the difficulty for me in canning is finding a recipe that fits our goals and that I can stick with. I didn't want to learn a sugar jelly with pectin, if I wanted to use apples from the yard as pectin, and honey from our future bee hive. So if I can get a good honey sweetened jelly figured out, I'd save myself a headache in the future when I'd have to experiment with a  new recipe and possibly not like it as much as a previous one.

Same with tomato canning, applesauce canning, and baked goods. I like to fill my recipe book with recipes that utilize what we can grow or harvest, or source in bulk.

My mom gave me a great recipe that she always used that uses one apple to help with pectin. Since it used sugar, and I wanted to substitute honey for it, I looked up other grape jelly recipes that use honey and apples, the USDA recommendations for jelly without pectin (because they have changed since the recipe book was published), and read up on pectin a bit (this is a great article on it).

So I can tell you, I didn't really meet the USDA recommendations. Please don't use this recipe and think I'm an expert. I told you last night, this was my first jelly attempt.

I strayed on the sugar. They say not to replace all the sugar with honey because it could cause problems with gelling, but I used honey 100% and just added a few more apples to up the pectin. But it also says to use "tested recipes" when replacing sugar with honey - so I tested it... I did follow the recommendation to waterbath it for 5 minutes.

So here it is.

Honey Sweetened Grape Jelly without added pectin

You will need:
3 apples
4lb grapes (I think ours are concord)
2-3 cups raw honey

All from the yard. <3 Someday, I hope all three ingredients will come from this yard.

Wash 3 apples and 4lbs of grapes. Put grapes in a sauce pan and crush. Add quartered apples without coring or skinning. Simmer. I simmered for close to 20 minutes so that the apples started to get soft - but not so soft that they mashed well. My mom's recipe says to simmer for 10 minutes until the grapes are soft - but I was concerned about getting as much pectin out as possible.

Pour into jelly bags and let juice drip out into sauce pans. Do not squeeze or press the liquid out. This will cause cloudy jelly. I let this drip for several hours. 4-6 hours. Next put the resulting juice in the refrigerator overnight.

The next day - strain the juice through jelly bags again to get rid of tartrate crystals that form in jelly.  Heat 4 cups of the juice (I let it be a little more than this) in a saucepan and add 2-3 cups raw honey. Heat to boiling and boil until it reaches 220 degrees. I was surprised how long this took. And it reduced quite a lot. For 4 cups liquid and 3 cups honey, I ended up with 3 1/2 cups jelly. But it tastes fantastic!

When it reaches 220 degrees, take it off the heat because it should be ready to pour into the jars. I did one more test: Put a couple teaspoons full of liquid in a bowl and put it in the freezer. See if it gels once it cools. If it does, you are golden. If it doesn't, I'd put it back on the heat for a little longer - or assume something went wrong with extracting the natural pectin from the apples and whole grapes. Like I said, I'm no expert here.

Now if it is gelling in the freezer, pour the liquid into sanitized, hot canning jars leaving 1/4" head space. Make sure the rim of the jar is clean, put new canning lids on, and finger tighten a band on top (prep the lids beforehand by putting them in hot water, I put the lids and rims in the waterbath canner while I waited for the jelly to finish on the stove. This activates the seal). Lower into a hot bath that covers the jars 1-2". Make sure the water returns to a boil, and waterbath for 5 minutes. When done, take them out and let them cool on the counter for 24 hours to allow the seal to set. At that point - you should be done!

I didn't waterbath this one. I put it in the refrigerator because it wasn't full.


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