Making Jelly Stirs Memories

Courtesy of USDA Agriculture Research Service.

One of my older daughter’s favorite childhood books features Frances, a finicky little badger who prefers bread and jam to most other foods. Her parents offer eggs and all sorts of foods to entice her, but Frances only wants bread and jam for most of the book.

Most of us can relate to this imaginary character. We like certain foods more than others and we even may get on an occasional “food jag,” where we eat a fairly monotonous diet. Most often, people are “repeat customers” for foods because they like the taste of the food.

Food is more than flavor, though. It has many meanings. Some foods bring us comfort and stir vivid memories. You might remember grandma or mom opening a jar of homemade jelly or jam to serve with homemade bread fresh out of the oven. Maybe you can almost smell the aroma of the bread and taste the sweetness of the jam.

This year, my daughter and I will conjure up some memories of finicky Frances by making apple jelly from the apples on our prolific tree in the backyard. We will pick the apples, extract the juice and make the jelly. Then we will make some bread and enjoy every bite of our creation.

Preserving Jelly

Why not foster your own memories with some homemade jelly or jam of your own? Jellies and jams differ in their consistency and appearance. Jellies typically are translucent, while jams contain crushed fruit.

To make jelly, you will need fruit, sugar and sometimes pectin, depending on the fruit. Pectin is a carbohydrate naturally present in many fruits and acts as a gelling agent in jellies and jams. In general, the riper the fruit, the less pectin it contains. Commercial pectin is available in stores in dry and syrup forms in the canning section of grocery stores or other businesses that sell home-canning supplies. Sometimes the jelly requires an added acid, such as lemon juice, for gelling to occur.

As a rule of thumb, use a mixture of about three-quarters ripe and one-quarter underripe fruit when making jelly without added pectin. If the jelly recipe calls for a particular type of pectin, use the kind that’s recommended or you may end up with pancake syrup.

If you have a lot of apples this year, consider making some into jelly. This recipe is from one of our food preservation publications, “Jams and Jellies from North Dakota Fruits.” Other recipes in the publication include wild plum jam, chokecherry jelly, gooseberry jam and wild grape jelly. For complete directions on making a wide range of jellies, jams and syrups, see FN 172, 590 and 1423 at www.ag.ndsu.edu/pubs/preservation.html.

Apple or Crab Apple Jelly

4 c. crab apple juice (about 3 pounds crab apples and 3 cups water)
4 c. sugar

To prepare juice, select firm, crisp crab apples, about one-quarter firm to ripe and three-quarters fully ripe. Sort, wash and remove stem and blossom ends, but do not pare or core. Cut crabapples into small pieces. Add water, cover and bring to boil on high heat. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 to 25 minutes or until crab apples are soft. Extract juice and pour into jelly bag (available where canning supplies are sold). To make jelly, sterilize canning jars and measure juice into saucepot. Add sugar and stir well. Boil over high heat to 8 degrees above the boiling point of water (approximately 220 degrees, depending on where you live) or until jelly mixture sheets from spoon. Remove from heat and quickly skim off foam. Pour jelly immediately into hot canning jars, leaving 1/4-inch head space. Wipe jar rims and adjust lids. Adjust lids and process in a boiling-water bath canner for five minutes for pints at altitudes from 0 to 1,000 feet or for 10 minutes from 1,001 to 6,000 feet. Yields four to five half-pints. One tablespoon of jelly has about 50 calories, 13 grams of carbohydrate and no fat.