|Written by Aupoet|
Making jellies and jams is a great way to preserve summertime fruits when they are produced in abundance. This article describes how to make jelly from red plums that are sweet and juicy. This recipe makes a beautiful, sweet, crystalline red jelly that goes well with meats, as a dessert sauce, and can't be beat for making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. With the right jelly making supplies and canning supplies it is easy to make home made jellies and jams.
Â Â 1. Buy or harvest the recipe ingredients. For this plum jelly you will need 5 lbs. of red sweet plums. At least half the plums should be ripe to the point of being soft and dark purple in color. The other half can be firm and red in color but not green. Look for plums with a frosty appearance or bloom as this means they are high in natural pectin. Buy 6 large juicy oranges and one medium lemon. Besides water the only other things needed will be sugar and pectin. All jellies that will keep by being sealed in canning jars, require large amounts of sugar as it acts as a preservative. This recipe calls for 3 1/2 cups of sugar for each 4 cups of juice and it usually yields 4 quarts or 16 cups of juice. This means it will take some 14 cups of sugar. As for the pectin, I like to use the liquid type and it take one pouch for the recipe.
Â 2. Gather the needed kitchen supplies for jelly making. You will need two large 8 quart pots with lids, one for making the jelly in and another for the hot water bath for sealing the canning jars. The pot for the hot water bath has to be tall enough so the canning jars will be completely covered with water to a depth of 1/2 inch. A third smaller pot is needed for sterilizing the lids and rings. A sterile piece of cheesecloth large enough to cover the bottom of the 8 qt. pot and drape over the sides several inches is needed, or a large jelly bag. The cloth should be doubled for strength. A colander and another pot or bowl it will fit into to allow the fruit to drain will be needed. A large stirring spoon and ladle for filling the canning jars are a must. A set of hot jar lifting tongs, a small saucer as a spoon rest, a canning jar funnel, and a fork or magnetic jar lid lifter complete the list of needed canning supplies.
3. The night before making the jelly get the canning jars ready. This jelly recipe will make 8 to 9 pints of plum jelly and it can be halved but do not try to increase it. Only use pint or smaller canning jars and they can be small or wide mouthed. Count out your jars, lids, and rings the night before to be sure you have enough. Check the canning jars for chips or cracks and do not use any that are damaged. Only use jars that are for canning, not empty mayonnaise or salad dressing jars. Run the jars, rings, and other canning supplies through the dishwasher but not the lids. Use only new lids for reliable sealing of the jars.
Â Â 4. Extracting the fruit juice. Line the large pot with the clean cheesecloth. Wash the plums and discard any with bad spots. Do not peel or pit them. Peel the oranges and slice them into 1/4 inch slices and add them to the pot. Slice the lemon into thin slices and add it to the pot. Add enough water to just come to the top of the fruits. Adding too much water will mean the jelly will take longer to cook to the jelling stage. Bring the fruit to a boil over a medium heat and watch it carefully to prevent boil overs or scorching. The fruit will boil sooner if a lid is kept on the pot to keep the heat in. Turn the heat down to a slow simmering boil and watch for the plums to split open and lose their color. Use the large spoon to stir the fruit and make the plums come apart. When the fruit is all soft, usually after about 30 minutes of cooking, the heat can be turned off and the fruit pulps can be removed from the juice.
5. Gather up the edges of the cheesecloth to make a bag with all the fruit pulp inside it. Be careful as it will be very hot and can cause bad burns. Twist the top of the cloth bag to make the juice squeeze out and then place the bag in the colander over a bowl so the fruit can drain. Don't squeeze the bag too much or the jelly will be cloudy rather than crystallize. Allow the fruit to drain for 2 to 3 hours and add the additional juice back to the pot. Discard the fruit pulps. Now you are at a stopping point if one is needed. The juice can be set aside to cook later and can even be allowed to cool and kept refrigerated to cook in the next couple of days.
6. When ready to start making the jelly, get the work area prepared and make sure you will have no distractions for the next few hours. Clear the stove top so there is plenty of room to work. You will need three cooking units, one for the jelly cooking pot up front, one for the hot water bath in back, and one for the small pot with the lids and rings. There should be an empty spot so the cooking pot can be pulled over to it when jelly is ready to put in the jars and in case it needs to be removed from the heat quickly at any time. Next to the cook top lay out a kitchen towel for the hot jars to sit on at they are filled and after the hot water bath. Have a roll of paper towels within reach and hot pads for lifting hot lids. If you do have to leave for any reason be sure to turn everything off as the jelly can boil over quickly and make a large mess.
7. Get the water bath set up and sterilize the canning jars and lids. Fill the second large pot about half full of water, then place 4 to six of the canning jars into the pot. Fill each jar with water and be sure the water in the pot is high enough to completely cover them to a depth of 1/2 inch. Cover the pot and bring it to a boil. After the jars have boiled for 10 minutes use the jar lifter to slowly remove each from the hot water and carefully pour the hot water out of each one. Don't add the hot water back to the pot or you will overfill it and cause it to overflow when the filled jars are placed in it. It is best not to have small children or pets around when working with hot boiling liquids. Sterilize the other jars and place the lids and rings in the small pot, covering them with hot water from some of the jars to sterilize them. Lay the rings out next to the jars. Keep the water in the large pot and in the small pot with the lids on a low simmer and keep them covered.
8. Measure the juice to know how much sugar will be needed and then put it back in the large cooking pot. For each 4 cups of juice, measure out 3 1/2 cups of sugar into a bowl. Bring the juice to a boil and once it is boiling add all of the sugar and stir to get it to dissolve. Bring the juice back to a boil, one that cannot be stirred down, meaning the boiling will not stop when stirred. Watch it carefully as it can boil over quickly and make a large mess. Once it reaches a full boil add the pectin and while stirring constantly bring it up to a full boil again. Keep it at a full boil for one minute and then turn down the heat so it comes to a slow boil and leave the lid off the pot.
Â 9. Now you have to test the juice every few minutes to see when it reaches the jelling point. There will be floating foam that forms on the liquid, use the spoon to skim it off and put it on the small saucer. There is nothing wrong with this foam and when cool it can be tasted to see what the jelly will taste like. To test the jelly lift the spoon and allow the liquid to run off the back of it. As the jelly reaches the point where it will jell the drops that fall from the spoon will congeal and leave hanging drips on the spoon's bottom edge. Keep stirring the boiling juice and testing it until a definite jelling on the spoon is seen. Place a small amount of the jelly on a plate and place it in the fridge to see if it jells. Depending on how much water there was in the fruit to start with, the cooking time can take from a few minutes to over an hour. If the juice does not jell after cooking for an hour bring it back to a full boil, add another pouch of pectin, and boil it hard for one minute again. Repeat the slow boiling and testing again.
10.Â Once the jelly is clearly jelling remove it from the heat and place the pot near the clean canning jars. Place the funnel in the closest jar and use the ladle to fill the jar to within a half inch of the top. Use the spoon to wipe the bottom of the ladle each time so it doesn't drip over the jars. Notice inside the funnel there is a mark that shows the level for filling the jar. Look at the picture to see what I mean. Fill 4 or 5 of the canning jars, then use a damp clean paper towel to wipe off the rims and place a lid on each one. Lift the lids from the hot water with a fork or a magnetic lifter. Screw on the rings but don't tighten them down, just make sure they are on straight. Use the jar lifter to slowly place each hot jar into the water bath. When all the jars are in the bath be sure the water level covers them at least a half inch deep or they will not seal. Do not add cold or cool water to the bath, only add hot water from the small pot if some is needed and then add it slowly. Bring the bath to a boil and boil them for 5 minutes. Meanwhile move the next set of empty jars over close to the cooking pot to make room for the jars that will come out of the bath. Fill the remaining jars and place the lids and rings on them just like you did the others. Remove the filled jars from the bath and place the newly filled ones in their place to boil for 5 minutes.
11. As they cool, the jars should seal with a pop that can be heard. After they have cooled somewhat test the seals by pressing on the tops. If the metal lids are down tight and cannot be depressed the seals are good. Now the rings can be screwed down tight. Wait till the jars are completely cooled to check and see if the jelly set by turning a jar on its side. If the jelly did not set don't be too discouraged. First give it several days to see if it will set. Second it can be recooked to remove more of the water or even to add more pectin. If you tried to cheat and didn't add the required amount of sugar, that will keep it from setting up. If the jelly still won't set after a second cooking, it can still be used as a great sauce or syrup for going on meats, cakes, or ice cream. It is wonderful for pouring over a ham while it is cooking.