How To Make Apple Jelly
[Updated 1 June 2020]The drop in temperatures signaling the end of summer isn’t far away now and apples are finally swelling and ripening ready for harvesting and storing – if you don’t know how to make apple jelly, now is a great time to learn.
Making apple jelly (or any fruit jelly) is very easy and actually not time-consuming at all, but it is a two-step process – stew the fruit the night before and leave to strain overnight, then complete the jelly making in the morning.
Overnight while the fruit you’ve prepared to make apple jelly with strains through muslin, your house will fill with the most delicate of aromas – don’t worry it doesn’t linger or lodge in your soft furnishings and any after whiff is easily removed with a handheld steamer, if you want to!
Of all the crops we grow and eat, apples are one of the easiest and best returns on effort – because once the trees are planted they pretty much take care of themselves, with a little judicious pruning and water in very dry summers.
Prepping the fruit takes minutes then you leave to simmer, you’ll need an hour the following day (including cleanup time)
The aromatic scent of fresh herbs and flowers are gently absorbed and held in a jelly preserve making them even more versatile – you can match the herb to the meal.
Try making sage apple jelly and serving with chicken, or mint apple jelly with lamb – truly the combinations are just waiting for your imagination.
Whatever the reason, this annual ritual of fruit jelly making yields golden nectar which you can use throughout the winter, it will keep easily for a year if you sterilize the jars carefully – keep any unopened pots somewhere cool and preferably dark.
With a jaunty lid cover and a bit of ribbon, they make a lovely welcome and tasty festive gift to neighbors and friends at Thanksgiving or Christmas, both of which are now hurtling towards us with frightening speed!
Remember, with fruit jelly it’s the juice you are after, so don’t panic at the number of apples – the recipe below will make 5-6 half-pound jars or 2-3 1lb jars – once you’ve tasted the end product, you’ll be wanting to make more and that’s a promise. There are some links at the end if you need a muslin bag or jam jars – and you can get more info on fruit steamers here.
If you want to add herbs you’ll need a medium bunch ties with string, about what would fit ‘un-chopped’ into 3/4 of a cup is about right.
You Will Need
- Muslin or muslin bag to strain the fruit – or a fruit steamer
- 3 fluid oz white wine vinegar
- 3 – 3 1/2 lb cooking apples
- Sugar – you’ll need 1lb of sugar for every 1 pint of apple juice extracted, so allow 3lb for this recipe
- Wash the apples and remove any bad bits- don’t peel or core them, you need the pectin
- Remove any seeds you’ve cut into – they add a bitterness you don’t want
- Roughly chop the apple
- Put in a pan and shakedown until settled (if using, add the bunch of herbs now)
- Add enough water to barely cover the fruit – not quite covering any bits sticking out is perfect
- Bring to the boil, cover and simmer for an hour until the apple is soft and fluffy
Norpro Jelly Muslin Strainer
- Carefully pour the whole lot into the muslin bag and secure it, then leave overnight to drip through
How To Make Apple Jelly – The Jelly Part!
You need to measure the apple juice extracted at this stage because for each one pint of juice you need to add one pound of sugar.
- Return the measured juice to a pan
- Add the vinegar
- Now bring to the boil
- Add the appropriate amount of sugar and stir until well dissolved
- Increase the heat then boil rapidly for ten to 12 minutes until setting point has been reached (in my experience 102C – 103C if using a thermometer)
- Use a spoon or knife to remove any scum from the surface
Pour into warm sterilized jars and seal
The simplest way to sterilize is to put clean dry jam jars into a low oven for 10 minutes – allow to cool a little before use and mind your hands! Alternatively, put them through a very hot cycle in the dishwasher and making sure they are dry, use while still hot.
Provided the jars are sterile and the seal is good, this apple jelly, or any fruit jelly, will keep for up to a year – not that it ever has the chance because the taste is deliciously moreish.
The recipe above was given to me by a teacher friend now living in the UK and she got it from a book, Preserves by Pam Corbin – also known as River Cottage Handbook 2.
Having raved about the jelly – which is sooo good, I got a copy in the post as a gift – and this little book is awesome.
All the recipes are simple, require basic equipment and so far anyway, no failures from my kitchen when following the instructions, including when making the Blackberry & Apple Leather – which the kids love to take out and snack on – result!
Another great book for beginners through to seasoned jam and jelly makers is The Blue Chair Jam Cookbook by Rachel Saunders – there are some great illustrations if you are someone who looks and learns best from following images and examples.
Also often called a maslin pan, these are special narrow-based pans which are an absolute must if you are a keen jam and preserve maker. In terms of which one is best, to be honest I doubt there’s much in it other than to buy stainless steel and to try and make sure there are measurements indented inside – it really helps.
Maslin pans have narrow thick bottoms which lessen the chances of burning, allowing you to keep a rolling boil for a long time without the jelly or jam sticking.
The outward sloping sides and wide top provides a big surface area so liquid can evaporate efficiently, on most pans the inside is marked with quantities, usually fluid ounces and pints.
Finally, there is a shaped pouring spout which is invaluable and allows those with a steady hand to avoid having to use a funnel as well.
Fruit Steamers are a very old concept and not cheap when compared to a maslin pan.
The truth is that unless you make a lot of jams and jelly’s, you can happily stick to a good sized pan or even better a special preserving pan.
If at some point that changes you may want to have another look.
A fruit steamer takes all the boiling and straining away – you set it up, put the fruit and any herbs in and it will do the rest for you without the fiddle of straining the fruit pulp.
I reckon you get a measurable amount more juice out of the same quantity of fruit – but again not economic unless you’re going to make regular use of it.
I used to save all my old jars, faithfully wash them and then re-use with waxed sheet liners, even using old lids, buying glass jars was an expensive business..
These days they are so cheap to buy a set of jars and lids will only set you back $10 or $12, it really isn’t worth the effort of saving and washing the lids – keep and reuse the jars but good advice is to invest in new lids for each year’s fruity bounty.
If you plan to give the jelly or jam as gifts, choose elegant jars like these, for a real touch of class.
Do I Need To Use A Thermometer?
You can make the recipe above and all jelly or jam recipes without a thermometer – just check the jelly has reached a setting point (102C – 103C) by dripping onto a plate you have in the refrigerator – it should set on the cold surface quite quickly.
If you do decide to use a thermometer, be sure to use one able to cope with the very high temperatures – I’ve personally had one virtually melt on me and the whole batch had to go in the bin with the gooey remains of it still entombed!
Remember, as long as the fruit you are using has enough pectin, this recipe will work for you – redcurrant jelly is another great tasting option, as are rhubarb, gooseberry, and even pears.
More Apples? Try This Cake Recipe
If you still have apples left over, try this awesome Caramel Cake Recipe from passthesushi.com. Though it looks complicated it isn’t – though it took me a while longer than indicated to make the first time, practice makes perfect faster and it has turned out moist, fruity and divine every time. Alternatively, make yourself a batch of apple sauce and cook this slow cooker pork chop recipe. By the way, there’s a review here on the best ever apple peeler. If peeling apples is a chore you are like to delegate to the kids, then go have a read because, with this peeler, you can!
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