Autumn is my favorite season. When I think of autumn, I think of pumpkins, falling leaves, and apples.
I picked two buckets full of apples from the one tree that produced this year. They were small; I did not want to have to peel those little apples, so instead of applesauce, this year I made apple jelly. While we aren't big jelly eaters, I use a lot of jelly in crockpot sauces, such as dump chicken, and my jelly cupboard is nearly empty.
Apple jelly is very easy to make. Here's how:
Wash the apples well. I used about 1/3 of the apples I'd picked, enough to fit in my crockpot. I let them soak in a sinkful of water with a splash of apple cider vinegar in it, for about 30 minutes. I removed the stems from the apples, and cut them in half or quarters, depending on the apple's size. I did not peel or core them. Into my crockpot they went, and I added enough water to cover, about 4 pints.
I let this simmer all day long. I love my crockpot which tends to the cooking while I do other things. When the apples were soft enough, I used my potato masher to smoosh the fruit and release more juice and flavor. After dinner, I strained the liquid from the apples, then returned the liquid to the crockpot and left the lid off to simmer it awhile longer and reduce it down a bit. Ultimately I had about 3 pints of juice.
The Ball Blue Book says to drain in cheesecloth or a jelly bag, and not to squeeze the bag. Squeezing will give you cloudy juice. I just used my strainer, and yes, I did get cloudy jelly, but it doesn't matter to us if it's perfectly clear or not.
To make the jelly, we'll switch to a saucepan on the stove. A crockpot won't maintain the hard rolling boil that you need for jellymaking. Let's begin...
Gather your canning equipment: water bath canner with rack, clean jars, lids, rings, jar grabber (on the right in the photo). Check the jars for any chips in the rims. Keep the jars warm - I keep them in a sinkful of hot water until needed.
Fill the canner about half full of water and bring to a simmer - filling hot jars with hot jelly and placing in hot water in the canner will help prevent breakage.
Put the lids in a saucepan of warm water to soften the rubber. (I alternate the lids - one up, one down, etc - so that they don't nest together. It's much easier to remove them from the hot water one at a time.)
Measure the apple juice, and add 3/4 cup of sugar for each cup of juice. I had 3 pints of juice (6 cups), so I used 4.5 cups of sugar. You can add 1 teaspoon of butter to help prevent foam - I didn't do that and there's lots of foam in that kettle.
Boil the fruit and sugar for about an hour. Pectin usually isn't needed for apple jelly, but it does require longer boiling than if commercial pectin were used. I boiled the juice for an hour, stirring to keep it from burning, then began testing the juice by putting a bit on a saucer and sticking it in the refrigerator for a few minutes. I had to test it twice, but when it was jelled on the plate after a few minutes, the jelly was finished cooking.
Ladle into hot canning jars using a canning funnel. Wipe the rims of the jars with a damp cloth to remove any drips, and set a new, flat lid on each jar. Place a screw ring on each jar and tighten until it's "finger tight" - don't overtighten.
Place the jars in your water bath canner using the jar grabber. Be sure the jars are covered with at least one inch of water. (How can you tell how deep the water is? Stick the handle of a wooden spoon into the water to the top of a jar. Pull it out, and the wet handle will tell you how deep it is.) If needed, add more boiling water.
Cover the canner with the lid and turn up the heat on the burner. When the water begins to boil, begin timing. Apple jelly requires 10 minutes at my altitude. When the time is up, turn off the heat, remove the canner lid (away from your face so you don't get burned by the steam), and let the water cool down a bit before removing the jars.
Use the jar grabber to lift the jars straight up and out of the canner. Place them on a folded towel on the counter in a draft-free place. The lids should start "pinging" as the jars seal - music to my ears!
Mine tastes like an autumn day and the way that apples smell. Yours will depend on the flavor of the apples you use, and it not only varies by variety but also from year to year. May your apples always be yummy!
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