How to Make Harvest Apple Jelly (with no added pectin)

How to make delicious apple jelly.

Autumn is my favorite season. What's better than apples, pumpkins, cooler weather and colorful leaves?

This post will teach you how to make an autumn staple - harvest apple jelly - without using added pectin. The apples contain enough natural pectin that commercial pectin isn't needed.

Our apple trees didn't produce much this year. I only picked two buckets full of small apples. I didn't 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 slow cooker sauces, and my jelly cupboard is nearly empty. 

This post contains affiliate links. You can read my disclosure here.

Apple jelly is very easy to make, and to make it even easier I use my slow cooker. Here's how:

Slicing apples from our fruit trees to make harvest apple jelly.

Wash the apples well by soaking them in a sinkful of water with a splash of apple cider vinegar in it for about 30 minutes. 

Remove the stems from the apples and cut them in half or quarters, depending on the apple's size. You can peel and core them if you wish; I did not - as I said these were small apples and rather misshapen. To make the process easier, I simply cut them up. 

Into my slow cooker they went, and I added enough water to cover them, about 4 pints. 

By the way, you can even make this jelly with apple peels and cores instead of the whole fruit. Here's how to make juice for jelly from any fruit or fruit scraps, including apples. 

Juicing the apples to make harvest apple jelly.

Making the juice for jelly

Let the water and apple slices simmer for several hours - or all day long if you have the time. I love my Crock-pot which tends to the cooking while I do other things. Multi-tasking is a great thing!

When the apples are soft enough to poke a fork in them, use a potato masher to smash the fruit and release more juice and flavor and let them simmer a bit longer.

Strain the liquid from the apples, then return the liquid to the slow cooker. Simmer uncovered for about an hour so the liquid will reduce it down a bit. I had about 3 pints of juice after this step.

The Ball Blue Book of Canning advises straining the juice for jelly in cheesecloth or a jelly bag, and not to squeeze the bag. Squeezing will give you cloudy juice. 

I'm not that particular, and I wouldn't mind if my jelly is a bit cloudy. I just use my metal strainer over a large bowl to catch the juice.

How did I get that lovely color?

Commercially-canned apple jelly usually looks pretty pale compared to my jelly. Why? Because they peel the apples they use.

This lovely peachy color is due to the color of the apple peels - because I didn't peel the apples. I think the peels give the jelly a deeper, richer flavor too.

Of course, any chemicals that might have been sprayed on the trees as the fruit grew would be on those peels, so wash the apples very well, or use organic apples. We have several apple trees so I know that the fruit I use is organic.

Before you start making the jelly

Gather your canning equipment before you start making the jelly. 

  • water bath canner with rack
  • clean jars
  • lids and rings
  • jar lifter

Tools that make canning easier

You can purchase a set of canning tools that includes the jar lifter, lid lifter magnet, funnel, bubble remover, kitchen tongs and jar wrench from Amazon.

Check the jars for any chips in the rims. Keep the jars warm while you make the jelly by keeping them in a sinkful of hot water until needed.

Keep your canning jars in warm water until the jelly is ready to pour.

Fill the water bath canner about half full of water and bring it to a simmer - filling hot jars with hot jelly and placing them into hot water in the canner will help prevent breakage.

If you don't have a water bath canning kettle, you can improvise with a deep stock pot and a rack that keeps the jars up off the bottom of the pot. You'll find more canning tips like this in my post about frugal canning hacks.

Keep the canning jar lids warm until the jelly is ready to pour.

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.)

Making the jelly

Now that we've made the juice, we're ready to make jelly. For this step we'll switch to a saucepan on the stove. A slow-cooker won't maintain the hard rolling boil that you need for jelly making. 

Measure the apple juice you made in the slow cooker, 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 in the photo below! If this happens you can skim most of the foam off with a spoon, but believe me it's rather tedious. It would be much easier to add the butter.

How to make harvest apple jelly. Boil the juice, sugar and pectin.

Boil the fruit and sugar for about an hour. Pectin isn't necessary for apple jelly, but the juice does require longer boiling than if commercial pectin were used. 

I boiled the juice for an hour, stirring often 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 the second time it jelled on the plate after a few minutes in the fridge. That means it's ready to put in the jars.

Canning apple jelly

Ladle the hot jelly into warm 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 You should always use a new lid when you can something; re-used lids can't be trusted to seal correctly.

Place a screw ring on each jar and tighten until it's "finger tight" - don't over-tighten.

Place the filled jars of apple jelly in the canner.

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; add more boiling water if you need to.

How can you tell if the water is deep enough? 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.

Click here to subscribe to The Acorn, Oak Hill Homestead's weekly-ish newsletter. You'll receive a free copy of my ebook "How to Make Vinegar for Pennies" using apples or other fruit.

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 5 minutes of boiling in a water bath canner. If you live at a higher altitude than 1,000 feet, you'll need to increase the processing time. Don't lift the canner lid while it's processing.

When the time is up, turn off the heat, remove the canner lid by tipping it away from your face so you don't get burned by the steam, and let the water cool down a bit before you attempt to remove the jars.

Use the jar grabber to carefully 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 will start "pinging" as the jars seal.

Harvest apple jelly.

Leave the jars undisturbed for 24 hours, then test the seal by gently pressing the lid with your index finger. 

If the lid bounces up and down, the jar did not seal and will need to be reprocessed (from the very beginning: the jelly heated up, put in a new jar with a new lid, etc) or kept in the refrigerator and used soon; if the lid remains firm when pressed, it sealed correctly. 

Wipe the outside of the jars clean, remove the screw rings (not the lid, just the ring), and label the jars.

What if it doesn't gel?

Sometimes, even if we do use commercial pectin, a batch of jelly just won't gel. But all is not lost, in my opinion that batch of "apple syrup" is delicious! Try it on pancakes and waffles, on ice cream, or in other desserts.

This batch of jelly tasted 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 apple variety but also from year to year. May your apples always be yummy!

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The images below are affiliate links. You can read my disclosure here.


More jelly and jam recipes:
Blackberry Jam
Triple Berry Jam
How to make juice for jelly from any fruit or fruit scraps

Here's how to make Harvest Apple Jelly in the crockpot, and how to can it so it's shelf-stable. This is one of my three favorite jellies/jams; I make them every year!

This post has been shared at some of my favorite Blog Hops.


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  1. I adore apple jelly and am delighted that you made this in the crockpot. How easy is that?! :-)

  2. This year's apple jelly is especially delicious! Making the apple juice in the crockpot was easy, although the jelly itself was made on the stovetop.

  3. This looks so good! We like to go to a local apple orchard to get our apples and I might want to pick up some extras to try this recipe. Yum!

  4. Mmm, yummy! I've never tried making apple jelly but your crockpot recipe sounds great to try! Thanks for sharing!

  5. I need to add this to my list of jelly's to make next year. I bet your house smelled amazing while it was cooking too!

  6. Hi Staci! Yes, it did smell so good. While small, this year's apples sure were flavorful. I hope you'll give this a try next year.

  7. Yum, love fresh apple jelly - looks beautiful! I am delighted that you shared with Home and Garden Thursday,

  8. I will have to add this to my jelly making for next year! Thanks so much for posting this on my Handmade Christmas post! :)

  9. Thank you, Mary! I've really enjoyed your holiday series. :-)

  10. I love that this wonderful jelly can be made in the crockpot! I'm always a bit intimidated by canning, so thank you so much for sharing the step by step instructions, Kathy. Sharing on the H&S Facebook page. Thank you so much for being a part of the Hearth and Soul Link Party.

    1. April, water-bath canning isn't as scary and I hope you'll give it a try sometime. Thank you for sharing the post!

  11. I have apples that I need to deal with today. I'm planning on applesauce and cider, but maybe I'll have to try making some of this too. The kids always get excited about trying new jelly!

    1. And this one tastes to good, too!

  12. It's great to have another use for apples. I've never made apple jelly so I'm pinning for future reference. Thank you for the clear instructions and great photos!

    1. I hope you'll give this a try, Michelle. It's tasty!

  13. This sounds heavenly and I love the "one up, one down" tip for the lids. Why did I never think of that, haha! Thanks so much for sharing this with us on the Homestead Blog Hop!

    1. That tip sure makes canning easier, Ann!

  14. I love the idea of the crock pot! I can't wait to try this with the apples I just picked! Thanks for sharing at our apple week link up ,for celebrate 365! I needed this post! Jan@ Tip Garden!

    1. This is The Best Jelly, Jan! You'll love it.

  15. This looks wonderful! I have only just begun venturing into the land of canning and making jelly/preserves... great tutorial! Pinned

    1. I'm glad it was helpful, Mother of 3. Jelly is super easy so don't be afraid to try. Good luck with your canning this year!

  16. I am new to canning but I make a lot of freezer jelly. I always wanted to make apple jelly but after reading the risks of making apple cider, I always decided against it. Now that I read your post, I made some this weekend and it was so easy! THanks so much for sharing!

    1. I'm so glad, AnnMarie! Yes, it really is easy. And delicious, too - depending of course on the apples. I hope yours are as flavorful as mine are - I'll be making this jelly this week too. :-)

  17. I save my apple scraps in the freezer until I get a baggie full. Soaking the peels in a bit of citric acid keeps them from discolouring. Then I cook them down and run them through the food mill for apple jam. I like to make mine using a caramel apple recipe with a few diced cooked apples added for texture. - Margy

    1. That sounds delicious, Margy. I've made jelly from apple scraps; I also use them to make vinegar.

  18. Now this sounds delicious! Always looking for an alternative to applesauce - this looks simple and we will have to give it a try. Thank you - saw it on this week's blog hop. :)

    1. You're so welcome, Sarita. It's delicious! I use it as a base for sauces to top meat as well as jelly. And if for some reason your jelly doesn't "gel" it makes delicious syrup too!

  19. Apple jelly is so wonderful! I remember my Gram making crabapple jelly this time of year. :)

    I'm featuring your post on Farm Fresh Tuesdays this evening!

    1. Thank you for the feature, Lisa.

  20. Love, love everything apple this time of year! Thanks for sharing this with us at the Homestead Blog Hop, please come back again soon!

  21. Hi,
    I just hopped over from Homestead Blog Hop to see your harvest apple jelly recipe and I am so glad I did. I look forward to making apple jelly at home this fall!

    1. You'll love this jelly, Deborah!

  22. Congratulations! Your post was my feature pick at #OverTheMoon this week. Each Hostess displays their own features so be sure to visit me on Sunday evening and to see your feature! I invite you to leave more links to be shared and commented upon. Please don’t forget to add your link numbers or post title so we can be sure to visit!


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