Blue Ridge Apple-Mint Jelly

Despite the South’s famous mint juleps, mint jelly has never enjoyed the popularity here that it does elsewhere in the country (possibly because lamb has never been a major meat in the South). One exception, I’ve discovered, is the unusual apple jelly flavored with mint leaves found in those areas of the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia and West Virginia where tart, red-skinned Stayman and Winesap apple trees are cultivated and where wild mint grows in profusion along every river and stream. Since most of the natural pectin needed to jell the liquid is in the apple skins, be sure not to peel the fruit, and by no means squeeze the cheesecloth to speed up the dripping process, unless you want cloudy jelly.

Ingredients

  • 10 firm, unpeeled cooking apples (3 to 3½ pounds), cored and chopped
  • 3 cups hot water
  • 4 cups sugar
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint leaves

Method

In a large stainless-steel or enameled pot, combine the apples and water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook till the apples are very tender, about 30 minutes.

Line a large sieve with a double thickness of cheesecloth and place over a large stainless-steel or enameled saucepan. Pour the apples and water into the sieve and allow the juice to drip into the pan for about 4 hours, never squeezing the cloth.

Discard the cheesecloth and apple pulp, add the sugar to the juice in the pan, bring to a boil, and stir till the sugar dissolves. Reduce the heat to moderate and continue cooking till the juice reaches 200°F on a candy thermometer. Add the mint, stir, and continue cooking till the thermometer reaches 220°F. Remove the pan from the heat and skim any foam from the surface of the jelly. Ladle into four ½-pint sterilized jars to within ¼ inch of the tops, seal, and store for about 1 month at room temperature before serving.