Jelly-making is a little more complicated than jam-making, but the results are very rewarding. Careful measurements and attention to detail are important in jelly-making, and the only special equipment necessary is a jelly bag. A specially-made flannel bag can be obtained at good hardware shops, but a bag can be made from a double layer of muslin or from a clean, boiled, tea-towel tied with string. The jelly bag can be suspended on a special stand or between the legs of an upturned chair.
The perfect jelly should be sparkling clear with a bright colour and fresh fruit flavour. As well as being useful for spreads for bread, toast or biscuits, jellies make good tart-fillings, and can be used to glaze fruit tarts. Many jellies are excellent served with meat, poultry or game.
Wash all fruit, which should be ripe, but not over-ripe. Hard fruit such as apples and quinces should be sliced without peeling and coring; stone fruit should be cut in half, and soft fruit can be left on stems if these are clean. Crush the fruit lightly in the pan with a spoon to start the juices flowing. A small proportion (about one-third) of slightly under-ripe fruit will help to give a good set, and apples, redcurrants and gooseberries are rich in pectin, so may be mixed with other fruit such as raspberries and strawberries which do not set well on their own.
Some berries and currants need no water, but blackcurrants and hard fruits need water to help soften their skins; generally hard fruit should be covered with water. If fruit has no additional water, cook it very gently so that juices run but do not dry out. When the fruit is soft and the juices extracted, the pulp should go into the jelly bag to drip slowly into a bowl, and the process may take an hour or two, or overnight. Never be tempted to squeeze, stir or shake the fruit pulp, or the jelly will be cloudy.
The liquid must be measured, and usually 1lb/450g sugar is allowed to each pint/500ml juice for fruit rich in pectin and acid, but 12oz/375g sugar will be enough for fruit with a poorer setting quality. If the sugar is warmed first, it will speed up the dissolving process, but otherwise, the sugar can be slowly heated and dissolved in the liquid. Apple and gooseberry jellies keep a better colour if cold sugar is added to cold juice.
Once the sugar has been dissolved, the jelly must be boiled rapidly to setting point, which is reached at 220°F/104°C, when the jelly will partly set on the spoon, and drops run together to form flakes which drop cleanly from the spoon. Skim jelly with a metal spoon dipped in boiling water and pour into small hot jars, tilting the jars so that the jelly does not form air bubbles. Cover with waxed circles at once, and cover completely at once or when cold, but do not move the jelly until it has set. Be sure to store it in a cool dry place.
© 1978 Mary Norwak estate. All rights reserved.