I had an interesting weekend of the following:
Well, really, that was Monday. Sunday was jamming day because we had some pluots that needed to be consumed and more jalapeños than you could shake a stick at. Well, you could shake a stick at them, though it’d do you no good…and we still have about as many because we got more from the CSA this week.
I’m going to focus on the jelly and the blueberry jam as Mikal was trying to refer a friend here to get some pointers on making grape jelly, but there was nothing to refer her to. So here goes this.
The following recipe was heavily adapted from a much more involved recipe – it covers two days and requires way more kitchen gadgets than I have – but has rendered a pretty awesome jelly. I have recently invested in some enameled cast-iron cookware (the Food Network line from Kohl’s is a decent price and seems to be working out well), and I have to say it has made it much easier for me to do this type of thing – the whole even-heat-distribution thing does seem to make a difference with this, and I’m hoping it will make the difference with my caramels. Enameled cast-iron cookware is not required for this, but if this is the excuse you need to finally invest in some of that – use it. You can blame me all you want. I don’t mind.
adapted from Hungry Tigress
1 lb tart apples
1 lb pluots
approx. 2 1/2 cups sugar
Coarsely slice the pluots and apples, and place them in a large-ish pot with 3 1/2 cups water. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer for an hour.
Set up a strainer (you can line it with cheesecloth to remove more pulp if you would like) over a large bowl, and pour the pluot and apple soup through the strainer. Generally, you want gravity to do the work with the juice in the strainer, and you don’t want to squeeze the pulp in any way as this will lead to cloudy jelly. That being said, you can squeeze the pulp if you would like in order to get as much of the yummy goodness out as you want. Alternately, you can let gravity do its job and let the pulp sit in the strainer over the course of a few hours or overnight – it all depends on how much time you would like to invest in it. As I am an impatient person, I went for squeezing a bit. Discard the pulp as you see fit.
At this point, you should put a small dish of some sort in the freezer. This is to help you determine where you are in the jelling process once that time comes.
Cut jalapeõs in half and slice very thin – you can leave as many seeds in as you would like depending on your level of comfort with spice. If you would like to really spice it up, you can go with what the Hungry Tigress did and use either firebird or cayenne chilies – it’s all up to you. I would simply recommend wearing gloves while you handle the chilies; I once made salsa, forgot to glove up, and hours after I sliced the jalapeños (and washed my hands dozens of times) I removed my contacts…. It wasn’t pretty. Let’s just say that evening ended with milk in my eye, which is its own sort of hellish feeling.
Measure out the pluot/apple juice as you return it to the pan – for every 1 cup of juice, you’ll need 1 cup of sugar. I wound up with 2 1/2 cups juice, so I needed 2 1/2 cups sugar.
Stir sugar/juice mixture over low heat until the sugar is dissolved. Add the chilies and bring to a vigorous boil. As the mixture is boiling, feel free to remove any foam that comes to the top – I usually use a fine-mesh hand strainer, but I found that it was a bit difficult to not catch the jalapeño slices in it, so I reverted back to a spoon. Removing the foam will help preserve the clarity of the finished product.
After about 15 minutes, take that small dish out of the freezer and spoon a teaspoon of the jelly into it and return it to the freezer for a minute. After that minute, check the consistency of the jelly. It is ready once the sample wrinkles under your finger when you touch it – you want it to be only slightly runny, and closer to the consistency of a jelly you would like to spread on some crackers with cream cheese. You may have to do this a couple of times before it comes to the jelling point.
Once it has reached this stage, turn off the burner and let the concoction sit for 15 minutes. After that, give it a stir to distribute the chilies a bit more evenly.
At this point, you can place the concoction into canning jars and process according to the instructions. If you do not have canning jars, or are not into the canning process (I always fear that one of the containers will explode due to pressure. Any time I boil them – I’m literally standing a bit away, but close enough to address anything should something go wrong. It’s somewhere around the same anxiety I get when I turn a burner on and something on or under it starts smoking – our smoke detectors are painfully sensitive, and louder than all crap.
If you do not wish to go the canning route, I would suggest pouring the jelly into similarly sterilized jars to prevent any contamination (boil the jars and lids in water for 10 minutes), seal them (even if you’re not going the canning route, I do recommend using canning jars as you can ensure that they have sealed themselves due to the heat of the liquid), and toss them in the fridge. If they won’t necessarily be consumed that quickly, I would ensure that each jar has enough head room for expansion, then put the extras in the freezer – you can always take it out and toss it in the fridge when you need more.
Mikal takes such pretty pictures.