Jelly is a delicious, sweet treat that many of us enjoy as children in PB&J sandwiches, and it usually remains a staple of our cabinets in adult life, too. It is made by extracting fruit juice and cooking it with pectin and sugar until it thickens into a spreadable yet firm texture. Typically speaking, jelly is made from whole fruits, including the skins and seeds, too. Some of the most popular fruits to make jelly from include raspberries, cranberries, and grapes. The taste you get from homemade jelly won’t be the same as what you buy from stores in branded preserve packaging, as the flavors will be incredibly complex, making for a more enjoyable dining experience.
Three Ingredients Needed to Make Jelly
As far as ingredients are concerned, making jelly is a relatively simple process, as you’ll only require three ingredients, which have already been mentioned: fruit, pectin, and sugar. When making jelly for the first time, you’re going to want to use acidic fruits with a high pectin content, including currants, grapes, lemons, gooseberries, blackberries, cranberries, and apples.
The high pectin content is important, as this allows for the creation of a smooth gel. If you’re using low-pectin fruits (such as strawberries), you’ll need to use some commercial pectin, too, or a high-pectin ingredient like lemon juice.
The creation of a gel-like texture relies on the sugar working with the pectin, meaning having the right measurements is essential. For instance, not enough sugar will mean that the jelly doesn’t set. Too much sugar will result in a stiff jelly.
Equipment Needed to Make Jelly
Fortunately, you don’t need a long list of ingredients to make jelly. In fact, all you’ll require is a heavy-bottomed large pot, jelly jars, a heatproof spatula/wooden spoon, and (potentially) a jelly bag. A heavy pot is important for preventing the fruit from scorching over the heat, while a large surface area provides room for evaporation. After all, making jelly means reducing the water in the fruit, and a thick-bottomed pot means that a longer cooking time won’t necessarily result in burning.
Naturally, after making your jelly, you’ll need somewhere to store it. Heat-proof sealable glass jars are your best bet for this. This is because glass is easily sterilized, and your jelly will initially be hot when being transferred into the jars. Similarly, sealing is important for preventing mold from forming.
You’re going to want to stir your jelly occasionally to prevent hotspots and burning, but your utensils need to be up to scratch for doing so. This means that you don’t want utensils that will heat too quickly, nor do you want utensils that chemically react with acidic foods.
Lastly, a jelly bag might not be needed, but some people prefer to strain their fruit for a neater outcome.
Can You Make Jelly without Pectin?
As previously mentioned, pectin is essential for the jelly-making process. Therefore, if you’re not using commercial pectin, you’ll need to use high-pectin fruits, instead. If you’re looking to make a low-sugar jelly, it will require more pectin to set, though.
Top Tips for the Perfect Homemade Jelly
Some of the top tips for making the best jelly include using fresh fruit, using a jelly bag, and using a non-reactive pot. Therefore, you should only use fruit that’s in season if you want to avoid the use of frozen fruit. Otherwise, you run the risk of spoiled or overripened fruit, which won’t taste good in your jelly. We’ve previously touched on how jelly bags can make for a neater jelly, and a non-reactive pot means that your jelly won’t be left with a metallic taste.