The Jelly Jam

Original Post Date: 8/26/09

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a jam (and jelly) makin’ fool. This summer, I made some 20-25 jars of mulberry jelly using mulberries harvested from our backyard as well as from a property adjacent to my mother-in-law’s house a few miles from ours. Last week, shortly after the North Market Jam & Jelly Contest (the next day, in fact), I received a bounty of concord grapes from my mother-in-law’s boyfriend, Joe. Joe is a plumber, more or less, who does a lot of work for a landlady with a number of properties in German Village (among other clients). These grapes came from one of her properties.

Having tasted both the mulberry jelly and the concord grape jelly, I’ve got to say that the trick to consistent, ahem, consistency of one’s jelly is to use liquid, not powdered, pectin. Unfortunately, not realizing this fact when I made the mulberry jelly, I employed powdered pectin in all three batches in varying amounts (but never exceeding the recommended quantity).

Now, to the IMPORTANT questions — how does each taste, and how does each one feel in the mouth”? The grape jelly, while a bit gooey at room temperature, has a nigh-upon-perfect mouthfeel once it’s been chilled slightly (as all good jellies do). Its flavor is surprisingly delicate. The mulberry jelly, while it has a deep, satisfying berry flavor (and a stain-inducing appearance to match) took on too stiff a texture even at room temperature. Once chilled, its texture is best described as “pasty”. Oh well… at least it TASTES fantastic.

This is the raw material from which the mulberry jelly is made:

This is what the finished mulberry jelly looks like. Apparently the pectin tightens up over time, sigh…
Mulberry Jelly

Mulberry Jelly
recipe adapted from National Center for Home Food Preservation

3 1/2 c. mulberry juice (start w/ nearly a gallon of mulberries)
1 box powdered pectin (NOTE: Using one pouch of liquid pectin should result in better texture/mouthfeel. YMMV.)
5 c. sugar

Sort and wash berries. Yield of juice depends on ripeness of berries and how long they’re cooked, so you’ll need a minimum of 3 quarts and more likely a gallon of mulberries. Figure on a cup of mulberry juice yielded per quart, give or take a couple of ounces. Crush berries thoroughly; heat slowly until juice starts to flow. Cover; simmer 20-30 minutes or until it seems that all of the juice has been liberated from the fruit. Be careful – mulberry juice stains just about everything it touches, especially your fingers and clothes. Allow to cool until cool enough to handle with rubber gloves.

Working in small batches, ladle juicy pulp into a jelly bag and squeeze out juice. Measure juice, mix with pectin in saucepan (if you end up with more juice than 3 1/2 cups, scale other ingredients appropriately). Mulberries don’t have much natural pectin, so the amount used with give you a slightly runny but still gelled jelly (see picture above).

Bring quickly to a hard boil, stirring constantly. Add sugar all at once. Bring to a full rolling boil (a boil that cannot be stirred down); boil hard 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat; skim off foam with a metal spoon.

Pour at once into clean, hot jars, leaving only 1/4 inch headspace. Wipe rims of jars with a dampened clean paper towel; adjust two-piece metal canning lids. Process in a boiling water canner (hot pack in half-pints or pints), 10 min for altitudes under 6,000 ft. above sea level.

This is the concord grape jelly in its jar. Pretty, isn’t it?
Concord Grape Jelly

This is the same jelly on a spoon. Believe me, it tastes every bit as good as it looks.
Concord Grape Jelly on a Spoon

Concord Grape Jelly
Modified from the recipe found at the link above.

Serves/Makes: 6 eight-ounce jars


3 1/2 pounds Concord grapes
1/2 cup Water
4-1/2 cups Sugar
2 T unsalted butter
1 package (3 oz size) liquid pectin

Sort and wash grapes; remove stems, and place in a Dutch oven. Crush grapes; add water. Bring mixture to a boil; cover, reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes.

Press mixture through a jellybag or cheesecloth, extracting 4 cups juice. Cover and let sit overnight in a cool place. Strain juice through a double thickness of damp cheesecloth.

Combine juice and sugar in a large Dutch oven, and stir well. Place over high heat; cook, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to a rapid boil. Add butter and pectin, and bring to a full rolling boil; boil 1 minute, stirring constantly.

Remove from heat, and skim off foam with a metal spoon. Quickly pour hot mixture into hot sterilized jars, leaving 1/4-inch headspace; wipe jar rims. Cover at once with metal lids, and screw on bands.

Process in boiling-water bath 5 minutes. Carefully remove jars from water to cool.