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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Wine Jelly

The nice thing about enjoying cooking is that it provides a great way to thank and gift those special people in your life.

I try to keep my jelly pantry well stocked so that any time I need a small gift, I have plenty of beautiful, tasty varieties to choose from! In this picture, I have raspberry, pineapple, strawberry, peach-rosemary, cranberry-orange, Bing cherry, Merlot, and blackberry.

The other bonus is that you get all the jam and jelly your household could want. I think I currently have five varieties open in my fridge. The hardest part of my day is deciding which one am I in the mood for!

While most of my jellies get put up in the summer when fresh fruit is abundant, some can be made any time of the year. A perfect example is wine jelly. Just as "in season" in the winter as the summer, it is the quickest and easiest jelly to make because there is no fruit processing required. I can make a batch in about half an hour. And the taste is divine! The vast majority of the alcohol burns off, so that isn't a concern. It's like grape jelly with the pizazz factor ramped up.

Canning simple jellies like this requires very little special equipment compared to a lot of canning, but there are a few things you will definitely want. While you don't need a huge canning kettle here, you will need a large stock pot (test fit jars before starting so you know how many jars you can fill). A canning funnel will make your life much easier and canning jars are a must since they are specifically made for this type of processing. Also, you cannot do without a jar lifter. If you're unsure what these things are, just looking under the "Canning & Preserving" section of my aStore for examples.

Before you start making the jelly, you want to have your water bath and jars ready. Fill your large pot with enough water so that when all your jars are submerged, their tops will be at least one inch under the water line. Bring the water to a low simmer. Add a splash of vinegar to keep water deposits from forming on your jars (not very attractive). Wash jars (no need to sanitize). Heat one cup of water to a boil and submerge flat canning lids until ready to use. Have screw caps, jar lifter, and canning funnel handy.

Wine Jelly
Yield: 4 cups

1 3/4 cup wine
3 cups sugar
1 pouch liquid pectin (do not use the powdered for this recipe)

Stir wine and sugar over medium-high to high heat to dissolve sugar and burn off alcohol. Bring to a gentle boil and let cook for 2-3 minutes. Be careful of the steam; the strong alcohol vapors can make you a little tipsy!

Remove jelly from stove and immediately add pectin. Stir thoroughly and pour into jars, leaving 1/4 of an inch of "head space" at the top. Head space varies depending on the type of canning you are doing, but is required for a good vacuum to form.

Wipe rims of jars down to be sure there will be a clean seal. Carefully remove canning lids from the hot water and place over jar, using screw top to seal. You do not have to put the screw band on very tightly; hand tight is plenty. Using your jar lifter, gently place jars into the simmering water and place lid on pot. Turn heat up to bring water to a gentle boil. When water comes to a boil, begin processing time. Remove jars after six minutes onto a towel lined counter. Let jars cool undisturbed. When completely cool, carefully remove screw bands and make sure jars are clean and dry. It is typically best to store them without the screw bands on unless you are very sure that the threads on the jars are completely clean and dry. Store jars in a cool, dark place. Canned jelly is best within the first year, but unless the seal breaks or you see other hints of contamination, they are good for two to three years.

Unlike most jelly recipes, this one doubles well. If you want to double it, just use a whole bottle (750 mL) of wine, twice the sugar, and two pouches of pectin. The type of wine you use is completely your choice! Merlot is my favorite, but I've made pinot noir (second favorite), white zinfandel (very pretty), and chardonnay (tastes good but not so pretty). Hmmm... I think I'll go have some toast.

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