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Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Strawberry Margarita Jelly

It's getting to be that time of year again. That time when I start to cook, and bake, and stockpile all sorts of assorted yummies to give as gifts. Some gifts need to be made right before they are given, but jams and jellies are wonderful in that you can make them in advance and pull them out of the pantry at the last moment.

I made this jelly before as a plain margarita jelly, and while it turned out well, I prefer to drink strawberry margaritas, so I wondered how a jelly would turn out. Oh my! It's beautiful and so reminiscent of a strawberry margarita. It's got a hint of the strawberry with a tart lime back. You can taste the tequila, but it's not overwhelming and the booziness has burned off. The other nice thing about this jelly is that you can basically make it year round. You just need a couple of clam shells of strawberries, limes, a little booze, and a packet of liquid pectin.

The first thing to do is prepare the strawberry juice. The recipe calls for one cup of clear strawberry juice and one cup of lime juice. If you want your jelly flavored more with strawberries and less with lime, you can adjust the proportions by up to half (i.e. max of 1 1/2 cup strawberry juice to 1/2 cup lime).

To prepare the strawberries, wash and hull them. Then cut them into small pieces. Measure out the sugar into a bowl and then use some of it, maybe 1/2 cup, to help get the strawberries juices flowing. In this bowl, the strawberries have only been macerating for a couple of minutes and look at all the juice that has formed already!

Once they get a good start, you can pour the strawberries into a cheesecloth lined colander over a measuring cup. Let the strawberries drip until you reach the correct amount of juice. Try not to press the fruit too much or you'll end up with jelly that is a little cloudy. For the best juice clarity, let it drip slowly through a muslin bag or a coffee filter.

When you have the correct amount of strawberry juice, it's time to juice the limes. Lime juice becomes bitter on standing, so you'll want to juice them right before you are ready to make the jelly. These were pretty good sized limes and they each gave about 1/4 cup of juice, so I used four. Strain the lime juice like you did the strawberry. The good news is that I found the juice you use does not have to be perfectly clear to end up with a beautifully clear jelly. Just do the best you can and call it good.

Once you have the strawberry and lime juice prepared, mix it with the tequila and Triple Sec and heat it over medium heat. Once it is warm, add the sugar and stir until it is completely dissolved. Add the butter and then increase the heat to medium-high. Stir constantly until it reaches a full rolling boil. Add the pectin, return to a full boil, and boil for one minute while stirring. Remove from the heat and immediately ladle into waiting canning jars. Leave 1/4 inch head space and process for 10 minutes (for half-pint jars). Look at that beautiful color!

Strawberry Margarita Jelly
Yield: 5 half-pint jars for canning, plus a little extra
Adapted from Blue Ribbon Preserves by Linda J. Amendt

1 cup of filtered, fresh strawberry juice (from 2 quarts berries)
1 cup of filtered, fresh squeezed lime juice (4 large limes)
1/2 cup tequila
1/4 cup Triple Sec
4 1/2 cups sugar (divided)
1/4 tsp butter
1 (3 ounce) pouch liquid pectin

Wash and hull the strawberries. Chop into small pieces. Stir in 1/2 cup of the sugar and let macerate, stirring occasionally. Once there is a fair bit of juice, dump the strawberries into a cheesecloth lined colander to collect the juice. Filter the juice through a coffee filter or a piece of muslin.

Because lime juice becomes bitter over time, juice the limes right before using. Filter the lime juice through a coffee filter or muslin as well. Mix the juices, tequila, and Triple Sec and heat over medium. Once the liquid is warm, add the rest of the sugar and stir until it is all dissolved. Add the butter.

Increase the heat to medium-high and bring to a full, rolling boil. Add the pectin, return to a boil, and stir for one minute. Remove from the heat and skim any foam that formed. Ladle immediately into clean, half-pint jars. Leave 1/4 inch headspace, wipe the rims clean, and put on the lids and bands. Process in a water bath for 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the jars sit in the water for five minutes before removing to cool on a towel lined counter. Letting the jars sit in the water for five minutes makes sure that the jars do not bubble over upon removal from the water. Let jars sit on the counter for 24 hours before removing bands and wiping the jars clean before storing.

NOTE: If you would prefer to make a traditional margarita jelly, simply substitute water for the strawberry juice. For a nice color, mix one drop of green food coloring with 2 TBS of water and add a little at a time until you get a hue you like. Color is best added after dissolving the sugar and before ramping the heat up.

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