You may choose to make either fresh or frozen fruit or juice. If you are using frozen fruit, it should be frozen without sugar. Sometimes commercially frozen or canned juices are lower in natural pectin content and the resulting jellied products may be a little softer in texture. If you pick your own fruit or make your own fruit juice, you will have a better product if ¼ of the fruit is slightly under-ripe and ¾ of the fruit is fully ripe.
Some of us prefer clear jelly to jams and preserves that may have seeds. To make a jelly product, you will need to heat the fruit with a small amount of water (usually specified in the recipe) until the fruit is softened. The fruit and resulting juice is then poured into a jelly bag or several layers of cheesecloth suspended over a bowl. Allow the juice to extract naturally from the fruit without pressing on the jelly bag (doing so will result in a cloudy jelly – edible but not blue ribbon quality!).
In general, you should expect to use one pound of fruit for each cup of juice to make jelly.
Why Process Jams and Jellies?
I know many of us can remember pouring melted paraffin on the top of the jelly in the jelly jars and that was how we preserved our spreads. Yes it molded, but we didn’t know then what we know now about mold and foods. So, here is the reasoning behind processing jams and jellies.
First of all, start with sterilized jars – jars that you have put through the cycle in the dishwasher or jars that you have placed in boiling water for 10 minutes. Keep them hot until you fill them.
After filling, wipe the rim of the jars with a damp paper towel to remove any bits of jelly that may have gotten on the rim as you poured the jelly. Add the lids (prepared according to the manufacturer’s directions) and place the rings on just finger tight. Lower the prepared jars into the prepared boiling water bath (the water should already be simmering). The water should be at least 1 inch over the tops of the jars; bring the water to a boil. Generally, jars of jams and jellies are processed for 5 minutes in the boiling water bath unless your recipe tells you to process longer.
This processing sterilizes the top of the jar and the jelly that may have been exposed to air, and it creates the vacuum needed to seal the jar and helps prevent the growth of mold. At the end of the processing time, turn off the heat and remove the canner lid; allow the jars to remain in the canner for 5 additional minutes to finish the process. Then remove the jars to a rack or folded towel to cool. DO NOT TURN THE JARS UPSIDE DOWN….EVER. After 24 hours, check the jars for seals; label, date, and store. Any jars that did not seal should be refrigerated and eaten soon.