Sunday, September 19, 2010

Apple Jelly - Part 1 - Extracting the Juice

I’m lucky enough to live in an area that has many different types of farms around that you can pick your own or purchase from a market, lovely seasonal foods. I’m a big advocate of supporting my local farmers. I try to buy most of the food I eat from Ontario farmers. It doesn’t always work out especially in the winter, but I certainly make the effort. And why not? A country drive on a sunny Saturday afternoon to the apple farm to pick my own apples to make jelly isn’t too terrible, in my humble opinion. 

Don’t let the length of this recipe scare you off. The most difficult part of the recipe is patience. If you don’t have a few hours to play around with this, split it up. Extract the juices one day and the next, make the jelly. Have some fun with it. Preserving the freshness of anything that you yourself picked from a local farm or from your own backyard is a beautiful thing.

Apple Jelly
3 lbs Firm Tart Apples
3 to 5 cups of water
2 to 3 tablespoons lemon juice, if needed
Apples that ripen the latter part of August or early September are best for jelly. I chose “Wealthy” apples as they are tart, juicy and a good cooking apple. Choose only barely ripe fruit. Overripe fruit lacks sufficient pectin for good jellying.

Wash apples; remove and discard the stems and blossom ends; cut into quarters. Then slice the quarters and place skins, cores and all into a large saucepan. Add cold water to barely cover; the amount depends on how many apples you have and the shape of the pan. I didn’t weigh my apples when I started making this, so the 3lbs of firm tart apples is really for people who love following recipes to the t. 

Cover the pot, bring to a boil and simmer without stirring until the apples are soft, approx. 10 to 20 minutes depending on how many apple slice you crammed into your huge pot. 

Crush the apples with a potato masher and boil another 5 minutes uncovered. 
Place the apple goo into a jelly bag/t-towel and hang over a bowl for at least 15 minutes. I usually leave it at least 30 minutes as my jelly t-towel is pretty thick. Don’t squeeze the bag! Just leave it alone. Go do something else.
If you are like me and are too cheap to buy jelly bags (and have no idea where to get them anyway) you may have to do the hanging thing in batches. This is about the time where you should go make a drink. It’s 5pm somewhere. (Check out my Mojito recipe).

Once the entire process of extracting all the lovely rose coloured juice from the apples is complete, it’s time to make the apple jelly. You could of course skip this entire step and buy a $.99 can of apple juice and go straight to Part 2. I think, however, that you may need to add pectin if you use store bought juice. You would also need to add some red food colouring to make it that beautiful pink colour. 

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