Sunday, March 18, 2012

A Toast! To Spiced Beer Jelly

Several weeks ago, when I first started this blog, I promised to share with you my second attempt at a recipe for spiced beer jelly. Unfortunately, several family emergencies kept me out of the kitchen for awhile, but I had a chance to get back in there yesterday and am happy to report SUCCESS on the beer jelly front!

First and foremost, I need to give credit where it's due. I originally found this recipe on Putting Up with the Turnbulls, which is a great site to check out and listed in the "Links I Like" section of this blog. Their recipe calls for making your own pectin by cooking apples and using the resulting juice to get the gel in your jelly. I followed their instructions, but the altitude here can be tricky and I ended up overjelling my mixture. The end result was something more akin to spiced beer honey than jelly. Not a terrible thing, mind you. It still tasted amazing on toast and served as a really nice glaze ingredient for poultry. My mission, however, was to create an actual jelly. Yesterday, I went back to the drawing board, making a few concessions to ease and speed, two items I hold in very high esteem.

I eliminated the apple step and opted, instead for two packets of liquid pectin, a huge time saver! Another problem that gave me fits during my first crack at this jelly was the fact that the beer mixture kept foaming to ridiculous heights. It was nearly impossible to keep in the pot, probably because of the carbonation in the beer. Instead of going right to the jelly-making step, I decided to try steeping the beer with the spices first, in order to take a little "life" out of the beer before attempting to turn it into jelly. The end results were wonderful; a nicely spiced jelly, with the right consistency and a cooking process that was much more controllable. Want to give it a try? I'll walk you through the recipe here:

My ingredients, ready to go
Spiced Beer Jelly - Ingredients
(Makes 12 4-ounce jars or 6 6-ounce jars)
(2) 12-ounce bottles of amber ale (You can try whatever beer appeals, but I really like the flavor of our local Avalanche Amber Ale from Breckenridge Brewery).
2 sticks cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cardamom
Grated zest of 1 orange
Ingredients for steeping
2 cups 100% apple juice
Juice of 1 lemon
5 1/4 cups sugar
2 pouches liquid pectin

Put beer, cinnamon, cardamom and orange zest into a medium-sized, stainless steel pot. Bring to a boil over high heat. Remove from heat, cover and allow ingredients to steep for 20 minutes.
Remove and discard cinnamon sticks.

Transfer beer mixture to large, stainless steel pot. Stir in apple juice, lemon juice and sugar. Heat on high, stirring constantly. Bring mixture to a full, rolling boil that can't be broken by stirring. Add both pouches of pectin and continue stirring. When mixture comes back to a full, rolling boil, continue boiling hard and stirring constantly for two minutes, or until mixture begins "sheeting" off a spoon.
Filled jars
Remove from heat, quickly skim foam and fill hot jars to 1/4" headspace. Wipe rims with clean, wet cloth and cover with lids and bands. Tighten bands to fingertip tight (just until you feel resistance). Place jars into water bath canner. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer and cover. Process for 10 minutes at sea level, 25 minutes here in Castle Rock, Colorado.
After 25 minutes, turn off heat and remove canner lid. Allow to sit for 5 minutes, then remove jars to clean towel on countertop. Allow to sit for 12 to 24 hours until all jars have "popped," indicating an adequate seal. Reprocess or refrigerate and promptly use any jars that don't seal properly.


Filled, processed jars

Spiced beer jelly on toast. YUM!

Close-up of spiced beer jelly.
Can you see the spices and pieces of orange zest?

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

This is Juicy: Making Jelly from Juice!

Summer's bounty! Concord grapes from our arbor. 

We canners can get a little antsy this time of year. The summer is exhilarating, with no end to the preserving possibilities presented by the never-ending bounty of in-season fruits and veggies. The winter, on the other hand, seems devoid of fresh inspiration. But it doesn't have to be!

You can be putting up jars of homemade jelly tomorrow using good quality, pure fruit juices. Call it cheating. Call it a shortcut. Call it whatever you want. I call it a little taste of summer right when we need it most. And it's so simple to do. When really great, in-season, fresh fruit is nowhere to be found, I skip the turning-fruit-into-juice-step and go right to the making jelly part using 100% fruit juices.

Newman's Own 100% Grape Juice (I buy the big bottles from Costco) makes a concord grape jelly that's darned close in flavor to made-from-scratch. Each fall, we make a trip to DiNardo's Cider Mill in Canon City, Colorado for a bushel of roasted Hatch chilies (my husband's green chili is amazing!) and so I can stock up on a trunk full of pure ciders from the DiNardo Bros. Their flavors are amazing - cherry, blackberry, black raspberry to name just a few - and they make amazing jellies. When the preserving bug hits in the dead of winter, all I have to do is pull a bottle from my pantry and I'm ready to go. Ever wanted to try making pomegranate jelly, but thought it would be too much work? Pick up a bottle of pure pomegranate juice (Costco is also my source on this one), and you've skipped the hardest step.

By the way, if you use this method, you can mix fruit juices for great combinations. Try grape-apple, grape-cranberry or cherry-apple as idea starters.

The rules are simple:

  • Buy only pure, 100% juices, preferably with no added sugar. Clear (no pulp) juices work best.
  • Pick your favorite jelly recipe.
  • Measure out the same amount of bottled juice as you'd use of prepared juice if you were starting with fresh fruit.
  • Prepare, jar and process as usual.
I'll even get you started! Here's my recipe for grape jelly using Newman's Own Grape Juice instead of crushing, cooking and straining your own fruit. This one is practically fool-proof and a great one to try if you're brand new to the art of canning.

Grape Jelly from Juice - Yields 8, 8-ounce jars
5 cups 100% grape juice, no sugar added
6 cups sugar
1 box regular powdered pectin (1.75oz/49 to 57g)

Wash and prepare jars and lids and keep jars heated in simmering water until ready to be filled.
Pour measured juice into large pot. Gradually stir in powdered pectin, sprinkling a little at a time so it doesn't clump up.
Bring juice and pectin to a full boil over high heat, stirring frequently.
Add sugar all at once, stir to dissolve and bring back to a full, rolling boil over high heat. (A rolling boil is one that cannot be broken by stirring with a spoon!)
Boil hard for 1 minute, continuing to stir constantly.
Remove from heat, quickly skimming off any foam that's developed on the surface.
Quickly pour hot jelly into your prepared, hot jars, leaving 1/4" headspace (leaving 1/4" between the jelly in the jar and the inside of the lid. Generally speaking, that will be to the first glass thread marking on the jar).
Wipe rims with a clean, damp cloth. Center lids on top and screw the bands down just until you feel resistance (not too tight!).
Place jars in a water-bath canner, completely covered with water. Cover and bring to a boil. Once at boiling, process for 10 minutes (at sea level - see my link to the Ball altitude adjustment chart under "Links I Like" for higher altitudes). FYI, here in Castle Rock, Colorado, where we're at 6200', I process my jellies for 25 minutes.
Turn off heat, remove canner lid and let sit for 5 minutes.
Remove jars from canner, place on clean dishtowel on counter and allow to sit for 12 to 24 hours. If any of your jars do not seal properly, reprocess or refrigerate and use promptly.

Note: If you're interested in getting in on ciders from the DiNardo Bros., they don't have a website, but you can call them directly and they'll ship to anywhere.

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