Some herbal jellies are well-known, mint jelly being one of the best examples. Others, although less famous, are equally delicious when eaten with a variety of meats and poultry. Another bonus is that jams and jellies last well and can therefore be made well in advance. Better still, a store of them can be accumulated when the ingredients are in season and then you will always have a hostess gift in stock.
Although the following recipes mention specific herbs, there are many possible variations on this theme. Using apple jelly as a base, you can add many different herbs to the apple: for example, you could combine apple and rosemary, apple and mint or apple and thyme. The possibilities are only limited by the number of jars you can collect and the ingredients that you have available (not to mention the time you may or may not have!)
Lemon and Mint Marmalade
8 medium lemons, well scrubbed
4 pints water
4 lb granulated sugar
8 tbsp fresh mint
Halve the lemons, remove the seeds, then squeeze the juice into a large bowl. Chop the peel fairly small and add to the bowl. Place the lemon seeds in a small muslin bag and put in the bowl with the other ingredients. Boil the water, add to the bowl and leave to infuse for 48 hours, covered with a cloth.
Empty the contents of the bowl into a preserving pan and simmer gently for approximately one hour. Warm the sugar in a basin in the oven. Remove the muslin bag of seeds from the preserving pan and add the warmed sugar. Stir until it has dissolved, then bring to the boil and allow to boil rapidly for ten minutes.
Remove from the heat. Wash the mint thoroughly and chop finely. Add the mint to the pan and stir well. Pour into clean, warm jars and cover immediately with circles of waxed paper Once the marmalade has cooled, cover each jar with cellophane and add a label.
Apple and Elderflower Jam
3 lb cooking apples
1/2 pint water
8 heads of elderflowers, fresh
2 lb sugar
Peel and core the apples and place them in a preserving pan with the elderflowers and the water. Simmer gently until the apples are soft. Add the sugar and stir until it has dissolved. Bring the jam to the boil and allow to boil rapidly until it reaches setting point. (If using a thermometer, setting point is at 221ºF. If not, spoon a little jam on to a chilled saucer, allow to cool and then push your finger across its surface - it will wrinkle when it has reached setting point.) Remove the elderflowers and then pour the jam into warm, clean jars and cover each one with a circle of waxed paper,. Once the jam has cooled, cover each jar with cellophane and add a label.
Damson Plum and Rose Petal Jam
3 lb damson plums
12 large scented roses, pink or dark red
2 1/2 lb granulated sugar
4 tbsp water
Pull the roses apart and discard the centers and stems. Trim the white part from the base of each petal. Wash the petals and tear into small pieces.
Wash the damson plums well and remove the stones. Place the damsons in a preserving pan and add the rose petals and water. Simmer gently for approximately 30 minutes, stirring regularly. Warm the sugar in the oven.
Add the warmed sugar to the damson mixture and stir until it has dissolved. Boil for about 15 minutes, stirring constantly to prevent the rose petals falling to the bottom of the mixture. Remove from the heat and allow to cool for five minutes, then stir well and pour into warm clean jars and cover each one with a waxed paper disc. Once the jam has cooled, cover each jar with cellophane and add a label.
Gooseberry and Lemon Balm Jelly
4 lb eating apples, peeled and chopped
2 lb gooseberries
2 tbsp lemon juice
3 tbsp chopped lemon balm
1 1/2 pints water
Place the apples, lemon juice, gooseberries, water and 1 tbsp of lemon balm in a large pan. Cover with a lid and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and then simmer the mixture for about 30 minutes. Ladle the mixture into a jelly bag or piece of fine muslin and allow to drip through into a bowl for 24 hours.
Measure the liquid that has passed through the jelly bag and, for every pint of liquid, add 1 lb of sugar. Simmer in a preserving pan until the sugar has dissolved, then boil rapidly for 10-15 minutes. Allow to cool for five minutes and stir in the remaining lemon balm. Pour into warm, clean jars and cover with waxed circles of paper. Once the jam has cooled, cover and label as before.
Mint and Apple Jelly
3 lb cooking apples, peeled and chopped
1 lemon, quartered
2 pints water
large handful of mint, finely chopped
2 tsp cider vinegar
Place the apples, lemons, cider vinegar and water in a preserving pan and simmer for 45 minutes until the fruit is soft. Strain through a jelly bag or piece of muslin overnight.
Measure the amount of liquid that has passed through the jelly bag and add 1 lb of sugar for every pint of liquid. Add the fresh mint and boil this mixture in a preserving pan for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and leave to stand for ten minutes. As an optional extra, you can add a little more chopped mint at this stage. Then pour into warm, clean jars, cover with waxed paper circles and leave to cool. Once cool, cover each jar with cellophane and add a label.
Scented Geranium Jelly
6 lb eating apples
50 lemon-scented geranium leaves
2 pints water
Place the chopped apples, washed geranium leaves and water in a preserving pan. Bring to the boil and simmer for 45 minutes. Ladle into a jelly bag or piece of muslin and allow to drip through overnight.
Measure the liquid and add 1 lb of sugar for every pint of liquid. Simmer in a preserving pan until the sugar dissolves, then boil rapidly for ten minutes. Remove from the heat, pour into clean, warm jars and cover with waxed circles of paper. When cool, cover each jar with cellophane and add a label.
4 lb green apples
2 pints water
6 large scented pink or red roses
Place the apples and water in a pan and simmer for about 45 minutes until soft. Strain the liquid through a jelly bag overnight.
Measure the strained liquid and add 1 lb of sugar for every pint of liquid. Place in a preserving pan and simmer well until the sugar has dissolved. Remove the petals from five of the roses and cut the white parts off the base of the petals. Add to the pan and bring to the boil. Boil rapidly for ten minutes, then remove all the rose petals with a perforated spoon.
Add the petals from the last rose (having removed all the white parts from the base of the petals), plus about eight drops of rosewater, and stir. Pour into clean warm jars and cover with waxed paper circles. Once cool, cover each jar with cellophane and add a label.
Packaging Jams and Jellies
The easiest way to decorate a present of jams and jellies is to give each jar a fabric or paper hat. There are many suitable materials to choose from: plain or colored paper, white or metallic doilies, antique linen or lace handkerchiefs, plain or printed fabrics.
Using pinking shears gives a better finish and will prevent the material fraying. A 6-inch circle will fit the top of most jam jars, but do measure the size you need and cut it accordingly. Center the circle of fabric over the top of the jam jar and hold it in place with an elastic band. Then cover the elastic band with ribbon or lace, cord or even colored shoe laces for fun!
Try to match the fabric to the contents of the jar; for example, a rose petal jelly could have a pale pink taffeta hat and lace bow. A garden herb jelly could have a recycled paper hat and garden twine to secure the cover. A strong presentation with plain or checked primary-colored fabric, secured with brightly colored shoe laces, would look very striking, perhaps on some damson jam or on one of the pickles or chutneys.
To find out how to grow and use herbs, visit the authors blog.
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