Beautiful, clear jelly can be easily made with fresh fruit and sugar. Commercial pectin such as Sure-Jel can be used to speed the cooking, but often is not necessary if you are willing to cook for a longer period and watch for the jelling point. Recipes using commercial pectin use more sugar and cannot be doubled.
To make jelly without pectin you need fruit that has a high natural pectin content. Do not use overripe fruit as the pectin content is lower in very ripe fruit and the jelly will not jell. Use some under ripe fruit to increase the pectin content. Berries and other fruits low in pectin content will require the addition of fruit high in pectin or the use of commercial pectin products.
Prepare fresh fruit by washing and trimming out any defects. Do not use frozen or canned fruit unless you are using a packaged pectin product, their pectin content is too low for jelling. Do not peel or core the fruit. The peel will add color to the jelly. Cook the fruit to a soft pulp, but do not overcook. Pour the fruit into a jelly bag and allow to drain naturally, do not squeeze. Squeezing the bag may hasten the process, but will produce a cloudy juice and ultimately a cloudy jelly.
The acid content is important in order to enable the pectin to jell. Some fruits require the addition of acid, usually in the form of lemon juice. Do not leave out or substitute for the lemon juice in the recipe.
The sugar is necessary to preserve the jelly and aid in jelling. Do not reduce or substitute the sugar content in the recipe. If less sugar is desired, use a recipe specifically designed for less sugar. Add the sugar and any other ingredients called for ingredients to the juice in a large pot or kettle and boil rapidly until the jelling point is reached. A large kettle is necessary as jelly tends to boil up and foam. If foaming is a problem, a ¼ teaspoon of butter or margarine may be added. Skim the foam off the jelly at the end of boiling, just before pouring into jars.
Follow these tips for beautiful clear jelly every time.
Diane Watkins is a traditional southern style cook. She enjoys cooking, teaching, and writing about good food and family. For more information on southern cooking and recipes visit her website at Easy Southern Cooking.