With every snowflake that drifted to the ground this morning, the death knell tolled for those sweet, gleaming, red apples piled high at the supermarket. Soon that moment of delight when my teeth make contact with their sweet flesh after piercing the cheery skin will be just a memory, like the crinkle of riotous fall leaves under my feet. But before I mourn the passing of fall and the coming of Chicago’s bitter winter, I’m preparing by steaming up the windows of my kitchen with the apple scented vapors.
Apples were my first canning adventure, and they’re a great way to get started with canning thanks to their natural pectin. The seeds and skins of fall apples are filled with the chemical that makes jelly harden. All you need to make your own apple jelly are some of those last beautiful apples, a couple of lemons, and a lot of sugar. And of course, some pretty jars to fill with the amber jelly. They make a gorgeous holiday gift.
Apple jelly (or gelee de pommes as I called it as a child) is great not only on pillowy toasted challah slices, but it’s also a wonderful addition to roasted chicken or baked pork. I can’t make enough jars fast enough before my husband devours them all. He eyes our remaining supply jealously whenever I reach in to give a jar to friends and family. This year, I’ll have to make a few batches to avoid the shortage.
- 4½ pounds of quartered apples – use a variety but make sure they are all sweet
- 2 lemons
- 8 cups of water
- 5 cups of sugar
- Cut your apples into quarters.
- Throw them in a large stock pot. Squeeze the juice of the lemons on top. Cover with water and boil for an hour.
- Cover a sieve with cheesecloth. Place the sieve over a large bowl. Put the cooked apples in a sieve in two batches and squeeze gently to collect the juices. Repeat for the second batch. You should have about 7 cups of liquid. You can now discard the apples.
- Place the liquid back in the stockpot. Add the sugar and bring to a boil.
- Lower the heat and simmer for an hour or two, until the jelly is thickened and darkened.
- Meanwhile, in a separate large stockpot, boil your canning jars.
- When your jelly is ready (if it has reached 220 degrees fahrenheit or gels when a small drop is put on a chilled plate), remove the jars from the boiling water carefully with tongs. Pour the jelly in using a canning funnel, leaving a half an inch of space at the top. Screw on the lids.
- Place each jar back into the boiling water for 10 minutes to process the jars.
- Remove them again and place them inverted on the counter until completely cooled to complete the sterilization process.
- As they cool, you’ll hear a delightful pop as the jar lids seal completely. They’ll stay tightly sealed until you open them, hearing the same pop again. These jars will keep a year in a cool, dark place. The jelly is delicious both on toast and chicken!