I'm a big fan of giving home made gifts for the Holidays; made with love (and a little sweat), of course! I especially like to give home canned items and baked goods, because everyone is so busy they rarely make home made goodness for themselves. I don't mind whipping up a batch of something or other, or two. In fact, if you have read my earlier posts, you know that when my stress odometer hits warp speed, I bake or cook for stress relief! There is just something about rattling and banging a few pots around, and seeing my culinary creation transform before my eyes that brings on a kind of bliss! Of course, there are few complaints, when I hit one of the stress induced frenzies. Generally, because the troops get to be my taste testers when I am done!
One of my favorite things to make for Holiday gift giving is jelly! In my humble opinion, home made jams and jellies are far superior to the store bought variety. I like to whip up several different varieties to have on hand to put in home made gift baskets, a simple gift for a co worker, or a last minute hostess gifts. I live in a very close knit neighborhood, and a jar of jelly is a nice way to say thank you to our neighbors who do so much for my family all year long!
If you are thinking that jelly making is an advanced placement project, it's not! In fact, for anyone who wants to give home preserving a try, this is the perfect beginner project. I will also let you in on a little secret..... I use 100% fruit juice purchased in the juice aisle at the grocery store! I usually watch the grocery ads and buy the juice when it's on sale (sometimes there are even coupons to make it even cheaper). My favorite juices to use to make jelly are:
- Welch's 100% White Grape/ Peach juice
- Welch's 100% Concord Grape juice
- Welch's 100% Grape/ Cranberry juice
- Tree Top (or store brand) 100% Apple Juice
- Several cases of small jelly jars (these can be found in the canning aisle of you grocery store, or at thrift stores and garage sales)
- A half gallon or gallon of 100% juice
- Several boxes of pectin (found in the canning aisle of your grocery store). A gallon of juice will make about four batches of jelly. A half gallon about two. You will need a box of pectin for each batch you make.
- A bottle of Real Lemon juice (I add 2 tablespoons of lemon juice to each batch to increase the acidity of the fruit.)
- A 5 - 10 pound bag of granulated sugar, depending on how much jelly you plan on making.
Skip the instruction that tells you how to make the juice from whole fruit. Start your jelly making by measuring out the amount of prepared juice called for in the recipe. Follow the instructions step by step, and voila, perfect jelly. You will need to water bath (boiling water can) the jars of jelly to seal them, but that is very easy. In fact, The Simply Canning blog has excellent step by step instructions for water bath canning! If you don't have a water bath or steam canner, a large deep pot that will hold a rack in the bottom will work. The water just has to be able to cover the jars by an inch, so that your jars will seal properly. Don't forget to label your jars. I use printer friendly address labels that I gussy up with my print artist program, but here's a great link for making canning labels from Sweet Preservation.
The beauty of this project is it can be made ahead of time! Once the jelly is made and sealed they can sit in boxes in the pantry until you need them. When your ready to gift your gift,all you have to do is tie a pretty ribbon around your jar, and deliver it to the lucky recipient. How's that for one more item checked of the Christmas Gift Giving List!