Fruit jellies are a product of fruit preservation, allowing you to enjoy fruit flavors throughout the year. It’s a semisolid, wiggly mixture that you can splodge on your sandwich, smear on your pancakes and waffles, shake into a cocktail, or add taste to your yogurt. What’s great is that it’s easy to prepare without much special equipment and can use the smallest to the largest of fruits and berries, making it well-loved among many homes. Here, let’s know more about fruits jellies so you can spread zest and fun to your next meals.
What is fruit jelly?
Fruit jelly is made through the extraction of fruit juice and cooking it with pectin and sugar until it thickens to a firm, yet jiggly and spreadable consistency. It’s often made from whole fruits with skins and seeds, such as cranberries, raspberries, grapes, apples, and gooseberries. Homemade fruit jelly is usually beautiful and translucent and boasts a complex, tasty flavor that’s hard to find in generic jars at supermarkets and grocery stores.
What are the essential ingredients needed in a fruit jelly?
To make a fruit jelly, you need proper amounts or concentrations of fruit juice, pectin, acid, and sugar. Having the right combination is crucial for the jelly form and comes with the proper texture. Otherwise, you’ll only end up with a runny syrup.
1. Fruit Juice
Fruit is the source of the distinct color and flavor. It also provides the water required for dissolving all ingredients and rigs out part of or the entire pectin and acid components needed to create a successful jelly. High-quality, flavorful fruits are the best choices for making delectable fruit jellies.
Pectin is the most critical substance needed in making fruit jellies. It’s a naturally occurring, polysaccharide starch or gum found in the cell wall of plants, vegetables, and fruits. Plus, it serves as the thickener, primarily responsible for the formation of jelly.
All fruits have pectin but of varying amounts. Pectin content is at its highest when the fruit is mature but slightly underripe. Once the fruit ripens, pectin levels will start to drop off. Still, some fruits have ample natural pectin, while others may require additional pectin to be firm and form a gel. For instance, blackberries and plums have lots of pectin, compared to apricots and peaches that have fewer amounts, which are not enough for gel formation.
As such, a vital step in making fruit jellies is knowing whether you’re using a low-pectin or high-pectin fruit. If it’s the former, you can simply supplement it with commercial pectin products or incorporate a high-pectin ingredient during the boiling process to obtain gels.
If you’re not sure about the pectin content of the fruit. You can quickly test it with a simple method. First, add one tablespoon of rubbing alcohol to a small dish. Add one teaspoon of the extracted fruit juice and leave it for about two minutes. If a solid gel builds up, the fruit has enough pectin to form a gel. If not, you need to add pectin in the jelly making.
If pectin is the thickener, acid functions as the jelly’s matchmaker as it aids pectin in building the gel network. The acid neutralizes the charged pectin molecules so they won’t repel each other, and rather encourage them to join. Without sufficient acidity, jelly making won’t be a success. Yet, too much acidity will cause the jelly to weep or lose liquid.
Fruit also varies in acid content, with levels higher during the underripe stages. Depending on the fruit you’re using, additional acid may be necessary. Other acid ingredients, such as citric acid or fumaric acid, or lemon juice will supplement the missing acidity. Commercial pectin products already come with organic acids to further ensure proper gelling.
Sugar acts as the preserving agent, adds flavor to the jelly, and aids in gelling. Sugar is hygroscopic, which means it tends to absorb water. Pectin molecules, which would rather tie up with water molecules than each other, will have no water unavailable. Thus, forcing pectin molecules to bond with one another.
Common sugar used is granulated white sugar, though honey, corn syrup, and beet sugar may work as alternatives. The catch is that the latter must be used in moderation, as having them too much can beat the fruit flavor while also affecting the gel formation by making it stiff. Meanwhile, too little sugar can prevent the jelly from setting and promote mold and yeast growth.
What are the steps in making a fruit jelly?
1. Prepare the fruits.
Gather enough amount of fruits needed in your recipe. The amount varies depending on the fruit you’re using. Make sure to wash the fruits by soaking and lifting them immediately on cold water or by letting them pass under running water.
2. Extract the juice.
If you’re using firmer fruits, you need to heat them to extract the juice. Usually, fruit is crushed, placed on a pot, added with water, and cooked until it loses all its color. The mixture is then strained to keep out the solid. For softer fruits like juicy berries, crushing and pressing out the juice often suffice sans the need for heating.
3. Simmer the juice.
Combine juice and the sugar into a saucepot and let it boil over low heat until it reaches 220° to 222°F. Stir continuously until the sugar completely dissolves. Stirring also ensures that the jelly won’t stick or scorch as it begins to thicken.
4. Test for doneness.
If you’re adding pectin, check and follow the manufacturer’s directions. If not, you can test the jelly doneness by letting the liquid run off the side of a spoon. It’s done if it’s thick enough to fall into a sheet and hang from the spoon. Otherwise, you can place a small amount of the mixture into a chilled dish. Let it sit for a minute and push the liquid using your finger. If it wrinkles, your fruit jelly is done.
5. Transfer the jelly.
Remove the jelly from the heat and pour the liquid into sterilized jars or containers. Allow it to cool undisturbed for about 12 hours. Depending on the sugar content, it can last about a month in the fridge or up to a year inside the freezer.
Afterward, you can now enjoy your fruit jelly in a lot of ways, such as creating an Asian-style dipping sauce, making Chè Ba Mau, a popular Vietnamese dessert, or using it as quick frosting or as a spread to your cookies and sandwiches. Regardless of which, you’d be surely delighted by these delicious, jiggly, homemade preserves.