sugar plum jelly with victorian spices

Now that I’ve overseen my second annual “Holiday Gifts in a Jar” class for the Master Food Preservers, I’m in jar gift mode, and I thought I’d share the bounty of my research with you.  Once a week, from now until New Year’s Day, I’ll be posting a recipe or link to something unusual and creative I’ve found that can be jarred up and offered to your loved ones as delicious holiday gifts.

The class was a great deal of fun.  We offered two sections, an afternoon and an evening, and had a range of demonstrations and hands-on workshops, including some crucial tips for decorating jars and baskets.  There was a canning overview and workshop making (low) sugar plum jelly, a comparative analysis of chutneys and conserves, and creating layering of white powders for baking mixes in their regular and gluten-free forms.

The big hit of the entire shebang was Katya Davis’ homemade vanilla extract.  Who knew it was so easy?  She demo’d the process of slicing the vanilla beans and preparing them for their bath in spirits, and even gave out samples of vanilla sugar and apple pie/pumpkin pie spice mixes to include in a baking gift basket.  I think I’ll be showing up at her door on Christmas morning with my stocking…

We also discussed safely making flavored oils (sun-dried tomato) and vinegars, and the class took home jars of blackberry and herb vinegar made with the remains of my 2009 herb garden and frozen chesterberries.  There was a demonstration of making cranberry mustard from scratch by our local mustard experts, Jan Hurlow and Suzi Busler.  I spent some time discussing local products that are particularly notable, and how to find them.  Cindy Ambrose backed me up in the evening class by demonstrating how to make hazelnut brittle in the microwave.

If you’re interested in making sugar plum jam, we have a few 1-Q jars of juice made from donated plums from King Estates winery left over from the class.  We’re selling them at $2 a jar, a fantastic price for a high-quality, pure, unsweetened jar of juice.  The quart holds slightly less than 4 cups of juice, which would work well for the following recipe that was featured in the class.

(Low) Sugarplum Jelly

This jelly spread was adapted from my recipe for cider jelly.  It uses spices that are traditional in making Victorian sugar plums.  Makes 4 half-pints of low-sugar jelly using Pomona pectin.*  Perfect for Christmas morning on cinnamon raisin bread, or mixed in with ricotta for a crepe filling.

➢    4 t. calcium water (in Pomona pectin box*)
➢    4 t. natural pectin (in Pomona pectin box*)
➢    1 quart (4 cups) plum juice, either canned or freshly made in steam juicer
➢    Spice mix: one stick cinnamon, zest from one orange, big pinch of whole allspice, pinch whole cloves, pinch whole coriander, pinch cocoa nibs (optional)
➢    1 cup sugar
➢    1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
➢    4 t. (divided into four) apricot liqueur (optional)

Macerate the spices in the juice at least several hours before canning.  Measure out your juice and place in a jar or bowl that can be covered.  Add cinnamon stick.  Place the other spices in a little cheesecloth square that can be tied shut with string, then add to the juice. Refrigerate overnight, if possible.

Before beginning your jelly, wash your jars and sterilize them by boiling them in your canner for 5 minutes.  Wash your new lids and your rings.  Keep the lids and rings in water at a simmer (180 degrees), don’t boil them, in a small pot on the stove.  Filter out the spices from your juice and pour into a medium-sized pot.

To make jelly, follow the instructions on the bottom of the Pomona instruction sheet. These are, basically, as follows:

Add calcium water and lemon juice to juice in the medium pot on high heat.  As juice is being brought to a rapid boil, mix together the pectin and the sugar in a small bowl.

When the juice comes to a boil, add in the sugar/pectin mix, stirring constantly for one minute, to melt the pectin.  If you don’t stir constantly, it will lump.  Remove from heat.

Skim foam that rises to the surface of the juice, if any.

Fill hot jars, leaving a quarter-inch headspace, and add 1 t. per jar of the optional apricot liqueur.

Wipe rims, cover with lids and rings, and process for five minutes in a boiling water canner.

* If you live in Eugene, you can find Pomona pectin at Sundance, Market of Choice, and Down to Earth throughout the year.  Do not substitute Pomona pectin for another brand of pectin, as they all process differently.

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