Cabernet Jelly

Have you ever had wine jelly?  It’s divine.  And couldn’t be easier to make.  In fact, the hardest part of this recipe is sterilizing the jars and lids, which is easy.  You should do that first, because the jelly comes together VERY quickly once you start.

This recipe makes about 4 pints of jelly, or 2 quarts.  Get yourself whatever size jars you want to use, they even sell half-pints for jams and jellies.  You can re-use old jars, but you MUST have new lids, unless you plan on eating all this jelly in a month or less.  Canning lids can be purchased at most grocery stores and big box stores, but are usually in the canning section, which may be with hardware or kitchen equipment, rather than in the grocery section.

You can sterilize in a number of ways…the easiest is to run the jars through the dishwasher using the sanitizing feature.  You can also fill them halfway with water and cook them in the microwave on high until the water is boiling.  Then dump the water out and dry the jars in a 260F oven.

Meanwhile, bring a pot of water to about 160F and place the lids and rings in there.  Don’t boil them.  You’re just wanting to sterilize them and warm the gum that acts as the seal around the edge of the jar.

Now…for the jelly.  This jelly can be made with ANY wine, red or white, and any variety.  I love to make it with a cab because it’s bold and rich and makes a delicious jelly, but make it with your favorite wine.  You will need:

2 bottles of good quality wine

Take one bottle and pour off about 3 cups.  This will be almost the whole bottle.  Place it in a heavy pot, like an enameled cast iron Dutch oven.  Bring the wine to a boil over high heat, and then reduce the heat to medium high and reduce the wine until it’s about 1 cup, maybe a bit less.  Watch the wine carefully if you’re using a large pot, because it can scorch quickly as it reduces down in a thin layer.  Once the wine is reduced, pour it off into a cup, and pour the remaining wine and the full bottle into the pot.  Add:

6 cups of sugar
3 Tablespoons lemon juice
pinch of salt
2 3-ounce envelops of liquid pectin

Pectin is a natural substance that exists in all plants.  It is extracted commercially from citrus peels, which have the highest natural concentration of pectin.  Pectin binds with sugar and calcium molecules to form a jelly-like matrix that will set up the jam after it cools.  Pectin is available in most grocery stores right next to the canning supplies.  Many types are available…the liquid packets generally come 2 to a box, so one box is perfect for this recipe.

Raise the heat to high and whisk the mixture until the sugar is all dissolved.  When it comes to a full rolling boil, boil for 60 seconds, then remove from the heat.  Add the reduced wine, stir well, and distribute into the hot jars.  (A canning funnel will make this very easy, but you can pour the hot jelly into a sterilized pitcher or large measuring cup and pour it.  You should sterilize all utensils that come into contact with the jelly after it comes off the heat, and this can be done with a bleach and water solution…a Tablespoon of bleach in a quart of water will do the job.)  Wipe the rims of the jars off with a clean paper towel.

Using tongs, pull the hot lids from the hot water, shake them to remove excess water, and carefully place them onto the jars.  Then screw the rings onto the lids firmly, but don’t go crazy.  The jars will be VERY hot, so hold them with a towel to protect yourself.

Now let the jars cool naturally.  You’ll hear the lids POP closed as a vacuum forms on the inside.  Once they have cooled to room temp, store them in a cool dry place for up to a year…but they won’t last that long!  If you aren’t “canning” this jelly and just using a couple of old quart jars and used lids, keep the jelly in the fridge after it cools to room temp and eat it within a month.

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