Monday, July 28, 2008

Homemade Plum Jelly

Proverbs 31:10-11,14,16-19 The Message Bible "A good woman is hard to find, and worth far more than diamonds. Her husband trusts her without reserve, and never has reason to regret it...She's like a trading ship that sails to faraway places and brings back exotic surprises...She looks over a field and buys it, then, with money she's put aside, plants a garden. First thing in the morning, she dresses for work, rolls up her sleeves, eager to get started. She senses the worth of her work, is in no hurry to call it quits for the day. She's skilled in the crafts of home and hearth, diligent in homemaking."

Oh how I long to be even a fraction of the Proverbs 31 woman. She is such a role model for all of us daughters of the most high King. But in my attempts I fall short most days. Thankfully we never fall so short or so far that our LORD can't reach us to pick us up and hold us. Ever offering a gentle hug, and inspiration to see us through the day and guide us in each new task before us, our Heavenly Father is always right there with us. Today I certainly feel a little Proverb-ish. I have donned my trusty apron, gotten out my canning supplies and now it's time to work diligently with my hands to tend the exotic surprise for my family...PLUMS. Ok, maybe they aren't the most exotic thing in the world, but there was never a stipulation in Scripture that says what can & can't be considered exotic.

When I was at the grocery store this past Friday, I noticed a sale on red & black plums. It was a good bargain so I decided I would get a few pounds and make jelly out of them. Even though it's not quick work, I always enjoy home canning. To open your pantry doors and find fresh canned summer vegetables & fruits in the middle of the long winter, is such a great feeling. It's like a little taste of the summer while the temperatures are brisk and cool outdoors. This is one way I can do my part to plant my own garden in our home with the money saved (Proverbs 31:16) ~ this garden just happens to be our pantry.

Enough talking...let's get canning! First we need to get out our basic supplies to so we can get started.

You'll need your fruit,powdered pectin, 1/2 pint sized canning jars, jar rings/bands & seals, water bath canner, jar rack, magnetic lid lifter, jar lifter, jar funnel, jelly strainer & strainer bag.

Start by washing your equipment. You ALWAYS want to work with clean items. sterilize your jars, jar lifter, funnel, magnetic lid lifter, lids & bands. This can be done by placing them in the water bath canner filled with water. (I also like to add a tablespoon or two of white vinegar to the water as it fills. This helps keep the cloudy film from building up on the jars as they boil. It's not a necessary step - just a personal preference.) Allow water and items to come to a full rolling boil. Let simmer until you are ready to use. An alternate method would be to wash them in the dishwasher. If your machine has a "sterilize" setting (which most newer appliances have), set the cycle to wash and sterilize. You will want to keep jars hot until ready to use. Never fill cold jars with hot liquid or else you will run the risk of the glass breaking and ruining your product. Safety first!

Meanwhile you will want to start working on making your juice. Wash fruit, making sure to remove stems and blossom ends. Chop or quarter fruit removing seeds and place in large bowl. Do not remove skins or peel fruit. Measure fruit into 1 quart (4 cups) increments. Dump into a large, heavy stock pot. for each quart of fruit measured add 1 cup of water to pot. Once all fruit and water have been measured and added, cover with a lid and allow to simmer until fruit is softened and juice has formed.

You will want to strain the fruit through a damp jelly bag or several layers of cheesecloth to get out as much juice from the fruit as possible. At this point you can either use the juice for making jelly (which we are going to do) or you could can the juice itself and use it for cooking or other cooking needs. It will also freeze nicely too.

Now for the jelly making itself. You will need...
5 cups plum juice*
1 package powdered pectin
6-1/2 cups sugar
*I started with around 5 1/2 lbs. of fruit before making juice. Once it was strained I ended up with 10 cups of juice. In order to have the jelly set well, I did this in two batches. Therefore the recipe measurements reflect this. So in use all of the juice you have you will actually need 10 cups of juice, 2 packages of pectin & 13 cups of sugar.

Combine juice and pectin in a large, heavy stock pot. stir to mix well. Over high heat, bring mixture to a boil. Stir in sugar until fully dissolved. Return mixture to a full rolling boil. Let it boil hard for 1 full minute. Remove pot from heat. You may notice some foam on top of your liquid. This is normal. All you need to do at this point is skim it off.

Ladle hot liquid into your hot sterile jars. Make sure you leave at least 1/4" head space in each jar. With a clean damp paper towel wipe down edges of jar to clean any spills. DO NOT TOUCH the mouth of the jar itself with your bare hands. Remember you are needing to keep everything as sterile as possible.

Using the magnetic lid lifter place a jar seal over the mouth of each jar. Place the jar ring. Screw rings on securely but only until secured & fingertip tightened. DO NOT screw on overly tight as you can as you need some "wiggle" room per sea in the lid for processing.

Using jar lifter place each filled & closed jar back into the water bath canner. Fill with water until jars are completely covered and you have at least 1 inch of water above the top of the jars. Place canner onto stove burner, cover and bring to a full rolling boil. Let process at full boil for 5 minutes. DO NOT start timing until after boiling has started.

Once processed, remove jars using jar lifter and place on several layers of a dish towel or newspaper (you just want to make sure to protect your counter top from the heat of the jars) and allow to cool completely. As jars cool you will hear a "ping" sound. This means your jars are sealed. Once jars have fully cooled, press down lightly over each lid. If lid does not pop back up for you then the jar has properly sealed and is now ready to be placed in the pantry for later use. If lid presses in and pops back up for you the jar is NOT properly sealed. In this case you will need to remove the lid seal and ring. DO NOT reuse the same lid seal, instead replace it with a new one, screw ring back onto jar and start the water bath processing all over again. Once cooled check to make sure seal has taken. As you can see I ended up with 21 half pint jars of jelly.

**If you only have one jar that hasn't sealed you can always skip trying to reprocess if you like, and just place it in the refrigerator. You can still eat use it with no problem, it just can not be stored in the pantry.

Happy canning!

Click HERE for printable recipe

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