A Jelly Day of a Sunday

I’m participating in the Food in Jars Mastery Challenge, and the March skill is jelly or shrubs. I’ve never made jelly (I typically prefer jams), and I had to google what a shrub is (a sugary fruit-vinegar combination used in cocktails or tonic water). I have a tendency to go a little overboard when it comes to challenges; for example, I made three marmalades in January over the long Martin Luther King Jr. weekend. With the chaos of foundation repairs, new flooring, a wood stove, seven yards of dirt in the driveway, and taking in a new foster kiddo, I managed to carve out time on Sunday to make two jellies and a shrub. Yep, I’m a touch crazy and surprisingly not too tired.

When I was texting my husband at the store that I was picking up a slew of ingredients for jellies and shrubs, he cautioned me to not “kill myself making jelly.” I could joke that I didn’t know that death could come in a jelly jar, but I know what he means. Last week was more than a little challenging on me with my fibromyalgia and all that chaos; I was exhausted by seven in the evening. I took off one day to help my husband with his spring-break projects around the house, but I ended up in bed at 2:00 with the energy of a lethargic snail. I understood his admonition. Still, I loaded up with the ingredients to make sour cherry jelly, lavender wine jelly, Herbes de Provence wine jelly, blueberry ginger shrub, and roasted garlic jelly.

I was, however, pragmatic in choosing which jellies to make on Sunday. As much as I try to do all the things! all at once, I knew that wasn’t going to happen. Some of the jellies could wait. I chose to make the sour cherry jelly and the lavender wine jellies first because they were the jellies I wanted to make for myself, and I wanted a little me time. My husband was interested in savory jellies, such as Herbes de Provence wine jelly and roasted garlic jelly. I was definitely interested in making the roasted garlic jelly, but it was too time intensive for the time I had carved out for myself.

I felt a little bit like a cheater to merely purchase a jar of fruit juice to make jelly, but making the jelly was so easy with a fresh-from-the-jar juice. Stupid easy. Maybe at a later date, I’ll make juice from fruit, but this weekend, I was happy to admire my dark red jars of sour cherry jelly that felt almost effortless to make, especially after the labor-intensive marmalade I had made. I used Pomona’s Pectin recipe for sour cherry jelly, and the set was as perfect as ever. I love using Pomona’s Pectin for its ease of use and reliability.

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My cat photobombed my photo shoot of my sour cherry jelly.

I snuck in the first stage of making the blueberry ginger shrub while I was waiting for the water bath canner to boil. I’ll write more about the shrub in a few days after we get to enjoy it.

The lavender wine jelly was a little more time intensive, but only just. I could whip up a batch in an evening should I want to do so. The jelly has subtle and delicate flavor that is sublime. I have never used a liquid pectin before, and I’m not sure I’m pleased with the results. Interestingly, some of the cans seem to be more jelled than others, but they all have a soft set. Still, the flavor of the jelly is superb, and using it on toast will be a definite treat; this jelly is certainly one of the more expensive ones I’ve had, especially compared to its small yield. A definite treat. The recipe I used came from Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving.

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I like the soft color of the lavender wine jelly.

As I took a spoonful of the lavender wine jelly to my husband outside for him to try, he smiled and told me he was glad I had joined the challenge. I couldn’t agree more. I don’t know that I would have made a sour cherry or a lavender wine jelly without the extra kick in the tush of a challenge. I’m learning new skills and making useful things my family will like, and I like canning! I don’t know how many wins I’ve acquired, but I definitely feel like a winner. WOO!

I hope your weekend involved a little carved out for something you wanted to do. I felt good taking some time for myself—even if I also took a kiddo to a horseback riding lesson and ran out with the second to get a leotard for a spring-break camp.

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