Hard Apple Cider Jelly

I’ve been thinking a lot about jelly. I don’t care for it the same way I do jam or marmalade. I know that marmalade is just jelly with stuff in it, but that’s exactly what I like about it — the stuff. Same with jam. I like the texture-rich, wonderful stuff of it.

I do admire jelly. It can teach you a lot. To be blunt, it can kick your ass. Then it will sit there staring at you in a beautiful, vacant way. Maybe it’ll treat you to a little wiggle, if you were fortunate enough to get a good set. Or, maybe, just maybe — if you are both lucky and tremendously skilled — it will reward you with something truly passion worthy. (For a good example, feast your eyes onJulia’s Paradise Jelly.) If you are like me, however, you’ll make a jelly three times to get it right, step back, and ask, “Why exactly did I do that?”

Well, this time it was Andrea’s fault . . .

Last month, Andrea at Putting up with the Turnbulls took on Spiced Beer Jelly with so much enthusiasm and determination that I couldn’t resist going there — or somewhere like there — myself. I saw this Fox Barrel Black Currant Cider and was crazy to know whether I could use it to make jelly. This is great hard cider, brewed here in California by folks who won a Gold Medal at the California State Fair. I tasted several different varieties and chose this one for its dry, slightly tart taste and beautiful tawny color. Then I proceeded to waste several bottles making bad jelly.

My first sad attempt was based on the Spiced Beer Jelly recipe in Mes Confitures, subbing hard cider for beer and making a few changes to the spices. I used only apples for pectin, nothing from a box. While I’m all for making preserves without boxed pectin, it requires a longer cooking time to achieve a set. In this case, the long cooking time completely boiled away the delicate fermented flavor of the hard cider. The resulting jelly tasted like a Jolly Rancher candy — sticky sweet, nothing subtle about it. Not at all what I had in mind.

The first attempt was pretty — but where’d the hard stuff go?

I decided to do it the easy way: Open low-sugar pectin box. Mix pectin with sugar. Pour into cider. That resulted in a much better flavor — true hard cider taste, much less sweet — and a predictable set. (They don’t call it Sure-Jell for nothin.) I used the boxed pectin a couple of different ways to determine the process I liked best, and that’s what you’ll find below. It’s pretty much true to the method called for in the Sure-Jell package insert.

I’ll continue to make most of my preserves without added pectin, but there are times when it makes good sense to reach for the box. Hard cider is clearly one of them, and I would guess that champagne is another. Last month, I wondered aloud whether I could make my Pomegranate Champagne Jelly with only apples instead of packaged pectin, and now I believe I have the answer. If I want to keep playing around with beverage-flavored jellies that have a naturally low pectin content, the box is the bomb.

It may not be my favorite kind o’ chunky preserve, but on a little cracker with some soft cheese from the Cowgirl Creamery? Not bad at all.

Hard Apple Cider Jelly

4 1/2 cups hard apple cider
strained juice of 1 lemon
3 cups sugar
1 package Sure-Jell Low-Sugar pectin

1. Sterilize your jars and prepare your lids.

2. Measure the hard cider into a 6- or 8-quart nonreactive saucepot. Add the lemon juice.

3. Measure the sugar into a separate bowl.

4. Thoroughly mix 1/4 cup of the measured sugar with the pectin in another small bowl. Make sure this pectin-sugar mixture stays nice and dry. Set aside.

5. Bring the cider and lemon juice to a boil over high heat, then stir in the pectin-sugar mixture. Bring the resulting mixture back to a hard rolling boil — that is, a boil that doesn’t settle down when you stir it. During this phase, stir constantly and use the back of your spoon to smash up and disperse the pectin lumps that form when you add the pectin mix to the cider.

6. Quickly stir in the remaining sugar and bring the mixture back to a hard boil. Boil for exactly 1 minute. Again, stir constantly and use your spoon to break up any remaining pectin lumps.

7. Remove from heat and skim any foam. (The pectin should be well dissolved by now, but if you see any small lumps, you can quickly pour the very hot jelly through a strainer. ) Ladle or pour the jelly into your sterilized jars, leaving 1/4-inch head space. Wipe the jar rims with a clean, damp cloth if necessary and secure your two-piece lids.

8. Process in a water-bath canner, using the correct time for your altitude: 5 minutes for 0-1,000 feet above sea level, plus 1 minute for every additional 1,000 feet.

Yields 5 – 6 half-pint jars.*

*Don’t double up! Remember, if you want more jelly than a recipe yields, plan to make multiple small batches. As with most jam and jelly recipes, doubling the batch size will mess with your set.

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15 comments to Hard Apple Cider Jelly

  • Julia

    Ooo! I've been waiting for this. Looks lovely. And that picture with the cracker is amazing. Is that your new lens? Wow. And I'm glad to see more people eating jelly with cheese. Viva la jelly! (Sorry, I get excited.) I love that it's black currant cider, btw. That sounds tasty.

  • BBB

    I just shared this w/ the folks at Old Time Cider http://www.oldtimecider.com/ They may have some other ciders to recommend. Sounds awesome to me, and on my list!

  • SheGoes2Eleven

    I think I know what I'm doing tomorrow! Can you tell me about how much lemon juice you got out of your small lemon? I only have the bottled stuff at home.

    Also, that looks like a Milton's cracker – am I right? I LOVE those!

    Thanks for this recipe (and the Pomegranate Champagne, which I might also try tomorrow!)

  • Renai

    Totally bizarre. I went to Finnriver Orchards and Cidery today to do a cider tasting- and the owner let us taste a hard cider jelly that someone had made using their products. I had never heard of it before- it was absolutely fantastic. I came home- and here this is! Must be a sign.

  • SarahBHood

    Me, I'm a jelly fan. And a cider fan. So I'm most intrigued. Sir Perry pear jelly? I could get into that…

  • meg

    Sounds absolutely fantastic! Blackcurrant cider sounds yummy. I generally lean toward the jammy, chunky, chutney'd or marmalades, but since tasting Julia's jelly I can't stop dreaming of perhaps one day making a perfectly set jelly! First up though is your double meyer marmalade…came back from CA with some loot =)

  • DJ-W

    I bow to the master once again…this is inspired! The Man and I have a favourite Swedish hard cider (Kopparberg, if you ever see it around pick up a bottle–the Strawberry Lime is divine) that I think would work so well in this form. I see it with baked ham or in a belly rib glaze..mmmm. Thanks again ^_^

  • Shae @ H2H

    Jules: Yes, that is the new lens. I'm still learning to drive it! If you of all folks didn't get excited about even the idea of jelly, I would be concerned.

    BBB: Thanks! I think the best thing about this jelly is that the flavor can easily be changed by picking another good cider. There are so many amazing choices.

    SheGoes: I would suggest about a tablespoon of lemon juice. And, this is embarrassing, but those crackers were in a sealed jar. I took them out of the package during the holidays and I don't remember which they are! They are tasty, though.

    Renai: That's perfect! I do believe in signs — like when I was deciding whether or not to try the jam with bananas in it and almost tripped over those beautiful bananas that someone dropped in the parking lot. Maybe you should go for it!

    Sarah: It's so easy to do it this way. I know you like Pomona Pectin and that might work, too. Still, when I used it for my pom champagne jelly I got a good set but found that it didn't have the same integrity as the Sure-Jell. It deteriorated considerably when a jar was jostled — say, in my bag when I was transporting it to give it away as a gift. Anyway, I think this one invites experimentation.

    Meg: Agreed. Julia's apricot almond jelly is a stunning example of a perfect jelly set. And a beautiful flavor, too. Let me know how those lemons work for you — it's one of my favorite recipes — and be sure to use 'em soon. The more quickly you get to them after picking, the better they'll treat you!

    DJ-W: It's true that the inspiration was there, but the process sure was awkward! I planned something elegant and ended up with such a simple little jelly. But sometimes simple is all we need, right? Let me know if you try it and work with it as a glaze. That sounds really good!

  • Josurin

    You are my new favorite person. I CAN'T WAIT to try this out! Never would have thought of it, but it sounds awesome, and I love hard cider. I made your champagne pomegranate jelly and it turned out wonderfully!

  • SheGoes2Eleven

    Update: I made two batches of this with Doc's Draft Framboise (raspberry) cider and got 21 4oz jars – they are awesome and came out beautifully! I also found Fox Barrel Black Currant cider during my trip to Total Wine this afternoon and used that for a 3rd batch, but ran into trouble. Somehow I got it into my head that I needed 4 & a half bottles of cider, instead of 4 & a half cups. Needless to say – I have (very delicious) cider soup. I'm going to try to remake it tomorrow and cross my fingers!

    Thanks very much for this recipe! I can't wait to try the champagne pomegranate, too.

  • Deb

    Love to check in and see what you're up to. I'm intrigued and may wander out of my comfort zone (the chunky rewards of mars and jams) to give it a try. :D

    I had such great success with your pomegranate champagne recipe (thank you!) I wanted to use sparkling wine again in a preserve.

    I've been waiting for blood oranges and we've had them at our farmers market the last two weeks (read buying frenzy) Today I used blood oranges and added Proseco for a blood orange mimosa marmalade. I also used for the first time, Cara Cara Oranges, and added Proseco there too. Have you ever seen the inside of a Cara Cara orange??? Pinkalicious and stunning! Like you, I was a bit worried about boiling the flavor out of the wine with a longer cook time, but I just cracked into a jar of the blood orange and you can taste both – the orange and the proseco. Score! :-D

    Thanks for the inspiration!

  • CallieK

    That looks pretty amazing! You continue to inspire me to attempt new possible flavour combos.

    I looked to your blog so much last year that I gave you a nod on my year end post
    http://backyardfarmsto.blogspot.com/2010/12/endings-and-beginnings.html

  • Shae @ H2H

    Josurin: I'm glad the pom champagne worked out for you. I'm still in love with that one, myself. It's almost time to move on to marmalades, but I don't know that I'm over my fascination with these easy jellies.

    SheGoes: Thank goodness you had the successes before the accident, so at least you knew it would work. What you did sounds just like something I would do. I hope you can save it. I would love to know what happens.

    Deb: I have been hearing a lot about Cara Cara Oranges and I am very curious. To start, I love the name! Your marmalade sounds fabulous. I made a grapefruit mimosa jam back in November (haven't posted it yet) and had a similar experience with the champagne. For me, it didn't have quite the same "pop" as the pom champagne jelly, but it turned out to have a very mellow white-winey undertone. I love it.

    CallieK: Thanks, you! I appreciate that post so much — and not just because it mentions H2H. I resonate with all the things you were up to this year and look forward to following along in 2011.

  • Julie

    This looks so yummy! I totally need to try this. How do you get your jar lids printed so nicely. Do your labels come that size and color?