June 4, 2010

Riesling-Mint Jelly

It's June already. Time to start putting up the harvest, beginning with herbal jellies.

You'll need some basic equipment to make jellies that you'll be able to use for other preservation projects. If you don't already have a large stockpot that is more than 12" in diameter, you'll need a water-bath canner; if you do, you'll need a canning rack. You'll need a jar lifter to lift the hot jars, and a canning funnel to fill them. If you don't have any of the things needed, you might just want to get a canning kit. You'll need jars and lids as well, which you should be able to purchase locally at most any large grocery store. Water-bath canning, also known as boiling-water canning, is used for jams, jellies, preserves, chutneys, pickles, etc.

Jelly Mother Recipe
2½ cups (20 ounces/600mL) liquid
½-1 cup fresh herbs
4 cups granulated sugar
¼ cup freshly-squeezed lemon juice or vinegar
1 pouch (3 ounces) liquid pectin

Make an infusion with the liquid and herbs. Bring your liquid (unsweetened fruit juice, wine, whatever) to a boil, then pour over the herbs and let steep for an hour. Drain and press as much liquid as possible out of the herbs before throwing them in the compost heap.

Sterilize the jars, bands, and lids. The jars can be sterilized in a dishwasher and kept warm there. The bands and lids need to be put into a pan of simmering but not boiling water and kept there for at least 10 minutes. If you need to use a water bath to sterilize your jars, use the canner and canning rack and leave them in boiling water for at least 10 minutes. Lift the rack to its supports to get the jars out of the water but keep them hot, and use the jar lifter to pour the water out of them. Be careful, the steam is really hot. If you sterilize the jars in the dishwasher, get your canner half-full of water on the heat with a lid on it right away. It takes a long time to come to a boil.

Set up your canning area. You'll want a plate to keep from getting jelly on the counter and a damp cloth for wiping the jars. You'll need the warm lids handy.

Next you'll need a large pan, by which I mean at least 3 quarts, but 4 quarts is better. If the pan is smaller than 3 quarts you'll have a burnt sugar emergency in the middle of jelly making. I speak from experience.

Mix 2 cups of the herbal infusion with 4 cups of sugar and ¼ cup of lemon juice or vinegar in the large pan and bring to a boil, stirring to ensure the sugar is dissolved. Then add the liquid pectin and bring back to a rolling boil that will not stir down for one full minute.

Set a warm jar on the plate, and fill, using the canning funnel, to within ¼" of the top. Wipe the edge of the jar to ensure a good seal, put the lid on, and screw the band finger tight. Place in the canning rack. Repeat until all the jars are filled, then lower the rack into the water bath. Cover and bring to a rolling boil, then keep at a boil for 10 minutes. When you remove the lid, expect a lot of hot steam.

Carefully lift out the jars with a jar lifter and place on a towel to cool. Don't check them to see if the jelly has set until the jars are room temperature, which will be a few hours. If you see bubbles rising in the cooling jars, don't worry, everything is fine. When the jars are cooled, remove the bands and press the center of the lid to ensure that it's depressed. Carefully lift each jar by the edge of the lid to make sure the seal is good. If a lid pops off, refrigerate the jar and enjoy it within a month.

The recipe will yield 4 half-pint jars plus most of a fifth one for immediate consumption.

To make Riesling-Mint Jelly I juiced two Fuji apples. Then I added enough Montinore Estate Sweet Reserve Riesling to total 20 ounces. I picked about a cup of fresh spearmint from the garden, rinsed it, and infused the apple and wine. The result is an excellent jelly that isn't too sweet or too minty, and doesn't have that nasty bright green color mint jellies so often do. It is quite good with cheese.


  1. Thank you for the post. I always love to try making jellies. I save this to my favorite.

  2. I have never made a jelly before, but I would like to try!

  3. What a great idea!
    I have pesky mint persistently trying to take over my garden. I will try this. I wonder how rosemary would do?

  4. Rosemary is pretty strong, I might use a red wine, maybe a sangiovese, and cut the herbs down to ¼ cup. Anyone else have suggestions?

  5. It's really pretty easy. The worst that can happen is the jelly doesn't set, in which case you have thick syrup for pancakes or blinis, or an interesting flavoring for a vinaigrette.