Making jelly for the ladies

October 10, 2012 

After a previous column on home canning and preserve making, my wife and I were asked by the ladies of the Green Briar Garden Club of Warner Robins if we would do a presentation for them on that subject. After much soul-searching and discussion, we decided that if the garden club could tolerate our methods of preserving, making jam and canning vegetables, then surely we could acquaint them with our shortcuts, what equipment we used, how we prepared our fruits and vegetables, show them a few of our finished products and provide them samples of our efforts.

A couple of false starts later, amid much debate concerning how best to proceed because we could not actually make the jelly during their meeting, we decided to take photos of the various stages in jelly making, print them and mount the photos on a large cardboard trifold to place on an easel. So we set about making the jelly. First we picked a large bowl of blueberries, weighed them to be about 14 pounds and took the first photo to provide a perspective of the quantity of berries. As we progressed through the initial processes from raw berries to juice, we took photos of each step. The end result was that the 14 pounds of berries yielded four quarts of pure juice, enough for a little more than three batches of jelly by our recipe, which yields about nine half-pint jars of jelly.

Taking photos of the actual jelly making proved a bit more challenging. For our recipe (five cups of juice and seven cups of sugar) the juice and one packet of Sure Jell Fruit Pectin are mixed in a large pot and heated to a rolling boil while stirring constantly; then the sugar is added and the mixture reheated for one minute after again reaching a rolling boil. While this has been taking place, the jars have been boiling for 10 minutes to sterilize them, and the lids have been sterilizing in just boiled water. The jelly mixture is removed from the heat, and any foam is spooned from the top while the jars are being removed from the hot water and drained and the lids removed from the hot water and dried. Then the mixture is poured into the jars and the lids put in place and tightened, the jars inverted for five minutes, then righted and allowed to cool. During the cooling process, the lids will make an audible “pop” when they seal. When canning vegetables, the filled jars are “hot-bathed” in boiling water for 10 to 14 minutes, then removed and allowed to cool. Some sources state that all canned products should be hot-bathed or pressure-canned rather than using the inverted method.

Even after photographing the various steps in our process, printing the photos and mounting them on the cardboard trifold, we still had reservations about how our efforts would be received by the ladies of the garden club; however, we decided to go ahead with the presentation and firmed our agreement with Mary Catherine Cuttrell, who is the program chairwoman of the garden club, for Sept. 11 to do our presentation. She must have sensed our reservation as in a few days we received an e-mail from her asking if she and Cindy Gordon, program co-chair of the club, could come out and see our little corner of the world. We agreed and they arrived promptly on the chosen day. We went over what we planned to do, showed them the equipment we planned to use and discussed a length for the presentation. During this discussion, they noticed the wildlife photos on our walls and asked us to bring those also. (They must have noted my penchant for wildlife and nature.) So we loaded pots, pans, bowls, spoons and ladles, photos of the jelly-making process and wildlife into the car and headed to the Flint Energies building on Ga. 96 to meet with a group of about 30 very nice ladies, some of whom will visit us next summer to pick blueberries.

After all was said and done, we’re glad we did this presentation for this great group of ladies whose questions and attentiveness were rewarding and greatly appreciated. Thanks for your hospitality, ladies of the Green Briar Garden Club of Warner Robins.

By the time this column is in print, we will be in Alto selecting apples (Arkansas Black) for making apple butter. After that, canning season is finished until next spring (strawberry preserves), but Christmas goodies are just around the corner. I can hardly wait!

Walton Wood lives in Kathleen. Contact him at jamewood@windstream.net.

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