Saturday, July 4, 2015

Recipe: QT's Low-Sugar Plum Jelly - Step II: Jelly!

***UPDATE*** Added 7/7/15 - Clarification on quantities!

Hey!  Making good on my promise!

This is actually the EASY part - and I actually don't have many pictures to go along with it (Oops!)

So for this step, you start with the plum juice you made earlier.  Give it a taste and, well, this part is a Judgement Call.  See, the juice will be pretty tart, so we'll be throwing in a lot more sweetener than I'm accustomed to using.  What you want to figure out is kinda/sorta the "depth" of the flavor and color.

If it's too watery/weak, you're gonna want to simmer it down to a lesser quantity which means more flavor.  Makes sense?

Honestly, I don't think I can give you a specific, fancy-scientifical, 100% accurate gauge to work with.  But here's what I ended up with:

  • 1st batch: 5lbs fruit + I-don't-remember how much water, ended up at 12 cups of weak/watery juice.

    I simmered it down by 1/3 to roughly 8 cups (2 batches of jelly).
  • 2nd and 3rd batches 5lbs fruit + 10 cups water (each - then I combined 'em).  I ended up with a total of 17+ (ish) cups of more-condensed juice.

    Simmered it down by appx 1/4 to end up with roughly 14-16 cups (3 batches of jelly)
  • I'm thinkin' the roughly-optimal ratio would end up being 5 lbs fruit, 10 cups water, then simmer down to ~8 cups = ~2 batches of jelly.
So yeah.  Kind of a Judgement Call, right?  I think - to keep it simple - I'm gonna go with the 2nd batch's numbers with the caveat that YMMV.  It's merely a guideline!

QT's Low-Sugar Plum Jelly - Made in TWO batches
The quantities listed below are for ONE batch of jam
Yield 8(ish) half-pint jars of jam (each batch is appx 4 half-pints - give or take!)

  • 4 cups of already simmered-down/condensed plum juice
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 cups granulated Splenda (or whatever sweetener you choose - I tend to think that Stevia might be too bitter, but that's just me)
  • 1 TBS lemon juice
  • 5 TBS Low/No-Sugar Pectin (I use this)
  1. Heat the plum and lemon juices in a dutch oven til it reaches a light boil/simmer
  2. Stir in the Splenda (helps to use a whisk, actually - so it doesn't clump)
  3. Mix the sugar and Pectin together with a fork in a dry bowl.
  4. Slowly add the sugar + pectin to the juices, stirring all the while (again, we don't want clumps)
  5. Increase heat to High or Medium-High, stirring constantly  
  6. Bring it to a rapid boil, stir-stir-stir (and keep a close watch on your temp - it will try to boil-over!).  Boil hard for one full minute, stirring constantly, and remove from heat. 
  7. Check for "set" (spoonful of jelly on a spoon, in the fridge for a minute or two).
  8. Remove the bubbly scummy stuff from the top (I set it aside to mix with plain yogurt - yum!)
  9. Transfer to hot, sterilized canning jars.  Wipe the rims, apply the lids.
  10. Process in a water-bath for 10 minutes
  11. Leave jars undisturbed for 24 hours.  Check the seals (lids that pop up and down in the center are not sealed - put those in the fridge and use them first).
 My first batch didn't "set" completely - but it's still delicious.  Firms up in the fridge, but it can also be used as waffle syrup (Ooh!  Or on ice cream!).  Later batches had more Pectin and set-up better.

It really is delicious!  I used a lot more sweetener in this than I normally do - but it still managed to retain it's fruitiness.  SUPER pleased with this recipe!

And see how it gleams?!

Sparkling like a ruby in the afternoon sun!

Final update 7/7/2015: I used the very-last of the plums to make one more big batch o' jelly.  Did the 5lbs to 10 cups ratio.  I actually ended up with just-shy of 8 cups of juice - so I didn't need to cook it down any further.  I suspect much has to do with the ripeness of the fruit (and this fruit was super-ripe - almost over-ripe!).

I ended up making 2 batches of jam (appx 3-1/2 cups juice, 3-1/2c Splenda/Sugar, 1T Lemon juice, 5T Pectin), and I ended up with 10 half-pints of jelly.

This definitely ain't a science!

Recipe: QT's Plum Jelly - Step I: Juice

Thanks for dealing with my last Super-Rambly post - but I had to buy some time so I could go back and re-make the Jelly Recipe - this time actually *paying attention* to what the hell I was doing!

Gawd knows, I had enough plums!

Round VII
(June 30 - the last of the plums)

Okay, I'm not gonna lie - this recipe is pretty time-consuming to make, but its' not SUPER Hands-on, which is why I like it (and it's now getting added to my "Make-Every-Year" list).  

I am just SO DONE with blanching, peeling and pitting plums!

So yeah, no blanching/peeling/pitting required - but it does end up taking two days to make.  Butttt:  If you've got enough plums (Me!  I do!) and time (Yay! Telecommuting!) you can make massive "batches" and crank-out gallons of jelly with (comparatively) minimal effort.

I've never made jelly before.  I kinda/sorta already knew this but the difference between Jam and Jelly is: Jam is basically made from whole fruit (and there are variants from that: Compotes and Confits and Preserves - go here if you want an education!), whereas Jelly is made just from the juice (My interpretation) (Serious Eats says it's jam that's been strained for clarity) (Wikipedia seems to agree with both of us!).  

So in order to make Plum Jelly, first one must make Plum Juice.  Google sent me to this site, which has really good instructions - and videos - on how to accomplish this feat.  

The first time I made juice, I didn't really pay attention to quantities so much, and my juice ended up way too watery and needed a lot of cooking-down.  In any event, I'll do a pictorial first (and the pics are a mish-mosh of 1st Attempt/2nd Attempt!), I'll list the final quantities/ratios in Recipe-Style at the end, k?!

Day #1 - Juice the Plums

First up, it helps to do this in a ginormous stock-pot (especially if you're gonna do BIG batches) - preferably stainless steel.  Even for the smaller batches (@ 5 lbs of plums) I felt safer using the giant pot - in case of boilovers  

So start out with 5 lbs of ripe plums - the riper the better (ripe/squishy plums are sweetest - but avoid the overripe mushy ones).  If you see any nasty-bits, cut 'em off.  Other than that, just rinse 'em, de-stem 'em, and pop 'em into the stock pot.  Then add water to "almost-cover" them.  I found that 5 lbs of plums worked best with 10 cups of water.

This was more than 10 cups of water

Heat up the plums on Medium-High, stirring frequently.  They'll start to peel themselves in a few minutes.  Like thus:

Continue to heat - with occasional stirring (you don't want anything burning/sticking to the bottom of the pot).  Things should start to break-down nicely, and the water should turn a pretty pinky color:

Although, with the 5# fruit to 10c water, it should be a bit darker.

Once it starts to boil, turn the heat down to simmer and let 'er rip for approx 30-45 minutes (again, poke a spoon in there periodically).  Let it simmer/bubble down 'til the fruit is a gushy slurry:

Photos aren't super-clear since there was steam coming off the slurry

Just for comparison - here is a pic of the slurry with the 5#/10c Ratio
It actually is a deeper, richer color.

Note: If you are impatient (I was, during Batch #3 of juice-making!), you can kind of hasten things along by squishing the smushy fruit up against the side of the pot, or use a potato-masher.  Although doing so results in a bit less juice in the end...

Anyway, once gushy-smushy-slurry is achieved, turn off the heat and pop a lid on the pot.  Let it cool slowly...

Next comes the messy "Hands-On" part (so now would be a good time to change out of that nice clean white shirt!): Straining the slurry into juice.  I'm guessing there are proper tools for this process.  This comes to mind!  I didn't have a proper jelly-strainer bag.  Instead, I had a fine-mesh strainer bag (for soaking hop/grains for beer-making).  

Basically, I constructed the Rube Goldberg equivalent of a Jelly-Strainer by using a cheesecloth-lined deep-fryer basket, with the slurry-filled strainer-bag in a colander, balanced on top of a dutch-oven with a couple of wooden spoons!

Yeah.  Like that!
(Cheesecloth was totally unnecessary, BTW!)

So basically you ladle the (cooled) slurry and juice into the strainer bag and let it drip slowly into the dutch oven.  This can take an hour or two (or more).  If you're a real stickler for super-clear jelly, let it take it's sweet time.  If you have fruit flies in the vicinity, cover the whole mess - loosely - with a towel.  I'm not a stickler for super-clear jelly so after about an hour-and-a-half, I picked up the bag and gave it several good squeezes to get as much of the juicy-stuff out of the bag.  Since the bag is fine-mesh, it really didn't let any of the pulp get through (but my final jelly was *not* crystal clear, either).

You may or may not want to filter it, again, through coffee filters.  Whatever floats your boat.  I was fine with it, so I covered the pot of juice and stuck it in the fridge overnight.

Okay, notes on Plum:Water Ratios:  

  • Juice-batch #1 was 5# of plums and I-didn't-measure-how-much water.
    I ended up with 12 cups of 'watery' juice.
  • Batch #2 was 5# of plums to 10 cups of water.
    I let it simmer/slurry on it's own and ended up with 9 cups of juice.
  • Batch #3 was 5# to 10 cups.
    I got impatient and mashed-em as they cooked and ended up with 8 cups of juice.
This is the end-result of Batch#1 (12 cups - prior to cooking-down):

You can see it's a kind of pale color.
Later batches were actually quite a bit darker.

Note: I am *not* posting a picture of the drained slurry-n-pits that I had to scrape out of the mesh-bag when it was all done.  Suffice it to say, it looked disgusting!

"You're Welcome!" ;-)

Okay, this seems like a pretty-good stopping point.  I'll move onto the actual Jelly-Making in my next post.

(Really?  Yeah.  Really!)


QT's Plum Juice for Jelly-Making
Ultimately yields 1 - 1-1/2 batches of jelly (appx 8 half-pints)

  • 5 lbs fresh ripe plums, washed and de-stemmed
  • 10 cups water
  1. Place the plums in the bottom of a very large stock-pot (mine holds 20 quarts)
  2. Cover the plums with water
  3. Heat the plums on Medium-high, stirring frequently 'til the plums start to de-skin themselves
  4. Continue to cook 'til the pot starts to boil.  
  5. Reduce heat to simmer and let it cook (stirring occasionally) til everything is reduced to a slurry
  6. Ladle the slurry into a fine strainer and let it drip slowly into a bowl (or dutch oven - basically anything big enough to accommodate ~8-10 cups of juice).  Let it drip for several hours or overnight.
  7. Refrigerate juice for Jelly-Making tomorrow!
Okay, stay tuned for more!


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