Getting Started with Preserving: Mint Jelly
When I was little, my grandmother would can all sorts of things. She had a big garden full of produce that would wind up in jars in her pantry. She'd pick up grape juice on sale and make her own grape jelly. She'd even head down to the bulk store and pick up more fruit and vegetables to can on occasion. On the other hand, I can't remember my mother ever canning anything. With a pretty big garden of my own, along with a habit of also shopping in bulk, I've found myself following in my grandmother's footprints. I've had to figure out where to start, though, because I don't remember quite as much of how my grandmother canned certain things as I would like.
If you're considering where to start with canning, I'd recommend mint jelly. It sounds like a strange choice — what do most people use mint jelly on besides lamb? But the mint jelly you make yourself will be far different than the neon green stuff you find at the supermarket, and it's an ideal starter recipe because it's surprisingly easy to make. It also doesn't hurt that if you're also into gardening, mint is a great starter plant.
A Basic Mint Jelly Recipe
- 1 1/2 cups mint leaves
- 2 1/4 cups water
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- 3 1/2 cups granulated sugar
- 3 ounces (1 pouch) liquid pectin
You'll need four clean 8-ounce mason jars, along with a boiling-water canner and cheesecloth. If you don't have a canner, you can use a large saucepan or stockpot that is at least 3 inches deeper than the height of your jars. I've yet to find cheesecloth at my grocery store, but the local craft store always has it.
Place your jars on a rack in the canner and fill both the jars and canner with cool water, until the water reaches the top of the jars. Cover the canner and bring water to a simmer over medium heat, but don't let it boil.
Set the screw bands for your four jars to the side — you don't want to heat them. Place the lids in a small saucepan and cover with water. Heat the water over medium heat until it simmers, but don't let it boil. Keep your lids warm until you're ready to use them.
Rinse your mint leaves thoroughly. Shake of the extra water and chop the leaves finely. Place the leaves and water in a large saucepan. Bring it to a boil over medium-high heat. Once it boils, remove the pan from heat, cover, and let it steep for ten minutes.
Pour the mint liquid into a sieve or colander lined with cheesecloth. Let it drain until you have 1 3/4 cups of liquid without mint leaves. In a clean saucepan, combine the liquid, lemon juice, and sugar. Bring it to a full rolling boil while stirring constantly. Add the liquid pectin and allow it to boil for one more minute as you stir. Take the pan off the heat and skim off the foam that has built up on top of the mixture. Move fast, though, since jellies can set up for quickly.
Remove a jar from the canner and place a canning funnel in it (a canning funnel is just a funnel with a very wide mouth). Pour the hot jelly into the jot jar very carefully. Leave 1/4 inch of space between the jelly and the top of the jar. Wipe the jar rim and threads to remove any food residue. Take a hot lid from the water and place it on the jar. Put the screw band on the jar and fasten it to fingertip-tight. Put the jar back in the canner and repeat the process with the rest of your jars.
When all four jars are full, lower the rack back into the canner. Your jars should be covered with at least one inch of hot water. Cover the canner and bring it to a full boil. Allow it boil for ten minutes. At the end of that time, turn off the heat and remove the lid. After an additional five minutes, remove the jars, without tilting. Set your jars in a draft-free place and let cool for 24 hours.
Check the seals on your jars after 24 hours. Take off the screw bands and press down down on the center of the lid. A sealed lid will be curved downward and won't move when you press it. If a jar didn't seal properly, it must be refrigerated or used immediately or reprocessed.
There are a lot of steps in this recipe, but nothing that's actually hard to do. As long as you can boil water, you can make mint jelly. This type of jelly tastes great with a lot of different items. Personally, I like it with my biscuits in the morning.
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