This is the story of how making a series of mistakes lead to my favorite preserves this year. This jelly has the sweetness of pears and the warmth of holiday spices. It tastes like spiced cider or something similar, but without the tartness of apples. I highly recommend it!
So here’s how it happened. I had these plums that I had gathered on our less than successful blackberry picking trip. Then, I bought some beautiful pears at a farm stand outside of Monroe, and thought I’d make plum/pear jelly. I used the basic recipe for pear jelly from pick your own, because I really only had a handful of plums, and added spices to it.
I pitted the plums, but didn’t peel them (they were really small!) Next, I peeled and cored the pears, and sliced the fruit. Then, I read the recipe, and it suggested I leave the peels on, for color and extra flavor. So I pulled them out of the compost (the ones on top, anyway) and added them back to the pot. Cooking the mixture down to mush, I then strained it to get fruit juice. I had just under the amount needed for a half recipe, so I went to the store and bought some pear juice, just for the half cup I needed. I didn’t feel like doing math with the sugar and pectin.
Next, I boiled the juice with pectin and a little sugar. Only, I forgot that I was using half the recipe, so I dumped the entire packet of pectin in. As it was dissolving, it dawned on me that I had a real problem on my hands. Thankfully, I had extra pear juice that I bought earlier that day! I quickly added 3 more cups of store bought juice. That meant that my plums were now about 5% of the total, and my beautiful pears were only about 35% of the total juice. All that work making juice, and I had to dilute it!
Well, the jelly set nicely, and I poured in into jars and sealed them and so forth. But it was time to go to dinner so I left the jelly on the counter, to process the next morning. I was meeting a friend for lunch, and I wanted to show off my amazing jelly, but after re-processing them that morning, they were liquefied. By the time I gave her the jar, I wasn’t sure it would ever reset! But, when it cooled completely it was once again fully set, so I was off the hook. Phew.
All this is to say that sometimes, things don’t go as planned. And you have to improvise or start over. Sometimes those errors are fatal, and you end up with crummy jam. But sometimes, you get the most delicious jelly you’ll ever taste.
Spiced Pear Jelly
Makes a little more than 1.5 pints (the double recipe made 3.5 pints)
2.5 pounds ripe pears
.5 pounds ripe plums (or just add more pears!)
~1 cup water
½ cup pear juice (or as much as needed to get a total of 3 cups fruit juice)
1 cinnamon stick
1” fresh ginger, peeled
2 cloves, whole
2 cups sugar
½ package (about .87 oz.) low sugar pectin
Note: this is the original half recipe that I meant to make. I ended up with twice as much, but I’m pretty happy about that.
Slice and pit fruit, you don’t need to peel. Put all spices into a cheesecloth packet. Add water and the packet of spices to the fruit. Cook, covered, on medium or medium high heat.
Cook until fruit is mushy, about a half hour. Pears usually don’t dissolve down (unlike apples, for instance), so I often use my potato masher to help them along. Or, if you have a food mill, it would work great once the fruit is soft.
Remove spices from the mixture and set aside. Strain the fruit and collect the juice. You can use my makeshift method (description in this post) if you don’t have a jelly strainer. You want 3 cups of juice. If you are short, add some pear juice (100% fruit juice). Or, you can just start with bottled juice and save yourself a bunch of time. I won’t judge.
Put three cups of juice over medium high heat, and add spices (still in the packet.) This is just to infuse as much spice flavor as possible. I only added back the cinnamon stick at this point, because I like cinnamon best.
Mix ½ cup sugar with the half packet of pectin. Add to juice, and stir until dissolved. Bring mixture to a rolling boil. Add the remaining sugar and stir constantly until it’s back to a rolling boil. Once there, stir for 1 minute and remove from heat. Pull out the spices, and skim off foam. I’d probably test the set at this point, too (basically, just cool the jelly super fast, either by putting on a cold plate or spoon and setting in the freezer.)
Put in sterile jars with ¼” head space. Add sterile lids, and process in a water bath for 10 minutes.