D loves apple cider. He’s from Buffalo, and like much of the northeast, they grow great apples around there. In the fall, farm stands and grocery stores have this amazing apple cider, and every time we go back to visit we get a jug (or two).
Washington state is also known for its apples, right? We have a huge apple industry, and we have some seriously delicious specialty apples. But for whatever reason, we don’t have the apple cider to go along with it. I see it at farm stands, there are a few places you can drive to and get great cider. But it’s by no means a staple, and the cider in stores in Seattle? Meh.
This is all a preface to say that I bought cider last week, hoping it would be one of the good ones. It was from Whole Foods, and pretty local. Sadly, it was really bland, like watery and tart. We weren’t going to drink it, so I decided to turn it into jelly, and the jelly is great!
D and I really like this. I did a side-by-side taste test with the spiced pear jelly I made in the fall, and this one won! That’s saying a lot because the pear was one of my favorite things I made all year. This batch of apple cider jelly has got a strong cinnamon taste, and has a flavor of apple butter – though not the texture, obviously.
Because I wasn’t in love with the cider’s flavor to start with, I simmered some spices for about an hour in the cider – ginger, cloves, cinnamon, and orange peel. After straining these and the solids out, I had 4 cups of juice exactly. The recipe in the Sure Jell packet says 6 cups, so this recipe is based on 2/3 of their recipe.
Recipe (makes 5 half-pint jars)
4 cups apple cider (more if you plan on cooking it ahead of time to allow for reduction)
Cinnamon, ginger, cloves, orange peel, or any other seasonings you like
2/3 Sure Jell low-sugar pectin packet (about 33 grams)
2 2/3 cups sugar
Make your apple cider. If I had a crock pot I would have used it, but instead I just warmed the cider on the stove with 2 cinnamon sticks, 5 whole cloves, 3” of ginger, peeled and cut into coins, and 3 pieces of orange peel. (Random – the only citrus I had was a bergamot orange, so that’s what I used. I love Early Grey tea, and I’d never seen bergamot before. When I saw it at Whole Foods I got so excited, I had to buy it. I would say its scent is closer to lemon than orange, though.) Once you get to a flavor you like, strain the juice. I just used a metal mesh strainer, so the finer solids are still in there. If you want truly clear jelly, use cheesecloth.
Bring 4 cups of cider and pectin mixed with ¼ cup sugar to a boil over high heat. (I generally hang out at 9, rather than 10, to avoid scorching.) I kept an extra cinnamon stick in the mix, just to keep the flavor amped. Once it is at a rolling boil, add the remaining sugar. Stir constantly until it returns to a rolling boil. Once there, stir for another minute, and then remove from heat.
At this point, test the set (I use the chilled plate test) and skim the foam and remove the cinnamon stick. Pour into sterile jars, wipe rims, and put on lids and rings. Process in a water bath for 5 minutes, then cool for about a day.
I strongly recommend this jelly! My house smells wonderful, I have a bunch of new tasty jelly, and I used up something that might have gone to waste. Not a bad afternoon!