Are you jellin’?


When I first moved to the United States, I loaded up on all types of baking and cooking ingredients on each visit to my native Germany. Meanwhile I have found decent substitutes for most items, except one: jelling sugar.

In Germany, jelling sugar comes in three variations of fruit-to-sugar ratio, depending on the sweetness of the fruit and personal taste: 1:1, 2:1 and 3:1. It’s a natural product, made from pectin in apples and citrus fruit. And, it comes ready-mixed, or as a jelling powder concentrate to which you add sugar (lightweight and therefore perfect for airline travel). Some online stores specializing in German foods have it but when I inquired at Dr. Oetker USA, I was told they don’t carry it. Too bad, because there is really nothing like it in the US. Many American recipes call for twice as much sugar as fruit.

So don’t hesitate if you can get your hands on imported jelling sugar. Alternatively, you can use pectin products for less sugar or no sugar recipes, to obtain an jam or jelly that actually tastes like the fruit, not just sugary.

This was the first year I had enough blossoms on my elderberry bushes to dare snipping some off for elderflower jelly. The heavenly scent alone is worth making it. In the past few days I have spotted wild elderberry blooming along the roadside. As long as it’s not in a polluted area, and the plants have not been sprayed with any pesticides, you can use those. To make sure you are really harvesting elderflowers, check out some elderberry images, for example on the website of the Missouri Botanical Garden, which has an excellent plant database.

I might go forage elderflowers myself to try some other elderflower recipes.

Elderflower Jelly

8 cups clear apple juice without artificial coloring or additional sugar

15 to 20 elderberry flowerheads

1 package fruit pectin for less or no sugar recipes

4 cups sugar

You also need:

A canning pot, or a very large stockpot

10 half-pint canning jars

8 bands

8 new (unused) lids

1. Shake the elderflowers to remove any bugs. Remove all the stems.

2. Immerse the flowers in a large bowl filled with cold water. Swish around and place in a colander. Repeat this process once or twice. If there are still tiny insects on the flowers, don’t worry. The juice will be strained and cooked.

3. Place the flowers in a large plastic container with a lid. Pour the apple juice over it. Push down; the flowers should be fully immersed in juice. Cover and refrigerate for 48 hours.

4. Pour the liquid through a fine sieve. Repeat the process. You may also line the sieve with a piece of damp cheesecloth if you are really worried about bugs.

5. Follow the package directions for your pectin product. When the mixture boils, remove any foam with a ladle or a large spoon.

7. Pour the hot jelly in sterilized jars through a canning funnel. Wipe the rim with a damp piece of paper towel to remove any drips and wipe dry with paper towel. Place the lids and the bands on the jars and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

9. Let cool and set for 24 hours without moving the jars. If processed properly, the jelly will keep for 1 year or more.

Makes 10 half-pint jars

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