There is nothing better than making something out of nothing while still avoiding the black banana syndrome. For those of you who have never heard of the phrase black banana it is the idea that when you find something about to go off you are so keen not to let the money you have spent on it go to waste that you buy a host of other ingredients to cook something you really don't need. I spent this last weekend making jellies out of ingredients I collected from around the farm.
Jellies all work from the same basic ratio. When using acidic fruit that has its own pectin in it you use 750g granulated sugar to 1 litre of juice. you can use any combination which you fancy. I made four different batches crab apple, crab apple and rowan berry, crab apple and blackberry and spiced damson.
Start by cooking the fruit in a large pan with water just covering the fruit. If you are using soft fruit such as damsons or apples it will have broken down enough to pass through the muslin on its own if you are using harder fruit such as haws or rose hips you will need to mash them with a potato masher. Next allow the fruit to pass through a jelly bag or a muslin suspended above an upturned stool. Traditional recipes will tell you not to squeeze the fruit as it will make the jelly cloudy. I always ignore this as it is such a waste of juice but I do put the juice back through another muslin to strain out any sediment which you have pushed through.
At this point you can put the juice in the fridge for a couple of days if you do not have time to deal with it now. 2litres of juice will make about 5 lb jars of jelly. Put the juice and sugar in a large pan over a low heat until the sugar has melted. Once the sugar has melted turn the heat right up so it reaches a rolling boil and spoon off any scum. Every recipe I have read says that once it has been brought to a boil it should only take about five minutes to reach a setting point I have always found that it takes much longer than this. If you have a jam thermometer setting point should be 106c. If you don't have a thermometer boil it until it wrinkles when a small amount is put on a cold plate.
Once this has been done put it immediately into clean jam jars covering the top with wax discs before putting the lids on. Try to put the lid on when the jam is still hot as as the jar cools the contraction will create a better seal. If you wish to flavour the jelly there are two ways I have made apple and rosemary jelly cooking the fruit before straining it with rosemary and then placing a fresh sprig inn every jar which looked very pretty through the clear jelly. Or you can add the flavour when boiling it up with sugar, this is what I did with the spiced damson jelly. I added star anise, a cinnamon stick and some whole cloves which I then removed before jarring.