Jellies are cooked fruit juices and sugar, boiled together nearly always in equal proportions, and the process of jelly-making does not differ materially in any case.
The secret of successful jelly-making lies in the careful observations of a few simple directions which must be followed exactly or the jelly will be cloudy, ropey or thin.
Two substances are necessary for jelly-making. One of these is pectin, which in fruit corresponds to gelatin in animal substances. This will not work without add, hence we find it difficult to make jelly of such fruits as the peach without the addition of lemon or tartaric add or combining with other add fruits.
There is less pectin in dead ripe fruits than in partly ripe fruits.
Overripe fruit and cheap grade sugar will never make good jelly.
Crabapples, quinces and grapes have plenty of pectin, so much so that extraction may be used. For instance, juice may be taken from the grape, water added to the residue, and jelly made from this juice.
If too much sugar is used in jelly-making the jelly will run and be soft; if not enough, the jelly will be tough. There is no difference in cane and beet sugars for making jellies.
The shorter the time of boiling, the more distinct will be the particular fruit flavor.
Too much water in cooking the fruit injures the quality of the jelly.
A perfect jelly should be of good taste, color and texture.
The most satisfactory jelly test is to drop the hot jelly from a cold spoon. When it just "jells" the hot syrup should be transferred at once to hot glasses previously well sterilized with boiling water. The glasses should be filled completely, then set in a cool place for the contents to harden.
Cover with hot paraffin and clean covers, and keep in a cool, dry place. Or the paraffin may be shaved and put unmelted into the hot glasses and the hot jelly poured over it. This will melt and rise to the top, and form a smooth coat. When the jelly is cool it is ready to set away. This saves time and also the cleaning of a paraffin pan.
The kinds of bags used for straining the juice are important. Three kinds are needed, made respectively of mosquito netting, cheesecloth, and flannel or felt.
The mosquito net must be doubled, cut in a square of about fifteen inches, and stitched into a three-cornered bag with a double seam and turned-in edges. A strong tape should be fastened to each side to form a loop across the top.
The cheesecloth may be cut into squares and hemmed or made into triangular shaped bags, and the flannel should be triangular in shape and hemmed with double seams.
The work of straining juice through a jelly bag can be greatly simplified in the following way: Put the fresh fruit into the bag and place in a preserving pan with the proper quantity of water. Cook until the fruit is soft, then hang up the bag to drip. Or boil the fruit in the pan in the usual way, and when done turn into a colander, then strain only the juice through the bag.
When jelly seems a little too thin after it is in the glasses, instead of boiling it over again put the glasses in a pan and set them in the oven for a few hours or set them out in the sun. The jelly will thus generally attain the proper thickness, and have a better flavor and color than when cooked longer.
For all soft fruits try this new way of making the jelly: Late in the afternoon take the fruit, place it in a large earthenware bowl, and mash it well. Add one-half as much water as juice extracted. Let stand over night. In the morning the juice will have col lected on the top. Pour it into a preserving pan, leaving the sediment which may be made into jam in the bowl. Boil the juice for a short time, then add the heated sugar and continue to boil until it jellies. Divide into scalded jelly glasses and seal with paraffin.
There are several ways of preventing jam or fruit butters from sticking or popping out of the pan. One is to put two or three sterilized marbles in with the fruit and by their constant movement they will keep the fruit from adhering to the bottom of the kettle.
Another way is to rub the inside of the kettle with fresh butter or olive oil before putting the fruit in, rubbing off the superfluous grease. Still another is to set the pan of fruit in a deep dish of boiling water, then it can cook for any length of time without scorching.
No housewife should use preserving powders when preserving or canning fruits or vegetables as they are unnecessary and dangerous and should be absolutely avoided.
Many people like the delicate flavor imparted to jellies and preserves by the addition of a few cracked kernels of the peach, plum and cherry stones; but the cook should remember that this flavoring must be used very moderately in order to leave no unhealthful effect. These kernels contain the same principle that gives the flavor to bitter almonds, an alkaloid that forms the base of that most deadly poison, prussic acid. When enough of these kernels are added to preserves to make the almond-like flavor pronounced, this alkaloid becomes injurious.
Only a small portion of fruit should be preserved at a time.
To keep jelly, there is no better way than to pour hot melted paraffin on top after the jelly has hardened, then adjust the covers. The old-fashioned way of cutting letter paper into circular pieces to just fit the tops of glasses, dipping them in alcohol or brandy and covering the jelly, putting on tin covers or circular pieces of paper cut larger than the glasses and fastening securely over the edges with mucilage or paste, is always good.
Iron or tin vessels should never be used in preparing fruits, as the action of the acids on the metals gives a dark color and disagreeable taste to the fruits. Preserving kettles should either be aluminum, porcelain-lined or the best granite ware. It is better to use a broad, open pan than a deep, narrow one, for the fruit should not be cooked in deep layers.
The perfect storing place for jellies and preserves requires three essentials: There must be coolness, dryness, and plenty of air circulation. Dryness without coolness is bad; coolness without dryness is in jurious. As dryness in a house means some degree of warmth also, this cannot combine with a fair amount of coolness unless plenty of air be admitted.
In a cool, damp cupboard that is poorly ventilated, the preserves mold. In a warm atmosphere that is also damp, the preserves undergo the wine change. Sugars will combine with the fruit acids and evolve bubbles of carbonic acid, the familiar cause of fermentation. Alcohol will duly form, and the vinegar and vinous ferments will operate in turn. All the conditions for wine formation are in the preserve if it be not properly jellied or sufficiently boiled.
A storage place that is too warm will cause the sugar in preserves to undergo its crystalline change. Then the preserves will be full of hard, candied sugar of acid flavor, and the fruit will be withered and dry. Glass jars are now recognized as the ideal preserve jar, as they are not only air-tight, but also allow of inspection from time to time in order to detect incipient fermentation.
When making jellies avoid overdilution of juice; avoid an oversupply of sugar; avoid overcooking of juice and sugar together.