Getting Real With Wanda Morrissey

Growing up, my mother, grandmother and aunts always made their own jams, jellies, and preserves. I always helped make them and I certainly helped eat them.  I really missed these homemade goodies when I moved away from home.

Last month, feeling a little nostalgic and homesick after a visit to an apple orchard, I decided to try making my own apple jelly. My memories were vague about the process; the only thing I could remember clearly was my mother hanging the cooked fruit in a pillowcase (she never used cheesecloth) overnight so the juice would drain out, so I needed to figure out what I was doing.

First, I called my mother and aunt. They told me what they could remember; it turns out they hadn’t made any in long time. Then I started searching the internet and found a recipe for Candy Apple Jelly that I had to try, but I didn’t find the detailed ‘jelly making for idiots’ type information that I needed. I ended up borrowing a book from the library that provided the step-by-step directions that I needed.

I then turned my kitchen into what looked like a cross between a test kitchen and a science lab. Overnight, I had a pillowcase hanging from my cupboards over a large bowl, collecting the juice of baked apples. The next day I added a couple of large pots (one for making the jelly and one to use as a boiling bath to process the jelly), cleaned and sterilized mason jars along with the lids, various ingredients, and baking utensils.

I made the Candy Apple Jelly recipe that I’d found because it only made a small batch and I thought that would be perfect for a first attempt – if I messed it up, I wouldn’t feel too bad about having to toss it. But I didn’t mess it up (well, I left too much air space, something that may or may not work against me). It turned out really good and tastes great.

The recipe made four jars. We’ve polished off one jar already and are working on the second. I want to make more and have plans to make some to use as Christmas gifts. (My mother-in-law strongly hinted that it would be the perfect gift for her).