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Mountain Home Magazine

Jelly Jewels

Apr 17, 2014 05:37PM

As the abundant crops of fruit mature each summer and early fall, my husband and I spend time gathering as much as we can. Over the years we have planted blueberries, grapes, and currants, but we are also blessed to have an abundant supply of wild fruits, such as huckleberries, blackberries, and raspberries as well as chokecherry and apple trees on our property.

With so much going on during the summer and early fall, I prefer to wash and freeze the fruit that we pick—except the apples—opting to turn them into jelly, jams, and butters during the cooler days of late fall. Using the Ball Blue Book as my guide, I consistently achieve good results. I save the small portions of juice that are left over when all of the “exact” measuring has been completed and use it to make mixed fruit jelly. It’s actually my favorite. An acquaintance once said that he never liked mixed fruit jelly. He said it was the leftovers from the bottom of the pots dumped together. It isn’t—but, in fairness to him, he didn’t have a clue about making jelly.

I actually seek out fruit specifically for my yearly batch of mixed fruit jelly. Our currant bush does not bear much fruit, but I dutifully pick the berries that it yields each year and treasure them as an important component to my mixed fruit. Chokecherries are also unpredictable. Some years the trees yield enough for a batch of chokecherry jelly and other years just a few cups. Whatever the trees and bushes have to offer is collected and the juice extracted—a cup of this, three-quarters of a cup of that—all added together for the mixed fruit. I make up the difference with a predominant fruit, such as grape or apple and follow the recipe for that particular fruit. I often use leftover wine in the concoction. You know those bottles of wine that tasted so good in the winery tasting room but when you open them at home you wonder, “Why did I like this wine?” Turn it into jelly—it will salvage it every time!

Homemade jelly is a wonderful gift to give and to receive. Your own mixed fruit blend could be a shining star to share with a chosen few as a special holiday gift. In case you are wondering, the Mixed Fruit is front and center in the photo above.