FACT: Kids can happily live off peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I have one child who tried to request them for both breakfast and lunch. But that was probably better than when she wanted Oreos for breakfast. Anyway, if you have several children who like to eat these sandwiches, it’s good to have an extra jelly jar handy in the house for when the current one gets empty.
So why not make your own? It’s not hard. I’m going to tell you how I make mine. To clarify for those that don’t know, jelly is made from the juice of the fruit, and jam has bits and pieces of the fruit in it. My family prefers the smooth texture of jelly, particularly when it involves berries that contain seeds. The downside is that it takes more fruit and more work to make jelly vs. jam.
I like the satisfaction of knowing I made that gorgeous-looking jelly that we are eating, plus I feel it’s more healthy than that the product you buy at the store. No “high fructose syrup” goes into my homemade jelly! As far as cost and money-saving goes, that will probably vary from person to person. The jars and rings can be used year after year, and even gotten cheaply at yard sales. If you grow your own strawberries, that would potentially decrease your cost more. For the recipe I use, you would then only have to buy a box of Sure Jell, white sugar, and canning lids.
My strawberry patch isn’t big enough to produce enough berries for me to make jelly from. So I took my daughter, and went to a pick-your-own-berries patch. If you don’t have a garden, this can be a fun experience for your children for the first 10 or 15 minutes anyway. Until they get hot , and/or want to play with the kittens at the farm instead.
Once you get the berries home, rinse them in water and cut off the green”caps” as well as any spots that aren’t as nice.
I then ran mine thru a mini food processor to crush them, so I would be able to drain the juice from them. The handy recipe paper in every Sure Jell box recommends using cheesecloth to drain them. I never have any so I use a fine screen metal sieve instead. It might not be the most efficient, but it works for me.
Do make sure you have everything on hand before you start this whole process as it will make it go a lot better.
Here’s a list of the items you will need.
- Strawberries (approximately 12 cups) or enough to equal 3 and 3/4 cups of juice
- 4 and 1/2 cups exactly of white sugar measured out into a separate bowl
- 4 glass pint jars and rings
- 4 Ball canning lids (or other brand)
- A large 6-8 quart pot or kettle
- Large boiling water canner with a rack
- A jar lifter utensil
- Box of Sure Jell premium fruit pectin
I wash my rings and jars in hot, soapy water and boil the lids for a few minutes to sterilize them. The recipe recommends boiling the jars and rings as well. Try to keep everything as clean as possible. At this point, I would go ahead and get the water in the canner heating up, so that it will be ready when you put the fruit mixture in the jars.
Pour your measured fruit juice into the pot or kettle, (Save those left-over crushed strawberries for smoothies or milkshakes. Delish!) Then add the Sure Jell package, along with a little butter, 1/2 teaspoon or so, to decrease foaming. Bring to a rolling boil, which means the boiling doesn’t stop even if you stir it. Then dump the bowlful of sugar in it, and return to the rolling boil for a minute with constant stirring. Remove from the heat. I then try to skim off as much foam as possible.
Your next step is to fill your jars, and wipe the tops off before you add lids and rings. I use a dishtowel to hold my hot jars, so I can tighten the rings properly. If the water in the canner is boiling, you can now add the jars to that using the jar lifter, so you don’t get burned. Be very careful in this part of the process, it spoils the pleasure of making your own jelly if you end up getting burned. Then place the lid on the canner and time it for 5 minutes.
Your jelly is now finished! Remove the jars with the lifter, and set them on a dish towel on the counter. Before too long, you should hear a few satisfying plincks! as your lids seal themselves to the jars. Admire your gorgeous-colored strawberry jelly, and be proud of your accomplishment! Let them sit to cool and firm up for about 24 hours before you label them and put them in the pantry.
* To give appropriate credit where due, this recipe and procedure steps were based on the instruction sheet included with every box of Sure Jell fruit pectin.