Monday, October 1, 2012

My Autumn Olive Jelly Experience

(I'm having a lot of fun finding great places to edit my pics.. this one was edited at

  I first learned about Autumn Olive at a foraging workshop. It was not yet in season, so we were not able to see the fruit, but the instructor had a sample of fruit leather he had made from it. 

 This is that silvery tree you see along the highway. It's everywhere (because.. well.. it's an invasive species so don't spit the seeds out). That being said, I'm fine with it because it's really an amazing source of a very nutritious berry. 

  Autumn Olive (or Autumnberry) has some psychotic amount of lycopene which is just all around good for you. Great for your heart and it's being looked at as a deterrent for cancer of the lung, stomach, bladder, cervix, skin and especially prostate. The berries also contain high levels of vitamins A and C among other nutritional benefits.

Anyway, I gathered some of these berries a couple weeks ago (they have a nice long season through September and October) and made some fruit leather out of it. Easy-peasy!  Boil up the berries with a little bit of water.. (I didn't have my food mill then sooo) smish the boiled berries through a sieve to separate the seeds from the meats.. then I put it into my dehydrator and viola! Fruit leather!  I hadn't added anything to it, no sugar, no lemon juice .. nada. 

I employed (well, not technically..kinda more guilted) my oldest son into helping me harvest a bunch of berries for my jelly adventure.  When I picked the first time around I brought a bag with me and probably dropped (and ate) as many as I gathered. Since then I have procured a nice wide basket and David absconded with that and made a pretty good haul.
  I was excited because it was going to be a rainy weekend and making jelly would be a fun thing to keep me busy. Of course, I've never made jelly, so.. it was also going to be an adventure. 
  I looked up a few different recipes and of course, they all said "can according to instructions".  I haven't canned anything since I was a kid, so I was hoping for better instruction on this point.  Then on my canning jars box, it said something along the lines of  "boil according to recipe instructions".. not the help I was looking for. 

  So, I took 8 cups of Autumn Olive berries and 1 cup of water, brought it to a rolling boil, then let it simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring often. 

  I then took the boiled berries (mash) and put them through my food mill. I found that fewer berries in the food mill works more efficiently than more. (I love my food mill by the way) The pressed fruit then goes back in the pot. 

  All the recipes just said to use "one packet" of pectin, but none of them designate what size that packet was. I happened to have gotten the 0.4 oz packets of low or no-sugar needed pectin. I did this because as far as I am concerned these berries are sweet enough on their own.  But, all the recipes said to use sugar, so I figured for my first attempt, I would follow the rules, well.. kinda. They all said to use 3.5 cups of sugar, but I went with 3 cups of sugar. 
  At this point I mixed 1/4 cup of sugar with the pectin packet and gradually mixed that into the mash heating back up on the stove. After that was mixed in and at a rolling boil for a couple of minutes (stirring constantly), I put the rest of the sugar in and kept it at a rolling boil for about a minute
Meanwhile, I had boiled my jars and they were still in the warm water.  I pulled them out and filled 5 of them (with all my fancy shmancy canning stuff), put the tops on then put them back into the hot water bath. The directions on one recipe had said to "finger tighten" the tops because the air needs to be able to escape.  Seeing the bubbles of air escape just made me think... "isn't water going in then??"  I read something out of an actual canning book and it said in bold letters "tighten firmly", so I pulled them all out and re-tightened them hoping I hadn't ruined all my hard work.  
  After leaving them in the boiling water for about 5 minutes, I pulled them out and put them on a cooling rack.  In no time at all I heard the first little *pop!*, that sound that means it has successfully sealed itself! *pop!*.. *pop!*......*pop!*..........(I went and stood and watched the last jar with anticipation......)..... ... *pop!*   SUCCESS!! 
   This morning I had my OWN JELLY on my own biscuits! It was just like real jelly!

  I had enough berries left to try another batch and maybe experiment a bit this time.  I figure if it doesn't work out, all I lose is time and a packet of pectin.  I wanted to try a batch with a sugar substitute, maybe stevia or maple syrup. I decided to try using the stevia/sugar cane sugar substitute I have.  It seems that this batch isn't setting up into a nice firm jelly as much as the one with full sugar. 

  All in all, I am happy :)  I made Jelly!!  I think I am going to try drying some berries for tea and see how that goes!

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