Just like any good jam or jelly, you need to start out with some fruit. Because I had some cherries left over from a crock pot meal I made the other day and because I loved the taste of some cherry jelly our friends brought us back from Canada, I thought I would give it a shot with cherries.
Of course, before you start anything, you will want to clean and remove the stems of your cherries. (You don't want your family and friends to get sick because your career as a jelly maker would be pretty short lived.)
After cleaning the cherries, you will have to go through the biggest pain of the whole process: pitting the cherries.
There are a few different ways to doing this. If you are really into torturing yourself, you can grab a knife and risk your limbs by digging the seeds out by hand.
Or if you have no patience or tolerance of pain, like me, then you will need to get a cherry pitter. If you live in my area, good luck at finding one because it is almost near impossible.
However, by chance I can across this adorable little guy at Giant Eagle called "The Cherry Chomper."
Even though he was $9.99 I couldn't resist him because he was so adorable (plus I think it is funny that when he is covered in cherry juice he looks like a happy, giddy mass murder.)
This little guy made pitting the cherries so easy. I would just place a cherry into his mouth, slam on his head, and the pit would fall down into his tummy. When he was full, I would just remove his head and dump out the seeds. (Now that I am typing this, making jelly sounds like a very violent process.)
Not all members of the household were happy with the cherry chomper. Some people were a little upset because the slamming sound that he makes was disturbing some one's nap on top of the cabinets.
The next step is to take the pitted cherries and turn them into smooth and silky cherry juice. Some people use a food mill, others mash the cherries through a strainer or cheesecloth, but thanks to our addiction to infomericals, I was able to use our Jack LaLanne Power Juicer.
If you are going to use a juicer, which is the easiest route in my opinion, check each cherry to make sure the seeds have been taken out. If you don't, the seed can damage your juicer by denting the blades.
Once you have checked for pits, shove the cherries down the shoot and watch the juice flow out.
My 1.5 pounds of cherries made almost three cups of juice. You will get varying amounts depending on your method of juice extraction.
Pour your juice into a sauce pan and add your pectin. There are all types of pectin that are available. I choose a no sugar added pectin so I could cut down on the calories in my jelly. There are regular pectins that require you to add sugar as a binding agent.
Once you add your pectin, you need to turn the stove on high and constantly stir the juice and pectin mixture. Once the mixture reaches a boil that can't be stirred down, you will want to add your sugar or sugar substitute and continue to stir at full boil for one minute. (For my almost three cups of juice, I added 1 cup of Splenda. If you are working with sour cherries you might want to add 1.5 cups.)
After the one minute is up, switch off the burner and pour the jelly into the jars. You will want to leave a little bit of head space by not filling the jar up to capacity. Take a small spatula and run it along the inside of the jar to release air bubbles. Wipe any excess jelly from the rim and outside of the jar and place the lid on top and thread the ring.
One thing to keep in mind, is to keep your jar in a warm place before filling. If they are too cold, the heat from the jelly can cause them to crack. Some people recommend keeping them warm in a dishwasher, but since our dishwasher is apparently a "fire hazard" I filled our sink with hot water and kept the jars there.
Once the jars are filled and capped, you will need to put them into a hot water bath to seal them. In a large stock pot, add enough water to cover the jars and then set to boil. Before, lowering the jars into the hot water bath, make sure there is something on the bottom of the pot to prevent the jars from touching it. This could also cause the jars to crack. I solved this problem by picking up a Ball home canning starter kit. The kit comes with this awesome green basket contraption that you put the jars into and then drop it in the pot.
Put the jars into the hot boiling water and let them hang out in the water for approximately five minutes and then lift them out of the water, and let them sit somewhere for no less then 12 hours so the jelly can gel.After the 12 hours are up, dig in and prepare for a sweet and slightly tangy flavor explosion!