Someone I love has a favorite expression, “it’s not rocket science”, he will say this when someone is having difficulty understanding his direction.
Last Summer I attempted to make Elderberry Jelly. It had been nearly two decades since the last time I made this loved delicacy. Nearly every where I have lived as an adult, there were abundant Elderberry bushes either close or on my property. Our “happy little house on the prairie” as Mom called it, has nary a one on 4.5 acres. We have lived here going on 16 years and no, zilch, nada or nicht Elderberries.
For a few years now, we have noticed Elderberry bushes on the highway ‘right of way’. We have never been successful in harvesting them, because usually the Highway Department mows them down. This year the two men of the house went harvesting from the roadside. We had kept a close watch on the wild bushes hoping that no one else, critter or human or highway department, would get the berries before us.
Finally ‘jelly making day’ arrives. I had my Sure Jell and followed instructions that were enclosed and the smell was heavenly, the taste divine. Yet, big disappointment, the fruit of my labor was more syrup than jelly. I knew I had to do it over, but my confidence was crushed.
So, today, after much procrastination by me and haranguing by my husband, he helped and I made the effort to salvage the syrupy mess. First things first. Why did it fail to begin with? I love the internet. I found that the simple answer was ‘I made more than one batch at a time’. I had fixed, approximately a quadruple batch.Well, I knew this was too simplistic, because I always double, triple or more when making jelly.
So, on we go. Altitude can be a factor and so you must increase the setting temperature for each 970 ft above sea level. This wasn’t the cause as our county is right at 900 to 1047 feet above sea level. Another factor could be the humidity. That day was probably at 70% or more humidity. This day is more like 35 to 40% so that is in my favor, I guess.
Another must do was to bring the jelly to a roiling boil that can not be stirred down and boil 2 to 5 minutes. To test you must insert a spoon and bring it up to see if the product is dripping or sheeting off the spoon. We want sheeting. Another way is to have a candy thermometer and if the temperature is between 200 to 220 degrees F’ you should now have jelly. I haven’t made candy in a long time either, but I knew somewhere I had a thermometer. So, the search began and thankfully didn’t last long. A major boost to my confidence. Another must do is, if there is foam, you must scrape it off.
The next step is to jar it up and seal. Couldn’t find my metal ladle any where, had to use the mystery (plastic? fiberglass?) material ladle. Yes, I’m picky, I know, but this is going into our and our loved one’s mouths. Some say to turn your tightly sealed jars upside down on a towel for 5 minutes and then back to upright and sit undisturbed for 24 hours. Others, say do a boiling water bath for about 15 minutes, this is the way I went. I now have them all sitting on the counter cooling. If all is well with the jelly, you will hear back, if not don’t worry because I’m applying for a job as a Rocket Scientist it’s less complicated and your Christmas present will probably be a box of pancake mix along with a jar of syrup. Always gotta have a back up plan.