Y’all, we got our first Free State Feasts virtual cookbook published and then things got really crazy really fast in life. I started a job that I just couldn’t turn down, our house started coming along really quickly and decisions had to be made about finishes and paint and light fixtures and stuff, my little one got a cold and started school, AND I got an opportunity to start writing a food essay each month for a magazine. Cooking ended up taking a bit of a backseat for the past two weeks or so, but I’m back and I’ve got some awesome things to share! My friend, Joseph brought me a sack of wild persimmons, beautyberries, and chestnuts, and a sweet friend’s mama has been REALLY good to her basil plant this fall and she brought me a huge bouquet of it. All that is to say I’ve had some pretty incredible local ingredients to work with this weekend. Stay tuned for some stuff you’ll want to make yourself!
First up, beauty berry jelly.
Beauty berries are these totally eye-popping purple clusters of berries that grow out in the woods in the fall. Like this:
After an awful lot of research, jelly is about the only thing that can be made with the berries themselves, and from there you can make sauces for game, or cocktails, you know, what have you. So, I’ve never, ever done any preserving before, and it took two tries before I got anything LIKE jelly. Also, it helps if I’d read the directions for everything all the way through before getting started. 😉 The Jelly turned out to be a really lovely pink color with a nice balance of tart and sweet and a floral flavor. It’s nothing like anything I’ve tried before, but my parents compared it to crab apple jelly. We loved it on biscuits, and are planning to try using it as a base for a venison or pork sauce soon. If you have a chance to go wondering and find some beauty berries (you can read about what to look for here), I highly recommend it.
- THE JELLY
- 3 Cups beauty berries, removed from the stem, picked through for leaves, brown berries, insects, and rinsed.
- 1 quart water
- 1 package Sure-Jell pectin
- 2.5 Cups Sugar
- ½ Cup fresh lemon juice (about 3 lemons worth)
- TO STORE
- 4 8oz glass jars, plus 4 clean lids and screw tops (make sure you've boiled them or run them through the dishwasher by themselves to disinfect them them)
- A large pot with a rack in the bottom to keep the jars from(OR, you know, you can do what I did and use cookie cutters. ha.) You'll want to make sure this is big enough so that NONE of your jars touch each other and they are slightly raised off the bottom of the pot so the glass doesn't crack from the heat)
- Enough boiling water to cover your jars by 2" when they are in the pot.
- FOR THE JELLY
- If you haven't already, disinfect your jars.
- Once that's done, put your rinsed, picked through berries into a pot and add the quart of water. Let it come to a boil and let boil for 20 minutes. The berries will loose their purple color. This is good.
- While that's happening, boil your large pot of water to use to seal your jars.
- Gently smush with a potato masher to get any last flavor. (this isn't necessary, and DO NOT press to hard as you'll make the juice bitter)
- Strain out the berries from the liquid (the liquid won't be pink or taste good right now. Don't worry)
- Put the liquid back into the pot.
- Add in the lemon juice. The color will turn a bright lovely pink again!
- Add in your package of pectin and the 2.5 cups sugar and whisk to incorporate.
- Bring the mixture to a boil and let it boil for 2 minutes. A foam will form.
- Once it foams, remove from heat and skim the top until you've gotten all of it.
- TO STORE:
- As I said, I AM NOT an experienced canner, BUT maybe that means my directions will be more explicit for newbies. If you want to read more, the Joy of Cooking has some good directions and there are lots of blogs about there devoted JUST to preserving things. Check some out!
- After you've disinfected your jars, pour your liquid into the jars up to where the lid begins.
- Run a wooden spoon around the edges to make sure there are NO air bubbles (air bubbles cause jars to explode in hot water).
- Screw the tops on the jars with the lids very tightly.
- Set them on the rack (or cookie cutters) and make sure they don't touch each other.
- Pour the boiling water in between and around them (NOT on top!) until it's 2 inches above the jar lids.
- Turn the heat on the pot, cover with a lid, and let boil for 2-5 minutes to make sure the lids melt and seal.
- Remove from the heat and let cool on a rack or wooden cutting board for 24 hours. For at least a couple of hours, don't let them touch anything cold so that the glass doesn't crack.
- You're done!