This year, with a lot of rhubarb, I wondered about making jelly. It is more time consuming than jam, so I hadn’t done it in a long time and never with rhubarb. I found a recipe (below) from Bernardin, the canning people. It is easy and the jelly is excellent.
While reading, I learned a couple things. First, make small batches of jelly because the more fruit you have, the longer it takes to cook. Successful gelling needs a short cooking time.
Making jelly takes time
Second, plan on a full day or two partial days for making jelly – the fruit needs time. You may see a difference in colour between the two jars. In my first batch (right jar), I watched the juice quickly trickle into the bowl then stop apparently totally after an hour or so. Why wait six hours, I thought, there’s plenty of juice and nothing more is coming out. So I made my jelly. It was easy enough that I decided to prepare another batch to make the next day. But that fruit sat in the sieve overnight, like the recipe said to do. The juice was a much deeper pink, and that is why you let it sit so long.
4 cups (1000 ml) rhubarb, coarsely chopped
1 1/2 cups (375 ml) water
3 1/2 cups (875 ml) granulated sugar
1 pouch (85 ml) BERNARDIN® Liquid pectin
• Put rhubarb and water in a medium stainless steel or enamel saucepan. Bring to a boil; simmer 5 minutes; remove from heat. Pour through a dampened cheesecloth lined strainer or jelly bag. Allow juice to drip 6 to 8 hours or overnight.
• Measure juice. If necessary, add water to yield 1 3/4 cups (425 ml) rhubarb juice.
• Place 3 clean 250 ml mason jars on a rack in a boiling water canner; cover jars with water and heat to a simmer (180°F/82°C). Set screw bands aside. Heat sealing discs in hot water, not boiling (180°F/82°C). Keep jars and lids hot until ready to use.
• In a large deep stainless steel or enamel saucepan, combine rhubarb juice and all the sugar, mixing well. To reduce foaming, add 1/2 tsp (2 ml) butter or margarine. Over high heat, bring mixture to a full rolling boil that cannot be stirred down. Add pectin, squeezing entire contents from pouch. Boil hard 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and quickly skim off foam, if necessary.
• Quickly pour jelly into a hot jar to within 1/4 inch (0.5 cm) of top of jar (headspace). Using nonmetallic utensil, remove air bubbles and adjust headspace, if required, by adding more jelly. Wipe jar rim clean. Centre hot sealing discs on jar rim. Screw band down until resistance is met, then increase to fingertip tight. Return filled jar to rack in canner. Repeat for remaining jelly.
• When canner is filled, cover jars by at least one inch (2.5 cm) of water. Cover canner with lid and bring water to full rolling boil before starting to count processing time. At altitudes up to 1000 ft (305 m), boil filled jars 10 minutes.
• When processing is complete, remove lid, wait 5 minutes, then remove jars without tilting and place them upright on a protected work surface. Cool upright, undisturbed 24 hours. DO NOT RETIGHTEN screw bands.
• Next day, check jar seals. Sealed lids curve downward and do not move when pressed. Remove screw bands; wipe and dry bands and jars. Store screw bands separately or replace loosely on jars, as desired. Label and store in a cool, dark place. For best quality, use within one year.
Making Jelly Clear
In a recipe for a lovely savoury rhubarb-rosemary jelly, I read that you can press rhubarb slightly to make the juice come out faster. Doing that with most fruits is not advised if you want to have the clearest possible jelly. Rhubarb juice is never totally clear so it doesn’t matter, the author says. I did not press the fruit at all and, yes, the jelly is not totally clear. Still, it isn’t a huge deal to put aside the bowl with a strainer full of fruit and let gravity take its course. That way you know you’re getting the prettiest jelly possible.