Late summer is preserving season — jams, jellies, conserves, chutney, fruit syrups — any fruit or liquid that is standing still or even moving slowly is likely to wind up in a jar. You can be conventional and make peach or blackberry jam, move a little sideways into rose-petal jelly or get really out there with bacon jelly. The later holds no appeal for me, as I like my bacon next to my eggs. But there are a few traditional or unusual recipes that not only jazz up your own table, they make unique and tasty host/hostess and Christmas gifts. I’ve previously shared a recipe for carrot jam, but here are a few others. Remember, you don’t need to water bath or pressure can jams and jellies, no matter what the experts say. I’ll add a caveat to that: I’m not so sure about bacon jelly. Meats are low acid foods and usually require pressure canning. I suspect that since bacon is already preserved and there’s plenty of sugar in the recipe to hold down bacterial growth, you could get away with not pressure canning, but I’m not recommending it. Do your own research on this one. As always, be meticulous about washing and boiling your jars and follow instructions carefully. If you’ve never done any canning, the pectin box has basic instructions inside.
Zucchini and Lemon Jam
2 ¼ pounds zucchini, topped and tailed, and cut into small dice (actually, you could use any summer squash)
2 ¼ pounds granulated sugar
Finely grated zest of 2 lemons
Juice of 1 lemon
3 Tbs finely shredded lemon verbena leaves (optional)
Put the zucchini into a preserving pan with the sugar and lemon zest. Stir and leave overnight to macerate. Pour in 1 cup water and warm over medium heat, stirring until any remaining sugar crystals have dissolved. Pour in the lemon juice, stir and bring to the boil. Boil until the setting point is reached, about 30 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in lemon verbena if using and cool for 10 minutes, then pour into jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace, wipe rims and seal.
Hard Apple Cider Jelly
4 1/2 cups hard apple cider
strained juice of 1 lemon
3 cups sugar
1 package Sure-Jell Low-Sugar pectin
Sterilize your jars and prepare your lids. Measure the hard cider into a 6- or 8-quart nonreactive saucepan. Add the lemon juice. Measure the sugar into a separate bowl. Thoroughly mix 1/4 cup of the measured sugar with the pectin in another small bowl. Make sure this pectin-sugar mixture stays nice and dry. Set aside. Bring the cider and lemon juice to a boil over high heat, then stir in the pectin-sugar mixture. Bring the resulting mixture back to a hard rolling boil — that is, a boil that doesn’t settle down when you stir it. During this phase, stir constantly and use the back of your spoon to smash up and disperse the pectin lumps that form when you add the pectin mix to the cider. Quickly stir in the remaining sugar and bring the mixture back to a hard boil. Boil for exactly 1 minute. Again, stir constantly and use your spoon to break up any remaining pectin lumps. Remove from heat and skim any foam. The pectin should be well dissolved by now, but if you see any small lumps, you can quickly pour the very hot jelly through a strainer. Ladle or pour the jelly into your sterilized jars, leaving 1/4-inch head space. Wipe the jar rims with a clean, damp cloth if necessary and secure your two-piece lids.
Red Onion Jam
1 tablespoon oil (I prefer coconut oil)
3 large red onions, sliced thin
1/3 cup sugar
1 bay leaf
1 cinnamon stick
1/4 teaspoon salt
Put the oil, onions, sugar, bay leaf, cinnamon stick and salt in a sauté pan, making sure the bay leaf and cinnamon are tucked under the onions, and cover with a lid. Place the pan over medium low heat and cook covered until the onions are very soft (20-30 minutes). Remove the lid and turn up the heat to medium-high. Reduce the jam, stirring constantly until you have a thick glossy jam. This one goes in the fridge and should be eaten within a week or so.
1 3/4 cups tomato juice
1/2 cup strained fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons Tabasco sauce
4 cups sugar
1 pouch (3 oz.) liquid fruit pectin
Combine all ingredients except pectin. Stir over high heat until mixture reaches a full boil. Stir in pectin and bring again to a full boil for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Stir and skim for about 3 minutes. Pour into sterile jars, leaving 1/8″ headspace. Wipe jar rims, adjust lids and rings.
Thoroughly wash 4-5 red beets. Cover with water and boil till tender (20-30 minutes). Strain juice. Slip skins from beets and use as buttered or Harvard beets.
4 cups beet juice
1 cup lemon juice (may use bottled)
7 cups sugar
1 pkg. powdered pectin
Combine all ingredients except pectin. Stir over high heat until mixture reaches a full boil. Stir in pectin and bring again to a full boil for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Stir and skim for about 3 minutes. Pour into sterile jars, leaving 1/8″ headspace. Wipe jar rims, adjust lids and rings. This one gives you double duty from the beets.
Corn Cob Jelly
Cover 6-12 fresh or clean dry corn cobs with water and boil 15 minutes. Strain juice through cloth bag.
3 cups juice
3/4 cup sugar
1 pkg. powdered pectin
Combine all ingredients except pectin. Stir over high heat until mixture reaches a full boil. Stir in pectin and bring again to a full boil for 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. You can tint it with food coloring at this point if you want to. Stir and skim for about 3 minutes. Pour into sterile jars, leaving 1/8″ headspace. Wipe jar rims, adjust lids and rings.
3 cups sugar
2 cups wine, any kind
1 pouch liquid pectin
Mix wine and sugar in a saucepan. Heat over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved and the liquid has just started to boil (you don’t want to boil the alcohol away). Stir in the liquid pectin until thoroughly dissolved. Pour into prepared jars, wipe rims and seal. I don’t drink wine, but I use a bit in cooking (and then have leftovers), people often bring some to a party or give me some as a present. This is a great way to use it.