Category Archives: Jams/Jellies

Grace’s Mint Jelly

As you have probably noticed, I talk a lot about my family and my grandmothers and how they helped me develop a love for cooking.  And I think there was something in the genes they gave me that just “clicked” when I got involved in the world of local food.  It all made sense to me.

I recall one day that I was processing tomatoes (obviously something I don’t love to do!) when I was standing at the sink coring and peeling.  The air outside was hot, a breeze was blowing through my kitchen windows, and the smell of parboiled tomatoes was taking over.  And I’m not saying I had a vision or saw a ghost — but I felt the presence of my deceased grandmother in a way I couldn’t explain.  Now granted, these kinds of feelings are surely tied to the deep emotions and memories that we have long since stored away.  But, all I could hear in my brain was “I’m proud of you.”  And no matter where the feelings and words came from (more likely from my brain than from the heavens), they have stuck with me.  Because Harriet would be proud of me for taking the extra time to use and preserve quality, local food in the middle of a society that does little to provide for or value those things.

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And I think I can be sure of this because my other grandmother, Grace, is still in my life and I know she is proud of what I am doing and very interested in the local food movement that is occurring all over our country.  You have to imagine how foreign our society feels for people who grew up with gardens and neighborhood butchers and chickens in the backyard.

Nana Grace’s (as my kids call her) parents and ancestors were from England and Ireland, so to her a roast leg of lamb was a big treat.  And it wasn’t a roast lamb without mint jelly — and artificially colored green apple jelly with mint flavoring doesn’t count. Her mint patch was always visible in each of her houses and the taste of this transports me to her dining room table with all of my cousins (after a round of intense Barbie playing).   She made up this recipe after much experimentation and I think it is perfect.

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I have been accused many times of being “evangelical” in my opinions about connecting food and family by getting back to basics with local farms and food.  And it is a true enough statement.  But you almost have to be when you see the commercial forces we are up against.  I see nothing wrong with a little grass-roots evangelism from little old me as opposed to astro-turfed, corporate marketing for big agriculture and corporate feedlots.  They are two sides of the same coin — but the corporate side has all the buying power (and is somehow more accepted in our society than someone like me trying to get you to change your purchasing habits).  So, I figure if I can sway the opinions of one or two families at a time, I am successful and both of my grandmothers will be very proud.

Mint Jelly

(Makes about four small jars)

2 full cups of mint, packed
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
2/3 cup water
3 3/4 cups sugar (see note)
1 package powdered pectin
3/4 cup water

1.  In a good quality blender, puree mint, vinegar, 2/3 cup water, and sugar for 1-2 minutes until sugar is dissolved and the mixture is completely pureed.

2.  Dissolve one package of pectin in 3/4 cup of water in a small saucepan.  Boil hard for one minute until thickened.

3.  Pour hot pectin mixture into mint mixture and blend at low speed for 1 minute.  The blender will labor as this thickens.  Pour into jars and freeze.

(Note:  I have tried to cut back on the sugar, but it is just not the same.  I don’t have a problem with it in this case because it is as special treat with roast lamb and not the kind of jelly you use in large quantities or on a daily basis.)

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Honey Strawberry Freezer Jam

I’ll start this by blaming the alcohol and the heat.  And my family.  Last week we were on vacation with my parents, siblings/spouses, and kids/cousins in Orlando.  And it was hot.  Like 100 degrees hot with stifling humidity.  We went to Sea World and I nearly melted.  Don’t believe me?  Ask my husband.  I have no tolerance for discomfort.  And dropping hundreds of dollars to walk around a crowded theme park in 100 degree heat is pretty much my idea of pure pain.  And at the end of the theme park days, my siblings and I all agreed that our kids were much happier at the pool with their cousins.  I am pretty sure they will have better memories of swimming for hours on end (with their best buds in the whole world) than they will of trudging around theme parks and waiting in lines in practically dangerous heat.  Or that is how we justified it.

My memories, however, will be a little dimmed.  Because we sat around the pool in the heat, and my goodness, how could we not have a cold drink?  It was HOT, remember?  OK, maybe one cold beer with lunch.  Or a frozen layered daiquiri with a rum floater.  Or a mojito.  Or three mojitos.  Once it hits the lips, you know?

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We had an absolutely fantastic time and I am sad today thinking of how hard it is to get the whole family together any more — as the kids get older and the distances get further and the schedules get busier, I realized that this was an almost once in a lifetime opportunity.  So you will forgive me for not feeling like writing up recipes while I was away, won’t you?

And I realize that most of us are now past strawberry season.  Frankly, I was lucky to get any jam made in the flurry of the last week of school, packing, and getting ready to go.  So, if you have some strawberries left, give it a whirl.  Otherwise, wait for raspberries or blueberries.  I bet they would work equally well.  I set out to create a batch of jam that used honey — because the standard recipe for strawberry freezer jam requires four cups of sugar.  FOUR CUPS.  Are you kidding me?  That scared me off right away and I can’t believe I hadn’t given it a second thought before.

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And I do freezer jam because I am still too scared to can.  I am pretty convinced I’ll give my family botulism and everyone will make fun of me on my deathbed.  “I can’t believe she didn’t sterilize the jars for 10.2 minutes.  What was she thinking?  It’s just so sad.”

So, here’s the recipe.  Now I am off to take a run and detox from excessive alcohol and french fries.

Honey Strawberry Freezer Jam

Makes about six 8-10 oz. jars

4 pints of strawberries (about three pounds of berries)
1 cup of apple juice
1/2 cup of water
1 package of No Sugar Needed Pectin
1 T lemon juice
1 cup of honey

1.  Clean and stem berries.  Mash one layer of berries at a time in a large bowl until all berries are mashed.

2.  In a small saucepan, whisk together apple juice, water, and pectin.  Bring to a hard boil and boil for one minute.

3.  Add honey and lemon juice to berries and stir well.  Add in hot pectin mixture and stir well again to make sure everything is combined.

4.  Ladle into clean jars (glass is fine) and screw on lids.  Let sit in the refrigerator for a few hours to set up and then transfer to the freezer to store.

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