Gifts from the kitchen: Jams and jellies

Mint Apple Jelly
Cranberry Conserve
Cranberry Jelly
Strawberry-Orange Spread
Orange Marmalade
Pumpkin Dip
Cranberry-Pepper Jelly

Jams and jellies are traditional Christmas gifts. They are not difficult to make, once you master canning, and make beautiful gift baskets. Here are a few of my favorite canned gifts.

Mint Apple Jelly

This classic jelly with its green color is a holiday favorite.

  • 4 cups canned apple juice
  • 1 3/4 ounce packaged powdered fruit pectin
  • 1 cup fresh mint leaves
  • 6 drops green food coloring
  • 4 1/2 cups sugar

Combine apple juice, pectin, mint and food coloring in a large pot. Bring to a rolling boil. Stir in the sugar. Bring to a rolling boil again and boil hard for one minute, stirring uncovered. Remove from heat. Remove the mint leaves. Quickly skim off the foam. Pour at once into hot sterilized jars. Seal with metal lids and screw bands. Makes six half pints.

Cranberry Conserve

This sweet cranberry mixture is excellent to give as a gift. It has a wonderful sweet-tart taste and has a gorgeous red hue.

  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 24 ounces cranberries
  • 2 tablespoons freshly grated orange peel
  • 4 peeled and coarsely chopped oranges
  • 2 peeled, cored and chopped apples
  • 1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts

Mix the water with the brown sugar in a Dutch oven and heat to boiling. Boil for one minute. Stir in the remaining ingredients, except the nuts, and heat to boiling. Boil rapidly until the cranberries pop and mixture thickens, about 20 minutes. Stir in the nuts. Immediately pour into sterilized jars or glasses or freezer containers and cover tightly, letting them stand until they reach room temperature. Refrigerate or freeze no longer than three months.

Cranberry Jelly

This easy-to-make jelly is the color of sparkling garnets. It makes a lovely gift, if you can bear to part with it. It is marvelous on bagels with a little bit of cream cheese.

  • 3 1/2 cups cranberry juice cocktail
  • 1 1 3/4 ounce packaged powdered fruit pectin
  • 4 cups sugar
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice

Combine the cranberry juice and pectin in a large pot. Bring to a full rolling boil. Add sugar and return to a full boil. Cook for another minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Stir in lemon juice. Quickly skim off foam. Pour at once into hot, sterilized jars. Seal with metal lids and bands. Makes six half pints.

Strawberry-Orange Spread

This classic flavor combination is always popular, especially among children. I like giving this thick spread with several loaves of banana bread for a wonderful trio of flavors.

  • 20 ounces strawberries
  • 1 3/4 oz powdered fruit pectin
  • 1 tbl grated orange peel
  • 1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 3 1/2 cup sugar

Mix the strawberries, pectin, orange peel and orange juice in a three-quart saucepan until the pectin is dissolved. Heat over high heat, stirring constantly, to a rolling boil, about two minutes. Add the sugar and bring back to a rolling boil, stirring constantly, then remove from the heat. Skim off the foam and immediately pour into hot, sterilized jars or glasses or freezer containers. Cover tightly and cool to room temperature. Refrigerate or freeze no longer than three months. Makes four half pints of spread.

Orange Marmalade

This classic is wonderful on oatmeal, toast or for using in other recipes. It makes your whole house fragrant while cooking.

  • 4 medium oranges
  • 1 medium lemon
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 6 cups sugar
  • 3 ounces liquid fruit pectin

Remove peels from fruit. Scape all of the white membrane off of the fruit and peels. Cut peels into very fine strips. Combine peel, water and baking soda. Bring to boiling, cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove white membranes from fruit. Section fruit, working over a bowl to catch all of the juice. Combine sections, juice and undrained peel. Cover and simmer 20 minutes. Measure three cups cooked fruit mixture and stir in the sugar. Bring to a full rolling boil and boil uncovered for five minutes. Remove from heat and stir in pectin. Skim off foam. Pour at once into hot, sterilized jars and seal with metal lids and bands. Makes six half pints.

Pumpkin Dip

This quick-and-easy dip makes a wonderful last-minute gift. It has a light taste that is marvelous with bread, molasses cookies or ginger cookies.

  • 4 cups sifted powdered sugar
  • 16 ounces softened cream cheese
  • 30 ounces pumpkin pie filling
  • 1 teaspoon pure orange extract
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger

In a large bowl, cream the cream cheese and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the remaining ingredients. Store in airtight container in the refrigerator until ready to give as gifts.

Cranberry-Pepper Jelly

This jelly mixes two holiday staples, cranberries and pepper jelly. It is marvelous with roast pork, turkey or your favorite dish. Make sure to use gloves when handling the peppers, or else your fingers could actually get burned.

  • 1 1/2 cups cranberry juice cocktail
  • 1 cup vinegar
  • 4 jalapeno peppers, halved and seeded
  • 5 cups sugar
  • 1 pouch liquid fruit pectin
  • 5 small scotch bonnet peppers

Mix cocktail, vinegar and jalapeno peppers in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Strain and discard the jalapeno peppers. Combine the cranberry liquid and sugar in a four-quart Dutch oven. Bring to full, rolling boil over high heat, stirring often to dissolve sugar. Stir in the pectin and Scotch-bonnet peppers. Return to a full, rolling boil and boil for one minute, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat and skim off the foam with a metal spoon. Pour jelly into hot, sterilized jars, leaving a quarter-inch headspace and making sure that a red pepper ends up in each. (Or else an unlabeled jar will cause someone a lot of problems!) Wipe the rims and top jars with flat lids and metal rings. Boil the jars in a water bath for five minutes. Remove the jars from the water. Cool for two to three days, or until set. Check seals, label and date. Store any jars that did not seal in the refrigerator and store the rest in a cool, dry, dark place.

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