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At this time of year in Maine – late May and early June – there's not much to be had when it comes to locally grown fresh fruit. Strawberries, the first to come into season in these parts, are still a few weeks off; while other berries and stone fruits won't make even their first appearance until sometime in July.
Fortunately, though, a number of edible greens really do begin to take off in late spring, and some of them make delicious jellies. Many perennial herbs are quite green and lush, and I find that mint is particularly abundant at this time of year. Indeed, my parents' garden is loaded with it, and I picked some to make this jelly the other day.
One of the things I really like about mint is that it's extremely versatile, and can be used in both savory and sweet ways. Slather this jelly on a scone with a little bit of butter, or use it as a glaze for chicken or tofu in an Asian-inspired meal.
Mint's versatility is due partially to the fact that it is a fairly assertive flavor, which allows it to combine with and complement other flavors without being overpowered. This jelly is a perfect example; mint, honey, and lemon are all pretty powerful flavors, but here they each hold their own, without drowning the others out, and complement each other beautifully.
If your mint is clean, there is no need to rinse it before using it. For this recipe, you can use both the stems and leaves, and you don't need to remove the leaves from the stems. However, if you are dealing with particularly long stalks of mint, you may want to cut them into slightly smaller pieces with scissors so that you can pack them more easily into your measuring cup.
Mint-Lemon Jelly with Honey
Mint-Lemon Jelly with Honey is a low-honey cooked jam made with Pomona’s Pectin. Pomona's Pectin contains no sugar or preservatives and jells reliably with low amounts of any sweetener.
Yield: 4 to 5 cups
Before You Begin:
Prepare calcium water. To do this, combine ½ teaspoon calcium powder (in the small packet in your box of Pomona's pectin) with ½ cup water in a small, clear jar with a lid. Shake well. Extra calcium water should be stored in the refrigerator for future use.
Mint-Lemon Jelly with Honey Ingredients
2 cups fresh mint leaves and stems, well packed
4½ cups very hot (but not boiling) water
½ cup lemon juice
4¼ teaspoons calcium water
¾ cup honey
4¼ teaspoons Pomona's pectin powder
Mint-Lemon Jelly with Honey Directions
1. Wash and rinse jars, lids, and screw bands. Set screw bands aside until ready to use. Place jars in boiling water bath canner with a rack, fill at least 2/3 of the way full with water, and bring to a boil. Boil jars for 10 minutes to sterilize (add 1 additional minute of sterilizing time for every 1000 feet above sea level), then turn down heat and let jars stand in hot water until ready to use. Place lids in water in a small pan, bring to a low simmer, and hold there until ready to use.
2. Pick through your mint to be sure that it's clean, and rinse it if necessary. Measure out 2 well-packed cups of mint leaves and stems. Transfer the mint to a heat-proof bowl and pour the hot water over the mint. Make sure that the mint is fully submerged in the water, and allow the mixture to steep for 20 minutes.
3. Pour the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer or cheesecloth into another container, reserving the mint-infused liquid, and discarding the mint leaves and stems.
4. Measure out 4 cups of the mint-infused liquid. (If you don't have quite enough, just add a little bit more water.) Pour the measured amount of the mint-infused liquid into a large sauce pan. Add the lemon juice and calcium water, then stir to combine.
6. Bring the mint-infused mixture up to a rolling boil over high heat. Add the honey-pectin mixture, then stir vigorously for 1 to 2 minutes, still over the highest heat, to dissolve the pectin. Return jelly to a boil, then remove from heat.
7. Remove hot jars from canner and fill jars with jelly, leaving ¼ inch of headspace. Remove trapped air bubbles, wipe rims with a damp cloth, and put on lids and screw bands, tightening bands only to "fingertip tight" (until resistance is met, and then just the tiniest bit more).
8. Place jars in the hot water, on the rack inside the canner. (Make sure jars are upright, not touching each other or the sides of the canner, and are covered with at least 1-2 inches of water). Place the lid on the canner, return the canner to a rolling boil, and boil for 10 minutes. (Add 1 minute additional processing time for every 1000 feet above sea level.)
9. Turn off heat and allow canner and jars to sit for 5 minutes. Then remove jars from canner.
10. Allow jars to cool undisturbed for 12 to 24 hours. Then confirm that jars have sealed. Remove screw bands from sealed jars, rinse off outside of jars if necessary, label jars, and store for later use.
Recipe and photos by Allison Carroll Duffy