I like to think I am pretty savvy in the kitchen, that making some jelly is not rocket science. Well it isn’t rocket science, but there is some science and strategy involved – something I tend to forget, due to belief in aforementioned savviness… And when you are A) making jelly in new environmental conditions – both weather wise and equipment wise (This process has made me have some doubts about my stove…) and B) using fruits that are not “standard”, there is bound to be some experimentation involved, which I am all for. I just didn’t realize how much experimentation I was in for. We are having a bumper crop of lilikoi this year and I have been looking forward to making some jelly and curd with them. Finding a recipe was the first challenge. All of the ones I came across were about 75% of what I needed – they used a different kind of pectin, they used too much sugar for my liking, etc. So I compiled what I thought would be a good place to start. Then I checked my equipment and ingredients. Jars? Check. Pectin? Check. Juice? Double check. Sugar? Ummm, not so much. Having already been to town that day, I kept my fingers crossed that the little corner store down the road would have what I needed, which they did. Back home, I measured out my juice and sugar. But wait – the recipe I have calls for liquid pectin and I prefer to use powdered. So I had to figure out the conversion from liquid to powdered. Done. Again a bump – I use low/no sugar needed pectin – I don’t need this much sugar! After more – oh let’s just call it what it is – guessing (lilikois are sour, sour cherry is sour…you get the idea), I put the juice, sugar, and Hawaiian chili peppers (yes, I am attempting a lilikoi pepper jelly – spicy, tart, and sweet) in the pot….oops. Remember when I said there is some strategy involved? This is the time where it comes into play – typically one should boil the juice with a small portion of the sugar and the pectin before adding the remaining sugar. Too late now, so I throw caution to the wind and just decided to see what would happen (I seem to say that a lot in my kitchen). I dissolved the sugar, brought the mixture to a boil, and added the pectin, mixed with 1/4 cup sugar. Again it was brought to a hard, rolling boil and I let it boil for 1 minute. I then tested the “jell” of my jelly…which was too runny, so I whisked in another tablespoon of pectin, brought it to a hard boil again, let it go for 1 minute. Again I tested, and I started doubting. I told myself, “this will firm up, it is hot in my kitchen, I’m sure it will be fine.” Deep down, I think I knew it wasn’t going to work. But I charged ahead anyway! The mixture was ladled into sterilized jars and processed for 5 minutes. And…it didn’t set. Although it does taste wonderful. I put a jar into the refrigerator to see if the cold might help.
Day 2 of the lilikoi experiment – I am attempting to fix the jelly, since the cold did not help the set. I went to pickyourown.org, where they have wonderfully detailed instructions on how to fix a runny jelly. I learned (by reading this time, not experimenting!) that you should only use low/no sugar needed pectin to fix runny jams or jellies since using the regular pectin may make it too sweet. Okay, back to the task at hand. I followed their directions and got to the point where I could test the “jell” again. And…it seemed okay. Or maybe I just wanted to move on and had decided I would be happy with lilikoi pepper syrup (it does make a fabulous glaze for grilled pork tenderloin). Either way, I went ahead with filling the jars and processing them for 5 minutes. So, at this point I now have, what seems to be some nice lilikoi pepper jelly firming up. By Day 3 I have now read somewhere that it can take up to two weeks for jams or jellies to reach their full set… So we shall see, but all signs are pointing to yes! And on one more research note – in all the years I have made jams and jellies, NOWHERE did it ever say anything about cooking the mixture to a certain temperature. I guess “bring to a full rolling boil and let boil for 1 minute” seemed like adequate enough directions, in fact, I had never had any reason to doubt this, since it always worked for me in the past. Remember I said I was having doubts about my stove? I feel like it lacks the strength to bring these mixtures to the full boil they need. I recently read that jams and jellies need to reach a set point of 220 degrees, which is about 20 degrees cooler than soft boil stage, which seems to make sense. So the next time I make jam or jelly, I am going to try the temperature method. I’ll let you know how it turns out. Without further ado and rambling, here is the recipe I configured and the directions I should have followed, along with some photos for color! LILOKOI PEPPER JELLY (Yields approx. 4 cups)
3 1/2 cups lilikoi juice
2 1/2 cups sugar (cane or raw), keeping 1/4 c. in separate bowl to mix with pectin
4 T. low/No sugar needed pectin (I use the powdered kind from Ball)
Wash jars and lids, start water boiling in canner. Once water boils, place jars in and sterilize for 10 minutes. Keep them hot until ready to fill. Place lids in small saucepan and pour boiling water over, keep warm. Measure out your ingredients. Mix pectin with 1/4 cup sugar (this will keep it from clumping) Mix the lilikoi juice with the sugar/pectin mix in a large pot and bring it to a full boil, stirring often. Optional: add 1 tsp butter at this point to reduce foaming.
Add the remaining sugar to the mixture and bring to a full rolling boil (one that cannot be stirred down), stirring often. Let mixture boil for 1 minute. Turn the heat down and test for “jell” by scooping a small amount out with a spoon that has been kept in ice water or by putting some on a plate that has been kept in the freezer. Once mixture cools to room temperature, if it is a consistency you like, move on to the next step. If it is too runny, whisk 1-2 T. of pectin into mixture and bring to a rolling boil again, letting it boil for 1 minute.
Skim off the foam, fill jars to within 1/4 inch of the top. Wipe rims of jars, place lids on, finger tighten rings, and place in boiling water canner for 5 minutes. Remove, let cool, and enjoy!