Homemade Gift Series #5: Wine Jelly

“Not everyone will like the caramel apple jam,” Sarah commented to me after we made it. As much as I liked it, I knew she was right: it was very sweet and lacked the tartness that I often crave in my jellies and jams.

So we decided to make another jelly/jam, this time doing something decidedly different: wine jelly.

What’s “wine jelly”? It’s much like grape jelly, but instead of using grape juice, you use a bottle of wine of your choosing for the primary liquid in the jelly.

Ingredients

In this case, we chose to use a bottle of Celebrate, a 2007 wine from a local winery, White Oak Vineyards. It’s a ruby red semi-sweet wine made from a blend of grapes that has a tartness to it that’s almost like cranberries. We quite like it.

Thus, one fun way to make this jelly is to choose a bottle of wine from a local winery that you particularly like and use it as the backbone for your jelly. This enables the wine to have a bit of additional local flavor to it. You can, of course, use any wine of your choosing – for example, a bottle of Charles Shaw from Trader Joe’s will work quite well and only set you back $3 for the wine.

What ingredients will you need? Our recipe simply follows a very standard grape jelly recipe:

3 1/2 cups wine
1/2 cup lemon juice
1 package dry pectin (1.75 oz. or 2 oz. depending on the brand)
4 1/2 cups sugar

You’ll also, of course, need the usual stuff for canning: six jars with lids and rings, a pot to boil the stuff in, and some sort of mechanism for pulling the jars in and out of boiling water. In the pictures below, we’re using a plastic “bucket” we found for fifty cents at a sale recently.

A note on the wine: you’ll often need a bit more liquid than what a bottle of wine contains, as a bottle will often only give you three cups or a bit more. Feel free to add the remnants of a second wine or even a bit of grape juice to get yourself up to the total amount.

Boiling for sterility

The first step, of course, is to boil the jars, lids, and rings and make sure they’re as clean as possible. This way, you minimize the chance of unwanted bacteria inside of the jars, which would render the jelly unusable.

Cooking the jelly

After that, just mix the wine, lemon juice, and pectin in a large sauce pot (one that can easily hold 12 cups of liquid. Bring it to a boil while stirring it rapidly.

Once it’s boiling, add the sugar, then keep stirring rapidly to dissolve all of the sugar in the liquid. Bring it back to a rolling boil while stirring, then boil it for at least one minute while stirring (you can boil it a bit longer – if you do, the jelly will be just a bit thicker).

Boiling jars

Once the hot jelly is finished, ladle the jelly into the jars, leaving 1/2″ inch (1.3 cm) at the tops of the jars for breathing room. Put the lids on them, then put the jars into a boiling water bath for five minutes (you can do this in shifts, of course).

You’ll find that you have enough jelly for six jars, with a bit left over. We used that “bit left over” on our morning toast for a few days – delicious!

Six jars

When you’re done, put the jars out on a towel and leave them untouched for 24 hours. Leave at least an inch of space between each of the jars.

After the 24 hours are up, check the lids and make sure none of them have popped up. If you’re unsure, press down a bit on the middle of a lid – if it “clicks” or “pops,” that’s a bad jar. Most likely, they’ll all be fine, but don’t keep a bad jar of anything that you can.

finished jelly

As you can see, our jelly turned out with a reddish-purple color. It’s a bit tart and, in my opinion, is almost perfect on toast in the morning.

Later, we’re going to make a second batch of this jelly, using one of our favorite white wines. This will result in a yellowish or nearly clear jelly.

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  1. kristine says:

    If the jars pops or clicks 24 hours later, is it still suitable for immediate use?

  2. katy says:

    It ought to be fine, Kristine. The jars that don’t seal (that click or pop when you press the center of the lid) cannot be stored on a shelf for long periods of time, but you can stick them in the fridge and eat the contents.

    Also, you ought to take the rings off the jars until you are ready to gift your jelly to avoid rust on your lids. I check my seal this way, too. If I can pick the jar up by the lid (sans ring) I am confident that I’ve achieved a good seal.

  3. Tyler says:

    Is this jelly suitable for kids?

  4. Ruth says:

    @Tyler: Comparing the jelly output to the ingredients list, it looks like a spoonful of jelly contains about a spoonful of wine. Many people might allow their children to consume this much without being concerned. Additionally, according to this chart from the USDA: http://homecooking.about.com/library/archive/blalcohol12.htm
    the amount of alcohol in the jelly is probably reduced to about half of what was in the original wine.
    That’s not to say kids will like it…

  5. Gretchen says:

    Are you making these recipes up as you go along?

    Canning, especially gift canning, isn’t really something to play around with. I don’t know if the pH is different in wine from juice.

    As noted in the last canning post comments: don’t boil the lids (simmer) and don’t boil the rings. I have no idea how you are tightening them.

  6. valleycat1 says:

    Tyler – with all the boiling, the alcohol evaporates off, so yes it’s ok for kids. A blush wine makes a pretty jar, & I’ve had strawberry jam made with some champagne before.

    Although I don’t have a dishwasher, it’s my understanding that you can run the rings & jars through a hot wash & hot dry cycle just before you start the jelly, leaving them in the dishwasher until you need them, & using them while still hot.

    And as someone commented before, you just simmer the lids, not boil them, so they’re clean & the sealant is softened a little. There are guidelines on the packaging.

  7. cv says:

    @Tyler and @valleycat1, I’m not sure that all the alcohol in a bottle of wine would boil off in just a minute or two. It’s not like alcohol all evaporates the instant it comes to a boil, the way getting things hot kills germs. Think about it – if a wine is 12% alcohol by volume, then the amount of liquid in the pot would have to reduce by at least 12% for all the alcohol to be gone (in reality it would be more than that, since some of the water content is evaporating simultaneously). A minute or two of boiling would reduce the alcohol content, but not eliminate it completely.

    I’d guess that unless a kid is eating this stuff by the jar, it’s probably fine. Each jar has about a glass’ worth of wine in it to start, so with the alcohol somewhat reduced and spread over several servings it’s not a big deal.

  8. Megan says:

    This is so awesome. I never would have thought to make jelly out of wine. I really like this idea, and what’s more, from your instructions and having done it a few times as a kid, I know remember how to can things, which is an extra bonus.

    Now I just have to actually do it. … Maybe “Making It All Work” can help with that. Love that series too. :D

    Thanks.

  9. Bill says:

    Alcohol evaporates at a lower temperature than water. So you are loosing alcohol long before the whole batch starts to boil. I doubt it is all gone after a couple of minutes but your kids will survive but if someone avoids alcohol for religious reasons you might want to give them something else.
    CV is correct, alcohol is measured by volume, so if you are using a table wine you need to loose 8-14% volume to get rid of the alcohol if that is your intent. I’ve never heard of wine jelly before so I don’t know if some other process is working to remove the alcohol.

  10. Michelle says:

    Trent, AGAIN, you don’t have to get rid of a canned item because the lid doesn’t seal. Just put it in the fridge and use it within a week or so. Think about it, the actual canning process does nothing to the jelly itself. The jelly cooked during the cooking process. Canning uses a rubber rimmed lid to create a valve, as the air in the headspace is heated, it expands, and is forced out of the jar. As the jar cools, any remaining air contracts, leaving a vacuum. The vacuum is what pulls the lid down and creates a seal. This process has nothing to do with the actual product in the jar. You probably want to throw out the actual jar or the lid, because there is probably a flaw in one that is causing it not to seal, but the contents are fine.

    This is the second time you’ve given bad info about canning (I remember a post on canning salsa where you said you could can spaghetti sauce in a water bath, which is dangerous). I’m not sure what the cause is, but you should really try to make sure your info is accurate before you post it.

  11. Nice recipe, my aunt makes almost all jams that i can think of but not this one. I especially like her pepper and grape jelly.

  12. CLICK HERE says:

    I can’t wait to try this, looks very tasty!

  13. J.O. says:

    @ Michelle – what is dangerous about canning spaghetti sauce in a boiling water bath? I thought that was the proper way to do it.

  14. J.O., as far as I know, spaghetti sauce isn’t high enough in acid to be canned that way…I think it may be ok to can in a pressure cooker, though.

    I was going to echo what others said about jars that don’t seal. They can definitely be refrigerated and used that way, and you can also try re-sealing them with new lids(I did that while canning tomatoes a few years back and all was well).

  15. de says:

    All of your homemade goodies will make amazing gift baskets! But Amy Dacyzn wrote in the Tightwad Gazette that they made jams for Christmas once, then lost all the savings on shipping. So people considering these types of gifts for non-local gifting must count all of the costs.

  16. Interested Reader says:

    J.O. – if the spaghetti sauce doesn’t have enough acid added (via lemon juice for example) or has too many veggies and is not pressure canned it can breed botulism.

    According to the USDA guidelines and recipes for canning they only list pressure canning for spaghetti sauce (either with or without meat).

    I’ve seen some recipes that add lemon juice to spaghetti sauce for water bath canning to make it more acidic. Once you start adding fresh veggies to the tomatoes (onions, garlic, mushrooms, peppers) it brings down the acid level and, again, there’s the risk of botulism if it’s not processed correctly.

  17. stacy says:

    If you wanted to use Trent’s canning ideas for gifts, it would be best to read up on canning in a trusted source, like the Ball book of preserving. I get ideas off the internet for canning (but you have to be wary of what’s out there), but go back to my book to see the actual process and what’s safe. If you live at altitude, you may have to adjust processing times, as well.

  18. Gretchen says:

    Tomatoes alone are right on the border of what’s acceptably acidic for water bath canning.

    So you can make a just tomato spaghetti sauce (adding the lemon juice) and add the other veggies/meat/whatever after you open the jar.

  19. J.O. says:

    Thanks Kristen & Interested Reader – good to know about the pressure canning for tomato/veg sauce.

  20. GJW says:

    I’m a little confused…tomatoes are barely acidic enough for water bath canning, but what about other vegetables that are canned that way? Corn, green beans etc. They seem to have no acid at all.

    I’ve been canning wine jelly for years …but before you attempt any jelly you should read a little about it. Trent says to just boil it, but you kind of need to know if it is going to jell before you put it in the jars. Following his instructions (which are the ones probably in the pectin package)I’ve had jelly not jell, or be overly soft and I’ve found with wine, it doesn’t always want to jell in that time frame and additional boiling is sometimes needed. Find a book on canning or research online to see jelling tests…one is how it looks when it pours off the stirring spoon it should ‘sheet’ or ‘break’. Or place a dab on a plate and let cool. If it is jelled and no longer runny it will then jell in the jar. And if your jelly is still runny in the jar 24-48 hours after it is cooled, you can re-process it with some additional lemon juice and, pectin and sugar, which has always worked for me. But I hate having to open the jars and redo all that work! Luckily jams aren’t so touchy.

  21. GJW says:

    Also, I’ve found that you don’t necessarily need a ‘good’ wine for canning. With all the sugar and boiling many qualities that make a wine ‘good’ are disintegrated. Cheaper wines often have a heavier fruit flavor and lower tannins that work well for jelly. I’ve even made wine jellys out of some really terrible tasting wine and the jelly was still lovely. At my most frugal I’ve even combined the ends of different wines…say we don’t finish a bottle for whatever reason…I freeze that and add any other odd bottles that we might not finish and freeze it again, until I have a full bottle. When I’m ready, I thaw it and make jelly. Works just fine.

  22. Interested Reader says:

    Its not considered safe to water bath can any low acid vegetables.

    I think some people do but it’s taking a risk for spoilage and botulism.

  23. Georgia says:

    Trent, do you have a Ball Blue Book? It’s considered the bible for canning. It costs less than $10 & to my mind, is way cheaper than an emergency room visit.

  24. AnnJo says:

    A jar that doesn’t seal is perfectly fine for current consumption and should not be thrown away. Before reusing that jar for canning you should check the rim carefully; a small crack might have prevented the seal. (Jellies and jams have so much sugar they’re a very inhospitable environment for bacteria, so sitting unsealed on the counter for 24 hours is not going to cause any spoilage.)

    More commonly, the jar didn’t seal because you did not wipe off the rim before placing the lid on it, or because of a defect in the rubber of the lid, or because the jar was tilted too much in taking it out of the canner and some of the jelly got under the lid before it could seal. (Rubber deteriorates with age, so if you found a box of lids your grandmother left in the back of a drawer, don’t use them for canning.)

    The National Center for Home Food Preservation has a wonderful website that gives excellent info on all aspects of canning if you don’t have a Ball Blue Book. (Also a lot about freezing and dehydrating.) I’ve recently started pressure canning meats, and that site along with my canner’s manual have been great.

    Lots of people have used water bath canning (as opposed to pressure canning) for low acid foods (vegetables, meats). Some of them died from botulism poisoning, but not all. It’s kind of like drunk driving: Lots of people do it and don’t kill anybody, but it’s still a really bad idea.

    The problem with tomatoes is that different varieties have different levels of acidity, and not all varieties have enough. Adding lemon juice according to a tested recipe will compensate, provided it is bottled lemon juice of known acidity. The key is whether it’s a tested recipe, such as you’d find in Ball’s Blue Book or the website mentioned above.

  25. kristine says:

    Has anyone ever used port wine for this? Could this have a very strong and sweet flavor?

  26. SwingCheese says:

    Does anyone know if you can use an additive and then do a water bath for low-acid vegetables? Or should you only do a pressure canning?

  27. 8sml says:

    @ #20 GJW: Green beans, for one, are not acidic enough for water bath canning. However, by adding an appropriate amount of vinegar to make pickled green beans, you increase the acidity and then you’re good for the boiling water canner.

    @ #26 SwingCheese: Yes, you can use an additive and then do a water bath for low-acid vegetables; often that additive is vinegar (acetic acid) or lemon juice (as mentioned by several commenters above, lemon juice is a common additive for canning tomatoes).

  28. Stacey says:

    Thanks Trent! Now I know what to do with all the wine people keep giving me!

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