Friday, January 07, 2011

Wine jellies

I have become a jam-jar obsessive. The pile of empty (as yet unwashed) jars that sits on the windowsill beside the kitchen sink threatens to take over the kitchen. My obsession with keeping empty jars 'just in case' started last year when preparing for our wedding in May. Wanting to put a foodie stamp on the day I decided that it would be quite brilliant to make jars of chutneys and jams to put in each place for guests to take home as a reminder of our special day.

Sounds good in theory, doesn't it? I had visions of dozens of jars topped with dear little brightly coloured fabric covers. My vision didn't actually extend to just how long it would take to make 200-odd jars of chutney. Especially as I had never before made a chutney.

My first challenge was collecting enough jars. Much as I am obsessed with condiments (ask my husband - half our fridge is dedicated to jars and it drives him quite mad), collecting 200 in a short space of time was always going to be a chore. So I asked friends and colleagues to help. Before long, our small London flat was overflowing with used jam-jars. In bags. In boxes. Loose on kitchen surfaces. I began to hate them. But then I made my first batch of chutney and I enjoyed myself. The chopping was a chore but I felt super satisfied with the results of my labours. Eight gleaming jars full of 'autumn fruit chutney'. Result.

The next batch was an apple and onion chutney and then I moved on to a more exciting-sounding 'rhubarb and date'. Before long I'd made around 50 jars and was feeling quite the domestic goddess. Whilst my husband liked the idea and even helped with some of the concoctions, he began to get somewhat irked by the way every cupboard in our kitchen was filling up with chutneys, leaving no space for 'real' food. I'd also had enough of all that chopping and begun to feel that I'd never hit my target. Urgent action was required...

Rhubarb and date chutney in the making!
The finished product
I consulted my trusty recipe book, 'Jams and Chutneys' by Thane Prince in the hope of finding something less time-consuming. This is where I discovered the joy of wine jellies. Simplicity itself to make, shiraz jelly was where I started. This gleaming jewel-coloured jelly looked stunning and proved to be delicious with cold meats and cheeses. Thane also suggests serving with scones - this would be great I'm sure as the jelly is very sweet.

From here I moved onto a Monbazillac jelly having adapted her recipe for Sage and sauternes jelly (which I'll try another time when I'm making smaller quantities!). This was an absolute triumph and quite stunning with blue cheese and, in a decadent moment, foie gras served on toasted brioche. It would also make a great partner to rich meats such as goose or duck but we didn't have enough left for that.

The final jelly we made was a Port jelly for which I followed the same 'template' as the Shiraz jelly. In fact, you could use the same method for any full-bodied wine. The Port jelly was a natural partner for Stilton and other blue cheese but also works well in place of redcurrant jelly when stirred into sauces and gravies.

The best thing about these recipes is that they take no more than half an hour from start to finish. They make super gifts too if you can bear to part with them!

Incidentally, this recipe book is quite brilliant. Packed with seasonal ideas for jams, chutneys, jellies, relishes and cordials, it is beautifully photographed and the instructions are very clear.

Remember to place some plates in the fridge or freezer in good time before you attempt these jellies so that you can test for a set.

Shiraz Wine Jelly (or Port Jelly or Chardonnay Jelly....)
Makes 1kg (approx 4 medium jars), recipe easily doubled

Shiraz Jelly in the making

750ml (1 bottle) full-bodied wine of choice
juice of 2 lemons
250g liquid pectin (available from most good supermarkets)
900g white granulated sugar

1.Place a couple of plates in the fridge to chill in plenty of time before you want to make the jelly. Also gather some jars and sterlize either by running them on the hottest setting in the dishwasher or washing in hot, soapy water and drying in a warm oven.

2. Take a preserving pan or very large saucepan. Add wine, lemon juice and pectin and stir to combine. Bring to the boil, whisking occasionally to combine ingredients.

3. Add the sugar and continue to stir over a low heat until the sugar has dissolved.

4. Once sugar has completely dissolved, bring to a full rolling boil and, using a slotted spoon, skim off any scum that rises to the surface.

4. Boil for 2 minutes, remove from heat and then test for a set by dropping a little mixture onto a cold plate, allowing it to cool and pushing with finger to see if it wrinkles. When it does, it is ready. If not, Return to the heat for another minute or so and test again. You may need to do this several times until it is set. For more information on testing for setting point do see here for the various methods.

5. When jelly has reached setting point, pot into hot sterilized jars.

Monbazillac Jelly - very similar recipe to above


 750ml Monbazillac
800g white granulated sugar
250g liquid pectin

1. Combine wine and sugar in preserving pan and stir over low heat until sugar has dissolved. Increase heat and bring to rolling boil for 2 mins.

2. Turn off heat and stir in pectin then bring back to boil for a minute and start testing for a set as above.


bellini valli said...

Wouldn't we have all loved to be the recipient of a jar Antonia.

lynn said...

Oh dear - you've hit on my weakness. I adore making jams and chutneys and already have more books on the subject than I care to own up to. Yours look totally scrumptious and I'll just have to go and add that book to my Amazon wish list.

Maggie said...

The jellies sound wonderful and true to say I have never heard of them before. Unfortunately, I have a strange aversion to chutney.

Velva said...

Cheers to your chutneys and your wine jellies! I smiled while reading your post. Every summer, I go through the phase of making jams and jellies, and I love it.