Thursday, November 17, 2011


As promised, here’s the recipe for the orange jelly I made months ago, which turns out to be the perfect topping for pumpkin spice pancakes.

Making jam requires, first and foremost, large quantities of fresh, preferably cheap fruit, which makes Southern California a pretty good place to live if you’re into home canning. Although I lament that I’ll never be able to make raspberry or blackberry jam unless I move away or become independently wealthy—and I have to pick my own blueberries and hoard the resulting paltry jars of jam like precious jewels—the fact that I can have heaps of fantastic strawberries (my very favorite) nearly all year around makes up for it. The one SoCal specialty I’d never managed to take advantage of, however, was citrus fruit. I can buy a 5-pound bag of perfect oranges at the farmers’ market for just a few dollars, but I loathe marmalade, so canning with oranges seemed off the table until I spotted this recipe, tantalizingly called “Creamsicle Jelly,” at Food in Jars. I’d never made jelly before; it had never even occurred to me. I mainly associate it with the grape stuff you (not I, never) might put on a peanut-butter sandwich. But of course, if you want to can with oranges and hate those chewy, bitter pieces of rind cluttering up your marmalade, jelly it must be. I don’t especially love orange-flavored things, but Creamsicles are an exception, so the genius idea of adding vanilla was too good to resist. (You’ll notice I retitled the recipe here, simply because, on reflection, “Creamsicle” sort of implies that there’s cream in the jelly, which is inaccurate and kind of gross. If you want the full Creamsicle experience, mix some of this into your morning yogurt—it’s great.)

I wanted this so bad that I finally broke down and bought a candy thermometer, something I’d resisted for years because I’m inexplicably terrified of anything involving melting sugar. (Which is too bad, considering that I adore caramel and toffee.) You’ll notice that the original recipe has a lot of troubleshooting addendums, because many commenters seemed to have problems getting it to set (or having it set too much). I made this so long ago that I don’t remember the details of how I went about it, except that I followed the instructions and they worked for me. I thought the jelly wasn’t going to set; when I took the jars after the canner and even 24 hours later, the contents still looked so runny that I figured I’d just tell everyone it was supposed to be orange-vanilla syrup, but I stuck the jars under my bed and the next time I pulled the box out, the jelly appeared to have set. The jar that’s in my fridge is just about the same consistency as most of my jams, not too thick and not too loose, perfectly spoonable/spreadable, and the flavor is delicious—quite sweet, but with deep, real orange flavor and the distinct aroma of vanilla. Considering that I can get my hands on as many good oranges as I want, pretty much whenever I want them, I’ll definitely be making this again.

4 cups freshly squeezed orange juice
4 cups sugar
2 vanilla beans, split and scraped
1 packet liquid pectin (half a box) (Ball brand is recommended)

1. Prepare jars and closures as in steps 1–2 here.

2. Combine orange juice, sugar, vanilla bean scrapings, and beans in a large pot (this one is a foamer). Bring to a boil over high heat and cook until volume is reduced by approximately one-third to one-half. Use a thermometer to track the temperature, so that you know when you’re getting to 220 degrees (the set point of jams and jellies). When it has reached 220 degrees and is able to maintain that temperature even after a good stir, add the pectin. (Note that the jelly may reach 220 degrees several times during cooking before it is actually time to add the pectin. It needs at least 30 minutes of boiling, if not more, in order to set up well.) Cook for an additional 2 to 3 minutes and remove from heat.

3. Remove the vanilla beans from the pot. Pour jam into prepared jars, wipe rims, apply lids, screw on bands, and process in a boiling-water canner for 10 minutes, as in steps 7–9 here. (Note that jelly may not appear set immediately after canning; mine became firmer over the course of several days.)

Yields: About 8 4-ounce jars
Time: Can’t remember; at least 3 hours
Leftover potential: Awesome! Sealed jars will keep for 1 year.

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