Homemade Holidays #4: Spiced Merlot Wine JellyPosted: December 20, 2012
I got the idea in my head to make wine jelly over a year ago, when I saw jar of it at the overpriced (but delicious) Asian restaurant near where I had my first professional theater gig. I cannot, for the life of me, remember the name of it, but it had delicious bento lunches and a half-dozen jars of “Chardonnay Jelly” and “Pinot Grigio Jelly” and “Merlot Jelly”. I didn’t buy any, but it did set some mental gears whirring. Plain wine jelly seems a little bit boring, though, and I as a began to think of holiday recipes, I thought back to my first visit to London in the winter of 2009. It was a magical, life-changing 17-day-long trip. In addition to my marvelous discovery of Strongbow cider, I also imbibed quite a bit of the spiced, mulled wine available at every pub. Warm rich red wine laced with cinnamon and cloves, orange peel and ginger, and a myriad of other flavors. These, I wanted to capture in my wine jelly. And, if I was going to make a red wine jelly, I might as well make a white wine batch as well. Something opposite, to keep things interesting. So my idea for Sangria wine jam was born as well.
When I settled down to start on these jellies, I did a little research. Several recipes for wine jelly were out there on the internet, but none for mulled and spiced wine jelly. So I played and I fiddled and I came up with my recipe. The most important thing to remember is that my recipe uses more than one bottle of wine. Buy two and save yourself the questionable trip to the grocery store at 10:00 in the morning, purchasing only a bottle of merlot and paying out in paper bills and coins. People might begin to talk… But the risk of appearing suspiciously like an alcoholic is probably worth it for this jelly.
I also reduced a portion of the wine, to concentrate the flavor. The next time I make this jelly, I will reduce most of the quantity of wine it calls for, and probably play at lessening the sugar added. I wanted the wine flavor to come through more than it did. But this recipe is still delicious, and sweet jelly as perfect on toast as it is on a cheese plate. I was lucky enough to have individual packets (like tea bags) of mulling spices, which reduced the straining and clean-up required.
Spiced Merlot Wine Jelly
- 4 1/4 c. red wine (this is the total wine used)
- 8 individual bags of mulling spices or 1 Tbsp whole allspice, 1 Tbsp whole cloves, 2 sticks of cinnamon, 1 inch portion fresh ginger in slices, 1 orange peel (white pith removed)
- 3 Tbsp orange juice
- 1 Tbsp lemon juice
- 4 1/2 c. white granulated sugar
- 1 box/packet low-sugar pectin (I used low-suger because its what I had on hand. I cannot vouch for regular pectin, though I imagine it would work just fine)
- 1 tsp. butter
- Canning equipment: 2 large stock pots, 1 small saucepan, 1 medium saucepan, 6 8-oz (or 12 4-oz) canning jars + rings and lids, funnel, cooling rack, tongs
Prepare your canning equipment. I did not use a canning rack, but I did have canning tongs which are pretty essential. Mine look like this. Fill a large stock pot with water. Clean all of your canning supplies (jars, rings, lids, funnel, tongs) in hot soapy water and rinse thoroughly. Place jars and rings in water, making sure the water covers all supplies by an inch. Bring water to a boil, then turn down the heat and simmer for 10 minutes, then keep in hot water until ready to fill.
Meanwhile, measure 1 1/2 cups wine into the small sauce pan. Add 3 bags of mulling spices or about 1/3 of loose spices. Bring to a boil over medium heat, then turn down low to a simmer. Simmer until reduced to 1/2 cup of liquid (about 20-30 minutes). Pour remaining wine into medium saucepan. Add remaining mulling spices/bags, plus citrus juice and heat over low heat while other pan of wine reduces. Once the wine has reduced, you should find yourself with 3 1/2 cups of liquid, total. If its a little below, add a bit more wine. If its more, keep reducing.
When you have 3 1/2 cups of wine, add all of the wine to the second large stock pot. Measure out your sugar. Remove 1/4 cup of sugar and mix it in a smaller bowl with the pectin. Add pectin-sugar mixture to wine and bring to a boil. Once boiling, add the pat of butter (said to reduce foaming) and whisk in remaining sugar. Cook at a rolling boil for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly. I found that all of the foam disappeared after removing from the heat, but if you are worried about how pretty it will be in the jars, feel free to skim the foam.
Remove jars from water, drain. Turn up heat under water to bring to a boil. Fill jars with jam, leaving 1/4-1/2 in of space (called headspace). Make sure the rim of the jar is completely clean. Place the lids on the jars and screw on lids lightly, until they no longer move without any pressure. Place filled jars in boiling water and boil for 10 minutes. Remove jars from water and set to cool. Shortly after removing from water, you should hear a “pop” as the jar seals, and the center of the lid will be depressed. If the jar does not seal, reboil again for 10 minutes. (3 out of the 26 jars I made did not seal the first round, but did seal after the second boiling). Allow jars to cool completely before moving. After cooled, you can screw the rings on tightly.
Makes 6 8-ounce jars or 12 4-ounce jars of jelly.