I was taught the basics of canning by my dearly departed grandmother and I’ve been canning on my own for probably about 7 years now. I tend to stick to more traditional methods (read: grandma’s way) and I’ve had great success and tasty food. This year I decided to try making jelly out of a fruit I’d never ever heard of.
It turns out that the mysterious fruit bearing tree in front of my father’s office was a loquat tree. If you’ve never seen or tasted a loquat think of it as the unlikely offspring of a lemon and a peach. It has a soft peachy inside with a tart/sweet citrus flavor and two to three pits at the center. It’s native to China but does particularly well here on the Texas Gulf Coast and in other sub-tropical climates.
Note: This recipe can really be used with just about any other fruit. Jelly making is pretty much the same all over once you get about 4 cups of whatever juice you’re using. So here we go.
You will Need:
- Roughly 4 to 4.5 dozen loquats depending on size
- Your choice of pectin (I used the low sugar Sure Jell)
- Clean jars (about 4 or 5 half pint jelly jars or 2 pint jars)
- 3 ½ c. granulated sugar
- ½ c. honey
- Kitchen strainer
- Funnel (optional but makes your life easier)
- Ladle (non-negotiable)
- Large pot for cooking the jelly
- Large stock pot for processing the filled jars
Step 1: Prep Your Jars
I may use old fashioned methods that might make modern day canners gasp but you’ll never catch me using dirty jars. The first thing you’ll always need to do is either run your jars through a cycle in the dishwasher or if you’re pressed for time, soak them in soapy sink water hot enough that you can’t put your hand in it.
Gather your squeaky clean jars, new seals, and lid rings on a clean towel near your workspace.
Step 2: Prep Your Loquats (or other fruit)
This is by far the most tedious and mind-numbing part of the process. Loquats are small, slippery and acidic. I started by cutting the ends off the fruit and giving them each a good slice on one side from top to bottom. From there it was easy to simply pull the fruit open and use my thumb to dig out the pits in one move.
Once pitted, you can chop the loquats into large chunks and place them in a bowl.
Step 3: Cook the Fruit
Once you’ve chopped all your fruit, place it in the medium to large cooking pot and fill it with water until it just covers the fruit. Cook the loquats on a medium flame until they are nice and soft. This can take between 10 and 15 minutes. You’ll start to notice the citrus fragrance and see the water change color.
Step 4: Strain Out the Juice
Some canners get really hung up on cloudy versus clear jelly. I’m not entering mine in a county fair so cloudy doesn’t really bother me. It just means that tiny bits of fruit flesh weren’t strained all the way out. If you’re like me, and cloudy doesn’t bother you, then you can use a standard metal kitchen strainer to press the juice from the loquats. If you’d like to stay clear, then you may want to invest in a jelly bag.
Get as much juice as possible out of your fruit before discarding it. And just to be on the safe side, I’ll usually run my juice through the strainer a second time. If you’re a hair short on the four cups of juice it’s ok to add in water to get you there.
TIP: Before the next step, take your new jar seals and put them in water in a little sauce pan. Put them on the stove over a low flame to santize and soften them. DO NOT BOIL THEM. You may also want to put your processing pot and water on a high flame to get it started boiling.
Step 5: Cook Up Your Jelly
At this point you’ll need to take ¼ cup of your 3 ½ cups of sugar and mix it with one box of the pectin in a separate cup. Things happen quickly from here so you may also want to have your sugar and honey at the ready. The low sugar pectin only uses 4 cups of sugar, but I’ve found that I like the taste a little more if I substitute half a cup of the sugar for honey. It’s not necessary though. No matter what you’re using, have it on stand by.
Put a boiling flame under your juice and get it hot. Stir in your pectin/sugar mixture and bring it to a rolling boil that can’t be stirred away. Once there, stir in all of your sugar (or sugar and honey). Allow the mixture to reach a boil again and let it boil hard for 1 minute. Things get a little foamy here and rise quickly so don’t get scared – you didn’t do anything wrong.
After the minute is over turn off the fire under the jelly and turn off the flame under your seals.
Step 6: Fill the Jars and Process
Use a ladle to spoon the jelly into each jar, leaving between ½ and ¼ inch space from the top of the jar. BE CAREFUL – I have gotten severe burns on my fingers from sloppy filling (this is why the funnel is so amazing). Be sure to wipe any spills or excess jelly off the lip of the jar with a paper towel before placing the seal on and screwing on the ring.
Once you’ve filled all of your jars, you’ll need to process them in a hot water bath. This means placing the jars up to their necks in rolling boiling water for about 10 minutes. This ensures that all harmful bacteria are killed and helps to create a seal. I use a large steamer/pasta pot. You can use a regular stock pot but you have to either raise your jars or place a barrier underneath them. If you set your jars directly on the bottom of the pot THEY WILL BREAK.
Once you’re done processing, just pull the jars (a jar grabbing tool is worth the few bucks) and set them on a towel to cool. Once you hear the POP!! Sound, it means your jars are sealed. It can take up to 24 hours for the jelly to cool enough to be fully set. All that’s left to do is label your jars and bask in your awesomeness.