As always happens at about this time of year, about a week ago, I realized that the school year was swiftly coming to a close, and I was going to have to come up with teacher gifts. We don’t always give end of the year teacher gifts, but I try to, when I can. I know how hard teachers work, and I just think it’s a nice way to let them know we appreciate them. And this year was special. We had one kid graduating from middle school, and another graduating from 5th grade. The 5th grader was graduating from the same elementary school at which we had been parents for 12 consecutive years. It seemed like an especially good year to remember our teachers.
Usually, at the holidays, I send baked goods because I happen to be making them, anyway. At the end of the year, however, I usually find myself harried, and I end up buying small Starbucks gift cards and calling it a day. However, since Justice had 7 teachers this year, Hallie had six, and Kaia had one, that added up to a lot of teacher gifts. I hate to be miserly, but I was trying to think of some way to give nice gifts and not break the bank.
I had recently gotten a good deal on raspberries and blueberries, and was planning to make jam, so I got this idea. What is I gave each teacher one jar of jam? That would be a nice, personal gift, something they would probably enjoy, and, since I was planning on making jam, anyway, it wouldn’t really be any extra trouble. After I had made the raspberry jam, I did some math. If I got as many jars of blueberry as I did of raspberry, I would have just enough for each teacher…and none for us. Well, that didn’t sound like a very good idea. So, I decided I needed one more variety. Marmalade! I had always wanted to make marmalade! Ah…but, that recipe takes a couple of days, and, about this time, Kaia and Shane got really, really sick, and I had to find a way to make more jam real quick, and still take care of sick people. I looked through my Ball Blue Book, and found a recipe for Quick Grape Jelly, using bottled grape juice, sugar and pectin. It seemed simple enough, and it was! Not only was it simple, but it was delicious. In fact, it was my favourite recipe I had tried since I started canning. Everyone who tried it loved it. I think Justice and Hallie ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch and dinner for a couple of days.
Here’s a picture of my beautiful grape jelly:
So then I got to thinking. If I could make grape jelly with bottled juice, could I make other jellies with bottled juice? Apple, perhaps? I did some searching on the internet. Some people said, “yes;” others said, “no.” In the end, I decided I had nothing to lose but the cost of a bottle of juice. I picked up a bottle of organic apple juice at fresh & easy. I think it cost $4.69. After reading through a couple of different recipes online, I decided to see if I could work out one that would work for us. In fact, it turned out so well that now I am not sure which I like better, apple or grape. Luckily, it is really quick and easy to make, so I can make sure we always have plenty. Here is the recipe I came up with:
Simple Apple Jelly
5 cups organic 100% apple juice
6.5 TBS Ball Classic Pectin
5.5 cups organic sugar
In a large saucepot, whisk together pectin and 1 cup of juice until thoroughly combined (no lumps). Whisk in remaining juice . (It may help to do this a cup at a time.)
Add sugar, one cup at a time, whisking until dissolved.
Bring to a rolling boil, stirring occasionally to prevent clumping of pectin.
Boil hard, stirring constantly, for 1 minute.
Remove from heat and perform spoon test or plate test* to determine if your jelly will set to the consistency you prefer. If it is not thick enough, whisk in more pectin (I would add no more than 1/2 TBS at a time), bring to a boil, boil for one minute, and test again.
Ladle in to clean, hot half pint jars. Top with 2-piece canning lids (lid and ring), and process 10 minutes in a boiling water canner.**
Turn off heat, remove lid, and let stand for 5 minutes, then carefully remove jars using a jar lifter and place on a heat proof surface. Do not tighten rings. Allow jars to rest undisturbed for 12-24 hours.
* Please consult your canning book or a reliable online source to learn how to perform the spoon and plate tests. I am having trouble sharing links, but will try to add one later.
** Please refer to your canner manual or another reliable source (I find Ball’s Blue Book indispensable) for complete canning instructions.
It was so pretty while it was cooking that I couldn’t resist taking pictures.
Isn’t that a gorgeous colour?
There was a little more than I had half-pint jars for, so I put the leftover bit in a pint-sized jar and put it right in the fridge for our immediate use:
And here it is all nicely processed and ready to give:
I have a LOT of jam pictures, because I had a lot of fun making jam, but I will just share one last one here, of all the jars, labelled and ready to package up with freshly made biscuits.
I am pleased to say the teachers all liked their gifts, and there was plenty left over for us (though kids gobbled up the remaining biscuits pretty quickly).