Ever make an apple dish that you have to peel and core your apples for (like apple pie, for example)? What do you do with all those peel leftovers? Before you toss them or compost them, consider saving them to use for apple jelly.
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My dear old mom taught me this trick one year when we were canning apple butter. We carefully bagged up all those peels and cores and set them aside in the freezer for when we had time. Then, we simply followed the recipe on the box of pectin for apple jelly, using the scraps in place of the fruit.
The jelly was successful, but I have never liked how much sugar goes into a traditional pectin recipe. My pectin box says to use 5 cups apple juice to 7 cups of sugar!!! Holy cow, that’s a cup of sugar per jar! (And the jar is only a cup!) You get the idea that you’re really just having apple-flavored sugar…
You can purchase low-sugar pectin, but I’ve realized that adding extra pectin isn’t entirely necessary in many cases. Making jam without additional pectin requires a little more patience for the cooking time, and the yield is much lower without all that added sugar. However, the process is very simple and the product you do get is much healthier for you.
The nice part about apples is they already have a lot of natural pectin in them- mainly in the peels and cores! So your leftover apple scraps actually provide just what you need to make a nice no-pectin added jelly.
(Psst… If you are planning on prepping any amount of apples this year, do yourself a favor and buy one of these peeler-corer slicers… you’ll thank me later.)
This week, after prepping my apples for Thanksgiving Day pie, I decided to try the old apple peel trick again- this time, without using any pectin and sweetening the jelly with a small amount of honey. The recipe is super long and complicated. Are you ready for this? You’ll need:
- Apple peels & cores
- Honey to taste
Are you feeling burdened by the sheer length and complexity of the ingredient list yet? 😉
Here’s how I made mine:
1) Put apple peels and cores in a pot and cover them with water. I used approximately 8 cups of apple peels & cores. I didn’t measure the water, and you don’t have to either.
2) Bring it to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 30 minutes. Stir occasionally.
3) You should now have a nice batch of apple juice filled with floating scraps. Strain the mixture through a colander into a wide-based pot. If you want a more clear jelly, let the scraps drip into the pot for a while without squeezing them. If you want more pulp in your jelly, then press the cores and peels with a spoon to squish out extra good stuff into your pot.
4) Add honey to taste. I used just under a cup and that was plenty sweet for me. Simmer, uncovered, for about another hour, stirring occasionally. (The time cooking will vary depending on how many scraps you had. Mine took probably an hour and a half more, but if you have less it will go faster. Watch your pot accordingly, please!)
5) Meanwhile, if you’re canning the jelly, wash and sterilize jars and lids and prepare your water bath canner.
6) When the liquid gets extra-bubbly, you’re getting close to the end. It will start to get sticky on the spoon. You’ll want to watch more carefully at this point & stir more frequently. Once the jelly sheets off the spoon cleanly, it’s ready to be jarred. You can also check Common Sense Home’s visual explanation of the plate test for jelly.
NOTE: This is a rather imperfect process. If you end up with apple syrup because it’s a little too thin, embrace it. If you end up with apple gummies because it’s too thick, embrace it. With a little practice, you will find the gelling point more easily.
7) Ladle into hot jars, leaving a quarter inch head space. Wipe down jar rims, add lids, and screw on rings tightly. Process in a water bath canner for 10 minutes. Let cool & seal. As the liquid cools, it will look more like jelly.
I think I let my jelly get slightly past the proper point for jelling up, but it’s delicious and really tastes like apples- not pure sugar!
This recipe just one more way to use up what you have to make something good. (And it might make a good Christmas gift, too!) If you try it, let me know how it turns out. Hope you enjoy it!
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