Making unusual jellies

The weekend of Labor Day found me in Devine with family and friends! It was an awesome visit, as my youngest granddaughter and her husband whom we hadn’t seen since Christmas were in for a visit. We stayed pretty busy, ate out a couple of times and in general just had a wonderful time visiting. Her husband had to fly back home on Saturday, as he had to preach at their church on Sunday in the Texas panhandle where they live. And, on Sunday, my grandson came in also, as he had not been home since January or February, because of where he is working.
While we were having breakfast the other morning, our conversation turned to the various different things you can use to make jams and jellies. Jessie Stuart had given my son some made from a couple of different things that aren’t usually used for that purpose. My son said he had been enjoying them either on biscuits or on a block of cream cheese with crackers!
Have you ever given a thought to the numerous different things that are unusual, but can be used for food and drink? Some of us have noticed the different fruits used to make wine, from agarita berries to peaches, plums and watermelon (and, my mother and grandmothers and I all made Watermelon Rind jelly). We make jams and jellies out of all the above, but jams and jellies can also be made out of mesquite beans, prickly pear tunas, corn cobs, jalapeños, bell peppers or tomatoes; as well as your ore common, garden variety of everyday fruits.
Prickly pear tunas make a beautiful, rich purple jelly. Corncob jelly is clear unless you use the red cobs, then it is red in color, and mesquite beans make a beautiful amber colored jelly. Jelly made from jalapenos and bell peppers make a yellowish-green jelly that is most usually served poured over a block of cream cheese and served with crackers.
Since I’ve been in the Devine area a couple of times lately, I’ve noticed that there are quite a few of the prickly pear tunas, and all of them are a bright purple. There don’t seem to be as many as there have been in past years, but they are still plentiful.
The hardest part of using prickly pear tunas is the picking. You will need gloves, a knife and a pair of kitchen tongs. (Watch out for snakes, especially the rattling kind, as they love to live in a cactus patch). Barbara Hester told me many years ago that about one-half of a grocery bag of tunas will give you all you need for a batch of jelly. When you get them home, wash well by holding with tongs under cold running water. To peel the fruit, lay on a cutting board, still holding with the tongs or a fork, cut both ends off, slit the skin lengthwise and lay open. The pulp can then be lifted out. Place the fruit in a large pot, barely cover with water and cook until tender, then strain through several layers of cheesecloth to get the juice. Another method, after washing is to singe off the spines, cut off the ends and place in a large pot, barely cover with water, bring to a boil and cook until soft, smashing with a potato masher as they get soft, to make the juice. Again, strain through several layers of cheesecloth to get the amount of juice you need.
Prickly Pear Jelly
5 cups juice
1 box powdered fruit pectin (Sure-Jell®)
5½ cups granulated sugar
Put juice in large pot, add pectin, and bring to a boil. Add sugar, all at one time, bring to rolling boil, boil hard for 1 minute, remove from heat, skim foam from top and pour into hot sterilized jars and seal.
Jalapeño Jelly
1/3 cup finely chopped or ground jalapeño peppers
¾ cup finely chopped or ground, green bell pepper
1 ½ cups cider vinegar
51/2 cups granulated sugar
1 bottle (6-oz) liquid pectin
Cook peppers, sugar and vinegar for 10 minutes. Add pectin and boil for 1 minute more, remove from heat and pour into hot sterilized jars; top with melted paraffin, seal.
Mesquite Bean Jelly
½ bushel mesquite beans without bug holes (It is probably better if you pick the beans off the trees, rather than off the ground).
1 cup lemon juice
3 to 4 quarts water
Pick the mesquite beans. Select beans that are mature enough to have a reddish tinge on the pods. Wash and snap into small pieces. Place in large pot, add lemon juice and water, bring to boil and cook for 1 hour. Drain the beans, saving the juice. Strain the juice through several layers of cheesecloth to get all particles of beans out of it. If I remember right, I actually made the Mesquite Bean Jelly, as there were several mesquite trees around when we lived on Mesquite St., there in Devine. I have none around now unless I go into someone else’s land.
To make the jelly:
5 cups juice
1 box powdered pectin Sure-Jell®)
7 ½ cups granulated sugar
Place juice in large pot, bring to boil, add pectin, stirring constantly. Bring mixture to a rolling boil. Add the sugar all at once, bring back to boil and cook 5 more minutes. Pour into jars (you can cover with melted paraffin before sealing) and seal. Allow to cool before storing.
Corn Cob Jelly
12 raw corn cobs, (cut the kernels off, use them save the cobs)
4 cups water
1 box fruit pectin
4 cups sugar
Place corn cobs in 4 cups of water and boil for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and strain through a cloth lined colander/large strainer and collect 3 cups of liquid. Add more water if necessary. Pour liquid into a large pot; add1 box fruit pectin, bring to a rolling boil (one you can’t stir down) and add sugar all at once; bring to a full rolling boil again, remove from heat; skim, pour into jars (you can cover with melted paraffin before sealing if desired) and seal. This is a clear jelly that tastes similar to honey.
Red Corn Cob Jelly
(And, before you ask, no, I have no idea where to get red corn cobs, the field corn that my granddad raised had red cobs, but other than that, no clue. You might call the guys at Orange Corn and see what they have.)
14 large red corncobs
2 quarts water (8-cups)
3 cups sugar
1 package pectin (Sure-Jell®)
Wash the corncobs well, cut off both ends to be sure there are no lurking insects in the cobs. Cut or break into 4-inch lengths and place in a large pot with the water. Bring to a boil’ reduce heat and boil slowly for 35 to 40 minutes. Strain the juice. Measure out 3 cups into a large container. Add the pectin and bring to a boil; add the sugar all at once and bring to a boil again and boil for 5 minutes. Skim off the foam and pour into sterilized jars and seal.
Wine Jelly
4 cups sugar
1 box pectin (Sure-Jell®)
¾ cup water
3 cups wine (red or Rosé)
Measure wine and set aside. Thoroughly mix fruit pectin and water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat; boil 1 minute, stirring constantly. Immediately add wine and sugar, stir over medium heat just bellowing boiling point to dissolve sugar. Cook about 5 minutes; remove from heat, skim and quickly pour into jelly glasses or jars, cover with hot paraffin. Makes 4 cups.