10 November 2009

Making jelly

Confiture is the French word for jam or fruit preserves. Gelée is French for jelly, as in gelée de coings or gelée de pommes. Confiture and gelée are put up in pots, which we call jars. This post is about making gelée de coings, quince jelly.

I don't know if I had ever made jam or jelly before I moved to Saint-Aignan. It's partly because there is so much fruit available here, ripe and free on the trees. Over the past 5 years, we've made jam with peaches (20 lbs. of them!), cherries, and several varieties of plums, and jelly with apples, quinces, and grapes. Wine grapes. Apparently, many people here in Saint-Aignan make jellies and jams. The supermarkets have special sections for canning supplies — jars, funnels, paraffin — this time of year.

Getting the jars ready to be sterilized in the oven

One of the most tedious parts of jelly-making is sterilizing the jars and lids you plan to pack the jelly in. In a book I have called Mes confitures, by Christine Ferber (and with a preface by no less a personage than Alain Ducasse), I read this:
Avant de préparer une confiture, je stérilise mes pots, soit en les plongeant quelques minutes dans l'eau bouillante, soit en les passant au four à 110ºC (thermostat 4) pendant cinq minutes. — Before making jam, I sterilize the jars, either by plunging them in boiling water for a few minutes, or by putting them in the oven at 110ºC (230ºF) for five minutes.
In my opinion, the oven method is much easier than the boiling water bath method for sterilizing jars, especially if you are making a large quantity of jelly or jam. It takes a while to get a big enough pot of water boiling, and it steams up the kitchen. Besides, at the same time you have the confiture bubbling away on the stove. There's too much going on.

Nowadays, I wash the jars and lids, or at least rinse them in very hot water, and then put them into the oven to dry. The heat and steam will sterilize them. Handle them with tongs to avoid contaminating them — or burning your fingers.

I'm not sure what the theory is behind turning the jars
of hot jelly upside down to cool, but I do it now.

I had made 2.5 liters of quince juice, so I used 2.5 kg of sugar. I mixed the sugar with the cold juice and just let it sit for about 6 hours before I started cooking. I noticed when pouring it into a deep wide pot that it had already started to jell.

The first eight jars, with matching lids. Nice color.

Here is Christine Ferber's recipe for quince jelly:

Gelée de coings
1 kg of quince juice (1 liter)
950 g of granulated sugar (2 lbs.)
the juice of one small lemon

Put the quince juice, the sugar, and the lemon juice into a big pot.

Bring it to a boil, skim off the foam, and let it boil on high heat for 10 minutes. Skim it again as needed.

Test the jelly to see if it coats a spoon, and let it boil for a minute longer.

Put the jelly up in jars and seal them.

Sounds pretty simple, doesn't it?

All 12 jars — they all sealed, which is imporant
if you want to store them for a while

While the jars were in the oven, I brought the sweetened juice to a boil on the stove, stirring it constantly. I decided not to use the lemon juice because I wanted the jelly to taste purely of quince, which is tart enough anyway. Once it started boiling, I turned the heat down a little and let it bubble and boil for 6 or 7 minutes. Then it was time to start filling the jars.

I used a jelly funnel to keep from getting jelly on the rims and threads of the jars. I ended up with 12 Bonne Maman jars of gelée de coings. (Thanks to CHM for the jars.) The lids popped down and all the jars sealed.

Quince jellygelée de coings

One thing that I've noticed here is that most people re-use jars. They don't buy special ones just for jelly-making. The recycled ones seem to seal and work just fine.

Just before I was going to start ladling the jelly out of the pot and into jars, I thought to myself that it looked pretty cloudy. I skimmed the white foam off the surface of the jelly, and all of a sudden the jelly got very clear — translucent, I guess you would say.

I didn't use a thermometer to judge whether the jelly was really ready, but I did use the cold-plate method. Put a little plate in the fridge and let it get chilled. Then take it out and dribble a little of the jelly on it to see if it sets up. If it does, you're ready. If you use a thermometer, Madame Ferber says, cook the jelly until it gets to 105ºC (221ºF).

Toast with butter and quince jelly for breakfast this morning

Now what am I going to do with all this jelly? Jelly roll cakes this winter, I guess. Gifts for friends and neighbors. Take some to my mother in North Carolina when I go see her. I guess I should start eating toast and jelly for breakfast every morning.


  1. Quince paste is delicious with cheese; I imagine the jelly would be as well. Maybe with a cheesecake?

  2. yummm... with some chèvre :))

    Ken, do you have a visit already in the plans for NC?


  3. You Say "Now what am I going to do with all this jelly?".

    I say "You have my address". :-))

  4. beautiful color.....i thought u could re-use the jars but not the lids

  5. I made the mistake of reading this morning with just my coffee, when I got to the tartin photo I enlarged it and tried to inhale;-)

    I wish I could have your breakfast right now. It's "one of those days" - we're getting rain from the storm named Ida and I have a funeral to go to at 11.

    I'm like Melinda- didn't know you could reuse the lids although those old blue jars had lids that folks must have reused before the two piece ones came on the scene.

    I'll come get some jelly sometime, save me a jar;-) The quince would be a rare treat.

  6. You're funny, Starman. Some fruit makes good jelly, other fruit makes good jam. It's all in the taste. Have you ever had guava jelly? Delicious. A friend used to bring it to me in California when he went home to Florida to see his family.

  7. Yes, guava jelly or paste is delicious.

    Here, in SoCal, we don't seem to have the jelly or paste, but we do have guava nectar. That's what I drink every morning to swallow my medications. Yummy!

  8. There's something really homely about Bon Maman jars - must be the gingham pattern on the lids.

    All those jars of jelly look heavenly to me. I would love to have the time to do it myself.
    Do you need any more jars ?

  9. The finished jars look lovely.

    Today I was amazed to see a quince cookbook where I bought apples--not a pamphlet, a full-size cookbook. How many ways can there be to cook with quinces?

  10. We found not only the jars, but the jams back home in OZ, and they were on special.
    It made us home sick for France. Is that possible???

  11. The jelly looks very nice and clear. the Champaign County Fair judges would surely give you a blue ribbon!

  12. glaze duck and lemon custard tart. mmmmmm

    it looks gorgeous, congrats.

  13. Harriett, wish I could be there for the fair then! I've never won a blue ribbon before.

    PJ, glazed duck, what an excellent use for the quince jelly. In fact, canard laqué is on my list of foods to make, and Intermarché has ducks on sale this week. I know where I'm going this morning...

    CHM, are guavas grown in So. Cal.? I assume they are grown in Fla.

    Jean, I hate to say no to anything, but I probably won't be making any more jelly until next summer. You must save jam jars.

    Carolyn, I wonder if you got a look at the recipes in that quince cookbook.

    Leon and Sue, you missing France? Imagine!


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