New Year’s Confetti Jelly
An auld acquaintance transformed by local wine
by Jennifer Burns Levin
Making jelly is considered a summer sport, but shimmering, festive holiday jellies can be created with ingredients locally available in winter, too. I recently experimented with herbal jellies, using plants fresh and dried from my garden and newly ripened lemons from my little tree.
Many of us remember the ol’ cream cheese pepper jelly appetizer served with crackers on the holidays. I suggest transforming this auld acquaintance with a festive confetti jelly: pale gold riesling gelled with tiny bits of chili pepper, lemon zest and rosemary. Usually, air pockets and flecks in a jar of homemade jelly are unwelcome, but this recipe requires you give the hot liquid a good stir with a whisk to create thousands of tiny bubbles — perfect to accompany your New Year’s toast. Or to eat on toast.
The base of the jelly is dry riesling, a wine long associated with cheap swill in the PNW. Pay no heed. Willamette Valley wineries have been producing some excellent vintages at economical prices. Don’t use the best stuff, since the flavor will be muted and altered by sugar and strong herbs. Keep it local by serving the jelly over our local Nancy’s cultured cream cheese with home-baked spelt crackers. The savory-sweet jelly is also good as a glaze on roasts or roasted root vegetables, applied a few minutes before serving.
For this recipe, I am assuming you have basic jelly-making knowledge about how to sterilize your jars, use new lids and use a water bath canner. The standard resource is the Ball Blue Book of Preserving, available at Extension Service offices across the country, including ours. For canning safely, please be sure to use an updated guide. If you do not feel comfortable with canning, you can still pour the jelly into spotlessly clean jars and keep it in the refrigerator for no more than a month. Do not reduce the amount of sugar in the recipe, as it is needed to activate the pectin.
Happy New Year, Eugene.
Jennifer Burns Levin writes about local food at culinariaeugenius.wordpress.com
Rosemary Riesling Confetti Jelly
Makes five 8-ounce jars
3 1/4 cups dry riesling (1 bottle)
1 cup freshly cut and washed rosemary sprigs, about 3 inches in length, loosely packed
1 heaping tablespoon dried culinary lavender
1 organic lemon
1 package powdered pectin (regular)
4 cups sugar
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Bring the water in a water bath canner to boil; wash and prepare your jars, lids and rings, following updated canning methods.
Make lemon zest and juice: Use a vegetable peeler to make three large (2” x 1”) strips, and use a regular lemon zester to zest the rest of the lemon. Do not use a Microplane-type zester, which will not yield big enough bits. Set aside the large strips. Chop the small zest strips finely. Juice the lemon, reserving two tablespoons.
Make the confetti: Remove the rosemary leaves from one of the sprigs and chop finely. Combine the lemon zest, rosemary leaves and red pepper flakes. There should be about 1 tablespoon. Measure out the sugar into a bowl and mix in the confetti.
Combine the wine with the remaining rosemary sprigs, lavender and large lemon strips in a medium-sized pot. Bring the wine up to a simmer, then remove from heat and let steep for about 30 minutes.
After wine is thoroughly cool, mix it with the reserved lemon juice and powdered pectin. Mix well, breaking up pectin lumps. Bring mixture to a full rolling boil, stirring constantly, until the boil cannot be stirred down.
Add sugar, still stirring constantly, and allow mixture to come to a full boil again. Boil hard for one minute, then remove from heat. Skim foam from top, then give it a good, hard stir with a whisk to create bubbles. Immediately pour into hot jars. Seal and process in a water bath canner for 10 minutes.