Introduction: Sugar Free Highbush Cranberry Jelly
No matter how much you prepare; sooner or later, foraging for food will be your only option during an apocalypse or a natural disaster. Highbush cranberries are another shrub you can find in the cities or urban areas as a decorative plant as well as growing wild in the countryside.
Contrary to their name Highbush cranberries are not true cranberries; the name comes from the red fruits which look like cranberries, have a similar flavor and ripen at the same time of year. They are a wild North American shrub with clusters of red berries that are very acidic, the fruits are sour and rich in vitamin C, they can be eaten raw or cooked into a sauce or jelly. The jelly is superb on toast, muffins, and bagels with cream cheese. The jelly is also good served with meat like pork, chicken, or fish.
High bush cranberries keep on the tree well into the winter; however it does not matter when you pick them, these berries smell like old gym socks while cooking to extract the juice. I would suggest cooking in a well ventilated kitchen or outside.
Since my wife and oldest son are diabetic; I make sugar free jams and jellies every fall to suit their dietary needs so I had to invent a sugar free recipe.
Step 1: Identifying Highbush Cranberry
Highbush cranberry is a shrub that grows up to 15 ft (4 m tall), the bark is gray and rough and has a scaly texture. The stems arch and are very dense, and the twigs are a reddish brown color. The leaves are opposite, three lobed, about 2 ½ to 4 ½ inches long (6 to 12 cm), and 2 to 4 inches wide (5 to 10 cm), they are superficially similar to many maple leaves. The flowers are white, produced in corymbs up to 5 inches in diameter (13 cm) at the top of the stems. Each corymb is comprised of flowers ¼ of an inch (5 mm) to 1 inch (2 to 2.5 cm) in diameter. The fruit is an oblong red drupe15 mm long and 12 mm broad, containing a single white flat seed.
Step 2: Ingredients
This recipe makes 8 to 10, 120 ml jars.
4 cups or 1 liter Highbush Cranberries.
4 cups or 1 liter water.
2 pouches Knox Gelatine.
Adding sweetener is your choice, you can substitute honey, maple syrup, or corn syrup for Splenda, just match the recipe cup for cup. If you do not worry about sugar intake just use 2 cup sugar. You can go sugar free with 2 cup Splenda or some other artificial sweetener, or 1 cup sugar and 1 cup Splenda for low sugar.
Step 3: Directions
Gather 6 to 8 cups of Highbush Cranberry bunches, they are easy enough to collect just pinch the stem behind the bunch and break the bunch off the branch of the shrub.
Wash the berries in a colander with cold water.
Remove the stems, unripe berries, and leaves, the unripe berries are hard as rocks and don't cook well.
I am always wary of unripe wild fruits and berries; berries like Bitter Sweet Nightshade or Yew are safe to eat when ripe, but if you eat the unripe berries of Bitter Sweet Nightshade or Yew they can make you sick. So as a general practice I only eat fully ripe wild berries.
After removing the stems, unripe berries, and leaves, you should have about 4 cups of berries.
Step 4: Cooking
Another general practice I use; is removing the seeds and pits from all fruits and berries but the ones I know are harmless like strawberries. I even remove the seeds and pits from domestic fruit, a handful of apple seeds consumed in one sitting can make you sick if you eat them.
To a pot add 4 cups of berries, 4 cups of water, place the pot on heat and bring the mix to a boil.
Let the berries in the water simmer on medium for 30 minutes.
After simmering for 30 minutes use a strainer or sieve to strain out the seeds and other solid parts.
Do not press the juice out of the pulp or your jelly will come out smoky.
Step 5: Removing the Pulp
To make sure I get all the pulp out of the juice so I have a nice clear jelly, I like to pass the juice through a coffee filter, this gets everything the strainer missed.
Measure out 4 cups juice.
Put ½ cup of juice to a side and the rest of the juice in a clean pot. Put the pot of juice on to heat at medium stirring as you add the sweetener and let it simmer on low for 20 minutes while you prepare the gelatin.
Step 6: Preparing the Knox Gelatine
Each packet of Knox Gelatine will jell 2 cups of juice.
While the 3 ½ cups of juice is simmering; add 2 pouches of gelatin to the ½ cup of juice you put to a side, stir the gelatin in and let the half cup of juice sit for 5 to 10 minutes.
Once the gelatin starts to jell melt it into the rest of the juice by pouring hot juice over the jell stirring the juice as you go.
Step 7: Filling & Processing the Jars
Clean and sterilize 8 to 10, 120 ml jars.
Fill the jars with jelly to within ¼ of an inch (5 mm) of the lip of the jar.
Place the seals on the jars and screw on the rings loosely.
Place the jars of jelly in a pot of water covering the lids by one inch (25 mm), put the pot on to heat and bring the water to a boil for 15 minutes.
Step 8: Finishing the Jelly
Once the Jelly has processed for 10 to 15 minutes remove the pot from the heat and let stand for 5 minutes.
Oddly enough after processing the jelly will go from a red juice to a yellow jelly.
Remove the jars of jelly from the processing pot wipe off the outsides and tighten the lids.
Place the jars of jelly on a rack to cool.
After the jars are cool, if you haven't heard all the lids pop check the seal and place the jars with unpopped seals in the fridge. In the fridge the unpopped jars of jelly should last 6 months.
Once the jars are cool label them and place the jars of jelly in a cool dark place for storage.