Introduction: Caramel Apple Cider Jelly

About: I love to spend time in the kitchen to relax and feed those I love with great eats and treats.

I love making this jelly! It usually signifies I'm finishing my apple canning, and as I canned over 80 lbs. of apples this year, this jelly is quite easy to make and process several batches in a few hours. Using local, in season, apple cider will yield the best results, and fall is the perfect time to head to an orchard, or fruit farm, and enjoy delicious apple cider.

Caramel apple cider jelly reminds me of the mulled cider my grandparents, and other relatives, always had warming on the stove, or in large coffee urns, filling the house with the most delectable scents.

This jelly brings out the best in apple cider; adding lemon zest to brighten the flavor, and a cinnamon stick and cloves that add warming scents that seem to instantly calm our bodies. The caramel flavor comes from mixing dark brown sugar with granulated, it's a low sugar recipe, so you still taste the cider and not just sugar. If you have favorite spices you can add them as you like.

Thanks to Serious Eats, and contributor Lucy Baker, for the recipe, this is one of the first jellies I ever canned. It's great for beginners, more experienced canners, as I said above, can make several batches in one session. Sometimes it takes longer to set, my personal thought it that it has to do with the pectin in the apple cider, some batches may have less so it takes longer for the commercial pectin to do its job. Leave the jars alone, up to two weeks, and it should set. Otherwise, use the tip I learned very early on in canning: if it doesn't set, call it sauce! Fortunately, this year mine set very quickly, because I'm ready to enjoy it now. There is also usually a small amount of liquid that settles on top after processing, I find it easily pours off when I open the jars.

This jelly pairs well with almost everything apple cider does; a great glaze for chicken, pork, salmon, carrots, parsnips, sweet potatoes, etc.. Excellent on PB & Js, and grilled cheese sandwiches. Obviously delicious on toast, bagels, dinner rolls. Yummy with a cheese plate, or on melted Brie. Warmed and spread on pancakes, waffles, biscuits, ice cream, pound cake, etc. etc.

Endless possibilities with this pretty taste of fall in a jar, how will you enjoy it?

Makes about 5-6 half pint (I also use 4 oz.) jars

Recipe slightly adapted from Serious Eats Caramel Apple Cider Jelly

Step 1: Gather Ingredients

5 cups (40 oz.) apple cider

1 cinnamon stick

2 strips lemon zest

1/2 teaspoon whole cloves

2 cups (14 oz.) granulated sugar

1 package low or no sugar needed powdered pectin (such as Sure Jell ,or 3 Tbsp. Ball low or no sugar needed)

1 cup (7 oz.) packed dark brown sugar

Step 2: Make Jelly

Prepare jars and boiling water canner. Sanitize jars in the canner, or in a 225F oven for at least 20 minutes. Keep the water in the canner hot. Wash lids and bands and warm the lids in a small saucepan, filled with water, over medium-low heat.

Measure 1/4 cup (1.75 oz.) of granulated sugar into a small bowl and add the pectin, mix well.

In another medium bowl, combine the remaining 1 3/4 cups (12.25 oz.) of granulated sugar and the dark brown sugar. I find it easiest to mix the sugars with my hands (or use a whisk) until well combined, brown sugar has a tendency to clump, and if the sugars are separate, the brown sugar will clump in the hot cider and be very hard to break up in the short time it takes the jelly to cook, if the sugars are combined, it's much easier to whisk into the hot cider. Set aside.

Tie the cinnamon stick, lemon zest, and cloves in piece of cheesecloth and add it to a large heavy-bottomed pot. I prefer using muslin spice bags that I can close and tie to the handle of the pot. When the spice bag is tied to the handle it doesn't get in the way when you need to whisk in the pectin and sugars, and it's easy to keep out of the way of the ladle when filling jars.

Pour the apple cider into the pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Add the sugar-pectin mixture and return to a full rolling boil, stirring constantly. Stir in remaining sugar mixture and return to a full rolling boil. Boil hard for one minute.

Step 3: Fill Jars and Process Jelly

Remove the pot from the heat and discard the spice bag/cheesecloth, if making multiple batches keep the spice bag and reuse. Skim any foam from the surface of the jelly with a cold metal spoon.

Ladle the hot jam into hot sterilized jars, leaving 1/4-inch headspace. Wipe rims of the jars with a damp paper towel, cover with lids, and screw bands on until fingertip tight. Place jars on rack in canning pot, cover pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Boil for 10 minutes, start timing when pot returns to a boil. Turn off heat, uncover pot, and allow jars to rest in water for five minutes.

Remove jars from pot to cooling racks, or a kitchen towel-lined countertop. Let jars rest for at least 12 hours before labeling and storing. Caramel Apple Cider Jelly jars can be stored, away from heat and light, for up to one year.

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