Preservation Society: Oklahoma Jammed with Jelly-Makers

Sherrel Jones shares information and recipes about Oklahoma jellies and jams.
BY SHERREL JONES sjones@opubco.com Modified: September 17, 2012 at 10:30 am •  Published: September 12, 2012

If you've ever been curious about the taste of a prickly pear, try Gigi's Prickly Pear Jelly. This lovely stuff carries the unique flavor of the cactus fruit. This almost fuchsia jelly bears an enchanting flavor.

Kit Petersen (Gigi to her grandchildren) said: “Most people don't even know it is edible.”

Kit, who has been making jelly for years, experimented with a recipe her husband found on the Internet.

The cactus blooms yellow in spring with the fruit developing over the summer. The fruit is left till it sweetens after first frost. Gigi also makes cinnamon pear, rum pear, vanilla pear and basil apple jelly. The Petersens live outside Noble, where they have a commercial kitchen to process their products.

Andy and Margaret Schaben, of Wild Horse Canyon Farms just off Route 66 near Luther, produce some elegant fruity wine-based jellies and spreads. Andy is excited about this year's amazing production from their 69 varieties of grapes.

“We have studied and lived growing grapes from the soil up,” he said.

Each of their 3500 vines were planted by their own hands and they are dedicated to producing small batch products “like grandma makes” to maintain their quality products.

Working with OSU, they have developed 23 products made in their own commercial kitchen. The goal being less sugar and more flavor. They purchase strawberries and blackberries from Stilwell, and use straight juice or fruit and no water in the process.

My favorite is their fruity sangria jalapeno wine jelly. It delivers what the name promises. It would be great with some intensely aged cheddar cheeses atop a cracker or used to perk up a pan sauce after searing steaks or pork chops. The Schabens have been in production for a little over a year, although the grapes were planted several years before that.

Suan Grant has captured the affection of Scotch Bonnet Pepper lovers with her beautiful Scotch Bonnet Pepper jelly.

I expected my first taste of this jelly would be firecracker hot as is the nature of Scotch Bonnet Peppers. The actual flavor of the pepper is infused with perfect sweetness and a few more mild peppers to achieve perfection.

Grant has five products on the market now, including Suan's Scotch Bonnet Pepper relish, Suan's Scotch Bonnet sweet tomato jam, pineapple cinnamon fruit butter and a mango lemon fruit butter. Grant said she made a cheesecake incorporating the mango lemon fruit butter while Whole Foods recommended serving it with lobster. I can't wait to see three more products now in development. If they are anything like the Scotch Bonnet Pepper jelly, they will be worth the wait.

Visiting with Grant was a feast for the imagination as she began sharing all the ways she incorporates her jelly into recipes. Little bits of jelly and jam add memorable layers of flavor to sauces and drizzles as well as glazes — even pie filling and cheesecake.

Sweet or savory spreads, jam and jelly can bring intense flavor to the table, whether you are topping a cookie or incorporating it into a sauce or recipe.

These are just a few of the “homemade” jams, jellies and spreads you can find around Oklahoma.

Local jellies are great on toast, biscuits or right off the end of your spoon, but here's the perfect little platform begging for a dollop of jelly: Use different cheeses to go with a variety of jelly or jam. I like pepper jelly with cheddar and a wine jelly with Swiss. They are easier to make than slice-and-bake cookies.


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Little Cheesy Pecan Bites

Yield: 24 to 36 cheesy bites depending on size.

½ cup butter (room temperature)

½ cup cream cheese (room temperature)

1 cup flour

½ cup finely chopped Oklahoma pecans

Allow butter and cheese to come to room temperature. Blend together. Add flour and pecans. Form into roll about 12 inches by 11/2 inch in diameter and chill for 30 minutes to 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Slice 1/4 to 3/8 inch thick and arrange slices on parchment covered baking sheet.

Bake on upper middle rack for 8 to 10 minutes until lightly golden brown. Let cool and serve with a tiny dollop of jelly or jam in the center.

Cook's note: Alternatively, the dough can be shaped into balls about 1 inch in diameter then pressed with thumb to indent them in the center like thumbprint cookies. This helps hold the jam or jelly in place for serving.

Sweet Jelly Mustard Sausages

This jelly-mustard bath for sausages is prime for tailgating or potlucks.

1½ cups grape jelly

1 cup mustard (Ballpark of course)

2 packages of Little Smokies or other fully cooked sausage links cut in 1-inch segments.

Heat jelly and mustard in medium-sized sauce pan stirring constantly over medium heat until thoroughly blended. Add cooked sausages heating until mixture comes to a boil. Reduce heat and cover for 5 minutes to thoroughly heat sausages and infuse with the sauce.

Pour into heated serving dish and serve with toothpicks to “spear” the sausages.

Peach Blueberry Jam

Makes 3½ cups

2 pounds peaches (3 cups)

½ cup water

1 pound blueberries

2 tablespoons lemon juice

3 cups sugar

Dip the peaches in boiling water for 30 seconds. Move to an ice water bath. When cool enough to handle, peel off the skins, pit and thinly slice.

Combine peach slices with water in a nonreactive 5-quart saucepan. Cover and bring to a boil. Uncover and simmer, stirring frequently, for 10 minutes. Peaches will become thick with bubbles. The pot will make a hissing sound as you pull the spoon across the bottom, but the peach pulp will not stick.

Stir in the blueberries, cover the pan and return the mixture to a boil. Uncover and simmer for 10 minutes. Add lemon juice, then sugar ½ cup at a time, waiting for the liquid to return to a boil before adding more. Simmer for 5 minutes or until thickened. A thermometer reading at this point should be 210 degrees.

Fill hot, sterilized jars to within 1/4-inch of lips. Wipe the rims clean, attach new lids and screw caps on tightly. Invert jars briefly for a quick vacuum seal or process jars in a boiling water bath, submerged by 1 inch for 10 minutes.

Source: “Gourmet Preserves” by Madelaine Bullwinkel

(Surrey Books, $14.95).

Grape Jelly

Makes 7 half-pint jars

4 cups juice from about 3 pounds of Concord grapes

7 cups sugar

1 pouch liquid pectin

Select top quality fruit, wash and stem. Slightly crush fruit and measure. Add 1/4 to ½ cup water for each quart prepared fruit in a large saucepan. Cover and simmer fruit until soft.

Strain mixture through a damp jelly bag or several layers of cheesecloth to extract juice. Let juice stand in a cool place for 12-24 hours to prevent formation of tartrate crystals in the grape jelly. Then strain again through a damp jelly bag or several layers of cheesecloth to remove crystals that have formed.

Put grape juice in a large saucepot. Add sugar, stirring until dissolved. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring constantly. Stir in liquid pectin. Return to a rolling boil. Boil hard 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Skim foam if necessary. Ladle hot jelly into hot jars, leaving 1/4-inch head space. Adjust two-piece caps. Process 10 minutes in a boiling-water canner.

Source: “Ball Blue Book of Preserving” 2003.

Refrigerator Preserves

Makes almost 1 pint

Use strawberries, blackberries, raspberries or blueberries, or a combination of two or more of the fruits, for this recipe. The amount of sugar actually needed will depend on how sweet the berries are, so add or decrease sugar as needed. Blackberries are quite tart and will need the most sugar. If desired, commercial pectin can be added to the recipe; just follow the package directions.

1 quart berries

1-1½ cups sugar

1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

Wash and hull the berries. If using strawberries, quarter them. In a small enamel pot, alternate layers of berries and sugar. Bring to a boil, stirring from time to time, and then turn heat down. Add lemon juice and simmer for 8-10 minutes, stirring often.

With a slotted spoon, remove the fruit to a pint-size jar with lid. Continue to simmer juice until it is reduced by half and syrupy. Pour over berries. Allow to cool. Cover and keep refrigerated.

Source: “Lee Bailey's Berries” (Clarkson Potter, 1994).

Bing cherry Jam

Makes 6 half-pint jars

4 cups pitted, chopped Bing cherries

1 package powdered pectin

½ teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon cloves

¼ cup lemon juice

¼ cup almond liqueur

4½ cups sugar

Combine all ingredients, except sugar, in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Add sugar, stirring until dissolved. Return to a rolling boil. Boil 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Skim foam if necessary. Ladle hot jam into hot jars, leaving 1/4-inch of head space. Adjust two-piece caps. Process 10 minutes in a boiling-water canner.

Source: “Ball Blue Book of Preserving” 2003 edition.

Sweet Yellow Tomato Preserves

Makes 7 half-pint jars

5 pounds small yellow tomatoes, such as yellow cherry or Sungold (check local farmers markets and supermarkets for availability)

1 lemon, thinly sliced with peel

4 cups sugar

3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar (5 percent acidity)

1 tablespoon kosher salt

Rinse the tomatoes, then prick each one 4 or 5 times with a needle. Place the tomatoes in a bowl, add the lemon slices and pour the sugar over them. Cover and let stand for 4 hours.

Transfer the tomato mixture to a 10-quart pot and add the vinegar and salt. Cook, uncovered, over medium-low heat for 1 hour. Gently stir 4 or 5 times but be careful not to burst the tomatoes.

Carefully drain the tomatoes, reserving the liquid. Pour the liquid into a saucepan and boil until it is reduced by half, about 30 minutes.

Pack the tomatoes and lemon slices into 7 hot sterilized half-pint Mason jars. Ladle the hot liquid over them, leaving 1/4-inch headroom. Wipe the rims and seal the jars. Process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

Source: “Recipes From Home” by David Page and Barbara Shinn (Artisan, 2001).

Quick Strawberry Preserves

Makes 3½ cups

2 pounds fresh strawberries

½ cup water

3 tablespoons Sure-Jell powdered pectin

1½ tablespoons lemon juice

3 cups sugar

Rinse, drain and hull the berries. Leave small fruit whole and halve or quarter large berries so pieces are of uniform size. Place berries and water in a deep, nonreactive 8-quart pan. Cover pan and bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally to avoid sticking. Simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes. Strain juices for 10 minutes and measure them. Reserve the fruit pieces. If there is more or less than 2 cups of juice, either add water or reduce juices to that amount. Stir in the pectin until dissolved and then the lemon juice.

Combine the strawberry juices and reserved berries in a clean saucepan and return to a boil. Begin adding sugar, ½ cup at a time, allowing the mixture to return to a boil each time before adding more. Continue cooking until the liquid nears the jell point, 216-218 degrees. This will take 5-10 minutes. Preserves will be quite thick and sheet heavily from a metal spoon.

Off heat, pour the preserves into a 1-quart mixing bowl and allow it to sit for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to redistribute the berries in the mixture.

Fill hot, sterilized jars to within 1/4-inch of the rims. Wipe the rims clean, attach new lids and screw the caps on tightly. Invert the jars briefly for a quick vacuum seal or process in a boiling water bath, submerged by 1 inch, for 10 minutes.

Source: “Gourmet Preserves” by Madelaine Bullwinkel

(Surrey Books).

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