Homemade fruit and herb jellies are the little jam jar gem’s of the larder. Apples make a great base for a variety of herb jellies using scented geraniums, tarragon, mint, parsley and thyme to name a handful. But the rhubarb season is upon us and its growing in the garden too along with lots of lemon balm and mint. So the inspiration for this joyful jelly recipe was inspired from what’s growing in the garden this month. Don’t be put off making this preserve if you are not growing rhubarb or the herbs. You can easily get hold of sticks of rhubarb and fresh mint from your local super market, farm shop etc and just leave out the lemon balm ; the flavour will still be lovely!
Lemon balm Melissa officinalis is a free growing perennial and looks a lot like mint. Its not easy to buy fresh bunches of this herb in the shops but its damn easy to grow in the garden or pots and once planted it will be with you for ever! It does seed it self around the garden readily whether you like it to or not!
I like it alot and if it does pop up where you don’t want it, just dig it out put it into a pot and give it to a friend!
Its called Melissa which is the Greek for bee. Bee keepers since the early Greeks have planted lemon balm by their hives not only for bee food ( bees love the nectar in the flowers ) but also it was said that if the bees got lost they could find their way home by it.
- 800g - 1 kg fresh rhubarb
- 1 litre water
- 60g lemon balm leaves
- Juice and finely grated zest of 1 lemon
- Granulated sugar
- 2 heaped tbsp mint leaves, finely chopped
- Using a sharp pair of kitchen scissors snip the rhubarb stalk up into chunks over and into the preserving pan.
- Add the water and lemon balm leaves.
- Bring up to the boil and simmer gently until the fruit has softened ( mushy).
- Allow to cool, then pour the whole lot into a jelly bag with a bowl underneath to collect the juice overnight. Do not squeeze the jelly bag - it may make the jelly cloudy.
- Measure the collected juice, for every pint of juice use a lb of granulated sugar. ( 600ml / 460g )
- Put the collected rhubarb juice, sugar, lemon juice and zest into a preserving pan and place a couple of saucers into the fridge to use later for the setting point test.
- Bring up to the boil, stirring to help dissolve the sugar. Then boil rapidly for 10 minutes add the chopped mint and boil rapidly for another 5 minutes or so until setting point is reached.
- To test for setting point put a teaspoonful onto a cold saucer and when cooled push your finger through the middle, the jelly should wrinkle as you do this and not come back to meet itself ; i.e. your finger should have formed a channel ( every time you do this take the preserving pan off the heat). Or use a preserving thermometer by putting it into the rapidly boiling syrup and when it reads 104℃ to105℃ it has reached setting point.
- Remove from the heat, skim off any scum, a slotted spoon is good for doing this.
- Allow to cool slightly before pouring into sterilised jars. If the mint rises to the top of the jar give it a little stir every so often before it sets.
- Seal and label. This jelly should last unopened for a year, but once opened keep in the fridge.
Rhubarb and mint go so well together, they make a great partnership for a homemade cordial, also the next time you poach up some rhubarb or make a crumble stir two tablespoons of chopped mint through the chunks of rhubarb add a handful of sultanas, orange peel and freshly squeezed orange juice.
A delicious combination………
For jelly making you will need a good heavy based preserving pan, jelly bag (make sure its really clean and best scalded before use), long handled wooden spoon, slotted spoon, measuring jug, scales, preserving thermometer ( if using ) and some sterilised jam jars. This may sound like a lot of equipment but you will probably have most of what you need in the kitchen already!
The jelly bags works well here suspended from butchers hooks off a rack in the kitchen, or an upturned kitchen stool makes a good stand! You can buy jelly bags with wooden stands now in kitchen shops, the bags tend to be a bit small for making big quantities of cordial (like above making spicy plum cordial) but for this rhubarb jelly recipe the jelly bag with stand would be ideal.
The making of jellies is actually very simple but the process is longer than in the making of jams and chutneys due to the straining process i.e. allowing time for all of the juice to drip through the jelly bag and this cannot be hurried. Theres something so special about making your own preserves. I love the fact its not instant quick food, its cooking at a slower pace, its therapeutic, satisfying and so incredibly rewarding!
Come back soon for a great fresh apricot and vanilla jam and a delicious jelly made with lovage, parsley, lemons and limes.
Ps: if you have called by the blog today, please do leave me a comment, it would be so lovely to hear from you!