Virginia Willis makes Apple-Thyme Jelly as seen on her Course Canning, Pickling and Preserving with Virginia Willis on Food Network Kitchen.
Recipe courtesy of Virginia Willis

Apple-Thyme Jelly

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  • Level: Easy
  • Total: 13 hr 30 min
  • Active: 1 hr 30 min
  • Yield: About 5 cups or six 1/2-pints
Apple jelly is a great recipe to start with for your first forays into jelly making! The magic of jelly is pure science. The fruit juice sets when cooked to a certain temperature and the proportions of juice, sugar, acid and pectin are in alignment. Pectin is a soluble fiber found in fruits that will form a gel if they are in the right combination with acid and sugar. All fruits contain some pectin. Apples, crab apples, gooseberries and some plums and grapes usually contain enough natural pectin to form a gel. Other fruits, such as strawberries, cherries and blueberries, contain little pectin and must be combined with other fruits high in pectin or with commercial pectin products to obtain gels. Because fully ripened fruit has less pectin, one-fourth of the fruit used in making jellies without added pectin should be underripe.



Special equipment:
Jelly bag, boiling water canner with a rack, canning tongs, canning funnel, six 1/2-pint jars
  1. Cut the apples into 1-inch chunks and place in a large pot. Add 4 cups water, cover and bring to boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until the apples are very soft, about 25 minutes.
  2. Pour everything into a damp jelly bag and suspend the bag over a medium bowl overnight in the refrigerator to strain the juice. You should have about 4 cups juice. (The clearest jelly comes from juice that has dripped through a jelly bag without pressing or squeezing.)  
  3. Place a wire rack in a rimmed baking sheet or line it with a clean towel. Set aside. Place several small plates in the freezer to use later to test the consistency of the jelly. 
  4. Make the jelly. Place the apple juice into a large pot. Add the sugar, lemon juice and salt and stir to combine. Bring to a boil over high heat and cook, stirring frequently. Using a spoon, periodically skim the foam from the top and discard. Cook until the mixture reaches the jelling point, 220 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer. Depending on your pot, stovetop, the apples and more, this could take 45 to 60 minutes. (If you don’t have a thermometer, you can also dribble a few drops of the jelly on a frozen plate. If it crinkles when you run a finger through it and your finger leaves a clear line in the jelly, it's ready. If not, check it every 5 minutes or so.) 
  5. While the jelly is cooking, place the canning rack in the canner and fill the pot with water; bring to a boil over high heat. When the jelly reaches the jelling point (220 degrees F), add the thyme leaves and stir to combine.  
  6. Place six clean 1/2-pint jars (see Cook's Notes) on the prepared baking sheet. (This will help contain any dribbles or spills and prevent the jars from directly touching the metal.) For each jar, insert a canning funnel and carefully ladle in the jelly, allowing at least 1/4 inch of headroom. Clean the rims of the jars with a clean, damp towel and tightly secure the lids. 
  7. Using tongs, place the jars on the rack in the canner. The water should cover the jars by at least 1 inch. Cover the canner. Return the water to a boil and boil gently for 15 minutes. Using tongs, transfer the jars to a towel to cool. If the seal works and fits properly, the metal lid will be slightly concave within 24 hours of processing. Store the unopened jars of jelly at room temperature for up to 1 year. Once the jelly is opened, store in the refrigerator for up to 1 month. 

Cook’s Note

Using a blend of apple is nice, so the flavor is more complex, but it's all personal preference. Aim to use a mixture of about three-quarters ripe and one-quarter underripe fruit. High-acid foods such as fruits, pickles, sauerkraut, jams, jellies, marmalades and fruit butters with a pH level of 4.6 or lower can be preserved by boiling water canning (low-acid foods, such as canned meats and fish, require a pressure cooker). Boiling water canning makes use of a large pot that’s tall enough to fully submerge canning jars by at least an inch of water. The pot is used for both sterilization of jars prior to filling and for boiling the jars once they are filled. You don’t necessarily need to purchase a boiling water bath canner if you don’t already have one. Any large, deep stockpot equipped with a lid and a rack can double as a boiling water canner. Keep in mind: The pot must be large enough to fully surround and immerse the jars in water by 1 to 2 inches and allow for the water to boil rapidly with the lid on. It is not necessary to sterilize jars beforehand if processing jars in a boiling water canner for 10 minutes of longer. The jars should instead be freshly cleaned and well washed in hot soapy water. Any jars processed less than 10 minutes must be presterilized and the lids and rings placed into simmering, not boiling, water. Rings can be reused, but lids should be new and used only once for boiling water canning. Since fruit size and weight can vary, you may have some leftover jelly that doesn’t fit in the jars to process. Simply store this in a clean jar in the fridge and use within a few days.