Blackberry Jelly & Syrup

When we pick berries, Jerri freezes the ones we don’t use right away. Frozen berries don’t have the texture of fresh fruit, but they work fine for pies, cobblers, crisps and jellies. One big advantage of frozen berries is that they keep a long time. We just made two batches of Blackberry Jelly and two bottles of blackberry syrup with three bags of frozen berries we picked last summer and one from two years ago. Both the Jelly and syrup turned out great.

My mother made blackberry jam rather than jelly because she made plenty of jelly from pin cherries, plums, crabapples and chokecherries. We made Wild Blackberry Jam two years ago when there were lots of berries for the picking at the cabin. You’ll find our recipe for it here. Scheduling problems meant that we didn’t get many blackberries this year, though we did get enough for a delicious cobbler at the cabin crafted by Jerri and garnished with ice cream from the local market.

However, we felt that the berries in the freezer would be better used for jelly, so we boiled them with water, strained the juice and ended up with some delicious jelly and syrup. After making two batches of jelly, we had nearly two cups of juice that I turned into syrup. Very little goes to waste in the Rang household!

Here is how to make some delicious blackberry jelly.


Cloth to strain the berries
1 packet Sure-jell pectin
4 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 tsp. Butter
Paraffin or caps and rings to seal the jars


Wash and remove any stems or leaves from the berries. Put them into a six quart pan or Dutch oven. Mash them a bit and add the water to barely cover the berries. Set the pot over moderate heat and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for about half an hour, stirring occasionally.

While the berries are simmering, measure four and one-half cups of sugar into a bowl and prepare the jars. Wash enough jars to hold seven cups of jelly and place them upside down in a baking pan over burners on the range. Add about an inch of water and bring the pan to a boil. After the pan has boiled for one or two minutes, turn off the heat and allow the jars to sit in the water for three or four minutes. Transfer them upside down on a rack and allow them to drain while you collect the juice.

Line a colander with three layers of damp cheesecloth or a towel and strain the juice from the berries. This can take a half hour or more. Do not squeeze the cloth if you want clear jelly.

Measure three and three-quarter cups of the juice into a six quart pan or Dutch oven and stir in the pectin. If you don’t have enough juice, you can add a little water. Add the butter to the juice while it is heating.

Melt the paraffin over low heat while the juice is coming to a boil.

When the juice reaches a rolling boil (one that you can not stir down), stir in the sugar and keep stirring until you have another rolling boil. If necessary, reduce the heat a little, but keep stirring the rolling boil for one minute. Remove the pan from the heat and skim any foam.

Turn the jars upright on wax paper. Use a funnel and ladle to fill the jars to within three-eighths of an inch from the top of each jar. If necessary, wipe the tops carefully and seal the jars with a thin coat of paraffin or lids and rings.

If you are using lids and rings, process the jars in a hot water canner for five minutes. If you choose to use paraffin, add a second thin layer of paraffin to the first after the jars are completely cool, and cover the jars with lids, plastic film or paper fastened to protect against dust.

If you have juice left over from making the jelly, you can easily turn it into syrup. Measure the amount of juice you have, stir in a little lemon juice and twice as much sugar plus a little more, and bring the mixture to a boil over moderate heat. Stirring constantly, boil for two or three minutes and pour the syrup into a bottle or jar.

NOTES: Here are the proportions I use to make syrup. For each cup of juice, add one teaspoon of lemon juice and two cups plus one tablespoon of sugar.

Crabapple Jelly

My Grandpa Hopp introduced me to hummingbirds when I was a toddler. I don’t remember those very early years, but Grandpa told me about them when I was older. By the time I was four or five, I remember his sitting with me on the stone porch and pointing out the hummingbirds as they swarmed around Grandma’s big crabapple tree when it was full of white and pink blossoms.

One time when Mom and Dad had taken my sisters and me for an afternoon visit, Grandpa Hopp took me outside and had me lie down on my back under a big red pine north of the porch steps. He lay down beside me. “I want to show you something,” he said “just keep watching.”

All at once a ruby-throated hummingbird flashed into view next to a branch about fifteen feet above the ground. Like a helicopter sliding onto the deck of an aircraft carrier, the bird slipped over the branch and disappeared. A moment later, with a faint whir it headed toward the roses along the house.

“She has a nest up there,” said Grandpa, “just watch and you’ll see.”

It wasn’t long before I saw what he meant. A tail or bill would appear briefly, and I could even see little strands of something that might have been parts of the nest hanging over one side of the branch. Back and forth she flew, carrying nectar to her chick or chicks in the nest. That was probably the day I fell in love with hummingbirds.

Before that they were just little birds that could hover in the air and stick their bills into flowers. They swarmed the crabapple tree and later harvested nectar from the rosebushes and tiger lilies. Grandpa told me that hummingbirds helped pollinate the apple trees so they would produce the apples that Grandma and my mother used to pickle and make crabapple jelly.

Crabapple jelly is one of my favorites and one of the simplest jellies to make. All you need for the jelly is crabapples, water and sugar. If you want to store the jelly, you will of course need jelly jars with lids and rings. Here is what you do.

To extract the juice, wash and remove any leaves, etc. from about four quarts of ripe crabapples. Cut the apples into quarters, discarding any discolored or soft pieces. Don’t worry about the stems, seeds or flower ends. Put the chopped apples into a large pot and add water to the top of the apples. Bring the apples to a boil, cover the pot and cook the apples for twenty to twenty-five minutes, stirring them occasionally. You will end up with apple pulp. Do not try to mash the apples.

Strain the hot pulp through several layers of cheesecloth or a dishtowel nested in a colander or through a jelly bag on its stand. Just allow the juice to drain out of the pulp.Do not squeeze the pulp or you will end up with cloudy jelly. At this point the juice will look slightly cloudy, but it will clarify when you make the jelly. You can make lt right away with the hot juice or you can refrigerate the juice and make the jelly later.


Measure the juice into a large saucepan or pot. If the pan is more than one-third full of juice, transfer it to a larger one. Add one cup of white sugar for each cup of juice. Since this is a proportional measure, you can use all the juice you have. Just make sure that the juice is matched with an equal amount of sugar.

Turn the heat on high under the juice and stir until all the sugar is dissolved. Clip a jelly or candy thermometer to the side of the pot with the end submerged in the juice. Keep the heat on medium high until the juice is boiling well, at which time you will see a light colored foam rise to the surface. Turn the heat down to keep the juice at a low boil and skim off the foam. Turn the heat up again and repeat the process as necessary, stirring the juice to keep it boiling evenly.

While the juice is boiling, wash and sterilize your jars. Put them upside down in a shallow pan of water (a cake pan with an inch of water works well) over a burner on your cook top. Bring the water to a slow boil and hold it for at least ten minutes. Turn off the heat, allow the jars to sit in the hot water for a few minutes and drain them on a rack. Put the lids into a small bowl of hot water while you are sterilizing the jars.

Watch the temperature of the juice as displayed on the thermometer. The temperature will gradually rise from about 212º. The jelly is ready to put in jars when the thermometer reads 220º at sea level. The jelling temperature drops by one degree for every five hundred feet above sea level. Thus, in New Richmond, Wisconsin, (elevation 981 feet) the jelly is ready to put in jars when the temperature reaches 218º.

Fill the jars within a half inch of the tops.Wipe the tops of the jars, screw on the lids and process in your canner the time recommended for your altitude.

You’re done!

NOTES:  If you bottle the jelly before it reaches the jelling temperature you will end up with something resembling syrup, so use it as syrup. If you forget to take it off the heat when it is ready, you may get jelly that you can cut into cubes. If so, cut it into cubes and serve it as an unusual experiment.