This month's Can Jam challenge is herbs. Most everything I can contains herbs, but I wanted to try to can something I have never canned before, so I decided to try to make jelly. I'm not a huge fan of commercially prepared pectin - I like to render my own pectin with lemons and apples, but I had a box of powdered pectin left over from a canning project from a while ago that I wanted to use up. I had read about wine jellies and wanted to give one a try for my first foray into jelly making. One of the goals of Can Jam is to preserve local foods, so I looked in my garden and determined that I had some oregano up already, exactly one leaf on my sage plant, and a small amount sweet woodruff in the front shade garden, and it got me thinking about May Wine.
May Wine is a traditional German drink made in spring and drunk on May Day (May 1). It's made of a sweet wine with added sugar and some sprigs of dried sweet woodruff. It's considered a spring tonic of sorts. It there is something I need right now, it's a spring tonic. You might know sweet woodruff - it's a groundcover that looks like something out of some 1960s wallpaper....
See what I mean?
I have made and drunk May Wine - it tastes just like spring smells...grassy and new. Now, how to make that into a jelly? I could envision eating some toast and butter with some May Wine jelly in the morning for breakast, sitting out on the back deck with a pot of Roos Roast, the best coffee in the world. I can already smell the lilacs and honeysuckle in bloom around me - the birds are singing, etc. Where to start? May Wine is usually made from sweet German wines, so I made a trip to my local grocery store and found this local wine and it was on sale for $8/bottle. Pelee Island Winery Late Harvest Riesling....it's local, even though it is made in Canada. It seems odd to call a wine made in Canada as local, but trust me when I say that Pelee Island isn't too far south from here. Yes, you heard me right, south. Some parts of Canada are actually SOUTH of the U.S. Check it out! It's true!! Remember that old Journey song Don't Stop Believin' where there's the line about "He was just a city boy...born and raised in south Detroit"? I'm here to tell you and Steve Perry (BTW nice leopard print top in the video, Steve!) and the rest of Journey that there is no such thing as South Detroit - because directly south of Detroit is Windsor, fool. That's Windsor, Ontario. It's in CANADA...
Okay, I feel better now that I have shared that with you. Let's get back to the May Wine Jelly. I made the start of some May Wine by steeping about 10 sprigs of dried sweet woodruff that I stole out of my neighbor's flowerbed (mine isn't as plush as hers) in a bottle of that late harvest Riesling overnight. The sweeter the wine, the better. The woodruff needs to be dried, or it won't properly flavor the May Wine, so I dried it simply by putting it in the microwave on high for a minute between some paper towels. This works well for any kind of herb. If you were going to make May Wine, you'd steep the woodruff in the wine and then sweeten the wine with some sugar and drink it on the rocks. Since I was adding sugar to my jelly, I didn't add any to the wine. To make wine jelly, I followed a typical wine jelly recipe that included some sugar and lemon juice and boxed pectin. Wine jellies need to be boiled a bit longer than non alcoholic based spreads because the extra boiling time concentrates the wine flavor and evaoprates a bit more of the alcohol, which can interfere with the jelly setting up.
May Wine Jelly
3 1/4 c. white wine that has been steeped in sweet woodruff, strained
1/2 c. lemon juice
1 package 1.75 oz. powdered pectin
4 1/2 c. sugar
Prepare canner, lids and jars. In a large deep saucepan, combine wine and lemon juice. Whisk in pectin until dissolved, and bring to a boil over high heat, stirring frequently. Add sugar and return to a full rolling boil, stirring contantly, for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and skim off foam. Working quickly, pour the jelly into hot jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Wipe rim. place lid on jar and adjust bands. Process for 10 minutes and let cool.
The verdict? The jelly tastes really grapey, and springlike. It's a bit sweeter than I would have liked - I don't advise messing with the amount of sugar because it is needed for the pectin to set up and I am unsure if it would do well because of the alcohol in the wine without enough sugar. It is the easiest thing I have ever canned in my life! I can't wait to try some more herbal wine jellies to use as glazes for meat and vegetables. In the fall, I always have more herbs in the garden than I know what to do with. Thank you Can Jam!