This spiced apple jelly recipe livens up the plain apple flavor with some traditional pairings including lemon juice, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves.
After tasting the tart and sweet flavor combination of crab apple jelly, the jelly I made from regular apples tasted bland to me. The abundance of this year’s apple harvest allowed for a little experimenting with additional flavors and spices.
The unrefined, rich taste of pure cane sugar combines well with the spices turning a bland jelly into one that wakes up the taste buds when slathered on homemade biscuits or toast. We really enjoy this spiced apple jelly and I hope you will too.
Tips for Making Spiced Apple Jelly without Added Pectin
Allow yourself plenty of time
Try to plan ahead when extracting juice from fruit and even consider divided the process over a few days to allow extra time for the juice to strain completely. This is even more important with apple jelly because you want to extract as much of the natural pectin from the apples as you can so your jelly thickens up properly.
Choose firm organic apples
The pectin that turns the apple juice into jelly is concentrated in the apple’s skin and core. Use organic apples that have not been sprayed with chemicals that penetrate the skin. Choose fresh and firm apples. Trim out bad areas and spots with insect or worm damage.
Extract the apple juice
Wash the apples with plain water and chop them up into smaller pieces skins, cores and all. These will be strained out after cooking.
Extract the apple juice by combining the prepared fruit in a large saucepan with enough water so that the fruit is covered. Bring the mixture to a boil, and then lower the heat and simmer until the juices are released.
Mash the apples with a potato masher and continue simmering over low heat until the apples are soft. Strain the mashed apples through a damp jelly bag or double layers of cheesecloth.
Allow the apple juice drip out for several hours, or overnight. Don’t squeeze the jelly bag if you want a clear jelly. When the jelly is finished straining, compost the solids.
Heat the apple juice until jelly stage
Pour about 4 cups of apple juice into a saucepan. Add the sugar, lemon juice, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and stir to dissolve. Bring juice to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until jelly stage.
How to test for jelly stage
If you are new to making jelly, the NCHFP website has a nice description of how to tell when the jelly point has been reached: Testing Jelly without Added Pectin.
- Temperature Test: Use a candy thermometer to monitor the temperature of the jelly. Jelly stage is when the temperature of the boiled juice is 220?F.
- Spoon or Sheet Test: Plunge a cool metal spoon into the boiling jelly mixture and lift the spoon out sideways so the liquid drips out. The jelly stage had been reached when the liquid forms two drops that flow together into a sheet that hangs off the edge of the spoon.
- Refrigerator/Freezer Test: Place several plates in the freezer before you begin making your jelly. To check for jelly stage, place a spoonful of hot jelly onto the cold plate and let it rest for 30 seconds. Tip the plate to one side. Jelly stage is reached when the mixture gels on the cool plate and doesn’t run down the plate when tipped.
Cooking time will vary with each batch because the natural pectin level is different in each individual apples. I use all three testing methods but rely on the freezer plate method for the final check. Remove from heat and skim off foam.
- Water bath canner
- 6 half-pint jars
- Lids and bands
- Canning tools: lid lifter, jar lifter, canning ladle, funnel, and bubble popper
- Jelly strainer
- Candy thermometer
- Kitchen scale
- Plus basic kitchen supplies such as a large sauce pot, small pot, towels, potato masher, measuring cup, knife, and a cutting board.
Spiced Apple Jelly Recipe (No Added Pectin)
Extract the apple juice:
- Wash the apples plain water, remove any bad spots, and roughly chop into pieces. Use a kitchen scale to weigh out 3 pounds.
- Combine the prepared fruit in a large saucepan with enough water so that the fruit is barely covered, about 3 cups.
- Bring to a boil over medium-high heat then reduce to a simmer over low heat. Simmer until the apple’s skins are soft and the juices are released.
- Gently mash the apples with a potato masher and continue simmering over low heat for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Simmer low and slow because excess heat can destroy the natural pectin.
- Strain through a damp jelly bag or double layers of cheesecloth. Allow the apples to strain for several hours, or overnight. If you want clear jelly, do not squeeze the bag. Discard solids.
Prepare your canning equipment:
- Wash your canning jars and lids in warm, soapy water and rinse thoroughly. Place the jar rack into the water bath canner. Set the jars into the canner, add water, and boil jars for 10 minutes to sterilize.
- Warm your lids in a small pot over low heat. Keep jars and lids warm until ready to use.
Make your apple jelly:
- Measure out about 4 cups of the apple juice and pour into a saucepan.
- Add the sugar, lemon juice, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and stir to dissolve.
- Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until jelly stage. (See notes)
Can your apple jelly:
- Spread kitchen towel on the counter. Use your jar lifter to remove warm jars from canner, drain, and line up on the towel.
- Use your canning ladle and funnel and add the spiced apple jelly to warm jars leaving 1/4-inch headspace. Wipe the rims. Use your magnetic lid lifter to lift lids out of the warm water, center lid on the jar, and screw on band until it is fingertip tight.
- Use your jar lifter to place the jars back into canner leaving space in between them.
- Once jars are all in canner, adjust the water level so it is at least one inch above the jar tops. Add more boiling water if needed so the water level is at least one inch above the jar tops. When adding water, use the hot water from the small pot your lids were in. Pour the water around the jars and not directly onto them.
- Cover the canner and bring to boil over high heat. Once water boils vigorously, continue boiling for 10 minutes at altitudes of less than 1,000 ft. (adjust processing time for your altitude if necessary).
- When processing time is complete, turn off heat and allow the canner to cool down and settle for about 10 minutes.
- Spread a kitchen towel on the counter; remove the cover by tilting lid away from you so that steam does not burn your face. Use a jar lifter to lift jars carefully from canner and place on the towel. Allow the jars to cool for 12 to 24-hours. You should hear the satisfactory “ping” of the jar lids sealing.
- After 12 to 24-hours, check to be sure jar lids have sealed by pushing on the center of the lid. The lid should not pop up. If the lid flexes up and down, it did not seal. Refrigerate jar and use up within a few days.
- Remove the screw on bands and wash the jars. Label and date the jars. Store your jars in a cool, dark place and use within 12 months. Yields about 4-6 pint jars depending on the natural pectin level in your apples.
This recipe was originally published November 2, 2015. It has been updated with additional information and new photos.
This was an exceptional year for apples and I was determined to preserve all the bounty that I could. I’ve been baking a lot of apple goodies and making many batches of canned applesauce, apple juice, spiced apple jelly, and crabapple jelly.
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