Let me introduce you to one of the more versatile jams or jellies you could make at home—apple jelly! Apple jelly doesn’t get much love in the supermarket aisle, but that’s okay, because it’s stupendously easy to make at home (four ingredients easy).
Once you have a pantry stocked with apple jelly, you’ll be blown away by all the creative and interesting ways you can use it. Sure, this mild-flavored jelly is delicious slathered on toast, but apple jelly also makes wonderful glazes, sauces, fillings, and toppings! Let us show you how to make it!
What is apple jelly?
Apple jelly is a soft fruit spread made from apple juice. It is sweetened with sugar and gels to the texture of store-bought jelly when cool.
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Is apple jelly the same as apple butter?
Nope! Apple butter is more like a smooth apple jam made from apple puree. Apple jelly is made from apple juice only. It has a clear, glassy appearance, whereas apple butter is thick and creamy (like butter!).
How do you make apple jelly?
Apple jelly—actually, any jelly—is made from fruit juice, instead of whole fruits like we use when making jam. Minus that change, the process is pretty similar to other jam recipes—easy peasy!
This apple jelly recipe is thickened using Ball® RealFruit Classic Pectin. You need to cook the jelly to thicken it using Classic Pectin.
- Whisk together apple juice and pectin until mostly combined (it won’t dissolve, but you want it to be evenly distributed).
- Pour the mixture into a saucepan or Dutch oven.
- Add in a touch of butter or margarine—this helps keep the mixture from foaming when it boils.
- Heat over medium-high heat until it comes to a rolling boil.
- Add in the sugar in one addition.
- Stirring constantly, bring to a rolling boil that cannot be stirred down, and boil hard for one minute.
- Skim off any foam and remove from heat.
- Test for gel by placing a small spoonful of jelly on a saucer that has been placed in the freezer. Let the jelly cool, then run your finger through the puddle—if it is the texture of jelly, you are ready to can! If it is still too thin, continue to boil hard, testing every minute until it’s the right consistency.
If you want to make the jelly making process even simpler, you can use the Ball® freshTECH Automatic Jam & Jelly Maker! It automates everything so you get perfect jelly every time.
How do you can jelly?
To preserve apple jelly for the long-term, we follow the same waterbath canning process we do for any other jam or jelly. The first step is to prepare your canner, jars, and lids like we explain to do in our canning guide. Then, once your jelly is ready:
- Fill clean and hot jars with the hot jelly.
- Check the headspace—you’re looking for 1/4” with jelly—adjusting if necessary.
- Wipe the rim of the jar with a wet cloth, then fit on the lid and ring until it’s just fingertip tight. Do not overtighten.
- Place jars in the hot water bath canner. Bring to a rolling boil, and process the jars for 10 minutes. Remove the lid and let the jars cool for five minutes in the canner before removing and placing somewhere to cool for 24 hours.
It is important to wipe the upper rim of the jar before placing the lid on, because any jelly residue between the jar rim and the lid can cause it not to seal properly.
After the jars are finished cooling, check for a seal by pressing down on the lid—if it doesn’t flex, you have a good seal and you can label and store your jars in a cool, dark spot. If it flexes, the jar hasn’t sealed, and you can place the jar in the fridge and eat it within 6-8 weeks.
Can I use homemade apple juice or apple cider for apple jelly?
For the utmost safety, we recommend using store-bought apple juice for this apple jelly recipe, because it has a consistent acidity level that has been tested as safe for waterbath canning. Different apple varieties have different acidity levels, and it’s hard to guarantee a safe product with homemade apple juice or cider.
Why is my apple jelly not setting?
Thankfully, apple jelly is one of the easiest fruit jellies to get to set because apples are naturally high in pectin, so that plus adding Ball® RealFruit Classic Pectin makes it nearly foolproof. But if you are having issues with getting it to set, here are some reasons why your jelly might be liquid-y still:
- You are trying to make too much jelly at once. Pectin-thickened recipes can be multiplied up to a certain point. When using Ball® RealFruit Classic Pectin, it is recommended to not exceed 10 half-pint jars per batch of jelly (that would be three times the recipe below). If you do want to make larger batches, do it in two separate pots.
- Your pectin is out-of-date. While pectin does have a long shelf life, it does eventually expire because the gelling quality decreases substantially.
- You didn’t bring the jelly to a full rolling boil. After you add the sugar while cooking your jelly, it needs to come to a full rolling boil that cannot be stirred down. This can take awhile sometimes!
- You didn’t boil the jelly long enough to activate the pectin. We recommend doing the gel stage test we describe above to make sure your jelly is done cooking.
What are the best jars for canning apple jelly?
You can’t beat a good jelly jar for jelly! In these photos we’re using Ball® Half-Pint Regular Mouth Smooth Sided Jars because they let the light shine through the clear jelly so beautifully!
These smooth-sided jars are the perfect jars for gifting beautiful jams—especially if you want to create your own labels for sticking on the side of the jar. I’ve also used Ball® 4 Ounce Quilted Crystal Jelly Jars in the past for jelly and jam samplers for gifting. They are the perfect size to slather jam on a few pieces of toast, and they look adorable packaged with a few different flavors together!
Smooth-sided jelly jars are the perfect choice if you want to adhere your own labels to the jars.
What is apple jelly used for?
With its mild flavor, apple jelly is one of the more versatile jams or jellies you can have stashed in your kitchen! Here are some of our favorite ways to use it:
- On toast, biscuits, and English muffins. Of course!
- Spread onto pancakes or waffles.
- Swirled into a bowl of yogurt or oatmeal.
- As a condiment for cooked ham.
- In the best ever PB&J using our sandwich bread recipe!
- As a glaze for pork chops or chicken.
- On a cheese board—it’s especially good with some really sharp cheddar!
- As a filling in cakes or cupcakes.
- Mixed into a cocktail to add flavor and sweetness.
- As a filling in jam cookies.
- And so, so much more!
You’ll be amazed at how many ways you find to use up your apple jelly once you have some on hand. Happy jelly making!