I can’t even count the number of times I’ve looked at a glass of red wine and thought to myself, “you know how this would be even better? If I could spread it on crackers!”
Okay, I’m lying. I’ve never thought that. Red wine is pretty excellent in a plain old wine glass, and there’s no reason to argue otherwise. But in the interest of not leaving well enough alone (I love poking well enough with a stick!), this is a way to take the excellent and make it transcendent. We’ve all had red wine, and we’ve given it as the standard hostess gift at every dinner party we’ve been to for the last kazillion years, and that’s fine. But wine jelly? Not only is it a handmade gift from your own kitchen, but hello! It’s also wine. And it’s easy to make. And the recipe conveniently leaves a healthy glassful to relax with while you wait for your jars to seal. You don’t want it to go to waste, do you?
The first few times I gave this out, I’ll admit that I got mixed reactions: “Wine jelly…um…interesting! What do you do with it?” Now, I get a preemptive “Are you making the wine jelly this year?” I’ve heard varying reports on what people are actually doing with it – the most common is served with cheese and crackers as an appetizer (this method has been me-tested and wholeheartedly approved), but I’ve also heard that it’s been mixed with Dijon mustard for a marinade, and I’ve even gotten a report or two that it’s been used in a grown-up version of a classic PB&J. Again, just another way to make the already-excellent transcendent.
What I love about this jelly is that you can actually taste the wine. It’s never boiled, so the alcohol doesn’t cook out. The downside of this is that you should probably not put it on your morning English muffin (unless it’s the weekend). The upside is that, like I said, you can actually taste the wine. The sugar mellows it quite a bit, and it’s not overpowering in the least. I’m not an expert on palates and finishes and all of that, but I’d describe each bite as a burst of fruity sweetness followed by a hint of the wine flavor at the very end. While it’s definitely not your standard Smuckers, it’s really, really good.
If you’re not interested in canning this for long-term storage but still want to give it as a gift, that’s absolutely fine – it will keep refrigerated for several months in sterilized jars. If you’re new to home canning but interested, I urge you to go here to read up on the basics. This was the first recipe I ever canned, and the simplicity of it got me totally hooked. Regardless of how you prepare, preserve, give or store this, I hope you enjoy it – it’s one of my all-time favorites.
Yield: about 7 half-pint jars, or 7 cups)
4 cups red wine (use any red you like. I use a $9 Cabernet blend from Trader Joe’s. Also, your standard bottle is only three cups, so you’ll have to buy two bottles or a 1.5 liter for this, and then dispose of the leftovers somehow. The sacrifices you must make!)
6 cups granulated sugar
2 3-oz packets liquid pectin
Combine wine and sugar in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until sugar is dissolved. Do not boil. Mix in the pectin and stir until combined. Skim off foam, if any, and discard.
If not preserving, ladle into sterilized jars and refrigerate. If preserving, follow instructions here. Ladle into hot sterilized jars, leaving 1/4 inch head space, and process for 10 minutes in a water bath. Turn off heat and let stand for ten minutes, then remove and allow to stand undisturbed for 12-24 hours. You should hear the “pop” of the sealed jars within minutes of removing them, which will warm your heart while you enjoy the last bit of that wine you bought for this.
Unpreserved jelly will keep in the fridge for several months. Preserved jelly will keep at room temperature for at least one year.