Nothing says summer like raspberries, and nothing brings back the memories of warm July days like a spoonful of raspberry jelly on toast in the dead of winter. A two-stage process, jelly making involves first extracting the juice from the fruit and then cooking it to the jelly stage before storing it in jars, many of which are colorfully designed to display your finished product. You can go from start to finish in one day, or if you are pressed for time, extend the process by refrigerating or freezing the juice for use later. In either case, having all your equipment and ingredients ready saves time and ensures good results.
Processing the Berries
Pick over the berries and discard any that are not fully ripe and that show signs of insect damage, disease or decay. Rinse the berries under cool running water and allow them to drain completely. Transfer the raspberries to a large saucepan or Dutch oven and add only enough water to prevent scorching as they cook.
Place the saucepan over high heat, mash the berries to start the juices flowing and bring to a boil uncovered. Reduce the heat and cook at a simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently so the berries don't scorch or stick to the pan.
Line a large bowl with three thicknesses of cheesecloth and pour the berries into it. Bring the corners of the cheesecloth up and tie them securely with kitchen twine.
Knot the loose ends of the twine to create a closed loop and hang the cheesecloth bag from a cupboard knob over the bowl. Allow the juice to drip into the bowl for at least four hours or overnight. Transfer the juice to the Dutch oven or to storage containers and refrigerate until you are ready to make it into jelly.
Making the Jelly
Pour the strained raspberry juice into the large deep saucepan or Dutch oven and place on the stove burner. Place the large stockpot containing the jelly jars on the stove, filled with water to cover the jars. Bring the water to a boil, cover the pot and reduce heat to a simmer while you make the jelly. Do the same with the bands and the new canning lids, using the small saucepan.
Consult the liquid or powdered pectin package, depending upon which you are using, for instructions on when to add the pectin, the correct amount of sugar and how long to boil the jelly. Add powdered pectin to the juice and cook as directed on the package. Add the sugar and continue to cook the jelly at a full rolling boil as directed, stirring constantly to prevent scorching. Add liquid pectin, if using, after the juice and sugar have cooked, and continue cooking according to package directions.
Remove the pan from the heat and skim off and discard the foam with a spoon. Remove the jars carefully from the hot water and ladle the hot raspberry jelly into each one, leaving about 1/4 inch of space at the top. Wipe the rims, remove the lids from the hot water and place them on the jars. Apply the bands until just hand tight.
Transfer the jars of jelly to the boiling water bath canner, and add hot water so that it comes to about two inches above the jars. Cover the kettle, bring it to a full boil and process the jars for 5 minutes at 0 to 1,000 feet altitude. Process for 10 minutes at 1,001 to 6,000 feet altitude and 15 minutes above 6,000 feet.
Turn heat off, lift the jars from the water and place them on kitchen towels to cool. Listen for the "ping" sound that indicates that the jars have sealed. After 24 hours, the lids should be depressed and tight. Refrigerate any jars with lids that are rounded or pop back up when pressed. Label the jars with the contents and the date of processing and store them in a cool, dark place.
You can also make raspberry jelly without added pectin by using three-fourths ripe berries and one-fourth partially ripe, and boiling the juice and sugar to 212 degrees Fahrenheit, which is the soft jelly stage on a thermometer. From this point, the procedure is the same. When the jelly reaches the correct temperature, pour it into the sterilized jars and process. Test the jelly by dipping a clean metal spoon into the boiling jelly and raising it above the pan. The jelly is done when the syrup falls off the spoon in two separate drops that join or hang off the edge.
If you plan to make jelly often, invest in a draining system that includes a reusable cheesecloth bag that attaches to a rack that fits over a bowl or saucepan.
You may be tempted to squeeze the jelly bag while it drips to get out every drop. Doing this won't harm the jelly, but it will produce a cloudy rather than clear jelly.
Be careful when working with boiling jelly, because boil-overs can produce stove fires and cause serious burns.