ABC to XYZ in Foods: Jams, Jellies and Jell-O

It can be more fun to make homemade jams and jellies than to buy them from the grocery store. File photo
Bette Banjack

JELL-O – Is one of the most familiar food names around. Prior to the early 1900s, preparation of gelatin was a somewhat time-consuming and difficult task.

When Jell-O first hit the market, it came in strawberry, orange and lemon flavors.

After changing ownership several times, it is now a trademark of Kraft Foods, Inc. Ready-to-use, ready-to-make Jell-O was first advertised to the general public in 1902. There have been Jell-O milestones along the way, from sugar free in 1923 to Jell-O Jigglers in the ‘90s.

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Jell-O is the Utah official state snack, in lime flavor. I had always thought that the red flavors were the most popular, but I may be wrong. Utah and the area around the state is called the “Jell-O Belt.”

JAMS & JELLIES – Are best known for their fragrance and rich fruit taste. The making of jams and jellies began centuries ago in the Middle East, as cane sugar grew naturally in that area.

“Jelly” comes from the French word “gelee,” which means to congeal. The Spanish brought the preserved fruits to the West Indies. Seventeenth Century American settlers prepared fruit with honey, molasses and maple sugar. Apple paring were used to thicken the fruit.

The average kid eats the average of 1,500 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches by high school graduation. On a tablespoon-for-tablespoon basis, jams and jellies have about half the calories of butter or margarine and zero fat.

The easiest way to get them is to go to the store and purchase your jams and jellies. But it is a lot more fun to whip up a batch or two. All the ingredients are easily accessible year-round, including the fruit. Never double up on making batches; only make what the recipe calls for, one batch at a time.

Grape jelly was a favorite in the U.S. Army during World War I — so popular, in fact, that it was produced for commercial use in the States following the war. The most popular are grape jelly and strawberry jam.

Here are some of my quick and easy recipes. May I make a suggestion? The next time you go shopping, get the supplies (don’t forget jars & lids) and on some snow day make a batch.

Grape Jelly

• 3 cups bottled grape juice

• 1 package powdered pectin

• 4 cups sugar

Combine grape juice and pectin in a large saucepot. Bring mixture to a rolling boil. Stir in sugar and return to rolling boil. Boil hard for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Skim foam off if necessary; cheesecloth wrapped around wooden spoon works very well. Pour hot mixture into hot sterilized jars, leave ¼” head space. Adjust lids. Process 15 minutes in boiling hot water bath. Yields about 5 half-pints.

Strawberry Jam

• 2 quarts crushed strawberries

• 6 cups sugar

Clean strawberries. Combine berries and sugar in a large saucepot. Slowly bring to a boil, stirring until sugar dissolves. Cook rapidly until thick, about 35 to 40 minutes. As mixture thickens, stir frequently to prevent sticking. Pour into hot sterilized jars, leaving ¼” head space. Adjust lids. Processing 15 minutes in boiling hot water bath. Yields about 4 pints.

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Good Food for a Good Life!