By now you may have heard that one of my dear friends and blogging mentors, Elle of Elle’s New England Kitchen, passed away suddenly on Tuesday morning. She was a generous friend, one of the most supportive and talented people I know, and had a wicked sense of humor. Of course, there’s so much more I could say about the kind of person she was, but at the moment I’m still kind of trying to keep it together.
When food bloggers mourn, we turn to what we know: food. We have organized an event celebrating Elle’s life and food for next weekend, February 8-9, 2014. We’re calling it #ElleAPalooza. Food bloggers from all over the country and world, who knew and loved Elle, will be cooking from her blog, inspired by her recipes. I hope you’ll join us on the Facebook page, Friends of Elle, and either cook with us or follow along on the #ElleAPalooza event page.
If it was ever possible to fall in love with an ingredient, Elle loved Woodchuck Hard Cider. It’s made in Vermont, practically right next door to her New Hampshire home, and I could never find it down here in Miami. I kept forgetting to tell her that with the opening of our new Trader Joe’s, Woodchuck can now be found here! I know as the days pass, I’ll think of a zillion things I want to tell her, but won’t have the chance.
Aside from #ElleAPalooza, I kept remembering how much Elle loved her Woodchuck Cider, and even created several recipes around it. Since I don’t think you’re probably game for sorbet in February, I thought I would create something special in her honor: Woodchuck Cider Jelly. Elle also loved Halloween very nearly as much as I do. She couldn’t wait for the calendar to turn to October 1st, so she could change the header on her blog to “Helle’s New England Kitchen”. You can help me give it a better name, later. In the meantime, this is what I’m calling it, and here’s the recipe (standard boiling water bath canning instructions apply regarding heating your jars and lids for long-term storage):
Helle’s Kitchen Hard Cider Jelly
- 3 12 oz. bottles of Woodchuck Hard Cider
- 1 cup water
- 1/4 lemon, cut as a wedge
- 2″ knob of fresh ginger, cut into 4 or 5 thick pieces.
- 5 tsp. Pomona’s Pectin calcium water
- 5-1/2 tsp. Pomona’s Pectin
- 3/4 cup sugar
Put a small glass or ceramic plate (freezer-safe) into the freezer, for gel-testing later. Start the heat under your canning kettle.
Add the cider, water, ginger and calcium water to a large saucepan (about 4 quarts). Squeeze the juice from the quarter lemon into the pot, then add the whole wedge. Heat over medium heat until it begins to simmer.
In a small bowl, mix the pectin and sugar together until well blended.
Raise the heat under the cider mixture to high and bring to a rolling boil. It might foam up, so adjust your heat accordingly. You want a fast boil, but you don’t want to boil over!
Remove the lemon wedge and ginger pieces from the pot. Add the pectin/sugar mixture to the boiling cider and stir vigorously for about a minute or two, until the sugar and pectin are completely dissolved. Remove the pot from the heat.
You may want to perform a gel test at this point. Take one of the small plates out of the freezer and put about a teaspoon of the hot liquid jelly onto it. Return the plate to the freezer and set your kitchen timer for 2 minutes. At the end of the 2 minutes, remove the plate and hold it vertically. If the jelly stays put and wrinkles when you push an edge with the tip of a spoon, you’re good to go. In fact, if the whole thing slides in one piece, that’s perfect! Also a good opportunity to taste the jelly and make sure that it’s sweet enough.
Ladle the hot liquid jelly into your hot canning jars, leaving 1/4″ – 1/2″ space at the top. Clean the rims with a damp, clean paper towel, top with a lid, and twist on the lid ring, finger-tight. Put the jars back into your boiling water canning kettle, put the lid on the kettle, bring it back up to a rapid boil, and boil for 5 minutes. Remove the jars from the pot at the end of the 5 minutes, and place on a towel or newspaper covered surface to cool completely. The lids should make a ping or popping sound as they seal.
(Recipe Note: I only use Pomona’s Universal Pectin in my recipes. Each pack consists of 2 packets: one smaller packet that contains the calcium to be mixed with water (that’s the “calcium water”), and one larger packet that contains the pectin.)
This recipe made five half-pints (8 ounce jars). I’m pretty sure that it’s safe for small children and other living things. This is an apple jelly with a kick in the taste buds! Delicious with just about everything I can think of. I think you’ll kind of love it.
I’m keeping at least one of these for myself. What to do with the rest? Well, watch this space! An auction of Elle’s jewelry from her Etsy shop, Helle’s Belles, along with autographed cookbooks, food, and all kinds of interesting things (not necessarily food) that you’ll want(!), is being organized to benefit Elle’s husband and 4 young children in this hard time. I’m thinking of donating the remaining jars of Helle’s Kitchen Hard Cider Jelly under the Freakin’ Flamingo label to the auction. Along with a sampler or two of FF’s “famous” jams.
A fund has also been set up through PayPal to benefit the Ritchotte Family: Self-Healing Journal, In Loving Memory of Elle Ritchotte Even a small donation will help.