Herbed Wine Jelly: A Great Last-Minute Gift from Your Kitchen

Note:  For my recent appearance on Wake Up Wisconsin on WKOW (Channel 27) I prepared Cabernet Sauvignon and Thyme Jelly.  You can view my appearance here.

The following recipe for Herbed Wine Jelly is incredibly easy to make.  It only requires 4 ingredients: wine, vinegar, sugar, and pectin, although I also usually add herbs and/or other aromatics to add another level of flavor to my jellies.  It also only takes less than an hour from start to finish!  Homemade wine jellies are delicious, fun gifts that you really can make at the last minute.

You can use any type of wine you wish although I find that dry wines make jellies that are not too cloyingly sweet, as there is a considerable amount of sugar added to make the jellies.  I like to use a wine that I would consider sipping.  I wouldn’t use a really cheap wine nor would I use a really expensive wine.  If I were to use the latter, I would make sure to put the name of the wine on the label of the jelly so my friends could ooh and ahh and then ask me why the heck I used such a good wine.

Chardonnay from a cool climate makes great jelly with the addition of a little citrus zest and I also use just a hint of thyme.  If the Chardonnay grapes are grown in a warmer climate, a bit of mango steeped in the wine at the beginning will enhance the flavor of the jelly along with a tiny, tiny pinch of basil.  If you want to use Sauvignon Blanc to make your jelly, try a bit of lime zest and some cracked pepper.  Dry Riesling jelly pairs nicely with pears and believe it or not a pinch of red pepper flakes or a 1 x 1/8 inch slice of serrano chile.  Merlot, Pinot Noir and Zinfandel all make good jellies.  Merlot with a touch of rosemary, Pinot with a dried plum or two plus a pinch of sage, and Zinfandel with lemon zest and one leaf of fresh tarragon are all tasty combinations.  For a real treat, try Chianti with a sprig of oregano, a micro-pinch of red pepper flakes and one sliver of garlic to enjoy with an Italian Peppered Steak with Parmesan.

When it comes to the wine vinegar, I always have moderately-priced middle-of-the-road ones to choose from.  I do on occasion receive as gifts or buy for myself varietal vinegars which add a nice touch when added to the matching wine.  You could even call it a blend on the label for your jelly jars, such as “Chardonnay/Champagne Vinegar Jelly.”

Sugar in this recipe means white sugar.  If you want to try any other sweetening options, let me know how your jelly turns out.

The last ingredient is fruit pectin.  Pectin occurs naturally in fruit and it is what puts the gel in jelly.  It is available at most grocery stores and any store that sells canning supplies.

Any version of the Wine Jelly tastes good on cream biscuits, scones, toast, French bread, English muffins, Crumpets or any number of breads, crackers and the like.  It is vegetarian and even vegan–which makes it especially good with meat!  I have used variations of this recipe with lamb, beef, duck, pork, chicken, veal and also fish (particularly salmon).  I place a dab of the jelly on the plate and place sliced meat on top of it for a sweet and zippy surprise for my guests.  It also tastes great with melted Brie.

When I give this or any other product from my kitchen I try to give just a little–four ounces or less.  That way you have not sentenced someone to the gift.  If they like it they can eat it all and praise you with the hopes of getting more.  If they don’t like it they won’t feel too guilty about jettisoning it in the waste.  Hopefully they will keep the jar or at least recycle it.  Enjoy!

Herbed Wine Jelly

1 ¾ cups dry white or red wine
¼ cup white or red wine vinegar
1 sprig fresh herb leaves or ¼ teaspoon dried herbs
3 ½ cups sugar
1 pouch liquid pectin

Method:  Combine the wine, wine vinegar and herbs in a sauce pot. Bring to a boil, remove from the heat and steep for 30 minutes. Strain until clear.  Return liquid to the saucepan and stir in the sugar.  Bring to a boil and boil 1 minute stirring constantly.  Remove from the heat and stir in the pectin.  Place in desired jars immediately.  This makes about 2 ½ cups of jelly.

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