Apple Jelly Recipe: Flavorful Chameleon

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Bramley’s Seedling apple atop a jar of subtle sweetness

Apple jelly with Bramley’s Seedling Apple

Apple Jelly Recipe (As You Like It)

In the world of making homemade jams and jelllies, apple jelly is the starter kit. It’s your paper airplane, your pencil and paper, your tin roof sundae, your khakis and tees, your clean palate. Simplicity sets it apart; adapability provides its charm.  After I waxed on about its virtures in Jam Up and Jelly Tight, I forgot to share the apply jelly recipe. Here it is.

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(I’ve made some updates to the recipe since the first post, including adding greater detail and reducing the batch size which tends to set the jelly more reliably.)

Fresh Apple Jelly Recipe

  • 3-4 pounds apples
  • 4-5 cups of water
  • 3 cups sugar
  • juice of one lemon
  • Add: herbs & spices of your choosing

Day 1: Prepare apples for juicing

  1. Mix and match your favorite apples (tart and sweet)
  2. Rinse clean
  3. Remove stems
  4. Chop apples (skins, seeds and all) into halves, then quarter each half
  5. Place apples into heavy stock pan
  6. Add water
  7. Simmer until apples are soft (30-45 minutes)
  8. Remove from heat, let cool
  9. Drain apple mixture in a seive or cheescloth to separate liquid from apples
  10. Give it a couple hours to drain
  11. Light pressure on the sieve, returns a less cloudy jelly
  12. Refrigerate liquid overnight.

Day 2: Making the Jelly in Small Batches

  1. Measure 4 Cups of juice into heavy stock pan
  2. Slowly bring up heat to simmer
  3. Add 3 Cups of sugar (3/4 C sugar for each cup of juice)
  4. Add lemon juice
  5. Simmer
  6. Add favorite spices to taste (or don’t)
  7. Combos I’ve used  below with great results:
    1. bay leaf & cinnamon stick
    2. rosemary (fantastic alone and my favorite)
    3. rosemary & dried cranberries
    4. allspice berries & whole cloves
    5. spearmint (peppermint, not so much)
  8. Continue to simmer until your reach 22o degrees for the jelly set
  9. If no thermometer, try the spoon test when you have to wait until the jelly mixture hangs on the spoon (when turned sideways) before dripping off, thickening as it cools. Here’s a link of what the spoon sheet test should look like.
  10. Put mixture into jars leaving 1-inch space from top
  11. Process in a waterbath to seal (10 minutes)
  12. When cool, the jelly sets in the jars
  13. Any leftover jelly in the pan can  go on the biscuits you are about to make.

This jelly makes a great glaze on meats or pastries as well.

65 COMMENTS

  1. I may actually try some jam for my first time ever! Thanks for the recipe…by the by, I took my first crunchy bite of my first mac of the season! I was so happy to see my red/green crispy friends here in sunny Florida! It’s been too long…xo

  2. Another great use of apple jelly (especially if it’s a bland batch) is as a thickener in other jams or jellies that have less natural pectin, like cherries, strawberries, peaches and pears.

  3. Living in New England apples are a part of our Fall season changing…

    Can Winter be far behind?

    We all love Jellies and Jams, a reminder of sweeter times when we picked fruit and perhaps cursed the warm weather?

  4. I was really delighted to find this recipe, and a friend who’s made jellies and jams before said it looked to be a good one.

    Tried it, but having never made anything like this before, I’m finding a lack of details that I wouldn’t notice until I’m waiting in vain for things to happen in this recipe distressing. For example, I’ve had my jelly cooking for nearly 2 1/2 hours now, with no side-by-side drip. It’s turning quite a dark color, and I don’t know what I’ve done wrong. I think it’s reduced by about half. Knowing how long it should take for these drips to appear would be useful, and even a photo of what such a thing should look like would help.

    Any tips or advice you could give for future endeavors would be great. The taste of the concoction is phenomenal, but the lack of thickness is heartbreaking.

    • My first time making it, and I thought it would never reach the setting point, as you say Cindi, set on back of spoon or on plate, but never did the drip test as in recipe, it’s in jars now and seems ok, it certainly tastes good. X

  5. You know Cindi, I went back through the recipe and have to apologize; I should have provided more detail at the most critical point of the recipe: the jelly setting point. So I’ll add that info (in intalics). You can take your apple syrup and reserve it for pancakes or mix it into plain yogurt as a flavoring (something I do with my botched batches).

  6. I would very much appreciate that, Tom.

    Do you have any thoughts on what could have gone wrong? It’s really a gorgeous reddish color, but I know that’s not what your above photo looks like, so I’m sure it’s been cooked too long. And it really does taste heavenly. I’d really like to try again, but it would help if you had any idea what could have happened or how to avoid that issue next time.

    Funny thing was, on the spoon (I was using a metal spoon), it would get quite thick and sticky when it sat for a few minutes, but wouldn’t do that anywhere else.

    Anyhow, using this on pancakes is a great idea. I might even try mixing it with frozen whipped topping or cream cheese for a shortbread cookie dip or a simple cheesecake pie.

    Thanks so so much for responding to me!

  7. Cindi, the red color is okay, I may have used granny smith apples in the jelly pictured the skins didn’t shade it red. I think if you go with the 220 temp on the candy thermometer, and the smaller recipe size I reposted, it should work. Make sure it actually reaches 220, before canning. Trust me, jam is easy, jelly’s a little tougher to make, but you’ll get it. It took me a while and it doesn’t always set for me — no rhyme or reason sometimes.

  8. Thank you SOO much, Tom. The revised recipe looks to explain a LOT that I was unsure of. I’ll DEFINITELY be trying this again.

    On mine, I used 3 lbs of Granny Smith apples, but added almost 2 lbs of Gala, which did indeed have a redder color. But it DID have more of a golden color until towards the end of around 2 hours cooking.

    I really appreciate all the advice you’ve given on this, and I’ll let you know how my next attempt comes out.

  9. Well, I’ve tried it again, and I think we’ve got success!! I have to wait until it’s cooled, but I could tell during its cooking that it was very different than last time.

    4 lbs of apples only yielded 3 cups of juice for me, though, and only 3 1/2 8 oz jars of jelly, but I’m thrilled!!

    Thanks again for the edits and alterations, Tom. Having the temp helped IMMENSELY.

    I’ll let you know once it’s cooled how it came out!

  10. Hey, no problem. The first batch has actually gone to good use – I made caramel apple brownies with one jar of it which was a huge success with my coworkers! Once I’m done with it all, I may have to actually TRY to recreate that for more. 😉

    So the last batch came out perfect, and I’m preparing to make another, so this is fantastic. Thanks again so so much for all your help in making this possible.

  11. Time for me to make some as well; next batch is Apple Rosemary Jelly, one of my favorites. Just boil a few fresh sprigs of rosemary in the jelly solution and remove before canning.

  12. Well, I just tried my first batch as well. My question still remains… How long do you cook the jelly? I don’t have a thermometer so I just hard boiled it for about 30-40 min. The jars are still cooling, but it doesn’t look like they are setting up. I might alot of syrup on my hands 🙂

    Please advise about how long do you boil the juice after you have added the sugar.

    Thank you in advance.
    Amber

  13. Haven’t you guys heard of “Jamsetta” its granulated pectin one sachet does a batch of jam – 1 kg. alternatively citrus seeds in a bag soaking overnight with the cooked fruit provides the necessary pectin.

  14. Amber, I know from personal experience it takes a LONG time. More than 30-40 minutes. Best advice is to get a candy thermometer. They only cost a few bucks, and you may well even find them in your grocery store.

    And Tom, I just want to thank you for opening up the world of jelly-making to me with this wonderful recipe.

    Since making it last fall (I’m the Cindi from above), my 11-year-old nephew won’t eat regular store-bought anymore. I have to make special batches just for him.

    And now I’m embarking on adding other fruits to this apple recipe as well – starting with the peach-apple I’ve got cooking right now. So thank you. 🙂

  15. Awesome, Tom!! The peach-apple came out gorgeous, by the way. 🙂 Strawberry-apple, blueberry-apple and cherry-apple are on coming up. 🙂

  16. I take the jelly juice and add habenero, jalopena, and red chili peppers (finely chopped) It is great with crackers, smoked salmon and creamed cheese

  17. Hi Tom,

    I just tried your recipe this weekend and it’s wonderful!

    I made a batch of both the cinnamon/bay leaf and the rosemary. I’ll try some of your other suggestions with the next load of apples. Our tree is pretty small, but we get one heck of a crop from it.

    Thanks for the recipe and the clearly written instructions. I’ve got this site bookmarked for sure!

  18. AAthas, I hope it sets up for you.

    And Tana, thanks for the kind words, warms my heart to know you liked the recipe and the post. Here’s to biscuits topped with homemade goodness!

  19. Hey Tom,
    I just found your site a few days ago and have never tried making jelly or jam w/o added pectin. I’ve been growing & ‘jammin’ strawberries and peaches for years… the other day, I made a ‘double batch’ which didn’t set well… kinda sorta… better when refrigerated. Fortunately, it was the rosemary version, which made a great glaze on one of my homegrown roasted chickens last night!… Today, I tried a single batch of ‘cinnamon bay leaf’ which gelled fantastically after about an hour! I wanted you to know someone in New Hampshire is making good use of your wisdom… can’t wait to try that glaze on some pork… pigs go to the ‘winter farm’ this weekend! Winter in New England is made for burning wood… and cooking!

  20. Hi Dan, so glad to make your acquaintance and hear about the jam. I’m swimming in tomatoes and I have two days before the next big weather system brings the rain back to the NW, so it’s salsa and sauce time around here.

    Look forward to hearing more about life in New Hampshire, thanks again for the kind words and welcomed visit.

  21. Tom,
    I am looking forward to making your apple jelly w/o the pectin 😀 Have lotsa apples left on my apple tree & cannot wait to try this recipe with them.
    A cold, windy day here in Maine; expecting a lil snow soon, good for cooking and such. Glad to have stumbled upon your site!

  22. Hi Tom,

    I love jamming and have a quick question for you regarding this apple jelly. This year all my jams have been labor intensive (I know it’s jam) but…I am wondering if I can cheat and buy fresh pressed apple cider from delicious local apples and use that. I know, lazy, but heck, a girls gotta live! any thoughts would be appreciated, chaya

    • Hi Chaya, wow that is a great question, so interesting to me that I may have to try it and let you know. I have some fresh cider from pink lady apples in my freezer. (Cider freezes well.) I hope to get around to trying this in the next day or two or three, and even if it doesn’t work, I can add spices and have an awesome holiday drink. Warm regards! Tom

  23. I am going to try too and will let you know. This year I am lucky enough to live by a pineapple guava grove and jammed those… delicious and what a lot of love per ounce!

  24. Hi Tom,
    I just did my first batch of apple jelly from gravenstein apple cider. I followed your recipe as closely as possible…but, I didn’t have lemon so I subbed grapefruit and didn’t have a thermometer so I tried to do the spoon test. Following your suggestion I added rosemary, the flavor is amazing. I am uncertain as to if I am going to get a hard set, but it will be a delicious apple syrup if all else fails. I then decided to get serious and used some pamona’s low sugar pectin and have a good jelly set. However, the color is better with no pectin. Very delicious, thank you!

  25. Hi Florence, you know I’ve frozen low sugar jam without any problem; it just needs to be stirred up when thawed. Jelly is likely another thing. I don’t think it would freeze well, but I don’t know that for a fact. My thoughts are it would get watery and separate, so you’d have mix it up and then it would look like jello salsa. 😉

  26. Tom, My grandmother used to make an apple-strawberry jelly using apples and strawberry jello. I LOVED THAT JELLY. Any ideas how to use jello with my apple juice and get jelly? Thanks

    • Hi Pam, Here’s one I found with jello and strawberries and rhubarb. I bet you could substitute apples for the rhubarb and it would work. Though this is a jam not a jelly.

  27. Just made my 2nd batch.
    The first batch was 4 jars, made with Galas and Picnics (local offshoot of Galas) it set alright but the colour was a light pinkish shade of red.
    The second batch i tried to triple the batch size and ended up with 20 jars, it seems to be setting ok, the colour of this one was an orange/red colour. Which I prefer over the the light pink colour.
    My parents were surprised how well they turned out, since they tried to make apple jelly a few years ago using a recipe that was meant for quince jelly but they had trouble getting it to set.
    So all in all, this is by far the best recipe I’ve found. Good job. 🙂

    • Thanks Thomas, I sure appreciate the feedback, especially when it worked out well. 😉 Sometimes I’ll toss in a couple gold raspberries or red raspberries with the apples, as a way to bump up the color without changing the flavor.

  28. Hi Tom
    So glad I found this site! I spent the day making Pear Jelly and I just happened to drop a couple of sticks of cinnamon and a couple of bay leaves in the pot while the jelly was cooking. It is setting as I write this. Spent the rest of the day making 2 sets of apple juice so I am able to make my jellies tomorrow. First I have a Granny Smith juice base which I am going to sub 1 of the cups of sugar with this green colored sugar I bought at the bulk store today (thought maybe it would make nice Xmas gifts all pretty and green) and the other juice I made is a combo of Honey Crisps and Red Delicious and I will be making 1 batch with the Rosemary and another batch with minced Basil and Hot peppers. Thought if the second batch does not turn out red I will color it with a drop or two of cranberry juice. That way I can set up a few gifts with the red & green of the Xmas season. I am just putting the second batch of juice into the refrigerator and heading for bed. I will keep you posted on the outcomes and I can’t tell you how happy I am to have found this site. BTW I have made many a Jelly with no pectin (prefer it) and the best one that never fails every year is Crab Apple and I can hardly wait for them to appear at my local market…Thx again from Canada!

  29. Hi Tom,
    My first time making jelly. The first batch I cooked the apples, the water evaporated and apples still hard. I added more water let it evap. and the apples finally softened. Started the drain process with flour towel and strainer underneath.
    Second batch, I am covering the skillet.
    Is there suppose to be any liquid left in the pan before you begin the draining process?
    Thanks for your help.

  30. Hi Tom,
    This is my first attempt. Do I cover the skillet while the apples are cooking? Should there be liquid when I transfer the apples to the flour towel to drain?
    Thanks

    • Hi Cheryl, yes you want to simmer the apples slowly with the water and keep a lid on it so you don’t have evaporation. The liquid is what you want, as the pectin rich juice is added to sugar and lemon juice, and simmered, and then becomes jelly.

  31. We have a huge crop of apples, which is remarkable given the very very dry conditions here in SW France this year, so I have made my first batch of apple jelly from fallen apples. I have added a few cardomon pods to mine for a change. Am thinking of adding a cinnamon stick to the next batch. Allspice berries and cloves the the one after that. Maybe a few blackberries from the hedgerows for added colour? I have found the jelly turns out very similar in colour to quince jelly but with the amount of apples we have this year, I won’t need to buy any of those!

    • I can picture your busy kitchen and smell the aroma of apple juice and sugar simmering. Delightful! We too have had seriously dry conditions here in the normally wettish Pacific NW. My apple harvest is a bit off this year as deer broke in and did some damage early in the spring. I love all the combos of the jellies you’re making. You’ll have to tell of your favorites when the jars are opened and the contents savored. Well wishes.

  32. Hi Tom, I made the apple jelly this weekend, from apples I gleaned from old trees near my apt. complex. There was a plum tree and a pear, too, obviously someone’s backyard orchard at one time. I just about broke my back carrying a large bag of apples and pears back to my apt. (the plums were a little past using–a sea of purple in the tall grass–if I’m still stuck here next year, there’s definitely plum jam on my agenda).
    I have done a lot of canning and preserving over the years, but never thought apple jelly was worth the effort. Well, now I know I had never tasted real apple jelly! I couldn’t stand the idea of just letting the fruit rot, but there were buggy bits to cut off, and some were quite small, so jelly seemed like the least labor-intensive way to use the bounty. So, net output was 2 and 1/2 smallish jars, and I over-cooked the jelly even though I used a thermometer, but when my daughter and I tasted it we were gob-smacked. The texture is close to gummi-bears, but a spoon works just fine, and the flavor is indescribable…essence of fruity goodness?
    If it’s not raining tomorrow (we live in Portland), daughter and I are gathering more apples. By the way, the few pears I picked up became a wonderful “rustic tart,” emphasis on rustic, with a flavor light-years away from those strangely tasteless pears that come out of a commercial can.
    I was going to say you’re my new BFF, but I think actually you’re a Bodhisattva, and we crazy humans sure need a few more of you. Thanks so much for sharing your wisdom (and I use the word advisedly), Kate

    • Hi Kate, your generous words warmed my heart. Thank you very much. I’m delighted to hear your new reverence and love of apple jelly. 😉 It is a crackup how much fruit makes so little jelly, but it really is worth it, especially if the backyard or neighborhood trees are cooperating. Again, thanks for taking the time to make my morning. Warm regards. Tom

  33. I’m from the NW also, Washington. I used Honey Crisp apples, they made a light pinkish tan jelly. Waiting on the cool down to try for flavor. What apples make the best color in your opinion?

    • Hi Penny, Usually I added a couple crabapples apples to the mix for color. And a failsafe way is to simply mush up some raspberries, frozen or fresh and add them to the juicing stock pot. Anywhere from 5-10 berries will do the trick every time. Makes for a really jewel-like pink.

  34. I will try those tips on the next batch. Even though I am a life long native of Washington, I came to Oklahoma to help my sister with my ailing mother. My hubby and I will move back soon though. It is a real experience to live in such a hot place where gardening is often frustrating to me and the lack of good produce is a challenge. Luckily I discovered a great organic grocery store in Oklahoma (80+ miles away). I did get a chance to taste my jelly and the flacor was exceptional, far better than store bought. PS I’ve been on Vashon a few times, beautiful. We lived in Port Orchard.

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