Tea for six

Back in December, when I pulled out the six jars of damson plum jelly I made in August, all ready to fill Christmas goodie baskets, I got a most unpleasant surprise. None of them had set.  It was too late to do anything about it, and re-cooking usually spoils the flavor. The jars had sealed properly, so I relabeled it as pancake syrup, a role it fills quite well.

That still left me tragically short on jelly, especially after I had to dip into my private reserve to fill my friends’ holiday demands. While it has been a mild winter here, it hasn’t been mild enough to make plums or berries bear this early. I was faced with the offerings of the supermarket freezer. Then, I had an idea. I made juice for jelly from frozen blackberries, then combined it with Earl Grey tea. The result was a deep, dark jelly. The subtle citrus flavor of the tea meshes perfectly with the berries (and hides the fact that they aren’t ultra-fresh berries).

Blackberry-Earl Grey Jelly

Two packages frozen blackberries

2 Earl Grey tea bags

7 cups sugar

2 pouches liquid pectin

Place berries and 1/2 cup water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring frequently. Reduce the heat to a simmer, cover the pot loosely and boil for 5 to 10 minutes, until the berries are softened. Crush them occasionally with a potato masher.

Pour the berry mixture into a strainer lined with dampened cheesecloth (or use a jelly bag, if you have one) set over a deep bowl. Let the juice drip out for about 2 hours. You should end up with 2 cups of juice.

While the juice drips, bring 2 cups water to a boil. Place the tea bags in a bowl. Pour the water over the tea and let steep for 15 minutes. Remove the tea bags.

Place the juice, tea and sugar in a large stainless-steel saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat, stirring constantly. When the sugar is dissolved and a full rolling boil has been reached, stir in the pectin. Boil hard, stirring constantly, for a few minutes, until the jelly tests done. Pour it into sterilized half-pint jars, hand-tighten the sterilized lids and process in a boiling water bath canner for 10 minutes. Then remove the lid, turn off the heat and let the canner sit for 5 minutes. Remove the jars and let cool before storing.

Makes about 6 jars.

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