I think of jelly as an opportunity. It can be as pure and rarified, expensive and time-consuming as an excellent beef consommé. Or it can be a second chance, a chance to waste nothing at all. This jelly is from the other half of the pie, the scraps of fruit and seasonings that are often thrown away. They’ll still end up in the compost but not until the last few drops of flavor have turned to liquid gold.Like a lot of preserving, especially jellies and jams, things happen in leisurely stages. My friends ask me how can I – one of the busiest and most traveled persons they know – have time to make all kinds of preserves. All I can say is that I’m pretty experienced in cooking techniques and I’m patient and organized enough to spread steps out in time, This is a bonus for making jelly, especially one with scraps. It’s hardly different from making vegetable stock from peelings. If you’re making a pie, for example, the first step in the jelly – assembling the ingredients – is already done. (Don’t worry: if you’re not making a pie, I wrote the recipe so you can make it with whole fruit.)The next step is to simmer the scraps – apple scraps and lemon shells typically but here also trimmings of ginger if available – in water, undisturbed for 30-40 minutes. Just put it on the stove and take it off. Drain the mixture through a jelly bag. That takes 2 minutes to assemble and fill the jelly bag and ignore it for a few hours. You can refrigerate the liquid for a couple of days. This slow process saves time later since each step builds pectin that makes jelly gel.
When ready to make the jelly, you need to prepare the jars, especially if water-bath canning them. If you’re keeping the jelly for a short time, under a few months, you can simply invert the hot filled jars (equipped with two-piece canning lid) and they’ll seal. Or just store cooled jelly in the fridge.
Ginger-Vanilla Apple Scrap Jelly
Peel, cores and seeds from 6-8 tart apples that have been well washed (this assumes you’re using the apples for another purpose, or you can simply cut up 4-5 whole apples)
1 lemon shell (already juiced for another purpose, or half a lemon, cut in small pieces)
Peels from ginger used for another purpose (optional)
1-inch piece of fresh ginger root
1 vanilla bean
In a large wide saucepan, cover the apple peel and pieces (and ginger trimmings if you are using them) with 1 inch of water and bring to a simmer on the stove. Simmer for about 30 minutes, or until the peel is soft but not falling apart.
Set up a jelly bag over a bowl. (Mine is a metal ring with three long legs and a muslin sack.) Carefully spoon the apple pieces into the bag and pour the liquid over the top. Let drain for several hours. Clean out the jelly bag and reset it.
Chop the ginger. Slit the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape the seeds into a small bowl. Set aside the seeds, covered in plastic wrap. Chop the bean pod.
Return the apple liquid to the saucepan and add the ginger and vanilla bean pod. Simmer over medium heat for about 10 minutes, or until the ginger has rendered its flavor. Pour the mixture into the jelly bag and let drain for 30 minutes.
When ready to make the jelly, place a saucer in the freezer to chill and prepare jars (four- or eight-ounce) for water bath canning. Measure the liquid and add three-quarters of the volume in sugar. (My yield was 4 cups of liquid, and I added 3 cups of sugar).
Place the mixture in a large wide pan and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Boil, skimming any excess foam, until the mixture gels. You know it’s gelled when a small drop placed on the frozen saucer wrinkles to the touch. (My batch took about 15 minutes.)
Transfer the jelly to the jars and let sit for a few minutes (but don’t let it cool if you’re processing it in the water bath canner). Using a chopstick, add the reserved vanilla bean seeds to each jar and gently stir them down into the jelly.
Cover the jars with two-piece lids and process in the water bath canner for 10 minutes after the water boils. Turn off the heat, remove the canner lid, and let sit for 5 minutes before removing the jars to the counter to sit undisturbed until cool.
Makes about 6 four-ounce jars.