While I adore chocolate, I think caramel trumps all. Sweet and thick, sometimes chewy, caramel has a unique, almost-earthy flavour thanks to bringing the sugar almost to the point of scorching. I frequently make Caramel Sauce, Salted Caramel Ice Cream and Caramel-Apple Muffins among other caramelly delights, but wanted to come up with a new format for holiday gifting. This delectable jelly is delicious on toast, scones or even on top of vanilla ice cream, but it truly shines when included as part of a cheese plate, particularly when paired with a salty, crumbly old cheddar or a tangy blue cheese. Best of all, it takes less than an hour to make, and you don’t have to prep any fruit, thanks to the apple cider. It’s not essential to include the thyme or rosemary, although fresh herbs do add a nice complexity to the flavour of the jelly.
- 3 1/2 cups white sugar
- 1 tablespoon water
- 2 cups sweet apple cider
- 2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves or finely chopped fresh rosemary
- 1 pouch (3 ounces) liquid fruit pectin
- Wash and dry 8 small (125 mL or 4 oz) canning jars and new sealer lids. Put jars in a preheated 200F oven and turn off heat. Put sealer lids and rings in a pot of water (enough to cover them) and warm over medium-low heat.
- Put the sugar and water in a medium-sized (at least 4L / 4 Quart capacity), heavy-bottomed saucepan. Over medium heat, melt the sugar, stirring almost constantly to prevent it from sticking and scorching. It will take approximately 10 – 15 minutes for the sugar to melt completely and turn a deep, golden colour.
- Once the sugar has been caramelized, carefully pour in the apple cider and herbs, if using. The mixture will bubble and boil furiously, and will likely seize or harden up.
- Continue heating the mixture over medium heat, stirring almost constantly, for about 10 minutes until the sugar has re-melted and the mixture is smooth.
- Increase heat and bring apple cider mixture to a full rolling boil. Boil for 1 minute then add the liquid pectin. Boil for 90 seconds and remove from heat.
- With a metal spoon, skim off any foam that has accumulated on the surface of the pot.
- With a clean ladle and canning funnel (makes the job easier!), pour the jelly into the heated jars, leaving a half inch (1.25 cm) headspace. Cover with the warm sealing lids and rings and process in a hot water bath so jars can be stored at room temperature in a coolish, dark place, for up to one year. If the jars are going to be refrigerated immediately and consumed within a month, there is no need to follow the hot water bath method.
Makes 8 small jars of jelly.