NDSU Extension Service - Ramsey County


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Berries and More

Berries and More


            North Dakota is home to a wide variety of native fruits that can find their way into delicious cakes, pies, other desserts, fruit breads and an ongoing favorite of jams and jellies.  The recent abundance of rain promises an abundance of juneberries, rhubarb, gooseberries, cherries, plums and more.  Now might be a good time to plan ahead for preserving those fruits.

            Extracting Juice for Making Jelly - The method for extracting juice depends on the type and firmness of the fruit. Wash fruit and remove hulls and stems, but do not pare or core (to preserve the pectin found in the skin and core), then cut in small pieces. Wash berries and carefully remove stems.   Firm fruit, like apples, usually requires longer cooking times and a small amount of water (about one cup water per pound apples) to begin the process. To extract juice from berries, add only enough water to prevent scorching. After adding water, bring to a boil and stir constantly. Apples may require 20-30 minutes before they are soft and mushy while grapes may need only 10 minutes of cooking time.  Reduce heat and pour contents into a damp jelly bag, closely woven cheesecloth or clean, cotton cloth and let juice drip through slowly.  Squeezing, pressing or wringing the cloth or bag will yield more juice but if done excessively will yield cloudy jelly.

            Preparing for jam making - Wash and remove hulls and stems.  Place fruit in water to cover (or less depending on your family’s preference) and cook until fruit mixture is tender.  Mash through a sieve and the mixture is ready to use in your favorite jam recipe.

            The next requirement, pectin -Pectin is a carbohydrate naturally present in most fruits. It acts as a gelling agent in jams and jellies. In general, the riper the frit, the less pectin it contains.  As a rule of thumb, use a mixture of about ¾ ripe and ¼ under-ripe fruit if you are brave enough to make jelly without additional pectin. Not all fruit has adequate pectin to form a gel, so most jam and jelly recipes call for added commercial pectin. Liquid and powdered pectin products are available; however, they are not interchangeable. They must be used as directed in order to produce a satisfactory product. Liquid pectin is added to the hot, cooked fruit-sugar mixture, while powdered pectin is mixed with the unheated fruit or juice. For best quality, check the box of pectin for the “use by” date.

            In some jam and jelly recipes, gelatin is used in place of pectin.  Powdered gelatin adds great taste and deep, rich colors but jams and jellies made with them are not as stable.  Gelatin added jams and jellies should not be processed in a water-bath canner or stored at room temperature.  Most gelatin-containing recipes must be refrigerated and used within three to four weeks.  Following is a reduced-sugar of an old time favorite – Apple Spread.


Apple Spread

(Refrigerated and reduced-sugar)

2 tablespoons unflavored gelatin powder

1 quart bottle unsweetened apple juice

2 tablespoons bottled lemon juice

2 tablespoons liquid, low-calorie sweetener

Food coloring, if desired

            In a saucepan, soften the gelatin in the apple and lemon juices. To dissolve gelatin, bring to a full

rolling boil and boil 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in sweetener and food coloring, if desired. Fill

jars, leaving ¼-inch headspace. Adjust lids. Do not process or freeze. CAUTION: Store in refrigerator

and use within 4 weeks.

            Optional: For spiced apple jelly, add 2 sticks of cinnamon and 4 whole cloves to mixture before boiling. Remove both spices before adding the sweetener and food coloring.

            Approximate yield: 4 to 5 half-pints

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