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Friday, October 14, 2011

~Positively Zinful!~ A tribute to the opening of Walla Walla Wine!

Despite the early cold and the VERY slow spring we had here in little Walleyville, the valley grape population has finally decided it's ready and the harvest is on!  From Cabernet to Zinfandel, the Walla Walla valley is in hot pursuit of standing in the same circle as some of the finest from anywhere on earth!  Here is my little attempt to pay homage to my little town and its fine wines!

~Zinful Mulled Jelly~

750 ml (1 standard bottle) Zinfandel (Sangiovese or Zinfandel works) 
cup cherry juice

2 Teaspoons Mulling Spice "Bouquet de Garnis" 
   10 Whole cardamom seeds (decorticated)
   1 Tablespoon whole cloves
   1 ½ Tablespoons allspice berries
   1 Teaspoon dried Valencia orange peel
   1 Tablespoon pink peppercorns 

3 2" cinnamon sticks

½ Cup fresh squeezed lemon juice

2 oz (3 tbsp) pectin powder
1 3/4 - 2 cups white sugar

SPECIAL TOOLS:  Copper-bottom sauce pot w/Lid
                                 Fine mesh strainer
                                 Cans, lids and rings
                                 Canning tools kit, Canning boiler vessel
                                 Cheese cloth/Empty teabags & Twine
Yield - 4 or 5 Half-pints

This recipe is very simple but I can say from experience trying this recipe a few times with as many errors that this one falls in the category of recipes I call "slippery."  Slippery in the sense that it tends to fly away if you try to squeeze it (or stretch for that matter.)

Due to the way the pectin dissolves into the wine and the natural compounds that are present in the wine itself that affect the gelling process, the gel will not form properly if you try to make too much at once.  The time it takes to boil a larger quantity of liquid also plays a role.  Simply put, if you are feeling like you want to make a larger quantity of this jelly rather than change ratios and levels, just make two batches and all will be well.  Now for a recipe, eh?

A take on a classic seasonal refreshment, this recipe makes a spicy warm jelly that pairs well with spiced cookies and cakes of all kinds.  Try it as a cookie jam filling or warmed slightly over your favorite autumn cake or even good vanilla ice cream!


Just like all canning recipes, begin by preparing your jars!  Wash your jars, lids, and rings in hot, soapy water then place the jars and lids in your canning vessel.  Fill the vessel and jars with cold tap water and place the whole lot on the 

First and simplest, make up your mulling spice bouquet de garnis:

A bouquet de garnis is a herb/spice bag, usually made from cheese cloth or other fine cloth mesh often used in soups or other liquid base recipes.  The bag allows the introduction of all kinds of flavors while preventing the escape of unwanted bits of stuff that you would normally need to strain out.  

In a small mixing bowl, combine your various spices then crush them just a bit with a make shift pestle like a large spoon or end of a rolling dowel.  This spice mixture will keep just as long as its components but if you have a jar with a lid (especially an old spice jar) it will retain its essential oils much better!  Just like pre-ground spices, the oils want to escape and with them go the flavors.  

Next make your bouquet de garnis!

Cheese cloth is the most common way to make a spice packet but I like to use a teabag!  If you're a big tea drinker like myself, you've most likely seen the teabags made not from cloth but from a fine resin mesh.  Since these baggies are about the right size AND have the added benefit of being designed to withstand boiling liquids, I think they can't be beat for this purpose!

Cut a small corner off of one of your teabags and pour out the dry tea.  Give the baggie a rinse in warm h2o then pat it dry with a paper towel.  Place a couple of teaspoons of your mulling spice in the bag and give the cut corner a twist like twisting a candy wrapper.  Tie your twist with a bit of twine, leaving a length of twin to ease removal.  For the cinnamon sticks, just tie them together with a bit more kitchen twine.

Next get your wine going!

Open up your wine and pour it into your pot over medium heat.  Add your cherry juice, and bring the lot to a low boil.

Add your bouquet de garnis, reduce heat to low and cover the pot with your lid to let the spices steep 12 minutes to impart their flavor.  If you want a spicier blend, just let the mix sit for longer rather than add more.  Be careful though!  12 minutes should be enough but if you want more, go 1 minute at a time as you can go too far and start heading toward bitter...  no fun...  Never forget your best tools here: nose and taste buds!  When the mixture is spiced just right, remove the spices and discard them.
Return your spiced wine mixture to a low boil then add your lemon juice.  Return the liquid a low simmer.

Combine your sugar and pectin in a small bowl and stir or shake up in a jar with a lid to be absolutely sure the mixture is homogenized.  Remember your gravy science!  Lumps are no respecters of savory/sweet borders!  Lumps of pectin here will stay lumps of pectin in your jelly if you're not careful.

Add your sweetener/pectin mix to your slowly simmering wine and stir vigorously to dissolve.  Bring the liquid to a good boil for one full minute, continuing to stir with plenty of zeal!  DON'T START YOUR TIMER UNTIL THE LIQUID IS AT A SOLID BOIL!  This is key to proper gelling so don't rush through.

Ladle your hot mixture into prepared ½ pint jars, leaving ½" of head space.  Process 5 minutes in boiling water.  Remove your jars to a cooling rack and wipe any excess water off the tops.  Tighten your lids and let them cool to seal!


Recipes like these are fun because they're unorthodox.  Canning by it's nature was created to make things like fresh fruit, meats, nuts, vegetables even things like nuts and grains keep much longer than they normally would in room temperature storage.  With things like this, the reasoning behind canning is turned slightly sideways.  Wine doesn't need to be canned, doesn't need to be jellied but we say they do so we do it anyhow!  Huzzah!  

This recipe is a base to start with but can be taken in many directions.  Try without the mulling for a fresher flavor or try mixing up the juice component for pairing with other foods.  You can also, of course, make it with any wine you like best, making it nearly infinite in its variability!  Maybe even try a whole different base...  mead perhaps...  Keep on experimenting, everyone!


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