If you remember my column about making soup, I said something to the effect that, in most instances, a recipe is just a guide. One exception to that, though, is jelly. If you don’t want to end up with a big mess of overly sweet juice that didn’t set, then go precisely by the recipe. If it says to boil for exactly one minute, then, by golly, set the timer!

General Instructions:

For making jelly, always sterilize your jars in boiling water.

Pour boiling water over the two-piece lids and let them sit until ready to use.

Have your sugar measured and ready to use because you’ll pour it in all at one time.

Do not try to reduce the amount of sugar or your jelly won’t set.

For the boiling water bath, you’ll need enough water to cover the jars by at least one inch.

For your own safety and sanity, invest in jar lifters!

Mayhaw Jelly

My father-in-law used to take his flat-bottom boat down to the river and scoop mayhaws off the water with a net. This fruit is uniquely Southern, and if you’ve never tried it, you’ve missed out!

2 gallons mayhaws

1 pkg. Sure-Jell

5 c. sugar

1 tsp. butter

Place the mayhaws in a large heavy pot and add enough water to cover them by no more than an inch. Cook until tender, and then strain them through a jelly bag. You’ll need 4 cups of juice.

In a large pan, stir the Sure-Jell into the juice, and add the butter to reduce foaming. Bring to a full rolling boil (one that doesn’t stir down) over high heat, stirring constantly. Add the sugar all at once and return to a full rolling boil, then boil exactly 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and skim off any foam with a metal spoon.

Immediately ladle the jelly into hot jars. Wipe the jar rims and threads. Seal with the two-piece lids. Place the jars in boiling water (enough water to cover the jars by one inch), cover and bring back to a boil. Process for 5 minutes, and then remove jars and let them sit on a towel until completely cooled.

Pepper Jelly

This was my stepdad’s favorite for smearing on cornbread. It makes a very pretty jelly.

¾ c. shredded green bell pepper

¼ c. shredded red hot pepper

6½ c. sugar

1½ c. apple cider vinegar

2 pkts. liquid Certo pectin

Combine all ingredients except the pectin in a heavy saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and let stand for 5 minutes. Add the pectin and pour immediately into prepared jelly jars. Wipe the jar rims and threads. Seal with two-piece lids and process in boiling water bath for 5 minutes. Cool on a towel. Yield: 7 half-pint jars.

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Mona Tucker writes her “From the Hart” recipe column on the first Wednesdays of the month.