More Treat Than Trick: Sauternes and Sage Jelly
Growing up in the country and on a farm, it was commonplace to preserve as much of the summer’s harvest as possible. My parents and grandparents worked all spring, summer, and fall planting gardens, picking vegetables, tending fruit trees, picking berries, digging potatoes and then canning, freezing, and storing much of it for future use. I can still see kitchen counters covered with Mason jars of green beans, tomatoes, and black raspberry jam, and the beauty of the jewel-tone colors as the sun shone through the glass and its hard-earned contents.
It’s because of this seasonal tradition that I observed and participated in as a child that I appreciate the work that goes into preserving as well as the delight in enjoying something homemade. That’s why I love using a familiar recipe or even finding a new one each year to preserve something special to share.
So, when I was leafing through epicurious cooking magazine recently and discovered a recipe for wine jelly–specifically, Sauternes and sage jelly, I knew I had to try it. I’ve made fruit jams and jellies, pickles, and even chutney in the past, but I’ve never tried making wine jelly–until now. The cooking magazine raved about this jelly, describing it as “sophisticated and subtle.” It also stated that it was a delicious substitute to the green mint jelly that traditionally accompanies lamb (I don’t put mint jelly on lamb, but some people do). Actually, this sublime jelly is wonderful with any roasted or grilled meat and is a fantastic condiment for blue cheese.
For those of you who may not be familiar with Sauternes (pronounced saw-turn), it’s a sweet, but complex wine. It’s an Old World wine, so it’s named after its area of origin, the Sauternais region of the Graves area in Bordeaux. Sauternes is comprised of Sémillon, Sauvignon Blanc, and Muscadelle grapes. Its full sweetness is balanced with a touch of acidity and golden fruit–like peaches and apricots drizzled in honey. It can be enjoyed as dessert, but it’s also lovely with all kinds of savory dishes, from Roquefort terrine to fried chicken. Farmguy and I thought it was fantastic with freshly baked bread and Stilton blue cheese. Enjoy! 🙂
Sauternes and Sage Jelly
*Recipe from epicurious–Homemade Pantry magazine
1/2 cup boiling-hot water
2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
Pinch of turmeric (for yellow color; optional)
1 1/2 cups Sauternes (from 375-ml bottle)
3 1/2 cups sugar
1 Turkish or 1/2 California bay leaf
1/2 cup liquid fruit pectin
Four 1/2-pint canning jars with lids and screw bands
–Prepare canning jars and closures by washing and sterilizing.
–Pour 1/2 cup boiling water over sage and turmeric in a measuring cup and let steep, covered, 15 minutes. Pour sage water through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl, pressing on the solids, then add enough hot water to bring total to 1/2 cup.
–Carefully remove jars from canner or deep pot of hot water with tongs, then drain jars upside down on a clean kitchen towel.
–Bring sage water, Sauternes, sugar, 1/8 tsp. salt, and bay leaf to a boil in a 2-to 2 1/2–quart heavy saucepan. Whisk in pectin until dissolved and bring to a boil. Boil 1 minute, then remove from heat. Invert jars. Immediately divide jelly among jars, leaving 1/4 inch of space at top. Slide a spatula or chopstick between the food and inside of the jar to release air bubbles. Wipe off rims of filled jars with a clean damp kitchen towel, then top with lids and firmly screw on screw bands.
–Put sealed jars on rack in canner or deep pot and add enough water to cover by 2 inches. Bring to a boil, covered, then boil 10 minutes. Transfer jars with tongs to towel-lined surface to cool. Jars will seal; if you hear a ping, that means that the vacuum formed above the cooling jelly has made the lid concave. Remember that you may or may not be around to hear the ping. The important thing is for the the jars to eventually have concave lids. Jelly will thicken as it cools.
–After jars have cooled 12 to 24 hours, press the center of each lid to check that it’s concave, then remove the screw band and try to lift off the lid with your fingertips. If you can’t, the lid has a good seal. Replace the screw band. Put any jars that haven’t sealed properly in the refrigerator and use them first.
–Be sure to check the expiration date on your pectin to ensure freshness.
–Let jelly stand in jars at least 1 day for flavors to develop.
–Jelly keeps in sealed jars in a cool, dark place 5 to 6 months.