Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Kousa Dogwood Fruit Jelly

I'm not a cook.  Sure, I can cook edible, sometime even delicious food.  But, I don't love to cook.

OK, that being said, I made jelly this weekend.  Well, I made very sweet syrup that was supposed to be jelly but didn't jell into jelly.  And I don't know what I'm doing wrong.  This is my second attempt at jelly.  Have I tried something with a definite recipe?  No, that wouldn't been nearly challenging enough.  My first attempt was hot pepper jelly.  I think I mostly had a recipe for that.  It looks wonderful, has a great flavor, but didn't jell.  My next attempt was to make jelly from the fruit from our Kousa dogwood. What is that, you ask?

Well, this is what the tree looks like loaded with berries.  The berries have a leathery, bumpy red exterior with a pumpkin colored sort of fibrous interior.  I tried the berries and they are OK, but it's something you'd want to pick and pop into your mouth like cherries.  But, we've got this abundance of fruit, so we (DH and I -- mostly DH) thought we should do something with them.  We've heard that you can make wine, but I haven't done that for years, and that takes some time.  So, jelly seemed like a better solution.  After failing at jelly once, I couldn't possibly fail again, right?

This is what we picked for the jelly.  This is a small fraction of what is on the tree.  But, having never done anything with this fruit, I didn't want a whole lot more in case this turned out inedible.  This is nearly 4 pounds.

Upon the advise of a friend, I rinsed the fruit, boiled it with about a cup of water and mashed the fruit with a potato masher to break it up.  I then put it into a metal sieve and mashed it with the bottom of a ladle.  At that point it looked mostly orange and cloudy.  I took that pulp and juice and put it into cheesecloth, secured it closed with a rubber band, hung the rubber band over the cabinet handle and let it drip into this pot.  I came up with about 3 1/2 cups of liquid.

I added some more water to bring the juice to 3 3/4 cups and put that in a sauce pan with 7 cups of sugar and 1/3 cup of lemon juice, brought it to a boil and added two packets of liquid pectin per the recipe.  I used the recipe for strawberries from the pectin packet.  Then I boiled the pectin and juice for another minute and got ready to can.  I got these seven jars of jelly, another 8 ounce jar and a partial bowl that I refrigerated.  I let it cool and waited.

I got wonderfully clear syrup.   It did not jell.  Again.

Off to the internet to look for suggestions.  I saw a number of people suggesting what the Certo pamphlet suggested - to reboil the syrup with additional sugar and lemon juice.  I also saw a suggestion to put a plate in the freezer and drop a bit of the boiled liquid onto it to see if it jells before taking it off the heat.  So, the next day I took the syrup that I had put in the jar and bowl and stored in the fridge and reboiled it with a few more tablespoons of sugar and another tablespoon of lemon juice.  The few drops of liquid on the cold plate looked like it was jelled harder than the original syrup, but I couldn't tell for sure.  Poured it back into the cleaned jar and bowl, sealed them up and put in the fridge again.  The next morning ... JELLY!  I'm not a total jelly novice any more.

The jelly tastes somewhat like plums.  It's pretty good on toast.  I'll probably make more next year if we have an abundance of fruit again.


  1. Wow, you go, Girl! I probably would have given up after the first try. Of course, I've never canned anything. I never would have made it as a Pioneer Woman LOL :)

  2. I had at least two Jelly/ jam fails where they just did not set! I found my boiling time has to be much higher then sources recommend, it is different depending on elevation, how wide pot is, how hot your stove gets etc. I keep a plate in the freezer and put a drop of Jelly on it when I think it might be done. If I hold the plate sideways and the jelly rols off, I give it longer. Once it jells on the plate, I am confident it jell (gel?) upon canning.

  3. I want to use it in beer brewing...thanks for the ideas

  4. I want to use it in beer brewing...thanks for the ideas

  5. Thanks for sharing this information Mair! I JUST learned about the Kousa Dogwood. I had never seen it before this week, while on my walk.

  6. Do you cook you're kousa berries whole with skin on or do you scoop out the fruit before you make your jelly? I'd like to make some this year.

  7. I cooked the berries whole, with the skins on.
    Good luck with your jelly making. Let me know how it turns out. I think mine is a little too bitter.