Wine Jelly

Ask a chemist for a recipe, and they'll deliver, down to the microgram, a recipe that's been tested within an inch of its life for maximum consistency. Our executive features editor's father — now retired from his lab career — used to make this jolly, loose-set wine jelly in batches for holiday gifts, and its glorious sweet-tart balance is a crucial part of the equation. Our testers tried, and loved, this recipe with Zinfandel and Shiraz; Donald Kinsman likes to make it with Dubonnet.

Wine Jelly
Photo: Photo by Jennifer Causey / Food Styling by Ali Ramee / Prop Styling by Lydia Pursell
Active Time:
10 mins
Chill Time:
6 hrs
Total Time:
6 hrs 55 mins
Servings:
8

I was starting to believe I'd imagined the jelly. Kid brains are loopy and elastic, and that's part of the magic of it all. It's what allows us to while away summer afternoons on imaginary spaceships and pirate vessels, host invisible tea parties, talk to dragons, and be our weird, unbounded, wonderful selves. But wine jelly seemed like a cloud too far.

In my memory, my sister and I (then in our tweens) and my parents would trundle down our suburban Kentucky street to Dr. Stine's faux-Tudor home on the cul-de-sac, moving glacially so as not to tip our precious payload. When the door swung open to spill warm light and tipsy chatter onto the landing, before we could even wrestle off our coats, the hands descended, grabbing the Saran-Wrapped cups from the trays we bore. "Don came through with the wine jelly!"

I don't really know when or how it started happening, but my dad, an avid and adventurous cook and a respected chemist, started bringing his homemade concoction, a loose-set jelly made of wine, as a treat to the local pediatrician's annual party, and it became the stuff of neighborhood legend. In the tastes I was allowed — Was I actually allowed? Maybe I swiped? It was the early '80s — it was sweet, heady, strange, euphoric. There's no way a knife's worth of cooked-down plonk, pectin, and sugar could actually have any effect, but again, the magic of kid brains is potent, and sometimes it's nice to marinate there a while.

I moved away, and the decades passed. Each year, I meant to ask Dad about the jelly, the how and the why and if it actually loomed and jiggled as large as I recalled or if I'd just cobbled this memory from something I'd seen on TV or read about in one of the books in which I'd drowned my brain as a child, but somehow, the moment always passed. Until one day last autumn, when my dad, apropos of nothing, sent me a scan of his recipe, handwritten on ruled paper above the 10-gallon recipe he'd meticulously adapted and scaled from another that yielded 10 gallons or 109 pounds. It was real. I have proof. And now I can spread the joy. — Kat Kinsman

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (8 ounces) sweet red wine (such as a sweet Zinfandel or sweet Shiraz)

  • 1 tablespoon pectin powder (such as Ball RealFruit Classic Pectin)

  • 1 cup granulated sugar

  • ½ cup citric acid

Directions

  1. Bring wine to a rolling boil in a small saucepan over high. Whisk in pectin; boil, stirring constantly, 1 minute. Add sugar; return to a boil over high. Boil, stirring gently, until sugar completely dissolves and mixture thickens, about 1 minute. Remove from heat; stir in citric acid. Let stand 15 minutes.

  2. Skim and discard any foam that has floated to surface of mixture. Pour mixture evenly into 8 small cups or an airtight container. Let cool, uncovered, to room temperature, about 30 minutes. Cover and chill until set, about 6 hours.

Make Ahead

Wine jelly can be stored in an airtight container in refrigerator up to 2 weeks.

Note

Pectin powder and citric acid are available in the canning section of most grocery stores.

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