Lisa's Mayhaw Jelly
I was blessed to spend a beautiful spring day with my dear friend Lisa who has mastered making mayhaw jelly. She has literally made thousands of jars throughout the years. If you’ve ever had a taste, you too will be begging for a jar (or two). Mayhaw jelly is not readily available because the mayhaw trees mainly grow in Louisiana river bottoms and swampy areas. The ripened fruit falls and floats in streams and swamps much like cranberries. When transplanted from the swamps the trees will adapt to well drained land. Today there are a few family orchards that exist, but mayhaw trees are being destroyed by deforestation, clear cutting and disease. I happen to have mayhaw fruit from the trees that Lisa planted in her yard many years ago. The fruit is similar to a small apple with the interior texture of a cranberry. This reddish fruit resembles a crabapple and ripens for a few short weeks in April. It is most often used to make jelly, but can also be used to make syrup and mayhaw infused desserts. When making jelly one must first boil the mayhaw fruit to create a stock. The more tart and reddish colored your stock, the more flavorful the jelly. When making your stock don’t give in to temptation and add more water. If your stock has a mild diluted flavor your finished jelly will also have very little flavor.
There are recipes that call for mayhaw pulp which is a by-product of straining the stock. Speaking of by-products, Lisa skims the foam that develops while making the jelly. When the jars are filled with the hot jelly mixture, Lisa also skims any bubbles. I’m sure Lisa preferred to remove the bubbles floating on top of our jars, but I assured her it would create character in the photo shoot. Thank you, Lisa, for letting me keep a few bubbles on top. So, if you prefer smooth jelly, you too can skim the bubbles before sealing the jars. If you happen to visit Lucullus in New Orleans you might find a 19th century French hand blown verrine à confiture to fill with your delicious jelly. I happen to discover these vessels on one of my many visits to this stunning culinary antique shop in the French Quarter. The verrine à confiture is featured in some of my photos.
The jelly is most often enjoyed slathered on soft southern biscuits or toast. I also use it as a glaze on my crustless almond and fig tart, and my almond and pear tart. My parents came in for a visit from Texas last week and insisted on leaving with a jar of Lisa’s mayhaw jelly. I will soon travel to the west coast…with a jar of mayhaw jelly in my carry-on bag. I hope that you too, get to taste one of southeast Louisiana’s unique flavors. Let me know if you can get your hands on some mayhaw fruit to make this recipe. I’d love to see how it turns out so tag me on Instagram at y_delicacies or leave a comment below.
Lisa's Mayhaw Jelly
Servings: 6 8-ounce jars
Servings: 12 cups
1 gallon mayhaw fruit
13 cups water
1. In an extra-large covered pot, bring mayhaw fruit and water to a boil, and reduce to a simmer. Skim foam and simmer, covered, until mayhaw fruit has turned pale and stock has a pink to reddish color and a full-bodied flavor, about 30 minutes. Keep pot covered and let cool.
2. Divide stock into 4 cup portions and freeze in an airtight container or re-sealable freezer bag up to 6 months.
4 cups mayhaw stock (recipe above)
1.75 oz. box Sure Jell fruit pectin
5 cups granulated sugar
special equipment: large heavy-bottom pot for jelly, large pot to process jars, medium pot to keep lids warm, 6 sterilized 8-oz jars with lids and rims
1. Before making jelly prepare a canner by filling large pot for processing jars with enough water to submerge jars. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer while making the jelly.
2. In a medium pot, add lids and enough water to cover. Simmer while making jelly.
3. Have sterilized jars nearby and ready to be filled.
4. In a large heavy-bottom pot without the heat turned on, stir mayhaw stock and pectin together until pectin is dissolved.
5. Turn heat on and bring to a full, rolling boil, stirring occasionally.
6. Add sugar, stirring constantly to dissolve sugar, and return to a full rolling boil.
7. When mixture returns to a full, rolling boil, let boil for 1 minute 15 seconds. Turn off heat.
8. Let cool uncovered until all bubbles rise to the top creating a layer of foam, about 10 minutes. Using a large spoon, skim foam from top.
9. Reheat canner by increasing heat, and bringing water to a boil while filling jelly jars.
10. Ladle hot jelly mixture into jars, leaving ¼-inch headspace.
11. Wipe rims of jars. Using tongs or a magnetic lid lifter, remove one lid at a time from water and let excess water drip off. Place lids on jars; screw on bands until fingertip tight.
12. When canner has reached a full rolling boil, gently lower jars into pot. Return to a boil and heat jars in boiling water for and additional 10 minutes.
13. Transfer jars to a wire rack to cool. Let sit undisturbed while cooling. Do not tighten bands or press center of lids while cooling.
14. When completely cooled, press center of lid to test if completely sealed. If the lid springs back it is not sealed. Unsealed jars can be stored in the refrigerator up to 1 month. Store sealed jars in a cool place up to 1 year.