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Monday, September 26, 2011

Highbush Cranberry Jelly

Our first fall in Fairbanks I distinctly remember walking up the hill behind our house and exclaiming, "What is that smell?" This was not in a good way. This smell reminded me of a cross between gym socks and a musty old antique book store. I thought for sure that something had died and was decomposing in the leaves somewhere. Now, I don't know a lot about food writing...but I am pretty sure that you are not supposed to use smelly gym socks, and decomposing in the opening paragraph to describe something you are about to eat. Yup, I am about to go there. You see, I discovered the source of this fine scent was actually the highbush cranberry that was growing like mad along the edge of the trail. Surely they can't be edible? It turns out that they are indeed edible and often I now see highbush cranberry jelly at the Farmer's Market. I myself could never imagine making such a thing. Really, how could I even stand to pick them? I have to hold my breath each time I walk past them.
How was it that I ended up not only picking 4 cups of these berries, but bringing them into my house and cooking them? I blame it on Hank Shaw. That's right that Hank Shaw from Hunter, Angler, Gardener, Cook. It is his fault. I have been a fan of Hank's site for a couple of years now. I finally had the opportunity to meet him (only for a brief moment) at Blogher Food in Atlanta last spring. The one piece of advice he had for me was that I needed to try the moose meatballs from his site. He said, "they will blow your mind". So, I patiently waited for moose season to come around in Alaska. We don't hunt ourselves, but someone usually kindly offers us a little moose meat each season. A couple of weeks ago I finally found myself with the moose meat I had been waiting for. This is when I realized that Hank's recipe called for one dreaded ingredient, highbush cranberry jelly. Now, to be fair he did mention I could substitute lowbush cranberry (lingonberry) jelly. I really wanted to try the recipe as it was intended. I suffered through the picking, and jelly making, and even as I took the photos for this post. In the end I was glad I did, the meatballs were amazing, but it was the sauce that really made the dish. The highbush cranberry added a real earthy taste. I don't see myself smearing this jelly on toast anytime soon, but I will be making the meatballs and the highbush cranberry sauce again for sure.

Highbush Cranberry Jelly
adapted from Alaska's Wild Berries

4 cups cleaned highbush cranberries
3 cups sugar
1 1/2 ounces liquid pectin

Combine berries with 1 cup water. Bring to simmer and crush berries using a potato masher. Cover and let simmer for 10 minutes. Turn off heat and let mixture cool slightly. Place in jelly bag or layers of cheesecloth in a colander. Let the juice drip into a bowl. Do not twist or press as your juice will become cloudy. This should yield two cups of juice.
Sterilize four half pint canning jars and prepare lids. Measure out your liquid pectin and set aside. Combine juice and sugar in a large saucepan. Place on high heat; stir constantly and bring to a full rolling boil. Add the liquid pectin and bring back to a hard boil for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and quickly skim off foam. Immediately pour hot jelly into hot canning jars, leaving 1/4 inch of head space. Wipe jar rims and put on lids. Process for 5 minutes in a boiling water bath.


  1. Wow, this jam sounds different! Look beautiful in your jars!

  2. I never knew cranberries smelled that way but you have seemed to turn them into pure perfection! I love finding local blogs around my area and would love to check back soon!! That is such a pretty color! :) Thanks

  3. What gorgeous berries and a stunning photo!

  4. :) Your reaction was the same as mine the first time I moved to Fairbanks. However, I have come to love highbush cranberries' distinctive aroma and harvest them every year for making liqueurs and jellies.


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