My daughter is getting married in April! Woo hoo! As it happens, in addition to having the perfect daughter, I am about to acquire the best son-in-law in existence (although my mother would argue with me on that one, and I might just let her win).
My daughter approached me a couple of weeks ago and asked me if I would make mayhaw jelly wedding favors. Well, of course I would. I would do anything for those two. As it happens, my future son-in-law was one of the reasons behind the request. Despite the fact that his parents live in Louisiana, which is the mayhaw capital of the universe, he had never heard of mayhaws. So we introduced him.
My grandma taught me to make the jelly when I was about ten years old. Along with chicken and dumplings and snickerdoodle cookies, mayhaw jelly was one of the few cooking lessons that stuck, probably because I liked it so much. It had been a number of years since I had had any, and my daughter asked me out of the blue one day a few years ago to make her some. I scoured the countryside looking for mayhaws, and it was not an easy task. My grandma must have bought hers on the black market. So, after doing a lot of homework, I came across this charming old man in Foley, Alabama who had an orchard. He sold me the fruit, and I sat down with him in his living room and talked about his late wife and what a great cook she used to be. I adored him. He’s gone now, and I think the world lost a good man. I planted mayhaw trees in my yard after that, but I’m afraid the freeze this winter may have done them in. We’ll find out in March.
Anyway, I made a batch of the jelly and my daughter took it back to Birmingham, where my future son-in-law, a six-foot-seven mountain of a guy, tried it on some biscuits. He was hooked, and it disappeared in a flash. Fast forward to a few weeks ago. My daughter was looking for unique ideas for wedding favors when she came across a picture of a basket with small jelly jars in it. I think the jars in the basket were strawberry or something. I make a good strawberry jam, but if you want unique, mayhaw is the way to go. It has a light, tart flavor that is unlike anything you’ve ever tried. It’s absolutely amazing. Plus it has a beautiful color. I mean, look at that picture. Am I proud of that? Oh, yes, I am.
Canning can be almost as much of a pain in the butt as finding mayhaws, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll see there’s nothing to it (if I can do it, anyone can). And fresh jam/jelly is SOOOOOOO much better than what you get in a grocery store. If you’ve never canned jelly before, do some homework first, because properly handling the jars is important. Here are a couple of resources for how to can jelly: Al.com and Huffington Post.
4 cups of prepared juice (you can juice mayhaws by boiling 1 gallon of berries in 12 cups of water, then straining through cheese cloth. The juice freezes well, so just freeze what you don’t use.)
5 cups sugar
½ tsp. of butter
1 box Sure Jell
Prepare jars first (wash and sterilize), then keep jars hot until you are ready to use them. Measure exactly 4 cups of prepared juice into a large pot and add the butter (to reduce foaming) and the Sure Jell. Heat on high, stirring constantly, until the mixture reaches a full rolling boil. Stir in the sugar. Return the mixture to a full rolling boil, then boil for EXACTLY one minute. Remove from heat. Skim the foam from the top using a metal spoon, then pour into hot, dry jars, leaving a ¼ inch space at the top. Screw lids/bands on tightly, then process.