Jellies and Shrubs for the March Mastery Challenge

March 5, 2017(updated on November 27, 2018)

We’re five days into March, and so it’s high time to start digging into this month’s challenge (I’ve been at a conference for the last couple days, which accounts for the delay). We’re going to be focusing in on both jelly and shrubs this time around.

The reason for the double topics is that jelly making has much in common with marmalade making. For those of you who wearied of achieving set during January’s challenge, you have another option. What’s more, shrubs are fun.

What is Jelly?

There are a lot of preserves that get called jelly, but for the purposes of this challenge, we’re defining it as a sweet or savory preserve that is made primarily with a flavorful liquid like fruit juice, vinegar, or wine (other spirits do sometimes come into play with jellies as well). Fruit jellies should be clear and without any bits or pieces of fruit or fruit pulp. Things like pepper jellies can include bits of pepper material. Jellies should be well-set enough to be spread on toast without dripping down your hand.

There are several ways to go about getting your jelly to set up.

High Pectin Fruits – Some fruits are so naturally high in pectin that you don’t need to add commercial pectin to achieve set (a good example is the red currant jelly I wrote about last summer). Those jellies just need enough sugar to help elevate the temperature to reach the set point (to read more about why sugar aids in set, read this). Occasionally, people will also extract pectin from these high pectin fruits to use in combination with lower pectin fruits.

Commercial Pectin – Other fruits don’t have a ton of natural pectin and require additional pectin in order to set up. These days, my go-to pectins are the Classic Ball Flex Pectin (for higher sugar batches) and Pomona’s Pectin (for lower sugar and alternative sweeteners).

Reduction – Some fruit juices have the ability to set up into jelly with no more than a nice, long boil. Chief among these juices are apple cider. When I first made this apple cider syrup, I accidentally cooked it to 220F and it set up into a nice, spreadable preserve.

The world of jellies really broad, but the thing that unifies them is the fact that they have a solidly spreadable set. If you didn’t read this post on using the plate test to check for set back in January, I recommend you give it a look now.

Here are some jelly recipes to help get you started. Of course, this is just a starting place. There’s a world of jelly recipes out there in books and online for you to choose from.

What is a Shrub?

I’ve been smitten with shrubs since I made my first one back in 2011. Shrubs are a combination of fruit, sugar and vinegar. Left to sit for a few days (or even longer), they develop a deep, sweet-tart flavor that is a wonderful addition to a glass of sparkling water, a batch of salad dressing, a fancy homemade cocktail, a marinade for meat or vegetables, or to a pan sauce.

There is no better writer on the topic of shrubs than Michael Dietsch. He started in on the topic back in 2011 with this post on Serious Eats and has subsequently written a whole book about them. Emily Han‘s book, Wild Drinks and Cocktails, is also contains a lot of tasty shrubs.

I’ve got four shrub recipes here on the blog and there are far more out there online. However, if you remember the essential ratio of one part sugar, one part vinegar, and a generous handful of fruit of some kind, you’ll be good.

As always, I’ll be sharing more recipes, tips and tricks around the topic of jellies and shrubs on the blog all month long. The deadline to submit your project to be counted in the final tally is Wednesday, March 29 (I’ll put the form up soon).

I’m also doing a Facebook Live session on the topic on Thursday, March 9 at 9 pm Eastern/6 pm Pacific. Make sure to tune in!


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23 thoughts on "Jellies and Shrubs for the March Mastery Challenge"

  • Love the jelly recipe suggestions already — never tried shrubs before, but they sound interesting too. I was quite busy in February and only TODAY made the sauerkraut that I was planning to make for last month’s challenge. Admittedly, I was still working on January’s marmalades for the first half of February, perfecting the “set”. Blood orange marmalade was the final batch and soooo pretty — I wondered if anyone ever just made orange jelly, so may have to check out that creamsicle jelly first!

  • Oh, I’ve got bags of grapes in the freezer just waiting for me to make jelly.

    I’ve done shrubs before and am up for it again. I’ve got cases of seltzer in the garage just waiting to be used as a mixer.

  • This is so exciting for me I have been canning for over 10 yearsand never made a jelly. I am Jam Committed! LOL I am digging right inot that Parsley Jelly. I have a boat load of parsley in the yeard and Apples from a neighbor! Thank you Scrubs next when I get back from up north! ! xoxo

  • I’m seeking a recipe for a small batch savory jelly, preferably pepper. If anyone knows of one, let me know!

  • Oh MY this looks amazing!!! I am SO EXCITED to try making shrubs! I have never heard of them before. Last year our family got a Sodastream and I’ve been having a blast making syrups for it so shrubs are right up my alley! I live in the south and it’ll be berry season soon (I’ve even heard rumors that strawberries are ready)!

  • Looking forward to trying a shrub – I think I still have a bag of cranberries in the freezer from Thanksgiving. For sure there are still some blueberries, strawberries, and sour cherries. I skipped last month – I’d just done gravlax over the holidays, and we’re not huge fans of preserved lemons, so figured I’d just wait. Glad to have a new project!

  • Is it safe to can shrubs? If so, would hot water bath suffice, or would pressure canning be better?

  • I’m excited to try making shrubs this month and I have a question; Do you think honey or coconut sugar could be substituted for the cane sugar? I’ve really enjoyed the Mastery Challenge and am trying to go sugar-free whenever possible.

  • I haven’t seen anything mentioned about the medicinal uses of shrubs, especially elderberry shrub. Google elderberries and you will find they have the most health/healing properties of any berry. The first time I heard of a ‘shrub’ (other than a bush, ha) was about 6 years ago at a presentation given at our herbal society. What an eye opener. Ever since then I’ve been trying to harvest elderberries in the wild only to be beat out by the deer. Finally last year I planted my own elderberry bush but it will be another year before I get enough berries to make a decent jar of that wonderful shrub she gave us the recipe for. Take it at the first sign of a cold or flu. Has natural antiviral properties just to name one.

  • I’ve made a strawberry shrub, a cherry shrub, and an apricot ginger shrub. All were delightful. I recently made an apple shrub with equal parts grated apple, apple cider vinegar, and sugar. It is waaa-aaaaay too sweet. The others had a lovely tart result, but this one… notsomuch. Any thoughts on why this one would have such a different result. I should add I used the cold method for all of them.

  • I’ve always wanted to make a shrub. I’m hoping to be able to jump into the challenge this month! It’s been fun following along.

  • Are you still there? I returned to yourblog after searching “can I make jelly from sbrub”? I’ve been making poblano jelly from home grown ripened poblanos for years,and am about to start this years batch, when I noticed mall of the homemade shrub, especially tomato, I have aging in my fridge. I wonder if anyone has thoughts ma out making a tomato shrub jelly? I used a cold shrub recipe that s a out equal amounts of tomatoes and sugar, and some vinegar added a week or so later. At this point it has seperatedminto tomatoes water, and the solidsmthat didn’t get removed switch straining and pressing through cheeses cloth. Notmsuremif I should mix it first, or try the clear tomato water. I usually use Pomona, so I guess I can just do sugar to taste.