It's really easy to make delicious apple jelly everyone will love with just 3 simple ingredients. I especially love that this easy home canning recipe needs no added pectin!
My boys love a good fruit spread in the mornings with breakfast, whether we're eating toast or biscuits. We've made pressure cooker apple butter for a long time now, and this apple jelly recipe has become another family-favorite breakfast addition.
This recipe for apple jelly reminds me of my sister, because her version was the first I'd ever tasted in my then young life. I'm pretty sure she made her apple jelly from juice too; I just remember it tasting so delicious.
Why Make This Recipe?
I think you'll love this homemade apple jelly because it's…
- Easy to make – With only 3 ingredients, it only requires a little bit of cook time. It's just a matter of mixing and stirring while it heats.
- No need to peel or core any apples – Instead of apples, you use apple juice for this recipe. You can either make homemade apple juice; or you can use store-bought juice, though you may need to add a little bit of pectin to store-bought juice.
- Budget-friendly – Let's face it, good jelly is expensive at the store. You can make 4 to 6 jelly jars (or half-pints) of this homemade jelly for less than $10.
What's the Difference Between Apple Butter and Apple Jelly?
Basically, jelly is clear and made from juice.
Apple butter is more like jam and made with actual apples vs. juice. It's not clear and also has various spices like cloves and nutmeg for added flavors.
The ingredients you need are simple, and you may already have them in your pantry. If you choose to juice your own apples, that may require a quick trip to the orchard or farmer's market.
- Apple juice – Again, you can make this homemade with fresh apples, or you can use store bought juice. If making apple juice, I recommend a sweeter apple like Gala, Honeycrisp, Fuji, Yellow Delicious, Rome, Jonagold, or Pink Lady.
- Lemon juice – I like to use a fresh lemon juice, either straight from a lemon or my favorite shortcut… Minute Maid lemon juice you can find in the freezer section of some grocery stores; I've been able to find it at my local Walmart.
How to Make Apple Jelly
The process of making apple jelly is actually really easy, especially if your juice is already made and ready to go.
- Mix together the apple juice, lemon juice, and sugar in a stock pot. Then bring the mixture to a boil, constantly stirring. Continue to cook the mixture, constantly stirring, until the mixture reaches a temperature of 220° with a candy thermometer.
- Remove from the heat, and promptly ladle or pour into clean and sanitized/sterilized jelly jars for canning or freezing. Be sure to leave about a 1/2-inch gap at the top of each jar.
- Wipe the rim of each jar with a wet towel or rag, place the lid on, and tighten the band. At this point, you can either can the apple jelly or freeze it. I prefer water bath canning apple jelly, where I place the hot jars down in a boiling hot water bath canner with 1-2 inches of water over the jars. Then we process those jars in the hot water bath for about 10 to 15 minutes.
Expert Tips and Recipe FAQ's
- Careful… If the jelly hasn't begun to gel once it's reached 220° F, you may need to cook it just a little bit longer. Whatever you do, do not cook it too long, or it will end up like our first batch… A sticky, gooey apple taffy mess that eventually turns into a slab of apple rock. Believe me, you don't want that.
Time to set up really depends on a number of factors, including the type of stove you're using to cook the jelly. It will likely take a good 30 to 45 minutes, maybe longer for your jelly to set. And even as you remove it from the stove, it won't be completely set; in fact, it will be more like liquid. As it sits in the jars and begins to cool, the jelly will firm up and set even more. That's why it's important to put it in jars right away.
Most sources say that pantry stored (and canned) jam and jelly can last 1 to 2 years. Freezer jam is a bit less with a freezer life of about 6 months. Shelf Life Advice has a helpful chart with the life span of a jar of jelly.
Pectin occurs naturally in fruits like berries and apples. When that pectin is cooked with sugar, it can thicken, forming the gel that makes jam and jelly. Apples have a very good amount of natural pectin, especially when you cook the peelings, cores, and all to make your juice. Store bought juice may not have all the natural pectin you'll get from a good homemade apple juice made by cooking the whole apple.
What to Eat with Apple Jelly
More Homemade Jams and Jellies You'll Love:
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Homemade Apple Jelly without Pectin
- Mix together the apple juice, lemon juice, and sugar in a stock pot.
- Bring the mixture to a boil, constantly stirring.
- Continue to cook the mixture, constantly stirring, until the mixture reaches a temperature of 220° with a candy thermometer. If the jelly hasn't begun to gel once it's reached 220°, you may need to cook it just a little bit longer.*
- Remove the jelly from the heat, and promptly ladle or pour into clean and sanitized/sterilized jars for canning or freezing. Be sure to leave about a 1/2-inch gap at the top of each jar.
- Wipe the rim of each jar with a wet towel or rag, place the lid on, and tighten the band.
- At this point, you can either can the apple jelly or freeze it. I prefer water bath canning apple jelly, where I place the hot jars down in a boiling hot water bath canner with 1-2 inches of water over the jars. Then we process those jars in the hot water bath for about 10 to 15 minutes.
- Once canned, allow your jelly to sit undisturbed for 24 hours before labeling and storing in your pantry.