08 August 2012

Canning fail: beer jelly

The Ball Blue Book has included a recipe for chablis wine jelly for a few editions now. I had never used it, for a couple of reasons. One, because soft spreads are a breakfast food for me, and even if I had leftover wine in the house (not sure exactly what the phrase means, "leftover wine"; I've never come across such an animal, myself), I think I'd rather use it in a savory dish, not in a jelly. And two, because home canning for me is more of an economic strategy than a hobby. I tend to make jams and preserves not for fun, but for saving money over supermarket prices. (Also: selfish. I don't like to give away my home-canned foods because I hate losing jars!)

But then I saw an article late last year in Philly Beer Scene magazine about a line of jellies made from craft beers and ales. I looked at some local imperial stout I had picked up cheap a few days before and stowed in the fridge. And I put two and two together and figured I'd get four half-pints of a savory jelly to serve with cheese and crackers or take to a holiday party. Unfortunately, the answer I got to two plus two was "six":
Jars this gnarly don't deserve a non-gnarly photo
Beer, unlike chablis wine, is carbonated. Heating beer in sugar-water leads to a release of the carbonation. Placing that mess in jars and then boiling them in a water-bath canner leads to even more release of the carbonation. I've taken a bad picture there for your protection, but the recipe that was supposed to yield 4 half-pints of beer jelly instead gave me 5 half-pints and 2 quarter-pints of foamy mess and a water-bath canner full of sugar-beer that made my house smell like a brewery. Lordy, I haven't had jars turn out that bad since my early canning days, when I would over-fill quart jars with applesauce and lose entire canner loads to failed seals.

The jars have been kicking around on a low, open shelf since November 2011 because I don't have the heart to offer the product to guests or the pride to take them to a party. Yes, that's a light coating of dust on the lids. I'm just surprised that the goop on the outside -- which I've tried several times to wipe off -- hasn't attracted ants.

Or maybe I'm not too surprised after all.

I know what I did wrong: I should have skimmed off the foam like mad. I should have added the beer after turning off the flame. Better yet, I should have opened up the stout the day before, decanted it in another container, and let it go flat before using. The Ball Blue Book includes a recipe for champagne jelly as well, and I should have relied more on that method than on my lousy instincts.

Haven't yet decided if I'll try again, though -- or if I'll put my next few bottles of imperial stout to their more intended use, and keep home canning for pantry purposes, not for hobby purposes.


sue said...

exitIt is not a problem making beer jelly if you open the beers and pour it into a glass overnight and let it go flat before you make the jelly.Try again.

Christy B. said...

I actually had no problem canning my beer jelly. i actually liked the foam because it gives my jars of jelly that "freshly poured stout head" look. Don't be afraid to pull it out and serve your friends! Serve it on pumpernickel bread and cream cheese. It will definitely be a conversation starter!