Originally published May 2021, updated May 2022.
If you can find someone selling mayhaw berries, then you absolutely must make this Mayhaw Jelly Recipe and discover what the fuss about homemade jelly is all about.
Back in high school I competed in a Horticulture Use competition via 4-H Short Course. I was assigned to demonstrate….Mayhaw Jelly. I had never heard of Mayhaw Jelly and had no idea what a mayhaw berry even was. But that was then, and this is now.
Before we get started let’s discuss the basics first.
WHAT IS A MAYHAW?
Mayhaws, as expected, get their name from the tree they grow from; the mayhaw tree. They are a low lying fruit, common in the south due to the proximity of waterways. They bloom in mid-April to early May, hence where the tree got its name. They are a small, round, reddish fruit that resemble cranberries in appearance but in appearance alone. Mayhaws straight from the tree are really not suitable for instant consumption (much too tart), but in a jelly or sauce, it’s outstanding.
WHERE CAN YOU FIND MAYHAW BERRIES?
It’s a southern thing but if you find yourself in Louisiana on the second weekend in May, you can purchase all things mayhaw at none other than the Mayhaw Festival. Or, if you’re desperate like me, you can google “where to purchase mayhaw berries” in your area. I was lucky to discover the Vice President for the Mayhaw Association lives not quite 30 minutes away from me. She has her own trees! And a canning kitchen. She invited me over to her home and I wrote about her here.
HOW CAN YOU USE MAYHAW BERRIES?
It’s been no less than 20 years since I competed in jelly making, but I can still recite the words to this question.
“Mayhaw berries make for delicious jams, wine or syrups for ice cream, but my favorite way to enjoy mayhaws is with mayhaw jelly. There is something special about making your own jelly, something you just won’t find in store bought jelly.”
Now that all of that is out of the way, let’s make some jelly!
- 3 lbs. fully ripe mayhaws (4 cups juice)
- 1 (1.75-oz.) box Sure-Jell pectin
- 5 cups granulated sugar
- 4 (8-oz.) half-pint glass preserving jars with lids and bands
Prepare boiling water canner. Heat jars in simmering water until ready to use. DON’T BOIL. Wash lids and set them aside.
Remove stems and blossom ends from mayhaws; place in large saucepan. Add water. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Gently crush cooked mayhaws.
Place several layers of damp cheesecloth in a fine mesh strainer over a large bowl. Pour prepared fruit into cheesecloth. Tie cheesecloth closed; hang and let drip into bowl until dripping stops. Press gently.
Measure exactly 4 cups prepared juice into 6- or 8-qt. saucepot. Gradually stir in pectin. Over high heat, stirring constantly, bring mixture to a full rolling boil that can’t be stirred down. Add all of the sugar and stir to dissolve. Return to a full rolling boil. Boil hard for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and skim foam. Ladle jam into hot jars, leaving about ¼ inch headspace. Wipe rim. Center lid on jar and apply band until it is fingertip tight.
Place jars on elevated rack in canner/stockpot. (Water must cover jars by 1 to 2 inches. Add boiling water if necessary.) Cover; bring water to gentle boil. Process for 5 minutes. Remove jars and place upright to cool completely. After jars cool, check seals by pressing middles of lids with finger. If lids spring back, they are not sealed and require additional processing.
Jelly made with pectin needs to fully cool before it jells completely. Allow your jelly to sit out for at least 24 hours.
I’m including instructions for using a large stock pot as that is what most people who are not avid canners will have available to them. I do own the Freshtech canner (I own so many dang gadgets!) and need to experiment with it once I get my hands on some more berries. I’ll update and include those instructions when that happens.
I think the most important element when it comes to canning, is being organized and having everything ready to roll before you get started. Also, be sure you have the afternoon to devote to your task. While the actual jelly making doesn’t require a ton of time, the cleaning, sorting, boiling, canning process will take up a bit of your day.
Some tips for preparing for making jelly:
- Get organized! Have everything in place and lined up before you begin. Jelly making is not the time to multi-task.
- The best jelly comes from one that has the fruit properly sorted, damaged fruit discarded and remaining fruit thorougly cleaned.
- A perfectly set jelly is one whose boiling time isn’t rushed. You’ll save time by not having to repeat the process.
- A beautiful jelly is one that has had its juice carefully strained. It’s an extra step, or two, but a clear jelly is the goal.
- 1/2 teaspoon of butter added is said to help reduce the foam, but be sure to be meticulous when removing the foam regardless. Again, a crystal clear jelly is what you’re after.
Yes, jelly making takes a bit of effort but it’s also greatly satisfying when done properly.
Not only do you get to reap the rewards yourself, but a single batch will provide you with enough jelly to share with friends and family.
If you’re unable to locate any Mayhaw berries but now in the mood for canning, you can try this Strawberry Lemonade Marmalade recipe.