Basic Jelly Making Instructions + Simple Recipes & Tips

Jellies are the jewels of fruit preserves. Create your own clear, colorful, sweet jelly using our instructions for the perfect jelly every time.

Updated December 18, 2023
red currant jelly

Say hello to peanut butter's tireless partner — jelly. And what better topping for a classic PB&J than a homemade jelly made with fresh fruit juice? We promise — it's way better than the commercial stuff you normally use.

Making jelly can be time-consuming, but it isn't difficult. And homemade jellies preserve large amounts of home-grown fruits so they last all winter long. Make jelly for yourself or as gifts for friends and family, and everyone can enjoy the fruits of your labor (get it?).

Step 1: Extract the Juice for Jelly

Jellies look like jewels because they don't use pulp or seeds – instead, they're clear with the bright colors of the fruit. Use ripe fruit - not over or under-ripe.

  1. Clean the fruit and remove any stems or leaves.
  2. If you're using berries, put them directly in a pot. With apples and stone fruits, peel and core or pit them, cutting them into small chunks.
  3. Fill a pot about ⅔ full with fruit and just barely cover it with water.
  4. Bring the pot to a boil and then reduce to a simmer.
  5. Simmer for about 10 minutes.
  6. Strain the juice through a colander, cheesecloth, or a jelly bag. If you'd like to clarify the juice, you can strain a second time through a finer material.
Need to Know

Jam, jelly, or marmalade? Many people use the terms jelly and jam interchangeably, but there's a difference. Jelly is made from fruit juice, while jam is made from the whole fruit. Marmalade is made from a certain type of orange and is more similar to jam than jelly.

Step 2: Make the Jelly

Once you have your juice, you're ready to make jelly.


You will need several things to make jelly.

  • Large, non-reactive pot
  • Colander or jelly strainer
  • Several sterilized canning jars and lids
  • Canner or very large soup pot

Basic Ingredients

The following are the basic ingredients and ratios for jelly making.

  • Juice
  • Sugar: The typical ratio of juice to sugar is about ¼ cup sugar per every cup of juice, but this can vary, which is why it is important to follow a recipe if you've never made jelly before.
  • Pectin: The pectin to juice ratio is about ¾ to 1 teaspoon of powdered pectin per 1 cup of juice.
  • Lemon juice: The other key ingredient in jelly is acid. Typically, this comes in the form of lemon or lime juice. This is especially important for low-acid fruits to add balance and increase thickening. Add about 1 tablespoon of lemon juice per cup of juice.

Basic Method

  1. Make juice as described above.
  2. Add juice and pectin to a large pot, and bring it to a rolling boil.
  3. Boil the juice and pectin over medium heat for one minute.
  4. Add sugar and continue boiling and stirring until the sugar completely dissolves.
  5. Remove from the heat and carefully ladle into jars, leaving about ½ inch space at the top.
  6. Wipe the rims of the jars clean.
  7. Seal with lids and rings.
  8. Allow to stand at room temperature for 24 hours to set.
  9. Either refrigerate the jelly, or proceed with sealing using a canner or large pot with water bath. Follow canning instructions carefully.

Wine Jelly Recipe

panna cotta with wine jelly

Okay - maybe not for your kiddo's PB&J —  but certainly for yours if you're into it. Or serve it with charcuterie, as a sophisticated panna cotta topper, or as a brie cheese topping


  • 3½ cups of wine 
  • ½ cup lemon juice
  • 2 ounces dry pectin
  • 4½ cups of sugar


  1. In a large stock pot, combine wine, lemon, and pectin.
  2. Bring to a rolling boil and boil for one minute.
  3. Add sugar, stirring to dissolve.
  4. Remove from heat and ladle into sterilized jars, leaving ½ inch at the top. Wipe the rims and seal with a lid and ring.
  5. Process in a water bath or canner for 10 minutes.


  • Replace the wine with grape juice.
  • Use unsweetened apple juice in place of the wine. 
  • You can also use unsweetened peach, pear, nectarine, or cranberry juice to make this jelly.

Coffee Jelly Recipe

Contributed by Linda Johnson Larsen, B.S. Food Science & Nutrition, Cookbook Author

Coffee jelly cubes in milk

This jelly doesn't use pectin — instead it's more of a British style jelly made with gelatin. If you're feeling adventurous, give it a try.


  • 1 (¼-ounce) package unflavored gelatin
  • ¼ cup cold water
  • 2 cups hot strong brewed coffee
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • Pinch salt


  1. Combine the gelatin and cold water in a medium bowl and let it stand for 5 minutes.
  2. Stir in the hot coffee and sugar. Continue stirring until the gelatin and sugar dissolve.
  3. Take up a small amount of the mixture in a spoon and tilt it in the light. If you can see grains of sugar or gelatin, they have not dissolved completely. Continue stirring until the mixture is clear.
  4. Stir the honey and salt into the coffee mixture.
  5. Pour the mixture into a glass 8" square pan.
  6. Cover and chill for 3 to 5 hours or until the mixture is firm.
  7. To serve, cut the coffee jelly into 1" cubes. Float in a glass of milk or iced coffee to serve.

Jelly-Making Tips

When making jelly, consider the following tips:

  • Pectin is not fully developed until the fruit is nearly ripe. Ripening changes the character of the pectin, as does overcooking of the juice with sugar.
  • Acidic fruits make the best jelly.
  • Large, firm fruit, such as apples, crab apples, and quinces, must be boiled in water until soft to extract juice.
  • Avoid stirring during cooking, as this can make the jelly cloudy.
  • A flannel bag will give the clearest jelly, but a bag made of new cotton will also work.

Sweet and Savory Jellies

Jelly is super versatile once you figure out the formula (which we just gave you). So whatever juice you want to add will make a delicious jelly for your PB or any other thing that you'd like to put it on.

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Basic Jelly Making Instructions + Simple Recipes & Tips