Keeping it classy with a wine jelly recipe from 1896

Guest post by Tamara Kraft
vintage wine jelly recipe

There’s a popular saying, “Coffee keeps me going until it’s acceptable to drink wine.” Wouldn’t it be nice to enjoy your morning with your favorite red, along with your coffee and toast?

This may sound extravagant, but this recipe published in 1896 was originally intended for those with very little appetite or who had difficulty keeping more substantial foods down.

Wine jelly is tasty on top of toast, biscuits, roast beef, turkey, spooned from shot glasses, squeezed from paper cups, and licked from spoons. It’s not overly sweet, and it keeps in the fridge for months.

It’s simple to make, but will take some planning, as it has one uncommon pantry ingredient that will need to be acquired in advance…

Gum Arabic photo courtesy of Amazon
Gum Arabic photo courtesy of Amazon

Gum Arabic is a natural, edible gum made of the hardened sap of the Acacia tree. It is currently used in the food industry as a stabilizer. It is also the key ingredient in the favorite science experiment of elementary kids: the Diet Coke and Mentos eruption; as it is responsible for reducing the surface tension in liquids, which leads to accelerated fizz in carbonated drinks.

gum arabic water recipe

I bought my Gum Arabic on Amazon. You may also find it available in your local health food store — or art supply store, for that matter, as it is used in some painting techniques. The more modern preparation is in powdered form, which makes mixing and emulsifying much more efficient, but I used the solid chunk form for the sake of testing the original recipe. Make up a batch of the Gum Arabic Water and keep it in a tight jar in the fridge. It will keep just fine in between batches of jelly.

Source: Ellsworth, M.W. Queen of the Household. pp. 619,624. Detroit: Ellsworth and Brey, 1896. Print.
Source: Ellsworth, M.W. Queen of the Household. pp. 619,624. Detroit: Ellsworth and Brey, 1896. Print.

Wine Jelly (Modern translation):

  1. Dissolve 2 packets of unflavored gelatin into ½ cup water in a small saucepan.
  2. Stir in 1 tsp gum Arabic water (made beforehand), ½ tsp nutmeg, and 1Tbs sugar.
  3. Add 1 cup port. (Port has a higher alcohol content than table wine, and doesn’t all get boiled out)
  4. Heat to boiling, stirring until sugar dissolves.
  5. Remove from heat and pour into mason jars or serving glasses. Chill.

Tip: Wrap a ribbon around the jar, and you’ve got a hostess gift ready at a moment’s notice!

See you for brunch!

Comments on Keeping it classy with a wine jelly recipe from 1896

  1. Fantastic sounding recipe. This will really top off the homemade holiday baskets I’m putting together. Do you know how long will this keep once made? Can I preserve it for months like standard jam or does it need to eaten faster?

  2. Wine jelly!! I love this idea!!! I think I’m going to make it for my oenophile husband and call it a birthday present. And then I’m going to consume most of the wine jelly myself, because, you know, we live together and sometimes these things happen 😉 Baguette, goat cheese, and wine jelly really does sound like an excellent breakfast.

  3. Awesome! If you were to make a big batch with an entire bottle of wine or port, how much jam would you get? Do you need to do anything special to the canning jars?

    • This is probably a little late, but agar agar is a good vegan substitute for pectin/gelatin. I got mine at PCC, which is a fancy pants natural health food store, in the Asian/international section.

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