Saturday, October 27, 2012

Beautyberry Jelly

This week I took a notion to make some beautyberry jelly. Are you familar with the expression, took a notion?  It might just be "Tennessee talk". It means, decided to.

I have made it a couple of times before using this recipe from the Florida Native Plant Society's book.

I have two plants in my back yard. The plants grow into large indelicate-looking bushes. This picture of my plant shows the typical very pretty dark lavender color of the berries. I think there might be a red version too. Notice the unusual growing habit of the berries in clusters around the stem about every inch or so.

For those not familiar with the plant, here is a paragraph from the web site of the Florida Native Plant Society:  Introduction: Purple berries clinging around stems with bright green foliage make Callicarpa americana stand out from late summer to winter.  It is easy to see how beautyberry got its common name.  Don't let its looks fool you though; Callicarpa is more than just eye candy.  Callicarpa americana is useful medicinally and as food for wildlife and people.  American Beautyberry is not fussy about location, soil or light requirements.  This tough plant is an American Beauty in every sense of the word.  Its name comes from Greek: Kalli, means beautiful; Karpos means fruit.

I didn't have enough berries on my bushes for the recipe so I got some from a friend. She was ready to trim hers back and brought lots of branches about four feet long each.

So, yesterday morning as storm Sandy was coming up the coast I stood on the back porch and stripped off all the berries. I had second thoughts about whether I wanted to stay out there because the wind was very blustery and it was quite noisy under the trees.

The best way to strip the berries is to lay the branch across the bowl and do one clump at a time letting the berries fall into the bowl.
It is not a quick process to get a quart and a half of berries but, I finally did and moved into the kitchen.  The outside pictures shows the more natural color.

Boiling the berries and making the infusion goes quickly. Straining out the berries (I did mine through a cloth) is not my favorite part of the process.  Then, mixing the infusion, sure gel and sugar, and boiling it for a short time is all that's left.  Here you see my finished jelly syrup. Yes, it did not gel!  I remember what I made a few years back was not very thick jelly but this is more like thin syrup. It tastes good though, so I plan to use it for pancakes, ice cream, fruit salad and who knows what else. I wish it would retain the pretty purple color but this color is also pretty.

The infusion recipe makes enough to make two runs of jelly so I refrigerated what was left and today I was determined to have some beautyberry jelly, went to the store and got more sure gel, used two instead of one and now I have more jars of jelly syrup!

So, if you have beautyberries and wish to try making jelly you might want to find a different recipe! I think acidity has something to do with the gelling but I'm not sure. My disappointment is that I wanted to give some cute little jars of jelly to friends.  Maybe I could just pretend it was supposed to be syrup???  They would never know would they? Unless of course, they are reading this. Wouldn't you know, every jar sealed.  If you have ever preserved anything in jars you know the reward of hearing those lids, ping, ping, ping, one after the other.


  1. Wow! looks great. I wish I could have given you some off my brush.dh

  2. Could you use some Beautyberry syrup, Deborah?

  3. I have never, in my life, heard of beautyberries. They are so colorful and I love the clusters all along the branches. Interesting.
    So sorry your jelly didn't turn out. That's disappointing. :( I'm sure your friends will appreciate your efforts and be thrilled at getting their jelly/syrup gifts.
    Oh, the phrase "took a notion" is used around here in Oklahoma but not very common. *I've got a hankerin'* is one I use often. I think these phrases come, more so, from our generation rather than the younger, don't you think? ;)

  4. Got some red ones in n.c. 20 miles s.e .of Rockingham.

    1. Red beautyberries? I have never heard of them.

  5. Add lemon at the end. Not only will it help set the jelly, but the amazing purple color returns like magic.

    1. Thank you for the tip. I will try that next time for sure.


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