The Cottage Smallholder

stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

Francoise’s garden herb jelly recipe

Danny's parsley and thyme growing

Danny’s herbs

Danny salvaged a discarded bathtub and planted it with parsley and thyme. Three months later, the bath is overflowing with parsley. It stands beside a large water butt so it’s impossible to forget when the weather is hot. Regular watering has definitely paid off and I’m thinking of moving a lot more herbs down to this location.

There was one problem: what to do with the glut? When I mentioned this to my friend Anne Mary, she assured me that she had the answer.

Within a few hours she rang me, ‘I’ve found this great recipe from Francoise.’ Anne Mary trained as a chef in France and is an excellent and innovative cook. When she talks about Francoise’s special recipes her eyes twinkle. If this was a Francoise recipe, it had to be very good.

If you don’t feel like making it now, print off a copy of this recipe for the future as it’s a superb herb jelly. A jar of this makes an exquisite present. It’s very pretty; the herbs added at the end are suspended in the jelly. If you do give it away, be prepared to be pestered for the recipe.

This recipe needs fresh herbs.


  • 1 pound/454g of cooking apples (Bramleys are ideal)
  • Herbs to simmer with the apples: 12 large parsley stalks, 5 sprigs of apple mint, lemon thyme and tarragon
  • 1/2 UK pint/280ml/1 cup of cider vinegar
  • 2 pints/1.14L/5 cups of water
  • White granulated sugar (1 pint/570ml/2 1/2 cups of extracted juice to 1 pound/454g of sugar)

Herbs to stir into the jelly before putting into jars:

  • 8 tablespoons of chopped parsley
  • 6 tablespoons of chopped apple mint
  • 1 tablespoon of chopped lemon thyme
  • 1 tablespoon of chopped tarragon


  1. Wash the apples, cut out bad bits and chop roughly. There is no need to peel or core the apples. Add 2 pints/1.4L/5 cups of water and bring slowly to the boil and simmer very gently for half an hour until all the fruit is soft and squishy.
  2. Stir in the cider vinegar and boil fast for five minutes.
  3. Pour the cooked fruit through sterilised muslin into a large clean bucket or bowl (how do I sterilise muslin/the jelly bag? See tips and tricks below). The muslin is often referred to as a “jelly bag”. We use tall buckets to catch the drips from the jelly bags. Rather than hang the bags (conventional method: between the legs of an upturned stool) I find it easier to line a large plastic sieve with the muslin. This clips neatly onto the top of a clean bucket. The sieve is covered with a clean tea cloth to protect against flies.
  4. Leave the jelly bag to drip overnight (or about 12 hours).
  5. Measure the juice the next day.
  6. Pour the juice into a deep heavy bottomed saucepan and add 1 pound/454g of white granulated sugar for each 1 pint/570ml/2 1/2 cups of juice.
  7. Heat the juice and sugar gently stirring from time to time, so as to make sure that that all the sugar has dissolved before bringing the liquid slowly to the boil.
  8. As there are apples (high in pectin) in this recipe, only continue to boil for about 10 minutes before testing for a set. This is called a rolling boil. Test every 3 to 5 minutes until setting point is reached. (What is testing for a set? See tips and tricks below).
  9. Tossing in a nugget of butter towards the end will reduce the frothing that can occur.
  10. When jelly has reached setting point remove from heat and let the liquid cool for ten/fifteen minutes before stirring in the herbs. Stir the herbs gently into the jelly and pour into warm sterilised jars using a funnel and ladle. (How do I sterilise jars? See tips and tricks below).
  11. Cover immediately with plastic lined screw top lids. As this recipe contains vinegar waxed disks and cellophane tops cannot be used.
    12. Label when cold and store in a cool, dark place. Away from damp
  12. Label when cold and store in a cool, dark place. Away from damp.

Tips and tricks:

– What is a jelly bag?
A jelly bag is traditionally a piece of muslin but it can be cheesecloth, an old thin tea cloth or even a pillowcase. The piece needs to be about 18″ square. When your fruit is cooked and ready to be put in the jelly bag, lay your cloth over a large bowl. Pour the fruit into the centre of the cloth and tie the four corners together so that they can be slung on a stick to drip over the bowl. Traditionally a stool is turned upside down, the stick is rested on the wood between the legs and the jelly bag hangs over the bowl. We experimented and now line a sieve with muslin, place it over a bucket and cover the lot with clean tea cloths (against the flies).
– How do I sterilise muslin/the jelly bag?
Iron the clean jelly bag with a hot iron. This method will also sterilise tea cloths.
 – Jelly “set” or “setting point”?
Getting the right set can be tricky. I have tried using a jam thermometer but find it easier to use the following method.
Before you start to make the jelly, put a couple of plates in the fridge so that the warm jam can be drizzled onto a cold plate (when we make jam we often forget to return the plate to the fridge between tests, using two plates means that you have a spare cold plate). Return the plate to the fridge to cool for approx two minutes. It has set when you run your finger through it and leave a crinkly track mark. If after two minutes the cooled jam is too liquid, continue to boil the jelly, testing it every few minutes until you have the right set. The jelly is far more delicious if it is slightly runny. It does get firmer after a few months. Jelly set temperature is 103c/217f.
How do I sterilise the jars and lids?
We collect jars all year round for our jelly, chutney and jam making sessions. I try to soak off labels and store the clean jars and metal plastic coated screw-top lids in an accessible place. The sterilising method that we use is simple. Just before making the jam, I quickly wash and rinse the jars and place them upside down in a cold oven. Set the temperature to 160c/140c for fan assisted. When the oven has reached the right temperature I turn off the heat. The jars will stay warm for quite a while. I only use plastic lined lids for preserves as the all-metal lids can go rusty. I boil these for five minutes in water to sterilise them. If I use Le Parfait jars, I do the same with the rubber rings.


  Leave a reply


  1. Shirley Hallewell

    Why doesn’t my rosemary sprigs stay down in my jelly, they just float to the top

    • Fiona Nevile

      Hi Shirley, Once you have put the jelly into jars you need to keep on turning them over every 10 mins or so to evenly distribute the herbs

  2. Should this recipe work with eating apples too? I noted your comment on making your Old Fashioned Apple jelly recipe 7059 with eating apples, so I assumed this one would work too. But it is proving a bit disastrous, and I’m not sure whether that’s due to the apples, or down to my general incompetence (having never made any jams or jellies before)! I assume, after simmering the apples in water for 30 mins, that I should have something with the consistency of apple sauce? But, even after an hour, I still just had chunks of apple floating in water. They were soft, so I tried mushing them up with a potato masher but, even after further simmering, that just left me with an apple-y soup. I have continued on, and put the soup through the jelly bag. But the strained liquid is (unsurprisingly) very cloudy. Is this jelly likely to work if I carry on to the sugar stage? Or should I give it up as a bad job now?!
    Nb – I did put in too much water initially, as I was using the metric measurements which, in step 1, call for 1.4 litres of water – rather than 1.14 litres. I’m also wondering whether the quantity of cider vinegar is correct, as it changed my mixture from a lovely gentle smell of apple & mint, to an unpleasantly strong smell of vinegar)?
    I’m keen to make this jelly properly, and have sufficient (eating) apples to start again from scratch if necessary, but would appreciate any tips on what I might have done wrong! Many thanks.

  3. wow! then it sounds amazing. I know what I’m doing tomorrow. Will be using some bright red crab apples. thank you

  4. For this recipe, do you add all of the following at simmer stage – 12 large parsley stalks, 4/5 sprigs of apple mint, lemon thyme and tarragon, or just choose 1 type of herb?

  5. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Jonny

    I have no idea but I might very well give it a go next time I make jelly.

  6. Wow did the wax sealing work?
    I know that William Curley choclates in richmond seal off their pots of seasalt caramel spread with dark chocolate. Its delicious, like breaking through a creme brulee when you start a jar.

  7. I can realy recommend paraffin wax to seal jams and jellies, I buy it every year on holiday in France where I think it’s the standard method. It comes in blocks or granules. My Mum makes about 60lb of marmalade every January and supplies the whole family and she always uses it. So go for it !….

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