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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.


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  1. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Julio,

    That sounds like a great tip. I’d love to hear how this works for you and how thick that the wax has to be. Red wax would look brilliant.

  2. Had a great tiop from a friend for sealing. Rather than worry about rubber based caps etc with the vinegar, use candle wax. Simply drip the wax from a lit candle over the jam.
    It seals it completely with no air gap, same principle as fat and pate. Apparently it doesn’t melt the jam either, the herbs for this recepie are arriving tomorrow, so I’ll let you know if the wax technique works. (I fancy red wax for that dramatic effect!)

  3. Fiona Nevile

    Hi LizO,

    My chilli and crabapple jelly was not hot enough so I’m going to give it another go this weekend. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Hi
    Just to let you know that I have used half of my donated apples and mixed in Mint (dried as not enough available from the garden!) with a little vinegar to one half of the juice that I made yesterday. The other half I mixed with Dried Chili flakes (as suggested by Worrell-Thomson on his site). These both worked well though I think I should have added more chili to give the end result a bigger kick!!
    Thanks for the site, and thanks for all your helpful suggestions.
    LizO :o)

  5. Fiona Nevile

    Thanks so much, Kate(uk), for these excellent contributions. We have friends who make crab apple and chilli jelly and I love it. I must try the pure crab apple one as we have a decent amount of fruit on our chaenomeles this year.

    The herb cubes are a great idea. Danny has just decided that he likes coriander, so I am going to sow some when I get a mo.

  6. Kate(uk)

    If you have space in a freezer chop your fresh herbs finely, put into ice cube trays, add a bit of water so you get ‘herb cubes’, just throw into saucepan in winter as required.My favourite frozen herb is green coriander seed- freeze when fat and green, the flavour is AMAZING but keep it in a really firm lidded box as the smell does try to escape!

  7. Kate(uk)

    Crab Apple John Downie- the one with the large fruits, quince ( chaenomeles- the shrub that grows on walls and as hedges, not the tree) fruits and herbs- an excellent jelly with meat: if you have lots of fruits on your quince just chop and jelly them adding a little bit of lemon rind and juice at the boiling with sugar stage for a fabulously tart, fruity jelly that really wakes up your winter breakfast toast, the colour is divine too.

  8. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Julio

    Great idea to put rosemary in the old fashioned apple jelly. Hope that it works out well for you.

  9. This sounds fantastic, will hunt out the proper herbs here in urban London to make it properly. Meanwhile making your Old Fashioned Apple Jelly but adding rosemary (inspired but this receipe) as it’s the only fresh herb in the garden and the apple tree is heaving…

  10. tractorfactorsteve

    forget all the baloney about oven sterilising of jars. after a thorough wash i’ve only ever put mine in the sink, filled each one with very hot water, then refilled them with boiling water. never, in 20 years of preserving has anything failed (except sometimes it tastes cr..not nice). it’s the seal that counts. as for metal lids on vinegar based preserves, line them with clingfilm or jampot covers. controvertial!

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