Saturday, July 28, 2012

Shou-Spiced Blackberry Apple Jelly

I've had this experiment rolling around in my head since brewing up that first shou that filled my nose and kitchen with yummy smells of spiced earth and blackberries (specifically, that 2003 Longma Tong Qing).  Now that flats of luscious berries are filling the markets I decided it was time to try it out.  I made a few different batches, tweaking the recipe each time.  I still think this could use some revisions, but this one is pretty darn good.  Lest you think that shou-flavored jelly sounds like an "acquired taste" let me assure you, this will surprise!  I was wondering, too.  Do I really want jelly that tastes like garden mulch??  But much like a well-crafted perfume, the shou blends in beautifully, adding surprising depth and even creaminess to the deep dark blackberry goodness.  If you didn't know it was in there you'd never taste it and think "tastes like my jellied scone was dropped in the dirt," even though there's a good amount of strongly brewed shou in the recipe.  I even tested this out on unsuspecting family members and friends, not telling them what I'd put in it.  Everyone happily devoured their jelly-slathered English muffins with many compliments, although none could pinpoint what kind of berry I'd used.  The addition of the shou has a terrific effect on the flavor.  This coupled with the bit of added spice and the use of raw, unrefined sugar (which lend a very subtle molasses note) turns a plain old blackberry jelly into dark mystery-berry yumminess.  Here's the (current) recipe:

Shou-Spiced Blackberry Apple Jelly

2 1/4 pounds blackberries
2 1/4 pounds tart cooking apples (or crab apples, if you have access to some)
5 cups water
20 grams shou puer
6 whole cloves
1/4 teaspoon five spice powder
about 5 cups raw unrefined pure cane sugar

Cut the apples into rough chunks.  No need to peel or core them (the peel and cores are good sources of pectin).  Add the apple chunks and the blackberries to a large stockpot.

In a separate saucepan boil 5 cups of water with 20 grams of your favorite shou puer.  Let boil for 5 minutes for a good dark brew.  Pour tea water into the stockpot with the fruit, pouring through a sieve to catch the spent leaves.  Discard tea leaves.

boiling the shou

Add the five-spice powder and whole cloves into the fruit/tea mixture.  Bring to strong simmer and allow to simmer until apples have softened and begun to break down, about 10-15 minutes.  Pour mixture into a jelly bag suspended over a bowl to allow liquid to drain.  Don't squeeze the jelly bag to force more liquid or it will cause the jelly to become cloudy.  Allow to drain for an hour or two.  You should end up with about 5 cups of juice/tea liquid.

Measure drained liquid into a clean stockpot.  For every cup of liquid measure a cup of sugar into a separate bowl.  Don't add the sugar to the liquid just yet.  Bring the liquid to a boil.  Just as it's starting to boil add the sugar and stir until dissolved.  Once the sugar is dissolved bring the liquid to a full rolling boil again.  Let boil, without stirring, until it reaches 220 degrees (Fahrenheit), about 9-10 minutes.  Remove from heat, pour into sterilized jars and proceed as you normally would for canning.

Makes about 7 half-pint (8 oz.) jars.

draining the liquid


  1. This looks incredibly delicious! Using pu'er is a brilliant idea. I wonder if this would work with raspberries, or would the flavour be too different?


  2. I'd bet raspberries would be great, too. The shou acts like ambergris in a perfume. You can't pick it out specifically, but it acts to deepen and enhance the other notes of the composition. It tends to add a dark creamy quality, so I'm guessing it wouldn't be good in lighter jams and jellies. But who knows?

  3. this looks lovely! I have been teasing my co-workers with the potential of me making some shou ice cream. However, I still need to dig the ice cream maker out of storage. Soon.. this has given me inspiration.

  4. Hi Bev, Inspired by your recipe, I send my niece to pluck all blackcurrants, red ones and some gooseberry. Then, using some LaoChaTou I have try to make some jelly. It was funny- we end up with really great syrup (my niece already finished first jar of it:) and from left over from jelly bag we made really tasty marmalade. All who tasted agreed that the shu is not "visible" but that it is definitely more tasty then without it. So thank you for sharing!

    Have a nice day

  5. Eric -- I wish I could be one of the lucky ones to try your ice cream -- YUM!

    Petr -- That's so wonderful to hear you tried adding shou to a jelly recipe, too! It's nice to get a second confirmation of my sense that the shou does incredible things to the flavor while not being "visible", as you put it. I'm guessing your jelly didn't cook long enough to reach the setting point, but fruit syrup is never a bad thing to have on hand! :)

  6. I made plum tieguanyin jam a few months back. Great!

  7. mmmmmm sounds wonderful! Mouth is watering at the thought...