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Mayhaw Jelly

Servings: Makes 6 (1-cup) jars
What is Mayhaw?

Mayhaws are native to the swamps and lowlands of the Gulf Coast states in the US. They have been collected from wild trees by deep-southerners since antebellum times, and are rarely cultivated in orchards still today.

Mayhaw Jelly is a rare delicacy made from the tart red berry that grows in the swamps and bogs of Southwest Georgia. Colquitt, in Miller County, Georgia, is the center of the Mayhaw growing area. Mayhaw trees grow wild in such a small geographical area. The Mayhaw Tree is in the hawthorne family, a distant cousin of the rose. The plant grows like a small tree and bears fruit that look like small crab apples. The tree has ample thorns that cause a person to gather fruit carefully.

Color is critical for jelly makers. Coral jelly is preferred, but not all mayhaws will make coral colored jelly. They come in red, orange and yellow. Some reds are almost purple and some are a red/yellow combination.

In the wild, mayhaws from a single tree usually ripen in two to three weeks. This is acceptable for mayhaw trees in the garden where the owner can harvest fruit as it ripens. Fruit can be kept until enough is harvested to make jelly or processed to produce juice that is stored for making jelly later.

Where Can You Find Mayhaw Jelly?

Mayhaw jelly is quite hard to find, especially if you live any place other than the southern US. I have found three places you may purchase it. One place is a grocery store in Donalsonville, Georgia called "Harvey's". The second place is "Cedar Head Farms". Their mailing address is P.O. Box 368, Colquitt, GA 31737. Their phone number is (229) 758-9249. The third place is called "Our House". Lisa Durden is the proprietor and known for her prize winning jellies and jams, in addition to many other items. She is located on South Tennille Avenue in Donalsonville, Georgia. You can also try doing a search on the Internet for Mayhaw Jelly. You may find individuals or small companies who sell it.

3 cups prepared juice (buy about 2 lb. fully ripe mayhaws)
1 qt. (4 cups) water
1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
5 cups sugar, measured into separate bowl
1/2 tsp. butter or margarine (optional)
1 pouch fruit pectin

Bring boiling-water canner, half full with water, to simmer. Wash jars and screw bands in hot soapy water; rinse with warm water. Pour boiling water over flat lids in saucepan off the heat. Let stand in hot water until ready to use. Drain well before filling.

Place mayhaws in saucepan; add water. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Crush fruit mixture in saucepan. Place 3 layers of damp cheesecloth or jelly bag in large bowl. Pour prepared fruit into cheesecloth. Tie cheesecloth closed; hang and let drip into bowl until dripping stops. Press gently. Measure exactly 3 cups prepared juice into 6- or 8-quart saucepot. Stir in lemon juice.

Stir sugar into juice in saucepot. Add butter to reduce foaming, if desired. Bring mixture to full rolling boil (a boil that doesn't stop bubbling when stirred) on high heat, stirring constantly. Stir in pectin. Return to full rolling boil and boil exactly 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Skim off any foam with metal spoon.

Ladle immediately into prepared jars, filling to within 1/8 inch of tops. Wipe jar rims and threads. Cover with 2-piece lids. Screw bands tightly. Place jars on elevated rack in canner. Lower rack into canner. (Water must cover jars by 1 to 2 inches. Add boiling water, if necessary.) Cover; bring water to gentle boil. Process 5 minutes. Remove jars and place upright on towel to cool completely. After jars cool, check seals by pressing middle of lid with finger. (If lid springs back, lid is not sealed and refrigeration is necessary.)

How To Measure Precisely:
To get exact level cup measure of sugar, spoon sugar into dry metal or plastic measuring cup, then level by scraping excess sugar from top of cup with a straight-edged knife.

Makes 6 (1 cup) jars.

Date: March 29, 2003-Recipe revised August 22, 2003