Looking at these pictures feels like 100 years ago. I got busy and meant to write this up about a month ago, and then…. here we are, in November, post frost. But, you know, pretend there are still grapes around or bookmark this for next fall… The jelly turned out so good, perfect with peanut butter and wheat bread. There are certainly some fancy pairings you can do as well; the surprisingly delicate flavor of this jelly would be lovely on a cheese plate with some soft chevre and a loaf of good bread.
During the annual whirlwind of activity that takes place immediately before the first rains of the fall, my friend Jessie, from Inland Ranch Organics, let me glean some of the wine grapes from her field. I took home a big basket of red and white grapes, slightly blemished with some mold in spots but perfectly salvageable for jelly. After an absurd amount of soul-searching (absolutely unwarranted for making a batch of jelly) I decided to break out the boxed pectin for this one. I’ve turned into a pectin snob when it comes to almost all of my jams — once you taste a jar of perfectly made, no added pectin apricot jam, you won’t feel like you need to put in commercial pectin anymore. The texture is just so …. luxurious. It can be difficult to keep the flavor really bright since the cooking time is longer, but when it works, man oh man oh man does it work. For jelly, though, even though I’ve had some success with making quince and apple with no added pectin, I just really don’t like how much sugar you have to add to make it set (most jellies with no added pectin use a 1:1 ratio of juice to sugar.) Plus, making jelly without commercial pectin is so temperamental. I’ve overcooked and caramelized a few batches, where they set but have totally lost the fresh fruit flavor, and it makes me want to stomp around the kitchen and smash all my dishes on the floor.
Instead of having to replace all those plates, I caved and went for the sure-gel low sugar pectin from the grocery store. I encourage other pectin snobs to do the same when it comes to some of the fruit jellies. It’s so much easier. You know your jelly will turn out really nice. And it’s not too sweet, so you taste grape juice instead of sugar. Wine Grape Jelly
I was really surprised by the flavor. It’s delicious, but I was expecting something closer to concord grapes. The juice ended up being more delicate because I used a mixture of both red and white wine grapes. I assume that the bolder the flavor you want, the fewer white wine grapes you should include.
Instead of acting like this is complicated and writing out a traditional recipe, I’d rather just share the process here, since the most difficult element is certainly finding a person growing wine grapes who will let you have some, not making the actual jelly.
- wine grapes
- lemon juice
- sure-gel low sugar pectin
- cheesecloth or a jelly bag
- half pint jars
1. Get your hands on some wine grapes. Gleaning is a good idea, since most grape growers only pick the big, perfect bunches and will leaves behind lots of small straggly ones. As with all gleaned fruit, the grapes can be slightly blemished, but make sure that there are still plenty of grapes that are fresh and ripe looking, since it’s really not a good idea to try and preserve semi- rotten fruit.
2. Pick through the grapes, separating the stems, leaves and blemished ones aside from the good ones that will be for the jelly. Put the good grapes in a colander and rinse them thoroughly.
3. Transfer the grapes to a pot and add water just to cover them. Simmer the grapes for about an hour. (Lust after steam juicers on the internet while they cook.)
4. Drain this mixture through a jelly bag or cheesecloth. The resulting grape juice can be left in the fridge for jelly making on another day or frozen for projects later in the winter.
5. To make the jelly: follow the instructions for grape jelly from the sure-gel low sugar pectin box, but add 2 oz. of lemon juice for each batch. (Just stir it in at the beginning). Waterbath can according to the instructions in the pectin box.
6. Take a walk in the woods and look at salamanders, and think about how exciting it is that you have this free time now since you didn’t try to make no-added pectin jelly. Make a peanut butter and grape jelly sandwich. Think about how tasty homemade canned goods are. Be happy.