This month was really stressful. We had a bunch of stuff going on that’s not really worth going into. The only reason I bring it up is to say how it really is so nice when life is being overly complicated and then you find an absolutely gigantic patch of wild grapes that have set the most beautiful, luscious, deep purple clusters of fruit, and then you can be like:
HEY! Instead of stressing out about all this other stuff, I’m gonna spend the afternoon picking grapes and making jelly. If I wanna blow off the everything that I’m supposed to be doing and make jelly instead then DAMMIT I’m going to because I’m a grown woman and who can stop me SO THERE.
I still can’t believe that these grapes are wild. Most of the ones I’ve seen in the past wouldn’t really set fruit in bunches; it would just be a few random grapes here and there on the vines. The main difference between wild and cultivated grapes are the size of the seeds. Wild grapes’ skins slip off the same way concord grape skins do, but the seed inside is huge and there’s not much to the fruit. The flavor is intense, though, and perfect for making jelly. The color of the finished preserve is gorgeous and the taste is dark, tart and wonderful. (Actually, it really reminds me of the tiny, tart wild blackberries that grow in the exact same area earlier in the summer.)
Wild grapes have lots of pectin on their own and are a good candidate for a no-added pectin jelly. The set on those jellies really is nicer than jellies with added commercial pectin, but you really need to add a lot of sugar to make the no pectin batches gel. I prefer adding low-sugar commercial pectin to the grape juice so that I can use less sugar and have a shorter cooking time (which often preserves the flavor of the fresh fruit a little better). I made some wild blackberry-plum jelly earlier this year without any added commercial pectin, and it’s good, but it’s just so sweet.
WILD GRAPE JELLY, adapted from the Sure-Gel low sugar pectin insert that comes in the box
Makes: 6 half pint jars
Cook Time: 1 hr. plus overnight
First, make the grape juice. Wash the grapes and remove them from the stems. Put them in a large, nonreactive pot and add just enough water to cover them. Simmer the grapes for about half an hour. Once they start softening up, mash them with a potato masher to release their juice. After 30-45 minutes, pour them into a jelly bag to drain overnight. (Or, use cheesecloth. or a clean pillowcase. I like this description of using a pillowcase instead of a proper jelly bag. I just slip mine over the top of a pot and tie off the excess fabric underneath the pot, if that makes any sense.)
I had 16 cups of grapes and cooked them in 8 cups of water, which ended up yielding about 5 cups of juice.
STEP TWO: making the jelly
- 5 c. prepared wild grape juice
- 3 cups plus 1/4 c. sugar
- 1 box of sure-gel low sugar pectin
Prepare boiling water canner, jars and lids.
Whisk together the pectin with 1/4 c. of sugar. In a large, nonreactive pot, whisk together the grape juice and the pectin/sugar mixture. Cook on high heat until the grape juice comes to a full, rolling boil. Stir in the rest of the sugar and bring the jelly back to a full boil. Boil hard for 1 minute.
Ladle hot jelly into prepared jars leaving 1/4″ headspace. Wipe rims and attach lids, then process in a boiling water canner for 10 minutes, adjusting for altitude as necessary. This happens to be the first time I’ve tried out tattler lids… and I love them. They’re BPA free and reusable, which is great. Throwing away all those metal lids always seems like a bummer, and really, I haven’t seen any pinterest projects for repurposing them that actually look like anything work making.