Wild Grape Jelly
On my dad’s property, which connects to our little place, wild grapes grow in abundance on the fence rows, some trees, and brush. Wild grapes try to cover the tree or bush. It reminds me of someone suffocating another. Not a great visual, I’m sure, but true. My father does not allow them to take over the woods. We love our trees, but we also love wild grape jelly. Therefore he does allow some to grow naturally without interference from us.
There are three main areas where we know the grapes are in abundance, which is a very small area in comparison to the rest of the property. But in these areas the grapes ripen and hang invitingly. I have been told that we have two different varieties. One is Mustang grapes and the other is Muscadine grapes. However to my untrained eye, they are just grapes.
My immediate family and I pick them every year. We bring in gallons of the purple grapes. I wash them and begin removing any stem still present. By this time I want to claw my hands apart because something in the grapes make you itch. I don’t know if it is their leaves, their skins, or what, but every year I remember only after the first signs of itchy skin begin. Next year I need to read this article before going out to pick so I will remember to put on gloves and a long sleeve shirt.
When all the grapes are clean and free of any debris, I put them all through the food mill. I dump all the pulp and its juice into a large pot. Then I add 1 cup of water. You bring this mixture up to a boil and then turn down your stove. Let it simmer for ten minutes, stirring occasionally. By this time the beautiful purple color of the skins begins to emerge in the juice.
Now you need to separate the juice from its pulp. Place a large bowl under a colander or cheesecloth. There are many ways to do it. You can read in your canning book for different ideas to extract the juice. I place the pulp, juice, and all into a colander with fine mesh. Then I let it sit overnight while the juice gathers in the bowl. I put this in the refrigerator when I go to bed.
In the morning, I measure out the juice and throw the pulp to the chickens. You need 5 cups of grape juice for one recipe. I used pectin this year with fabulous results. Last year I tried the no pectin recipe. The flavor was the same, but the texture was more of syrup than jelly. We prefer jelly.
So, add a box of powdered pectin to your 5 cups of grape juice. Bring to a boil. Add 5 cups of sugar. Then let it boil hard for one minute. Pour into hot, sterilized jars leaving a 1/4 inch head space. Wipe off the rim of the jar and place a brand-new hot lid. Screw on the band. Process in a hot water bath for 5 minutes. Remove and let to cool. Check for good seals, remove the bands, label, and store.
This is a fairly easy process. This year I made two batches yielding 8 pints of jelly. It is always best not to double your recipe when canning. Make separate batches.
My husband, Lane, said as he was chewing his gluten-free biscuit and wild grape jelly, “You need to sell this!! It is better than store-bought brands!”
As much as I appreciate his sincere compliment, I am not considering making wild grape jelly for the public. First of all, I don’t think we have enough grapes.