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Wild Grape Jelly

By Lara DeHaven
Wild Grape Jelly

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.

The juice is beginning to turn purple from the skins.

The juice is beginning to turn purple from the skins.

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.

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39 Responses to “Wild Grape Jelly”

  1. […] Wild Grape Jelly | Texas Homesteader […]

  2. […] DeHaven presents Wild Grape Jelly posted at Texas […]

  3. Abi

    Thanks for the carnival submission.

  4. Nothing beats finding some useful information, for my research, keep em coming.

  5. If you keep the info pouring in you will have tons more viewers coming to see what you have to write, thanks.

  6. stacie howe

    Thank you so much! We have the same grapes here on the coast of texas and my mother in-love (in-law) has made them run beautifully down her fence line for easy harvest. This year my kids, my husband, and I decided to harvest 60 lbs and make our own jelly- I can’t wait to see how it turns out! Thank you for this much needed help.

  7. I picked our wild grapes for the first time yesterday and started the process of making jelly (my juice is sitting in the frig right now). I was worried about my hands itching (and they’re still sore) so I did a search on itchy hands/wild grapes and your blog popped up. I’m glad to see that it is normal. Next time I will wear gloves. Oh, and it seems that your husband is on a GF diet? I have celiac disease and am also on a GF diet. What a coincidence!

  8. Shirley T

    My husband threatens to cut my vines every year because they want to take over, but allows them to grow over the top of the garage door. I am going to try your recipe this year. We did it many years ago and my daughter suffered the itchy hands. Great reminder to put on our gloves. Thank you for your post! TX Tynans

  9. StoneTree

    Mrs. DeHaven: Thank you so much for publishing your method and recipe for preparing jelly from wild grapes. All of the canning recipes I have in cookbooks and the pectin box called for Concord grapes which are not the same as the Mustang or Muscadine we have in central Texas and none of them agreed on the same fruit/sugar proportions.

  10. Pam

    I make wild mustang grape jelly every year too. They are very acidic, which is why your hands get irritated. They also have very little natural pectin so you really do need to add some.

    My juice is all rendered and in the fridge. Better get off the computer and fire up the canner!

  11. Betty

    Love this recipe,,, the lady who posted this recipe sounds just like my grandma. we picked grapes this morning and gonna try this recipe tomorrow and will be back to post the results of the hot biscuit test.. thanks again for posting this recipe can’t wait to try it.

  12. Lara DeHaven

    Can’t wait to hear the results of the hot biscuit test. Lara

  13. Deborah Morris

    As little girls we would walk down our country road and pick the green grapes and eat with salt. We would gather the grapes when ripe but knew to peel the skins else your lips will pucker up and have the same itching effect. We were poor little farm girls but rich in country living so we thought that was a delicacy. Thank you for the recipe as my niece called me today to help her with her wild grapes. I am looking forward to canning together. I am going to make her some of my homemade biscuits to go with it. Lots of good memories and more to come.

  14. Lara DeHaven

    I hope that you and your niece have a great time together making delicious grape jelly. Working together does create lasting memories.

  15. Peggy Wetle

    Does anyone kow if I can freeze wild grapes and then process into jelly later. I have dark ripe grapes on my property fence, they are very sour but appear to be ripe. The deer here will eat them rather quickly while we have to be gone for several days.

    Thank you!

  16. Lara DeHaven

    I hope a reader will know something for sure. I know that people freeze grapes to eat, but I don’t know about making jelly from thawed out grapes. I found this winery that speaks about freezing grapes and using the juice for wine. Read it and see if it pertains to your jelly-making.
    Wish I knew definitively.

  17. I’m so glad to find out I’m not the only one who was itching while handling wild grapes. I just made a batch of jelly today and it is yummy but my hands are still itchy/burning after several hours but not as bad as earlier in the day. I also got a strange feeling in my mouth when I tasted the jelly. Does this happen to you too?

  18. Lara DeHaven

    No, I can’t say that I have every had any numb or tingling sensation when eating wild grape jelly. I hope that after all that work you are not allergic to the grape juice. I also hope that it is not long-lasting or severe.

  19. Thanks so much. I put grapes, seeds, skins, and stems in a big pot this morning, boiled with 4 cups of water for 30 minutes, covered.
    The juice was clear and beautiful when I strained it. More jelly for Mom and brothers.

  20. Adrienne

    I have heard of the grapes irritating skin on hands. My hands itched while preparing the grapes. The solution is to wear gloves. I wear long sleeves and gloves harvesting okra, too, for the same reason. No problem eating these things, however!)

  21. Lara DeHaven

    Okra bothers me too. My sister-in-law’s skin is so irritated by the okra that she cannot even pick it. She can cook it though so the itchy substance is most likely in the leaves.

  22. Sharen

    Lara, How do you “tend” your vines. Is there a time to prune them? How much do you prune them? Do you also mulch around them? Mine are on the fenceline, but I have to really work to keep the weeds away from my feet. In Texas we have to worry about snakes you know.

    Thanks for posting your recipe. I tried it & YUMMY is all I have to say. This is our first harvest since we moved to the country. My “47 Pines Mustang Grape Jelly 2010″ will make great gifts for family,friends, neighbors…

    Sharen/Robertson County Texas

  23. Lara DeHaven

    I am so glad to hear that your wild grape jelly is yummy. I do not tend the vines. They grow wild in our woods. One day I would like to plant some table grapes and tend them, but right now we just enjoy harvesting fruit we have not sown.
    I would read in the Encyclopedia of Country Living or research online about pruning grapes. I do not have any experience on the subject.
    Sorry I could not be of more help.

  24. I didn’t have time to read all the comments so perhaps someone already has already addressed the itching hands issue. Immediately after picking grapes, I too had the same issue. Thinking it was a bug bite or poison leaf I applied baking soda as a paste and got relief. Shortly thereafter I found it was the result of the grapes high acidity. Simple answer, I now wear surgical gloves while picking and processing (anytime my hands come into contact with the fruit). This solves the problem inexpensively and keeps your hands from staining while at the same time being sanitary!

  25. Lara DeHaven

    Picking and/or preparing wild grapes leaves everyone that I know with itchy hands. I think the peels of the grapes have something to do with it, but I do not quite know what. If you eat one unpeeled, my lips tingle. Thank you for sharing your tip of surgical gloves. Another tip is to wear long sleeves in addition to gloves.

  26. Barbara Moore

    I have been eying the wild grapes for 5 years and couldn’t figure out how to make them into jam or jelly as they always tasted so awful. This year, we tasted them again late in the season as they were big and black and many falling from the vines. The flavor was very good though still high in acid.
    We gathered at least a bushel, washed and stemmed them and put them into a pot just until they were hot (not boiling), then ran them through a juicing machine which did a beautiful job of pouring out velvety red-purple puree, which we then poured into sterilized 20oz plastic bottles for freezing. I took 3c. of the juice that had not frozen yet, stirred in 5 1/4c. sugar and let it rest for 15 or 20 minutes. Then prepared powdered pectin with 3/4c. bottled water and poured it into the puree, stirring constantly and continuing for 3 more minutes. The result is outstanding! We love the fresh uncooked taste!

  27. Interesting~ I got given a ton of fruit last week from a friend and decided to make juice out of it all – found some great juice recipes here if you’re interested

  28. Dee Pearce

    i am looking for some mustang grapes, if u can help i would appreciate it very much,,,tks for ur help. i live in houston tx and would like to find some close by..again tks alot,,,Dee

  29. Lara DeHaven

    The drought ruined our chances of harvesting any grapes. The vines made teeny-tiny grapes that were smaller than raisins. Sorry.

  30. Ava S

    I have two trees full in my backyard. I use scissors to pick them and to cut the grapes from the stems before washing. I haven’t had any problems with itching! I have 8 cups of juice in the fridge, looking forward to canning!

  31. Mike, Hopkins County

    Indeed the drought has hurt but mostly our veggie garden. Okra and cucumbers, though quite bitter, are still producing. I don’t know how but there are lots of grapes here. If I may expound on the itching caused by the okra; I believe it’s caused by the tiny spines on the leaves and stems. Kinda’ like Bull Nettle but not as extreme.

  32. Mike, Hopkins County

    This is the best described recipe I could find, thank you.

  33. Diana

    I have made a mistake with my wild grape jelly and do not know how to proceed. I think that my scale may have been broke, thus thinking that I had 4 pounds of wild grapes, I added 4 cups of water, but this morning I ended up with 8 cups of grape juice. Should I add more water and change the amount of the rest of the ingredients?

  34. Diane

    I’m so glad I finally found a simple recipe! We just noticed we had wild grapes in abundance. Each year, I do Grape jelly with regular grapes which we have in our backyard. This year, I will do this recipe for the first time. I hope I will succeed!

    Many thanks for sharing!

    Diane from Montreal, Canada

  35. Lara DeHaven

    With almost any jelly or jam recipe, they do not recommend doubling or tripling the recipe. If you have more juice than you need for one recipe, then you need to make two recipes of jelly separately. It is just more grape jelly than you expected. Give them as gifts if you don’t have room.

  36. Clifton Rawlinson

    I am diabetic….have to avoid sugar. Can you suggest a good sugar substitute and the portions to use, i.e. 1 cup sugar = ?? sugar substitute?

  37. lynnneth

    The wild grapes make excellent grape juice also. I skip the pectin step and just freeze it. . for juice whenever. On the itchy step – the first year I had to sleep with my hands on ice bags.

  38. Betty

    What quantity of grapes do you use per cup of water when simmering for the juice?

  39. Gloria

    In the Sierra Nevada mountains of eastern California, we have a wild grape that is smaller than the ones that several of you have described, but makes an absolutely fabulous grape jelly as well as grape juice. I always allow my filtered juice to settle in the refrigerator for at least one to two days to allow the tartaric acid crystals to settle out. (by the way, grape juice production in California is the source of Cream of Tartar, or tartaric acid that we use in baking. The discussion on this site about several people getting tingling in the fingers and hands are probably this tartaric acid which forms flat pink crystals at the bottom of the filtered juice. Being a Science teacher, I brought some in to my chemistry class, and let the kids try to allow the crystals grow larger so that we could look at them under the microscope. It is fun putting real science to work with cooking.


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