Our friends Rich and Terri live just beyond the Cheddar Curtain (aka the Wisconsin border), about a block from Lake Michigan. They have a wonderful property almost completely surrounded by native prairie and the growing conditions are amazing! Their garden is protected from our super hot Midwest summers and the frigid lows of winter by the moderating effect of the lake. It was a bad year for most people around here who were hoping for a harvest of Concord Grapes (including me). But Rich harvested about a bushel of the purple gems this fall and delivered them to my doorstep!
Preparing the Grapes
It took 3 days for me to find enough time to wash, stem, cook, squeeze, and can juice and jelly from the grapes. I kept the fruit in the refrigerator until the day I finished processing to keep them away from fruit flies and to prevent fermentation. I know a lot of folks are into fermenting everything these days…more power to ’em! But I didn’t really want to make fermented grape jelly.
- Wash grapes
- Remove from stems and sort out bad ones
- Cook grapes until soft
- Press, run through food mill, or mash and put in jelly bag to strain
If you want clear grape jelly or juice, you will need to mash the fruit up and put in a jelly bag. Hang the bag over a large bowl overnight and allow juice to drip without disturbing it. If you squeeze the bag, the juice will be cloudy.
Do I care if my juice is cloudy? No! Actually I ran my grapes through my stainless steel food mill to extract as much juice as possible from the fruit. Then I poured the juice through a strainer with several layers of cheesecloth to remove most of the pulp.
This juice was canned (6 pints juice) or used to make jelly to give back to Rich and Terri. I saved 1 gallon of the strained juice for Tom to make a batch of wine. It’s waiting in the freezer until he has time.
All of the pulp that was strained from the juice was used to make a batch of grape jelly/jam to put in my canning cupboard. This jelly is much thicker than regular grape jelly, but I hated to waste it. Especially since my spoiled rotten chickens didn’t want to eat the skins and pulp!
Canning Grape Juice and Jelly
After squeezing the juice, I brought it to a boil and added a small amount of organic sugar. The sugar is optional, but quite a few of the grapes were under ripe, and the juice was quite tart, so I added about 1/2 cup to 6 pints of juice.
The boiling juice was ladled into sterilized pint jars, rims wiped clean, a hot lid applied and metal band screwed on. I processed the juice for 10 minutes in a boiling water bath, according to directions from the National Center for Home Food Preservation’s directions here.
I made two large batches of jelly. I didn’t find exact directions for making grape jelly on the pectin container, or on the National Center for Home Preservation’s jelly making directions here. They do give instructions for making jelly with and without added pectin. So if you want to try your hand and cooking down grape juice to make jelly without any extra pectin, have at it! I attempted to do this in the past and got tired of waiting for the juice to thicken enough.
My Jelly Recipe
- 12 cups grape juice
- 4 Tbsp low sugar pectin
- 4 cups organic sugar
Pour juice into stainless steel pot, large enough to stir juice and bring to a boil. Turn heat on medium high. Measure 1 cup of sugar into a bowl and add pectin. Stir together and add to juice. Stir juice mixture until it comes to a full boil. Add the rest of the sugar and stir. Bring juice to a full rolling boil and boil for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Turn off heat. Ladle jelly into sterile pint or half pint jars. Wipe rims, top with metal lid (keep them in hot water until ready to use), screw on metal band and process for 12 minutes in a hot water bath canner. Start timing when water returns to a full boil. Remove and cool on a towel, away from drafts. When cool, test jars to make sure they sealed. Jars that don’t seal should be used or refrigerated.
This recipe makes approximately 12 half pint jars of jelly.
Do you make your own grape jelly? What is your favorite variety of grape for processing?