Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Great Grape Escapade!

 The first year in our new home - almost three years ago - Cam and I made a list of plants, trees, and fruit we wanted to have in our garden. On the top of our list were grapes! We both LOVE them. I grew up with Concord (which we never eaten because they were too sour and seedy) and some sort of wine grape, and as an adult I love to buy a few extra when they go on sale and freeze them. They are a phenomenal treat in the summer or even in the winter with a warm cup of tea! But I digress. Cam and I knew grapes were definitely a fruit we wanted to invest our time and money into. We went to the nursery and purchased a green wine grape. The following year, still lacking a grape crop, we bought a concord grape. The following year, we harvested our first green green grape crop...they are phenomenal to eat raw, in fact, they were so good, I ended my evening with a belly ache! It was TOTALLY worth it though!!

Since our grape vines take two years to be able to harvest from, this was the year for our Concord. And to our surprise, we had an enormous amount of  them! They are slightly thick-skinned, sour, and seedy, so we weren't sure what to do with them. I thought of juice but Cam thought jam. Jam, being the easier of the two for me, I decided to use these beautiful grapes for grape jelly!

This easy project can be slightly messy and time consuming, but the end result is amazing! Use it at supper for jelly toast (Cam's favorite), tea time on scones (my very favorite), or breakfast toast, pancakes, sauces...the list is endless. While being so simplistic, it can be transformed into so many new things. I hope to explore some of them! Here is my 'grape jelly making' experience:

Having two baskets of grapes on my counter was such a beautiful and magnificent presence. I loved to look at them but hated the prospect of even one of those purple globes going to waste. So I removed them from the stems, rinsed them and placed them in a large sauce pot. Layer-by-layer I placed them in the pot, mashed them with my potato masher, and repeated this process until all my grapes were in the pot and mashed. I added about 1 c. of water to the pot and brought it to a boil.

 I boiled it for about 10 minutes and removed it from the heat. I passed it through a sieve, to remove skins and seeds, into a large bowl. I covered the bowl with foil and placed into the refrigerator to settle.

After 24 hours, I carefully strained it again (making sure to get most of the thick sediment out the juice) and measured it out.

I followed the directions on the pectin I purchased. I had one batch with Sure-Jell pectin and the next two were made with Sure-Jell Certo Liquid Pectin(No matter the pectin you choose, make sure to follow the directions provided by each specific brand. They all differ slightly and make a difference when it comes to the jam setting or not.)

After my straining, heating, boiling, combining, stirring, ladling, and letting sit, my grape jelly has finally come to an end. I heated my jars and lids, made the jelly, placed it into hot jars, securely screwed on their lids and rings, and set on a towel to cool and seal. This is how my momma always did it and how I've continued to do it. There are some recipes that call for the actual 'canning' of your jam/jellies; processing them for 10-15 min. But with a usually high sugar content, I've never 'canned' my jams/jellies and have never noticed a difference (but by-all-means follow the directions to be on the safe side!)

 After 33 half-pints I have successfully used ALL of my concord grapes I so fortunately harvested this fall! And tonight was the first night we tried out our seasonal makings! Cam wanted "jelly toast" with his supper so, with grape jelly in the fridge, this is what he created: white bread, toasted to the perfect crispiness, butter, and jelly.

Bread, butter, and home-made grape jelly...what could be better?
It was delectable! Even more so since we knew what was in it and how it was produced! I must say, any form of preserving has proven to be so extremely rewarding to me! It's encouraging to be able to reach down and grab hold or our roots and produce and save what we are so blessed with just as we have had to do for centuries! It's amazing and humbling.

Whatever you chose to do with your extra produce, be creative! Even if you don't really feel like your being too extravagant, whatever is practical and useful, and will be used all year long, is definitely worth your time! Especially if it comes from your garden!

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