I have recently been so inspired by the canning classes I’ve taken through Off The Vine with Sharon and Jenn. However, I have to confess that the idea of botulism makes my knees quiver… that coupled with the fact that I’ll soon be moving across country really disincentivizes me to can in large quanity. But I am confident that my canning day will arrive sometime soon in the future.
But last night…that was just an apex of inspiration. Thinking about canning plus some available materials… led me to make muscadine grape jelly! I am so darn proud of my little jar of jelly. See, Tess had delivered some muscadines yesterday in my pick up, and I still had half of what she had given me LAST pick up… and I was having trouble eating them and just needed to do something with them! Muscadines, if you’ve never had them, are a curious brand of grapes. They are one of the original grape varieties to North America and haven’t been subject to much human manipulation. So, they still have seeds and a very complex flavor. The grape itself has what I think of as two distinct parts: the skin and the flesh. The skin part is fairly thick and is distinctly flavored from the flesh. The combination is a delicious, tangy blend that is the muscadine flavor. Yum. Muscadine advocacy groups (yes, they exist, do a google search) also claim that they’re the healthiest grape.
So back to this jelly. I approached this project without the intent to make a large batch, given my small supply of fruit. I also gave up any perfectionist tendancies and just gave it a whirl. I remembered something about making jams and jellies–I think you can make what might be referred to as an icebox jam, which is the same recipe if you were to can but without the water processing. What you end up with is a product that needs to be stored in the refrigerator and should be used quickly. And so, I went in search of a recipe.
Thanks, too, to Jenn and Sharon’s class, I knew that most fruit has enough pectin to make it gel without any additive. If I were investing in a large batch, I would be sure to use it to avoid many jars of syrup in case it didn’t have enough pectin. But again, with my small experiment, it was hardly worth running to the grocery store. (My mom also told me that night that you can use apples for pectin in place of a gel product, just FYI.)
So here’s what I did, and I’m OVERJOYED to report that it WORKED and I now have a small 6-oz jar of muscadine grape jelly.
1. Smash washed grapes in a saucepan. I used a potato masher, and really this just forces the flesh to break out of the skin. The grapes are very stubborn! Honestly I felt like I was squashing little eyeballs. I imagine kids would enjoy this activity… Also, the juice that squirts at this point is pretty clear. So even though there’s a lot of squirting, it’s not going to ruin your clothes.
2. Add enough water to cover the grapes.
3. Simmer on med-low heat for about 20 minutes. I also periodically re-mashed the grapes…as it warms, they mash much easier. You will observe that the juice begins to blush and turn a pretty magenta color.
4. Squash out as much juice as possible . Then, pour juice through a seive over a bowl to separate parts from juice. I then took the potato masher again to force even more juice out. It was fun. :o) I ended up with just over a cup of juice. Some would also advise running this juice through a cheesecloth, but my seive was adequate.
5. At this point, the recipe I used as a guide said to heat sugar in a 200-degree oven. I don’t think mine became warm and I’m not convinced this is essential.
6. Pour the juice back into a saucepan and whisk in the sugar. For about 1 1/4 cups of juice, I used 2/3 cup of sugar. I think an approximate proportion of 2 parts juice to 1 part sugar works.
7. Bring this mixture to a boil and let it heat to a temperature of 220 F. I don’t have a thermometer but here’s what happened: The mix heats and an ugly brown foam collects on the surface. Skim it off with a spoon every so often. It will cook and eventually come to a boil where the whole top is rolling with bubbles. This is where you can periodically test to see if it sets on a cold spoon. Keep a few spoons in the freezer to test. I could tell the jelly set on the cold spoon when I dipped the spoon into the jelly like it was a soup, and the drip going back into the pan at the bottom of the spoon jelled after a minute and wouldn’t drip. Immediately put that spoon in your mouth and enjoy the first taste of jelly!!!!!!!
8. Then, just cut off the heat and pour into a container. I used an old pesto jar that was well-cleaned. If using glass, it’s advisable to first temper by pouring hot water into it and then emptying so the glass warms. You can then add the hot jelly and keep the glass jar on a towel to prevent temperature shock from the hard surface underneath. Just remember, this is not processed, and really should be considered like any leftover and should be eaten quickly. (Shouldn’t be hard)
It’s great–tastes nothing like mass-produced grape jelly and has a more sophistocated, adult flavor. I think it would be great with some cheese and bread or crackers.
Enjoy. Please share if you make your own treats from muscadines!!