Monday, September 14, 2009

Backyard Grape Jelly

Remember way back, when I plucked the beautiful grapes growing our backyard?

The grapes seemed to have turned into the never ending project - until yesterday. Our schedule has been crazy busy and prevented me from finishing this jelly in a timely fashion.

However, this never ending project is a lesson. Canning doesn't need to take up an entire day. It may be broken down into steps to make what appears to be a mountain turn quickly to mole hill. If time keeps your from preserving remember that it can be done in steps. Take this grape jelly, for example, it had many, many, many steps that took place over many, many days.

Day 1 - The kids helped separate the grapes from the stems. I covered them with water so any little viney things would float to the top. After skimming the top, I drained them in a large colander.

Of course, I had to read every recipe I could find to determined exactly how to process the grapes. Many recipe called for cooking them with a bit of water to soften them before straining.

Day 2 - I decide to juice them. The lucky owner of a Breville juicer, I never cease to be amazed at what it can do. My grapes were beautifully juiced without a seed or skin to deal with, in not time at all. Check out that amazingly colored juice.

Last year, when we harvested the grapes, we made jam. I have never made jelly and this seemed like the perfect time. Without a jelly bag, I turned to a big pasta pot with steamer/strainer baskets. The steamer basket was lined with cheesecloth and juice dumped right in. I let it sit until the next morning before peaking. One of the most important things to remember with jelly is not to press the solids or squeeze the straining cloth because doing so will cloud the jelly. The pulp went to the compost and all that was left was the golden juice.

Day 3 - In reading all about grape jelly, one of the best pieces of info I found was about the tartaric acid naturally found in grapes. If the juice is not allowed to rest and immediately processed tartaric crystals will form in the jelly. Bummer and yet such a perfect fit with a busy week ahead. My juice settled for, um, days, several days - that puts me at about Day 8.

Finally, 11 days after cleaning the vines the jelly was complete. I added sugar and boiled and boiled and boiled. It always seems to take longer for things to jell than recipes suggest. I was a little tense, not wanting to blow the fruits of my labor. But watching it boil and seeing the juice turn to pink, rose, magenta and then finally a deep, dark purple was really fun. The finished product is beautiful.

Oh, it tastes fabulous, too. Welch's has nothing on me.


Georgine said...

So cool how the color changed. You are such a locavore, Growing, preserving. I can't imagine good your jelly must taste. YUM!

Valerie said...

Ok, it's official you are amazing! How cool to make your own jelly. What else do you got brewing at your house?