Not wanting to take the chance that the birds would eat all the grapes again this year, we decided to harvest them a little early. Because they were picked early the grapes were pretty tart so I decided it would be best to make jelly. Never having done this before I ended up doing alot of reading to find the best process. I settled on a recipe I found in the Ball Canning Book although I took a few liberties here and there.
These are the grapes after I picked them and cleaned out the really bad ones. I ended up with about 5 lbs of grapes.
After cleaning, washing and separating them from the stems. I cooked the all grapes in a large pot with about a cup of water. I didn’t remove the skins. Some recipes called for doing that but I went with the recipe that said they would get soft enough to mash in the pot. That worked perfectly!
After they cooked for about 10 minutes or so I started to mash them using this old potato masher. Some recipes I found said to use a blender but I found that it really wasn’t necessary since the grapes got so soft from cooking. I strained the grape mixture using an ordinary strainer; pressing the pulp down with a wooden spoon. The end product turned out more like jam despite not using the skins. Some recipes called for using cheesecloth in the strainer or using a jelly bag but I opted to just use the strainer which strained out the seeds and skin but allowed the grape juice/pulp mixture to strain through. I was pleased with this decision.
The recipe called for refrigerating the juice overnight so I did that although I’m not sure if it was really necessary. I just didn’t want to mess with the recipe too much on my first attempt so into the fridge it went…and I was glad for the break!
I had an old packet of pectin that had expired. I researched this and came to the conclusion that it was in my best interest to get some new pectin; apparently it will only be good for about a year. I purchased Ball brand in a small plastic jar. The directions indicated that 6 tablespoons were the equivalent of one packet so that’s what I used.
Meanwhile I loaded up the jars in the diswasher and washed them at the sanitary setting. Alternatively I could have boiled the jars in a large pot to sterilize them.
The next day I placed all the lids and rings in another pot of water and got them just to simmering. I left them in the hot water until I was ready to use them. Most of the recipes cautioned against actually boiling the lids.
I took the jars out of the diswasher and placed them in a roasting pan of hot, simmering water. I placed the lid over the jars until I was ready to use them. Meanwhile I got the juice out of the fridge and measured 5 cups into a pot on the stove. After heating the juice to a simmer, I added 5 cups of sugar despite being hesitant about using that much. All of the recipes used about the same amount of sugar so I figured it was in my best interest not to mess with that. This was an experiment after all! I then added the 6 T of pectin. It was lumpy at first but I was able to stir it smooth with a wooden spoon. I then proceeded to ladle the juice into the jars using a wide mouth funnel. Warning! The mixture is VERY HOT! I carefully wiped off the jar rims with a clean, damp cloth.
After placing the lids on the jars and screwing the rings on tightly, the jars were placed in the canner in boiling water and processed for 5 minutes.
Voila! 8 jars of delicious jelly/jam. I’d say the Great Jelly Experiment was a huge success!