Grape Jelly

     our fresh picked grapes

      Felicity stirred with a long wooden spoon. Round and round, again and again, she stirred the grape mush till her arms ached.

cooked grapes

      It was tiresome work, and dull. Her hair stuck to her sweaty neck. Her hands were sore, and her back was stiff. As soon as one batch of grapes was cooked soft, Rose took it away and put another pot on the fire. Felicity tried to hide her impatience. But after a while, she couldn’t help asking, “Haven’t we made hundreds of pounds of grape jelly by now?”

“Goodness, no,” said her mother. “A whole batch of grapes makes only three pints of grape jelly.”

3 pints of grape jelly

      Pints were very small. Felicity sighed. “It seems to be a great deal of work for a little bit of jelly.

grape jelly toast

      I don’t think it’s worthwhile,” she said. “And once the grape jelly’s eaten, there’s nothing to show for all the hard work. You are left with nothing at all.”

empty plate

     Mrs. Merriman laughed. “I remember thinking just that same thing when I was your age,” she said. “And ’tis true, there’s nothing left that anyone can see. But I know that I’ve provided for my family, and that pleases me.” 

grape jelly

When I was younger I used to love the American Girl Doll book series. OK, I admit it, I still do. One of my favorites is the story of Felicity Merriman, a girl growing up in colonial America. Yesterday, when I was making grape jelly, I was reminded of a part from the second book in the series when Felicity and her mother are making apple butter. The passage otherwise fit so well to the situation I just adapted it by substituting grape jelly for apple butter. 

Although when I was younger I probably sympathized more with Felicity, I’ve now come to appreciate having our own home-made jelly. Since we use the low sugar pectin it is healthier for you than store-bought and doesn’t have any extra coloring or preservatives. Home made jelly is also more cost effective and tastes fabulous!

Most years Mom is in charge of the jelly making process and I’m simply the assistant. This year however, with Mom laid up with her foot, I had my first time flying (err, preserving) solo. It went really well, and we were able to make six batches (then I ran out of pectin). Elijah (the two year old) had a great time going for a ride back to our grape field to pick, then Addie helped as my assistant. She and I had an assembly line of sorts and it worked great!

We ladle our hot jelly into piping hot jars, and use hot seals. If you do it this way it’s not necessary to can the jars in hot water. Also, what we make is more like grape “preserves”. It’s not jam because there’s no seeds or chunks of skin, but it’s not jelly because we use the juice and the pulp.

This is how we did it:

1. Wash canning jars in dishwasher. If they finish washing before you are ready with the cooked jelly, run them through the hot rinse and heated dry cycle. Later, when the jelly is ready, pull the piping hot jars from the dishwasher (doesn’t matter if the cycle is done or not, you’re just insuring that the jars are hot). Put your rings and seals in a small saucepan with water and boil them on the stove (this sanitizes them, softens the seal, and insures that they are hot).

2. Pick grapes off of stems and rinse.

3. Fill large pot 3/4 full of grapes and add a little water (like maybe 1-1/2 cups).

4. Cook grapes over medium-high heat until they start to break down into a mush. Make sure to stir occasionally so they don’t burn.

5. Run the grapes through a hand food mill and measure out 5-1/2 cups of juice.

6. Stir together 1/4 cup of sugar and 1 box of low sugar Sur-Gel pectin. Put in a pot with grape juice and cook until mixture comes to a rolling boil. Stir constantly.

7. Quickly add 3-1/4 cups of sugar and bring to a boil once again, stirring constantly.

8. Boil exactly one minute, then remove from heat.

9. Quickly ladle hot grape liquid into hot canning jars. Top with a hot seal and ring. Set jar on counter for 5 minutes upside down, then turn right side up.

If you have any juice left over from step 5 add some water to thin and some sugar to taste and you have home made grape juice! You can even can the juice (before you add water or sugar) so you can enjoy it all year. Simply ladle the juice into quart jars and can in a water bath.

Oh, and if you’ve never started jumping for joy in the middle of the kitchen at the popping sound of a jar sealing, you haven’t known true happiness 🙂

The only bad part of jelly making?

the clean up!

The clean up!

-The Farming Daughter

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