During the summer, as my mother’s grapes ripened, I gathered them and froze them. I didn’t even bag them; just put them in bowls and stuck them in the freezer.
We’ve been nibbling on them, little by little, ever since. 😉
I had originally planned to put them through the juicer, but for the amount we had, it just didn’t seem worth the effort. So I went back to something I wanted to try, earlier.
This is a new thing for me – we made jam, when I was growing up, never jelly. I got the recipes and instructions from my copy of the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving (affiliate link). It’s a great book for small batch canning, with recipes that are easily modified for quantity. I’m rather pleased with how it turned out!
The frozen grapes made for 5 cups. The first thing I had to do was extract the juice. For this you need a large, stainless steel saucepan (you need room for the boiling liquid to expand), a jelly bag or a colander or sieve lined with layers of cheese cloth, a deep bowl, and a way to hang the bag over it.
Grape Juice for jelly
- Wash and drain the stem-less grapes. Place into saucepan with just enough water to prevent scorching – about 1/4-1/2 cup for every 4 cups of grapes. (For my 5 cups of frozen grapes, they were already washed, so I gave them a rinse, left them to thaw in my saucepan, then used about 1/2 cup of water.)
- Bring to a boil over medium high heat, stirring frequently. Reduce heat, cover loosely and boil gently. Stir often, crushing the grapes if needed (my frozen grapes split in the freezer, so it wasn’t really needed), until just softened – about 5-10 minutes.
- Transfer into a dampened jelly bag or cheesecloth lined colander, over a deep bowl. Hang and allow to drip for at least 2 hours, or overnight.
That’s it! I used a large measuring cup as my bowl, and let it hang overnight. The 5 cups of frozen grapes yielded just under 2 cups of juice. I then put the pulp outside for the birds. 🙂 To make the jelly, you’ll need a stainless steel saucepan – this will bubble up a lot, so have one big enough to give it plenty of room – sterilized jars, rings and lids, a spoon to stir with, plus a cold spoon to do the gel test*, and a canning funnel.
Grape Jelly (based on Old-Fashioned Jellies, pg. 120, in the cookbook)
2 cups juice
1 1/2 cups sugar
(ratio of 3 cups sugar to 4 cups juice)
- Combine juice and sugar in a large, stainless steel saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Keep at a hard boil, stirring frequently, until mixture begins to sheet from a metal spoon*, about 25 minutes. Remove from heat and test gel*. If gel stage has been reached, skim off foam.
- Quickly pour hot jelly into hot jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Wipe rim. Center lid on jar and screw on ring until finger-tip tight.
After this, you could can them, as per your canner’s instructions. I don’t have a canner, but the 2 cups of juice made barely 1 1/2 pints of jelly, which were left to cool overnight. They will be kept refrigerated, instead.
* Sheet test for gel
Dip a cold metal spoon into the boiling soft spread. Lift the spoon and hold it horizontally, edge down, and watch how the mixture drops. When the mixture reaches the gel stage, it will begin to “sheet”, with the jelly breaking off the spoon in a sheet or flake, rather than pouring or dripping.
We taste tested the jelly this morning.
Now, this is where I admit, I don’t actually like jams or jellies. I find them too sweet, and the texture off-putting.
I love this jelly! Using our own grapes, this jelly has a sweet-tart flavor that is just awesome. It also gelled really well.
Obviously, the flavor will always depend on the type of grapes used, but using grapes that had been frozen first would have changed the flavor was well.
I am hoping that, next year, I’ll be able to free up our grape vine from the spirea it’s surrounded by, and be able to trellis it, for increased productivity.
Over the years, I plan to get more, and different varieties, that can grow in our climate.
Next year, I invest in canning equipment. 😀