When we moved to this place almost five years ago, the whizened but still productive apple trees in the back yard really appealed to us. It took another year for us to discover the old grapevine, long since whacked back by lawnmowers that had no idea what they were hitting. Then my husband coaxed it to produce grapes, but we discovered that timing was crucial; frost killed them one year, inopportune rain another, but mostly we had to beat the raccoons to the bounty. This year, everything came together perfectly. We had decent rain this spring. We had a dry summer as the grapes were ripening. We beat the raccoons.
Then I had to pick my recipe. I decided on a recipe for grape jam from an 1899 cookbook that belonged to my great-grandmother, plus pectin to make sure the jam jelled. It was simple. I could use some of the fruit but avoid having to deal with the thick skins. I could feel the familial and historical ties.
I picked the grapes off the vines and then triple washed them to make sure they were really clean. I then mashed them with a potato masher, cooked them with a little water for about ten minutes, and re-mashed. Then I used a food mill to separate the skins and seeds from the flesh, yielding more than 10 cups of juice with pulp from about 7 pounds of grapes on the vine.
Next I added about one and a half cups of sugar. Honestly, I didn’t want to add any, but I only had regular pectin on hand and thus added the sugar. After tasting that low-sugar addition, I opted for a low-sugar pectin after all. I added the pectin as recommended and processed the jars for 10 minutes. I got 9 half-pints and one stubby jar plus a little extra that I refrigerated. If you notice that we’re missing almost a cup from the juice measurement, you’re right. We had to drink some! Next year I’ll can more to drink.
Tackling a new canning project is easy, once you know the basics. It’s an easy step from basic pickles to jams and jellies and canning high-acid vegetables like tomatoes. In a few weeks, I’ll be posting a recipe and procedure for making marinara (spaghetti sauce) using a pressure canner, which is a wonder that will let you can low-acid products safely.
Now, for all of you horticulturists and viticulturists out there, can you tell me what kind of grapes we have? They are a seeded, thick-skinned variety, which makes me think I should have made wine instead of jam.
Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader, including photographs. All rights reserved.