The local wineries are starting what is called the “crush” – picking the grapes off their vines and processing into wine. I took their cue and harvested some of the grapes from our vines. I’m experienced at harvesting grapes since I first learned how (there is a technique) in Italy. The first vineyard in Southern Italy where I learned how to pick grapes correctly, was canopied. This is where the grapes are grown in arches and you are underneath picking the grapes above. The local pickers flew through the vineyard like pros while I was left behind methodically snipping the vines of their fruit. Let me tell you it was hard work!
No “Lucy” moments then or now, smashing grapes with my feet, although I’ve thought that would be a fun experience…. once. I use an appliance to release the juice from the grapes, and even with modern-day technology, those stubborn skins don’t always want to break and let the juice out.
Grapes picked, removed from stems, and washed. My first thought was to make wine. Duh! Well, I studied a book on homemade wine, making yeast, fermenting processes, etc. and quickly decided that making wine was waaayy too complicated. So the local wineries are safe, no competition here. 🙂
Now what? I have pounds and pounds of grapes. Grape jelly seems like a good way to process this fruit. I had so many grapes, I had to make two batches. I tried two different versions of jelly, one with skins and one without.
Both versions were processed using a water bath canning procedure. Click here for instructions: Canning 101.
Version #1 – with skins.
- 5 pounds seedless grapes
- 4 cups sugar
- 4 tablespoons pectin**
- 4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- Prep canning jars. (Refer to water bath canning process instructions)
- In a large pot add grapes, sugar, pectin, and lemon juice.
- Cook grapes over medium heat, stirring constantly to combine all ingredients.
- Once fully combined, remove grapes to a blender to process. Pulse in batches to break up grapes.
- Return blended grape mixture to the pot. Stir often, skimming off foam when necessary.
- Boil until mixture reaches 220° and/or passes the freezer test.*
- Ladle jelly into prepared jars, leaving 1/4" headspace. Wipe off rims with a clean cloth and top with lids. Process jars for 10 minutes. Remove lid from canning pot and let jars sit an additional 5 minutes.
- Transfer to a towel covered counter to cool. I let jars sit overnight before storing.
- * Freezer test: Use a spoon cooled in a freezer and dip into grape mixture. Jelly should stick to the spoon.
- **I use pectin to thicken jelly, but some people make this jelly without pectin. Skins release natural pectin into mixture.
- Jelly will thicken as it cools.
- 5 pounds grapes (strained to 5 cups juice - 1 pound of grapes makes about 1 cup juice)*
- 4 1/4 cups sugar
- 4 tablespoons pectin (low-sugar version)**
- Prepare jars following canning procedures (see link in post).
- Strain grapes to remove skins. (I used a sauce strainer that removed skins and some pulp.) There are other methods to strain out juice if you don't have a strainer or food mill. Use a potato masher to break up the grapes and strain through cheesecloth or mesh strainer to obtain juice.
- In a large pot, add grape juice, sugar, and pectin. Stir well to combine all ingredients.
- Cook over medium high heat, bringing grape mixture to a boil and continue to cook for about 10 minutes.
- Skim scum off the top as necessary.
- Test mixture for gel consistency (frozen spoon dipped into grape jelly should stick to the spoon).
- Remove pot from stove and fill jars according to sterile canning procedures.
- Water bath process jars for 5 minutes, take lid off canning pot and leave jars for additional 5 minutes before removing.
- Place jars on a towel covered counter to cool. I leave mine overnight before storing.
- *Substitute 5 cups grape juice for fresh strained grapes
- **When using low-sugar pectin less sugar is needed. If using regular pectin, increase sugar to 7 cups.
- Sources say best used within 6 months, however, good for up to 1 year.
Taste tests revealed Version #1 with grape skins made a darker jelly with a deeper flavor. Version #2 is still a good jelly, just less “grape” flavor. Either of these jellies would be great on pork roast, added to plain yogurt, a topping for brie, used on or in stuffed french toast, homemade jelly doughnuts, jelly and prosciutto bruschetta, etc.