Friday, June 17, 2011

gotta get grapes

Concord Grapes | photo: grongar
Warning....rant ahead.  I'm so aggravated I cannot even tell you.  This morning I went to the grocery store for a few items.  One of them was grape jelly, requested by my daughter.  It's her favorite flavor.  Since we've moved away from Connecticut we no longer have the same access to wild grapes so I'm no longer making grape jelly.  The grapes that I've managed to find here in Texas have, for the last two years, been very thick skinned and dry due to the lack of rain so no grapes there either.  I did plant grapes in my garden but they're table grapes not jelly grapes so I'm not sure they'd work well.

My frustration?  NOT ONE SINGLE jar of grape jelly at the grocery store came without HFCS.  Several even had HFCS as the number one ingredient.  Seriously?  That number one ingredient means that the majority of the jelly isn't even grapes, it's HFCS.  That is insane.  First of all grape jelly is incredible easy to make.  Grapes are very high in pectin.  Throw them together with a little water, the right amount of sugar, heat to the correct temperature and voila! Grape jelly.  Even more upsetting to me is the fact that many of the grape jellies at the grocery store come with artificial flavorings.  I'm not exactly sure why as to my mind grapes have a pretty distinctive taste all their own.

Needless to say I did not buy any grape jelly (luckily she also likes orange marmalade so that's what she got) and I'm going to have to work a little harder to find a good source of either muscadines or concord grapes to start making my own jelly again.

For those who have access to good grapes for jelly making here's a great recipe from the book Preserving Memories: Growing Up in My Mother's Kitchen.  In the interest of full disclosure I'll tell you that this book was written by my mom.  I'm not recommending it because she wrote it (honestly).  It really is one of my favorite canning/preserving books and my first go-to when I'm looking to make something.    To get all of the great commentary, hints and tips you'll have to get the book, but here's the recipe:

Grape Jelly

10 C. or more Concord grapes (approximately 8 lbs.)
1 apple (optional)
2 C. water

  1. Wash the Concord grapes.
  2. Cut the apple into quarters -- peel, core, and all -- then chop coarsely.  Set aside.
  3. Put a couple of cups of grapes int a large stainless-steel pot, then crush them with a potato masher of the bottom of a clean glass jar.  this provides a small amount of juice and prevents scorching.
  4. Add the water.
  5. Add the cut-up apple.
  6. Heat the fruit mixture slowly to the boiling point, reduce the heat, and simmer until the seeds come free from the pulp.
  7. Line a large colander with several layers of damp cotton cheesecloth.  Set the colander over a large pot or bowl and carefully pour the grapes and liquid into it.  Allow the free-run juice to drip through the cheesecloth.  You may also use a chinois or jelly bag.  Do not press down on the fruit.
  8. Measure the free-run juice.  Process into jelly 4 cups of juice at a time - a smaller batch means the jell point is reached more quickly, resulting in better flavor.
  9. Taste a little bit of the juice.  For every 1 cup of reasonably sweet grape juice, measure out 2/3 cup of sugar.  If you used a greater percentage of under-ripe grapes and the juice is on the tart side, you can use 3 or 3 1/2 cups of sugar to 4 cups of juice.
  10. Bring juice to a boil then add the sugar.  Boil to the jell point.
  11. Fill and process prepared jars.

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