The neighbor’s tree reaches over the fence and drops lovely apples into our yard. Envisioning apple pies and applesauce, I picked all the ones I could reach. Then I went next door to ask, “Can I pick your apples? They’re all going to waste!” The college boys who rent there graciously told me to just come through their gate anytime.
Little Bear and I went in search of apples. She took care of sampling–one bite out of four or five different apples. I started picking from the tree…and found a grape trellis nearby.
These grapes were incredible. They actually tasted like grape jelly. Unfortunately, they also had seeds. Little Bear didn’t mind. She just swallowed the seeds along with the grapes (she’ll probably have a grape vine growing in her stomach next summer). However, I always worry about smiling at people with seeds stuck in my teeth, so I figured a different route was required.
I called my preserving partner (see my previous post on why I can with friends) and told her we were making a first foray into the world of jam.
We tried to follow three recipes at once, which was a bit confusing, but that’s what happens when neither person has jammed before and no one is sure whether the final product should be jam or jelly. We called the result “jamelly.” It’s somewhere in between the two, but it tastes delicious, so I’m satisfied. We ultimately found this website’s directions the most useful, but I’ll write my own directions for the process at the end of this post in case you’re interested.
The end result netted us about 24 8 oz. jars from 3 batches of jamming and 2 rounds of grape-picking.
My preserving partner and I agreed that we should give a jar to the boys next door to thank them for the use of their produce. I knocked on their door last night and handed them the jar. “Here’s some jam we made from your grapes,” I said. The two looked at each other. “Wow. We have grapes?” they asked.
I guess this is further proof that Suburban Pioneering may be out of step with modern America.
Jamelly Process (I hope you like jammin’, too…)
Ingredients: 1 box powdered pectin mixed with 1/4 c. sugar, 6 and 3/4 c. sugar, lots of grapes OR grape juice (Apparently you can make the recipe with bottled grape juice. Whoa. Just do Step 1 and then skip down to Step 4…even if you don’t have college renters next door, you, too, can enjoy homemade jelly)
Step 1: sterilize jars and bands in the dishwasher. Put a pan of water on the stove, over low heat, and place your unused lids in to heat/sterilize. Meanwhile, get the water heating in your canner (or in a large pot). You’ll need it boiling by Step 8, and in our experience, it takes a loooong time to boil.
Step 2: while dishwasher runs, wash grapes, remove from stems, and put in a pot with a little water. Boil them. Then run them through the food mill to separate seeds. You want to end up with about 5 cups of fruit/juice mixture.
–Note: We tried about three different methods for this and all of them worked. We tried food milling the grapes first and then boiling them. We tried boiling and then food milling. And we tried boiling and then straining. Do whatever floats your boat.
Step 3: If you want more of a jelly than a jam, let the fruit drip through cheese cloth for several hours (we tried both ways…personally, I don’t care if my jelly is translucent. I kind of prefer it chunkier, and it’s faster, so you can omit this step if you’re aiming more for the jam end of jamelly). Whether you use strained juice or the juice/fruit mixture, you still want to end up with about 5 cups of it.
Step 4: For one batch of jamelly, put fruit/juice in the pot on the stove and heat to a full boil. Once it’s boiling, add one box of pectin (mixed together with about a 1/4 c. sugar…the website we used recommended this, and I think it’s to help prevent the powdered pectin from clumping when you stir it in…it seemed to work well, and our jamelly jelled, so I figured it was a good tip).
Step 5: Return the mixture to a boil and then add 6 and 3/4 c. sugar (these ratios are determined by the type of pectin you use. If you just use the regular Sure-Jell powdered pectin, that’s the amount of sugar and fruit/juice prescribed on the box).
Step 6: Stirring frequently, return the sugar/pectin/fruit/juice jamelly mixture to a boil and boil thoroughly for one minute.
–Note: the website I mentioned above has a great test for making sure that your jamelly is jelled enough…anything that keeps me from ruining an entire batch of jam and wasting a lot of time is good; I don’t want to end with runny jelly! That website suggests pouring a little bit of your boiling water on a cold spoon (you can keep in freezer or in ice water until you’re ready to use it). Let the mixture cool on the spoon. If it’s not thick enough, just add a bit more pectin from another box.
Step 7: Remove jars and bands from dishwasher. Pour the hot jamelly mixture into jam jars, leaving 1/4 in. room at the top. Wipe the rims, put the hot lids on, and screw the bands on (not too tight…you don’t want to interfere with the lids “popping” to vacuum seal). If you have extra jamelly mixture in the pot that won’t fill a whole jar, you can just put it in a glass container for your fridge and eat it first (or just consume it all right there on the spot, which is what we did).
Step 8: Place jars in the boiling water in the canner or large water pot. If you live in Colorado, boil for 10 minutes. Anywhere else (that’s not at altitude), your jamelly process will be 5 minutes instead.
Step 9: Remove jars from canner; listen for pop that indicates seal (you can check them later after they’ve cooled to make sure that the little button area on the top is depressed).
Step 10: EAT JAM. Grapes are good for you. Sugar is, too, right? Right?