Clusters of purple, red or green grapes hanging on vines make us think of jars of sweet jelly or jam. Grape jelly and grape preserves are second only to strawberry jam in popularity in the United States — which do you prefer with your peanut butter and jelly sandwich?
The high natural pectin content of grapes assists in making jellied products. Remember, jelly is a clear product made from the juice of the fruit. Jam is made from the crushed fruit. And, preserves are a slightly thinner version of jam. Grape juice contains enough natural pectin that only sugar needs to be added to make a long-cooking jelly.
Long-Cooking Grape Jelly
Traditional long-cooking jelly can be made without added pectin. Prepare the grape juice by selecting one-fourth firm-ripe (slightly underripe) grapes and three-fourths fully ripe grapes. Sort, wash and remove stems from grapes. It will take about 3-1/2 pounds of grapes to make 4 cups juice. Crush grapes, add 1/2 cup water, cover and bring to a boil on high heat. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
Extract juice by straining this through a damp jelly bag or double layers of cheesecloth. To prevent formation of tartrate crystals in the jelly, refrigerate the juice overnight, then strain it again through two thicknesses of damp cheesecloth to remove crystals that have formed. Then, follow these directions to make the jelly.
Sterilize four half-pint jars. Measure 4 cups grape juice into a kettle. Add 3 cups sugar and stir well. Boil over high heat to 8 F above the boiling point of water, or until jelly mixture “sheets” from a spoon. Remove from heat, skim off foam quickly. Pour jelly immediately into hot canning jars, leave 1/4 inch of headspace. Wipe jar rims and adjust lids. Process 5 minutes in a boiling water bath.
Grape jam is made using the whole grape. This recipe makes about six half-pint jars. Separate the pulp (inside) from the skins of 2 quarts of stemmed Concord grapes. If desired, chop skins in a food blender or chopper.
Cook grape skins gently 15 to 20 minutes, adding only enough water to prevent sticking to pan (about 1/2 cup). Cook grape pulp without water until soft; press it through a sieve or food mill to remove the seeds. Combine pulp, skins and 6 cups sugar.
Bring to jellying point, about 10 minutes. As mixture thickens, stir frequently to prevent sticking. Pour hot jam into hot sterilized jars, leaving 1/4 inch of headspace. Wipe jar rims and adjust lids. Process 5 minutes in a boiling water bath.
Using recipes with added pectin reduces the amount of time involved and results in a fresher fruit flavor. Look for recipes on the inserts of regular pectin or modified pectin for reduced- or no-sugar-needed pectin. Remember, do not substitute liquid pectin for powdered pectin, and do not reduce the amount of sugar in a recipe.
Have you tried grape butter? To make it, wash and crush 5 pounds of grape pulp and ground hulls (skins). Separate hulls and pulp. Heat pulp with juice and put through a colander to remove seeds; grind hulls in a chopper, using a fine blade. Combine de-seeded pulp, juice and hulls.
Cook until the hulls are tender. Add 5 cups sugar, 2-1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, 2 teaspoons ground mace, and 2 drops clove oil. Cook very slowly, stirring repeatedly, until the mixture is very thick, with a jelly-like consistency. Pour hot butter into hot sterilized jars, leaving 1/4 inch of headspace. Wipe jar rims and adjust lids. Process 5 minutes in a boiling water bath.
Note: All recipes are from “So Easy to Preserve,” University of Georgia.
If you have food preservation questions, a home economist is available to answer questions on Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., by calling 717-394-6851 or writing Penn State Extension, Lancaster County, 1383 Arcadia Road, Room 140, Lancaster, PA 17601.
The Well Preserved news column is prepared by Penn State Extension.