The Logical Philosopher

Sunday, October 23, 2011

30 Cups of Concord Grapes...

I came home to sour grapes.

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With the wet weather we have been having, the last bit of sun needed to turn the grapes on the vines into sweet concord fruit never did appear. But, as they say, when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. I did not have lemons, but had grapes, so set about making some concord grape jelly on the weekend.


Haley and I took to the vines and picked about five gallons of grapes. If we had have picked them about 3 weeks ago I suspect there would have been about ten gallons, but between the birds and Haley, there were many portions of the vines that were bare.

I have canned before, making jam, but never jelly. Finicky at the best of times, jelly needs the right mix of pectin, sugar and fruit syrup. Pulling out the canning cookbooks gave me a few tips, but it also gave me three recipes that were contradictory in cooking time. One said boil hard for 10 minutes, another boil slowly for 35 and yet another said to only boil for a minute. With 30 cups of grapes I was going to have to make at least three batches, so would have time to try them all.

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We set about destemming all the grapes. A few of the recipes said to squish out the seeds and separate them for cooking, but that was quickly abandoned given the volume of fruit and the limited patience of a 7 year old.

Next we crushed the grapes, loosening the seeds, and slowly boiling for about 15 minutes. This gave a mash mixture I was able to strain, and the remaining skin and seeds were separated from the juice. I think if I had a smaller batch to make, or had larger grapes (Haley and the birds seemed to have eaten all the larger ones) I would have separated the seeds and the skins, like the Hungry Moose did, as my leftover mix did not have the deep purple concord color I was hoping for.

Three batches gave me room to play with the recipe, and as concord grapes are low in pectin naturally, I added more lemon juice and sugar than I usually do with the strawberry jam we often make. I roughly followed the Epicurious recipe, to get the lemon juice ratio, but using our Clearly Delicious canning book, followed these plans:

2 1/4 cups of grape juice
2 1/3 cups of sugar
juice of 2 lemons (6 tbl spoons)

We gave the mix a medium boil for about 15-20 minutes, but in all three batches, even one I added pectin to and lowered the sugar content, I could not get the jelly to set on a frozen plate. We hoped for the best and simply moved on to canning the jars, finally boiling them for 10 minutes to seal the lids.

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I did leave some jelly on the counter and it had set by the morning, but in one of the batches I was not so lucky. Some was still fairly liquid, so I am going to reboil it and add more pectin and lemon juice. If not, I have a large batch of grape syrup to use for desserts!

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