I know, I know. I know what I said but what was I supposed to do? There they were, sitting incognito among the berries, containers of blue Concord grapes. How could I pass them by? It’s been a year, after all, since I saw some in a “high-end” grocery and first wondered about making jelly. Then, I saw their price. I could have bought a decent bottle of wine and a few jars of Smuckers for the cost of a few pounds of the blue beauties. Alas, I never saw them elsewhere and, when I returned the following week, even that store’s supply was gone. I resolved then and there to do better in 2011.
Before even one grape had been picked in 2011, the cherries came. Beautiful, red, tart cherries. Michigan’s sour rubies. Unable to resist, I bought some and made muffins. I soon bought more and made more muffins. I then bought even more and made even more muffins. My freezer now stuffed with muffins, I bought more and baked a pie. Then I bought more and froze them. And still the
pushers vendors at the farmers’ markets had more for me to buy. Little did I know that the path to canning is laden with tart cherries.
At first, it wasn’t really canning. There was no hot water bath. You have to have a hot water bath for canning. Everyone knows that. This was just filling jars with cooked cherries; a means of occupying that dead space in the back of the fridge. Then came the Michigan strawberries. Smaller than the Gulliver-sized berries found at most groceries, these little babies are a third the size and three times as sweet. I just had to buy some, especially after I found Mom’s recipe for making strawberry jam. Mom was telling me to make jam. And so I did. Mom said to use a hot water bath. And so I did. This, as I told a few of you, still wasn’t canning. I was merely dabbling. Yes, that’s right. Dabbling. Well, the fruit of my dabbles hadn’t even set yet when I saw them, the Concords, at less than half the price of last year’s sighting. I ask you, how could I pass them by? Don’t even bother answering that question. I bought ‘em.
On the way home from the fruit marked, I stopped by a grocery and bought Certo brand’s low-sugar pectin. Next stop was a hardware store, the only place I know that carries little jars and lids. When I got home, I searched the recipe book Mom had given me but, unfortunately, there was no recipe for grape jelly. Turning to the internet, I found the Pick Your Own website and it has all the information one might need to
can preserve just about anything. Now, armed with the pectin’s package instructions and the ever-so-helpful guidelines at Pick Your Own, I set out to make grape jelly. Lo and behold! About 2 hours and 1 ruined t-shirt later, I was the proud owner of 7 cups of Concord grape jelly. Moments before beginning this entry, I checked and all had set properly, their lids fully sealed. There remains but 1 thing to do.
Hello. My name is ChgoJohn and I’m a canner.
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Concord Grape Jelly Recipe
- 4 – 5 pounds fresh Concord grapes, washed & sorted with stems removed
- 3 1/2 cups sugar, divided
- 1 box Certo low-sugar pectin
- In a heavy bottomed saucepan, add the grapes and 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil over med-high heat, reduce heat, and simmer for 10 minutes.
- If you own a food mill or Roma strainer:
- Run the semi-cooked grapes and liquid through the food mill or food strainer, extracting as much juice as possible.
- Pass the liquid through a jelly bag or a sieve lined with 3 layers of cheese cloth. Gently squeeze the bag or cheese cloth to fully extract more juice. If you squeeze too hard, you may force some solids through the cloth. Proceed to step 4.
- If you do not own a food mill or Roma strainer:
- Pour the semi-cooked grapes and liquid through a jelly bag or sieve lined with 3 layers of cheese cloth. This will take some time as the grape seeds and skins will clog the cloth’s “pores.”
- When able, gather the corners of the cheese cloth or the top of the jelly bag, secure them, and hang over a pot in the fridge or a cool place overnight.
- Next morning, gently squeeze the bag/cheese cloth to extract more juice. If you squeeze too hard, you may force some solids through the cloth.
- Pour the grape juice though a sieve that has been lined with 2 layers of cheese cloth. Gently squeeze the cloth to fully extract the juice.
- Precisely measure the grape juice. You will need 5 1/2 cups of juice for this recipe and you may add up to 1/2 cup of water to reach that amount.
- In a large bowl or container, measure exactly 3 1/4 cups of sugar.
- In a small bowl, combine the pectin and precisely 1/4 cup of sugar.
- In a large saucepan, over med-high heat, add the grape juice and the sugar-pectin mixture. Bring to a rolling boil. It should take about 10 minutes.
- At this point, your jars, lids, and bands should be fully cleaned and sanitized. The jars should still be hot.
- Add the 3 1/4 cups of sugar, mix well, and bring back to a rolling boil, stirring frequently.
- Once a rolling boil has been achieved, continue cooking for exactly 1 minute. Remove from heat and begin filling the jars. Once filled, wipe clean the mouth of each jar, seal with a lid & band, and place in a boiling water bath for 5 minutes — or as indicated for your elevation.
- Remove from the hot water bath and place on a towel-lined baking sheet. Do not disturb for 12 – 24 hours to insure a proper seal has been achieved.
- Store in cool, dark place for up to 1 year.
- If the jam is going to be eaten right away, don’t bother with processing and just refrigerate.
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There you have it. I’ve admitted crossing over the Great Divide and into the Realm of Canning. I guess I should be at least a little upset over this turn of events but, frankly, how can I be upset when I’ve got a year’s worth of jams and jelly at my disposal? This canning thing ain’t so bad after all.
For everyone’s convenience, please form the “I told you so!” queue to your left.
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