I have mentioned in a few posts about the grape vines that create a canopy over my outdoor dining space. It makes for a wonderful cozy atmosphere enclosing the space with the shade from the expansive number of grape leaves. Come late summer and into fall dark purple grapes are ready to harvest as the clusters hang heavily.
They are ready for picking when the skins turn a deep purple and when you can notice the birds hanging around more. They will sit and wait until they are ripe like greedy little thieves. You must be on watch for when they are ready or a day will go by and you will likely have half of them left. This useful warning was shared by the previous owners when the house was purchased. The first year I was out on the deck with my coffee and noticed a lot of chatter and movement by the grapes. Oh, No! I was so looking forward to making jelly the first year in the house. Off I flew to quickly grab a bucket and some shears to salvage what was left. I still ended up with about 50 cups of whole grapes, so I think we both won out that year.
I was telling my daughter that we need to pick the grapes. She has been a part of the past harvests and pretty excited, but being 4 now had a lot more questions:
“Why are we getting the grapes?” “We need to get them before the bird eat them all”
“Why do we pick them?” “To make jelly. Don’t you like the grape jelly?”
“Yes, but I will leave my share for the birds to eat.” I could not help but smile.
This year was especially exciting as my husband’s previous employer and owner of a catering/meal company had gifted a steam juice extractor. Now that sounds pretty fancy, but it basically steams the fruit to release the juice and pools it in a separate chamber. Nothing short of AMAZING! Prior to the juice extractor, the grapes needed to be removed from the stems, washed, cooked on the stove top, run through a large sieve, then a small screen sieve to get clear juice. Somewhat labour intensive. With the extractor, the grapes are thoroughly washed and placed stems in all into the top chamber with a sieve bottom, steamed for about 40 minutes and the collected juice is put through a jam bag to catch any sediment as it runs through a tube into a glass jar. So much easier! Plus the extractor can be used for pretty much any soft fruit or berries.
There are several things I really enjoy about making the jelly. One of which is that its from my own back yard and the fruit is being used and not wasted. I can customize the jelly to what I want and need which is not usually readily available at the store. Certain flavour combinations that involve herbs are not mass or even locally produced. Once the jelly it is often shared with neighbours, friends and family along with our own consumption.
Some of my favourite combinations so far include grape jelly with: ginger root, port, red wine, rosemary, rosemary/sage, cinnamon/nutmeg, salvia, curry plant and basil. I make the basic recipe listed below adding ginger or dry spices during step 2 and the fresh cut herbs in after step 3. With the wine or the port I would substitute the amount of liquor you are adding (wine max 1 cup) or port (max 1/2 cup) for the equal amount less grape juice.
The combination of the sweet jelly and savoury herbs is wonderfully used as a glaze on poultry or pork, on top of baked brie or goat cheese, a baked cheesecake or simply on top of a crostini as part of an appetizer.
Custom Grape Jelly
Customize your grape jelly with fresh herbs, spices or liquours
- 5 cups grape juice
- 6 cups of sugar
- 1 package powder pectin
- 1/2 tsp butter
- Prepare the grapes by washing, steaming or boiling them to release the juices. Remove the seeds and pass the juice through a small screened sieve or jelly bag.
- Combine the juice, pectin and butter and stir. Bring to a rolling boil.
- Add all the sugar and bring back to a rolling boil. Once at this stage, continue to bowl for 1 to 1 1/2 minutes. You can test the consistency of the jelly by placing a small amount on a metal spoon that has been left to cool in the freezer.
- Place the jelly in the clean hot sanitized jars, leaving approx 1/4 -1/2 inch from the top. Wipe the rim of the jars so they are free of any jelly spills. Place the lids on the jars and tighten the rings on until finger tight.
- Place the jars in a boiling hot water bath for 10 minutes to process.
- Remove and let sit for 24hrs and until the lids are sealed.
Single batch processing is highly recommended. Place metal spoons in the freezer prior to test the consistency of the jelly.