Choose a glorious October day to pick wild grapes, then save them up for a blustery day to make them into jelly. (No wild grapes this year? Find out how to make wine jelly with Northern Michiagn wine.) Here's how to make wild grape jelly:
Look for thick, prolific grape vines on shorelines or wherever the soil is sandy. The grapes are ready to harvest when they turn purple—usually early to mid-October. Since grapes and poison ivy tend to grow near eachother, dress in long pants, long-sleeved shirt and gloves. Using scissors, cut bunches of grapes and carry them home in baskets, boxes or grocery bags. You'll need about 3 1/2 pounds of stemmed, ripe grapes to make 8 cups of jelly.
When you get home from picking, refrigerate the grapes (for up to a week) until you are ready to stem them. Stemming is time consuming—and a great rainy day activity for children.
Making the Jelly
The recipe for grape jelly that comes with most pectin also works for wild grapes. I usually use Sure-Jel. Here's the basic recipe with tips from my own experience. It makes 8 cups of jelly:
- Boil the jars and lids at least 10 minutes, then let stand in hot water until you're ready to use them.
- Place the 3 1/2 pounds of stemmed grapes in a saucepan and cover with 1 1/2 cups of water. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 10 minutes.
- Strain the juice from the seeds into a kettle. To get all the juice, use a spoon and press the grapes against the sides of a strainter. You should have about 5 cups of juice.
- Add 1 package of pectin (1 ounce) and 1/2 teaspoon of margerine to the juice and stir well. Bring the juice to a rolling boil.
- Pour in 7 cups of sugar while stirring. Boil one minute, stirring constantly.
- Remove from heat and skim off foam.
- Use tongs to remove and drain the jars and lids from the hot water.
- With a ladle, fill the jars to 1/8-inch from the top. Wipe the rim, place the lids on the jars and screw on the rings. Turn the jars over for five minues, then turn them upright. Check the seal by pressing down on the center of the lid. It shouldn't spring back.
Too many kids underfoot to make jelly? You'll want to read my blog about making wild grape syrup.