last updated on : 11.04.2012
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HOW TO MAKE:white spacer imageWild Grape Jelly - Part 1 - Preparing & Crushing

Copyright:   Mike Sillett

Contents:


1. Intro
2. Equipment
3. Ingredients
4. Procedure / technique
    a. Preparing & Crushing
    b. Filtering & Decanting
    c. Jelly Test & Filling Jars

 

Title photo: Wild Grapes growing in a crabapple tree.
WIld Grapes Growing In Crabapple Tree.

1. Intro

What is better than finding really nice bunches of wild grapes? Answer - finding them growing among a crabapple tree that is loaded with the big variety of crabs. I love crabapples. I love wild grapes too.
Check out the title photo. That place is in my foraging logbook with double asterisks.

The wild grapes in my area are not the type that you can just eat off the vine. Unlike domestic grapes many of the wild grapes contain a lot of tartrate. Tartrate will crystallize making the jelly feel gritty. It also imparts a bit of off flavor. They are not that juicey anyway. Plus wild grapes are very tart compared to domestic grapes.
They need processing!
Once processed however they make great juice, jelly and jam. Much more flavorful than store bought.

I don't get into identifying to species the varieties of wild grape that grow in my area - S.W. Pennsylvania. It is good enough for me to know that they are grapes and let it go at that. No matter what the grape it makes some really good juice and a jelly mighty fine for peanut butter & jelly sandwiches.


2. Equipment

Colender / sieve.
Flat bottomed, heavy duty, tall beer glass.
Deep sided small plastic bowl.
Couple of Pots and bowls.
Muslin ( a piece from an old pillow case works fine )
Tongs to remove jars from boiling water.


4. Ingredients

Pectin ( 1 pack - powdered or liquid )
Freshly crushed grape juice ( 4 2/3 cups )
ReaLemon ( 1/3 cup )
Sugar ( 6 1/2 cups )
Pad of unsalted butter


4. Procedure / technique

I prepare the juice without using any water. I also use only ripe grapes so there is very little natural pectin provided by the grapes themselves.
I do my crushing of the grapes over a period of several days because I don't want to get bogged down and start to think this is work. Doing it in small increments keeps it fun.
So I get a few grapes one day. Trim and wash them. Crush them and filter the juice. Then I add it to the orange juice jug I keep in the refrigerator. I do that two or three times until it eventually measures near 5 cups.

Photo of 5 cups of fresh crushed wild grape juice.
Here is 5 cups of freshly crushed wild grape juice.
It just needs to sit undisturbed in the refrigerator for a few days to let the tartrate settle to the bottom.


The first step is to remove all the dead, dried, unripe grapes, spider webs, leaves - and other debris - from the bundles you picked.
You will then see that you have a lot of stem compared to the amount of grapes. Having too much stem material interferes with the fresh crushing of the grapes so I remove most of the stem parts.

Photo of a representative group of wild grapes showing excess stem material.
Note that there is a lot of stem material that needs to be trimmed away.

I use the tip of a pair of scissors to remove the vast majority of the stem material. It goes pretty fast. I am not anal enough to think I need to remove all the stem parts. In fact, a little stem part here and there is a good thing because it prevents you from crushing the grapes too much and breaking the grape seed.

Photo showing use of scissor tips to remove stem parts.

Photo of grapes that have most of the stem material removed.
Here is what I usually work with as far as crush-ready goes.

Set up an area near the sink and place a colendar/sieve into a bowl. Next to that is the bowl that has all the grapes that have had their stem material trimmed and have been thoroughly washed.
Also close by should be your small bowl and a heavy duty beer glass which has a flat bottom.

Photo of the preparation area for crushing the grapes.
My work area at the kitchen sink.

A heavy duty beer glass with a reasonably flat bottom works fine . So will a mug. Use it to crush the grapes in a small, deep-sided bowl. A little crushing at a time works just fine.

Photo of a beer glass used to crush the grapes in a small bowl.

Photo showing use of rubber gloves to help in the crushing process.
As you crush the grapes you will hear the pops - like popcorn.
Eventually the popping gets less and less - like popcorn.
When there are no more pops then that batch is ready to be dumped into the colendar/sieve.

Go To Part 2

 


Wild Grape Jelly - Part 1 - Preparing & Crushing

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