Friday, October 1, 2010

Are you jellin?

OK.  I don't know what got into me.  Maybe it was the fact that with only 3 people in the house at the moment, and the main consumer of salsa away at college, my usual batch of salsa was destined to go bad (as evidenced by the yukky appearance before I threw the rest of it out)  I decided to make my normal recipe, and can the rest.  I haven't done any canning since the kids were little (and I mean LITTLE), but like a bicycle, once you do it, you never really lose it.  I went out to the store and bought some 8 oz. jelly jars and popped them in the dishwasher to sterilize.  The other thing that may have gotten me thinking about canning were these beautiful concord grapes I could not resist from the farmer's market on Saturday.  Thing is, my eyes didn't think the boxes were as big as they were, bought 2, and realized we would never eat all those grapes.  My husband then piped up "These would make good jelly".  Oooohhhh....jelly!!!!! YUM.

I found an EASY recipe for Concord grape jelly HERE and decided to try it.  That blog about canning is now bookmarked, cos that grape jelly was the best I've ever had.

If you decide to get adventurous, here's what you can get by with:

1.  1 super big pot (spaghetti, whatever)
2.  8 oz. jelly jars and lids
3.  Concord grapes
4.  Red wine (dry please)
5.  Fruit pectin (if you don't have any green ones)
6.  Sugar
7.  Cheesecloth or muslin
8.  Old clothes This is important - something purple, something dark - this stuff stains like "whoa", so in case you get messy - be prepared by wearing something you won't notice the spill on, or don't care.
OK - this is not "old"'s the same color as the jelly in case I make a mistake :-P

It's so ridiculously simple to make, and the result is amazing.  A rich, grape-y tasting jelly that is bursting with grape goodness you almost can't stand it.  I have a feeling the red wine may contribute to that.

I made half the recipe (because I had half the grapes) and I got 2.5 cups of jelly.  I processed the 2 full jars simple word that means "boil the hell out of 'em for 10 minutes"  and the half cup I just stuck in the fridge.

First, you take your grapes, wash them, remove the stems and pick out the wrinkled ones, then stick them in a "non reactive" pot - this means pretty much anything EXCEPT copper, cast iron, and unanodized aluminum pots - stainless steel works, enamel lined works, nonstick works, and anodized aluminum works - like Calphalon or their lookalikes.  If you use a reactive pot,  what may happen is you may get a metallic taste in the food you are cooking, OR the surface may get pits, or discolored.

Then, you add your red wine and smush :-)  I use a potato masher.  You want to break the skins to maximize the juice.  Cook this over low heat, mashing occasionally.  Then raise the temperature  and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat and cook for 10 minutes.  Stir occasionally.  How easy is that???

Now, remove from the heat.  Take some cheesecloth, line a strainer or colander, and put a glass/plastic/stainless steel bowl underneath.  Pour the grape mash onto the cheesecloth.  Now walk away and do something else for about 8 hours I let mine drip for about 6.  Resist the urge to squeeeeze the grapes through the cheesecloth - it will make your jelly cloudy according to Nina the canning goddess.  I resisted, although it was hard.
This is something I jury-rigged with a couple cooling racks, my colander and the bowl.

Put the bowl in your fridge and let it sit overnight. You are now ready to make jelly! Here's the exciting part.

Strain the juice one more time through the cheesecloth to remove any remaining sediment.  Put it in a pot with some sugar - 3/4 cup of sugar for every 1 cup of juice.  Cook over low heat until the sugar is dissolved, then raise the heat and bring to a boil, stirring.

Boil for about 10 minutes, stirring constantly until it starts to thicken.   If you don't have any unripe grapes to throw in there, you may want to add some fruit pectin - I did.  Follow the directions on the box.  I bought liquid pectin and added about 1/3 of the packet for the grapes I had.  I figured I can't add too much - the worst that could happen is I pass the jelly off to my family as "knox blox", convincing them that is what I had intended to make all along.  It won't thicken a lot - my best description is, it gets sort of syrupy.

Now, fill your fresh-from-the-dishwasher hot jelly jars to about 1/8 inch from the top.  Place the top on, screw it on well, and pop into that huge pot of boiling water you started when you starting cooking the jelly.  Boil it for 10 minutes, then remove with tongs and let the jelly "set".  Mine took about 4 hours.  

The half cup I put in the fridge took less time because it cooled faster.  Open a jar and enjoy, and plan your next expedition to the farmer's market for more concord grapes because that jelly will NOT last long :)

You don't have to process the jelly if you plan on eating it within a couple of weeks.  Simply let it cool and pop it in the fridge.  However, if you are making more than I did, you definitely want to process them in a hot water bath.  My darling hubby found my old water bath canner somewhere, which is very deep and has a rack for easy jar dunking and removal.  The following week when I went back to the farmer's market, I bought 8 more quarts of grapes, and hopefully they have some more this week, because I plan on canning a boatload more :)