Free Grapes = Grape Jelly

I love accidentally making something, which is the start of the Grape Jelly story.

On Sunday, I acquired 4 lbs. or so of miscellaneous grapes from Sasa. When I checked my sources for Grape options (in this order: Mom, FoodinJars, Sure-Jell box insert) I found that outside of wine and juice, people don't really do much else with grapes except to make jelly. I really prefer jam to jelly, since I like the consistency better, but after reading the directions over the phone with my Mom, I decided to first make the grape juice needed to make the jelly.

It turned out to be the correct option for me, since my Mom called a couple of days later with her own labor intensive story of how she used some of her Concord grapes to make jam. She actually slipped the skins off of 5 lbs. of fruit, then boiled them separately, removed the seeds and then chopped the pulp to include in the jam. She said, and I quote, "Unless this is the most delicious jam we've ever had, I will never do that again." She was glad I stuck to the jelly.

Since I didn't pick the grapes, I wasn't really sure what types they were. I know some were definitely some Concord, and then there were these beautiful and sweet blue ones that looked exactly like giant blueberries - they had many seeds, so were perfect for jelly. I was going to toss out the green ones, thinking that they weren't ripe, but I think they were since when I tasted them they were also very sweet.

I needed 5 1/2 cups of juice to make the full batch of jelly. After steaming the grapes and filtering through a muslin bag (not following the typical jelly protocol and squeezing the bag with all of my might to extract every last drop) I had exactly 5 1/4 cups. I was so happy, since I could easily add 1/4 c. of water to make up the difference.

My hot water bath (pictured below) was given to me by my Mom. It is fast becoming one of my favorite things.

I really do enjoy hot water bath canning, but must admit to never really being fully prepared. Oh, I try to have everything ready ahead of time, but usually something is forgotten. For this episode, I misplaced my only ladle. I have a old plastic ladle from when I first bought kitchen things before going to college. It was part of a set of things including a slotted spoon, a pasta fork and a spatula all of which I still use. It was made by TaylorMade, I think, in a town close to my parent's farm...that I'm pretty sure no longer exists. For whatever reason, I think I'll panic if I ever lose this stuff. It is so comfortable to use the things that we've grown up using, I guess.

I searched my usual places to stash such implements, including the ones I would never put it. I had to settle on using a glass cup measure, which made things a bit messier than they needed to be. I tried to put it out of my mind that I could not locate that ladle to concentrate on the more pressing matter at hand...

I got 7 cups of finished jelly out of my donated grapes, one of course will go to the donators. (A note about my choice in language here, since we lost one of our great linguists, William Safire, this week. I know that the word donators is not officially a word, and donors would be the logical choice. Somehow, the word donor conjures up the extraction of these grapes from otherwise unwholesome means. I'm sticking to donators.)

And wouldn't you know that immediately after cleaning up, I found my silly ladle exactly where it should have been. If I didn't have that disease that prevents me from finding what I need when I need it.

As my peanut butter and jelly boy-o will attest, it really turned out well. Above is the little bit of leftover that I love to get. It seems like a bonus, especially because the last thing you really want to do after canning the jam (or jelly) is open it up two seconds later. When I set about to photographing it, I couldn't believe how similar in color it is to beets and especially the beet pasta I made earlier this month.

It seems unreal to me that the weather is turning so quickly into fall. It's been windy, overcast and threatens of rain. Trees are turning here and there, and there are mere weeks left of the markets that I so heavily relied on for most of the summer. For lunch today, I pulled a frozen block of pea soup that I made last spring out of the freezer to heat up. As I ate it, I was thinking how amazing the change in our seasons - and the appetites for different things it brings with it. Welcome to the soup and slow cooked weather, and I'll enjoy it right up until cookie madness making weather.