canned grape jelly

How To Make Grape Jelly At Home

Have a bunch of grapes that you need to make into grape jelly? Follow a few simple steps to convert the grapes into grape juice and then a tasty grape jelly.

We usually have a good crop of grapes. We believe they are Concord grapes (not 100% sure).

All we know is that the grapes have tons of seeds in them! Impossible to make into raisins and even eating them fresh is a challenge to spit out all the seeds.

So the best way to use up the grapes is by making either juice or jelly. Jelly is a bit more useful and tastier in my opinion.

Even if you are not a fan of nut butter and jelly toast or sandwiches, you can use the jam as a condiment for various savory dishes.

So let’s start making some grape jelly. I recommend setting aside a full morning or afternoon, especially if you are going to can the jelly as well as we did.

Listen to some great music or podcasts if you wish.

1. Preparing Grapes For Making Jelly

First step is to remove the grapes off the cluster’s branch and give them a bath. We usually fill the sink full of water and pop them in there for a few minutes.

Grapes being washed in a sink full of water

Without scooping up any dirt, we transfer the grapes to our maslin pan. You want to use a pot with a heavy base that heats evenly otherwise you might get burnt jelly.

Grapes in a large cooking pot

As an aside we found these Siamese twin grapes!

grapes joined together like Siamese twins

2. Cooking Grapes Into A Jelly

During the whole cooking process, it’s important to keep stirring to avoid having the bottom burn. It’s best to try and pull the grapes from the bottom and lift them to the top of the pot.

Here’s a short video showing the technique. You can also see how the grapes are already starting to break down, losing their skins.

Once the grapes start cooking down they obviously will create juice. At this point we use a potato masher to help break down the grapes so they will release all of their goodness.

Mashing cooked grapes to extract juice

Once all the grapes are cooked down and there are no more whole ones, time for straining.

3. Straining Grape Juice For Making Jelly

Now comes the messy part. Make sure to wear an apron or clothes you don’t mind having grape stains in.

You’ll need to strain the grapes through cheesecloth to get rid of the skins and seeds.

Prepare for this by draping a large piece of cheesecloth, doubled up, into a sieve which then gets placed on top of a large pot. We’re using our pasta-cooking and vegetable-steaming pot.

sieve on a pot
cheesecloth on sieve on pot

Ladle the hot grapes into the prepare sieve.  Be very careful moving the hot grapes as you can burn your hands!

spooning grapes into sieve with a ladle

To help the juice extraction along, use the ladle to gently press the mash against the sides and bottom of the cheesecloth-lined sieve.

Stirring grapes in sieve with a ladled to extract juice

Gather up the cheesecloth into a bag and use tongs to gently squeeze the bag to release as much of the juice as possible.

Squeezing juice out of grapes in cheesecloth using a pair of kitchen tongs

Once you think you’ve gotten most of the juice out of the grape must, discard the whole mess. We added it to our green compost bin. We bought cheesecloth that wasn’t bleached, so we also could have put it on our compost.

leftover grape skins and seeds in cheesecloth in a pail

4. Cooking Down Grape Juice To Make Jelly

Now for the time-consuming part. This can take a bit of time. Clean the maslin pan first and then put the juice in it.

Start boiling the juice. A hard boil is best but you need to stick around and keep stirring it.

big pot of grape juice

As foam/scum is created, skim it off with a small ladle. My wife is good at doing this, so I let her do it. Try of course to get only the foam and not any of the juice.

ladling off scum from grape juice
ladling off scum from grape juice
ladling off scum from grape juice

Now add the juice of one lemon and a cup or more of sugar, We happened to use coconut sugar (made from the coconut flower) but you can use any other type of granulated sugar. Add as much as you need to get the desired sweetness. We prefer our grape jelly to be still a bit tart.

The lemon is added to help lower the pH of the juice. This will help the pectin in the grapes to gel and your jelly get thick.

bag of coconut sugar, lemon, measuring cup and juice squeezer on a counter

5. How to Tell If Grape Jelly Is Done

The tricky part of this whole process is knowing when the jelly is done. Usually you will notice it getting thicker and this is the time when you need to make sure to stir constantly and turn down the heat.

The juice will have also reduced down by at least half.

thickened grape jelly in pot

Put a teaspoon of jelly onto a small plate and let it cool for a minute or so. See if the jelly sticks to the plate or if it’s still runny. You can also see if it coats the back of a spoon.

testing grape jelly thickness on a small plate

Just don’t do what we did one year and ended up with grape toffee. We simply cooked it too long.

And also don’t burn it. Burnt-tasting grape jelly is still edible but really doesn’t taste great.

6. Preserving Grape Jelly in Jars

Once it’s ready we filled it into prepared jars and sealed the jars in a hot water bath. I won’t go into details here on how to do that as there will be a post one day on canning.

You can also store a small batch in the fridge or freeze it. It will keep several weeks usually in the fridge but remember to use a clean spoon to scoop it out.

10 jars of canned grape jelly cooling on kitchen counter

I get a feeling of great satisfaction to place the newly created jelly onto my pantry shelf. Most years we’re able to get a few jars of grape jelly, peach jam and sometimes yellow plum jam. We’ve also experimented making apple jam but to me it’s just applesauce, just a finer texture and a bit more sugar.

pantry shelf full of grape jelly, peach jam and apple jam

If You Find Your Grape Jelly To Be Too Runny

Now unfortunately when we opened the first jar, we realized it was still too runny. So to solve the problem when we open the jar, we cook the jam in a small saucepan for a few minutes to thicken it.

Probably we tried to make too big of a batch. We should have halved the amount of grapes we used and made two batches. Would have of course taken longer but in the end probably saved us some cooking time.

I’m also going to try making my own fruit pectin from lemon rinds.

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    1. Hi Rebecca. Ah, that happened to us once too! You could try and warm it up with some water to thin it out. Or do like we did – we used it for jam filled cookies and in the middle of a roll cake. 😊

    1. Good question, not quite sure. Probably about 5-10 pounds or so. I usually don’t measure when making jams or jellies. Keep in mind that if you make too big of a batch it will take longer to reduce down unless you use pectin.

  1. Made my jelly today and it looks good. Tastes a bit tart, but maybe my grapes were not ripe enough. I had to get to them before the birds and raccoons did…I did put some lemon juice in.

    1. Great, Paula! Yes, mine is usually quite tart too. It does take quite a bit of sugar if you want it sweeter, but also depends on the type of grapes you use. Some are naturally sweeter. And the riper they are, the better, but like you I also have issues with birds and racoons getting them before we can pick them. I know some people actually net the grape bunches to protect them as they ripen.
      Enjoy the jelly!

  2. Could this grape jelly be used to sweeten other jams? Could this natural grape pectin be used for other jams? to reduce added sugar

    1. It could be used for that. Although our grapes were quite sour so I had to add a lot of sugar – you might be better off then just using the sugar directly in another jam. As for pectin content it really depends on the type of grapes. Some will have more than others.

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