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 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.
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1. Preparing the grapes
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.
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.
As an aside we found these Siamese twin grapes!
2. Cooking the grapes
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.
Once all the grapes are cooked down and there are no more whole ones, time for straining.
3. Straining the grape juice
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.
Ladle the hot grapes into the prepare sieve. Be very careful moving the hot grapes as you can burn your hands!
To help the juice extraction along, use the ladle to gently press the mash against the sides and bottom of the cheesecloth-lined sieve.
Gather up the cheesecloth into a bag and use tongs to gently squeeze the bag to release as much of the juice as possible.
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.
4. Cooking down the juice
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.
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.
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.
5. Is it 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Now unfortunately when we opened the first jar, we realized it was still too runny. So to solve the problem we cook the jam we will use in the microwave to try and 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 investigate making my own fruit pectin from lemon rinds.
If you enjoyed this article, have something to add or have any questions, please leave a comment below.
Wishing you all the best!
Tranquil Garden Urban Homestead, Victoria, BC