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 Ripe Grapes bw

Then it shall come about when the Lord your G-d brings you into the land which He swore to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give you, great and splendid cities which you did not build, and houses full of all good things which you did not fill, and hewn cisterns which you did not dig, vineyards and olive trees which you did not plant, and you eat and are satisfied, then watch yourself, that you do not forget the Lord who brought you from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.

     (Deut. 6:10-12)

Ripe Grapes blog

This summer, our little family has fully experienced the above verses in our lives. Vineyard which we did not plant, even though it consists of a single mature grapevine, has proven to be quite a blessing. Apart from three harvests of grape leaves for yummy dolmades (recipe can be found in this older post on this blog https://hartsd.wordpress.com/2013/08/01/landlubbers-taste-of-the-mediterranean/), we have also had a bountiful grape harvest.

Picked Grapes blog

As Western South Dakota does not get enough sun and heat to make these babies as sweet as the grapes from warmer climates, they have quite a bit of pucker effect and are not terribly good to eat fresh. So, we started brainstorming on what we could do with this bountiful harvest. My husband, being a lover of most things sweet, suggested grape jelly.

Now, mind you, we have just recently moved and some of our possessions are still sitting in moving boxes neatly stacked on top of each other in our living room. With that in mind, a full blown canning operation was both impractical and impossible at this point in time. As I have already made several batches of freezer jams from different seasonal berries, I decided to try my hand at freezer jelly instead.

Cleaned Grapes blog

First, I separated all individual grapes from the stems and thoroughly washed them under running water. Then, I put the juicer my mother-in-law gave us to a good use. It helped me separate grape juice from the skins, pulp, and seeds in half the time of what it would have taken me to mash them and strain them by hand.

Grape Juice blog

I placed the juice in a big non-reactive bowl and mixed in the amount of sugar suggested on the instructions found in the package of pectin I was using. Since the grapes were naturally grown, without any pesticides or other chemicals, I used organic sugar for the jelly to make sure that it was as healthy as it could possibly be.

While the juice and sugar mixture sat for a prescribed amount of time – enough for the sugar to dissolve, I prepared the pectin mixture in a separate bowl according to instructions. I used Certo liquid fruit pectin, which proved to work really well for my berry freezer jams, and followed the instructions found in the package to a T. After the pectin mixture was added to the juice and sugar mixture, I ladled the jelly into glass jars leaving 1 inch of space at the top to allow for expansion while freezing, and closed the jars with lids. Jars had to sit on the counter, at room temperature, for 24 hours to set, and that was it – we had a big batch of grape jelly to put in the freezer. Easy peasy!

Jelly Jars blog

Jars in the above picture look frosty because they were taken straight out of the freezer for the photo shoot. I forgot to take pictures before the jelly was frozen. As you can see, I seem to be a bit of an absent-minded blogger.

If you don’t have much jelly, you don’t have to freeze it. It will keep well in the refrigerator for about 3 weeks. On the other hand, if you want to leave it for those dreary winter months when nothing fresh is available in the garden (or vineyard), do place it in the freezer after the 24 hours of setting time have elapsed. It will keep well in the freezer for up to a year.

Once you get hooked on making freezer jams and jellies, you won’t be able to stop. Your freezer may just look like mine does now.

Freezer Jam blog

Happy preserving!