As my sister and I were growing up, we often saw large amounts of fruits or vegetables being prepared to be made into jams, jellies, antipasti (vegetables in oil), or giardiniere (pickled vegetables). Restocking our cantina became a weekend event whenever our supply was running low.
When the opportunity arose to pickle or preserve something, I wandered into the cantina to look for something we hadn’t had in a long time. I settled on Grape Jelly, reminded of my mom and her best friends making it in years past. Something as simple as concord grapes can be made entirely versatile. The trick: having fresh grapes. (And in my case, having a family friend that grows them by the tonne.)
My mom and her friend took their time tweaking recipes to arrive at the perfect jelly. You need:
Because the grapes I was working with were as fresh as can be, I washed them twice, and made sure to remove any that were deformed or unripe. Then, you start to juice. The easiest way to do it is to put the grapes in a pot, crank the heat, and use a potato masher to squish the grapes. The fragrant smells the grapes emit at this point in the process are amazing.
Once you’ve accumulated enough juice, you need to separate the juice from the skins. What I recommend using is a Jelly Bag: a filter that you can stretch across a juice jug, that separates the juice from the waste.
Once you’ve got 4 cups of juice, you want to add the sugar and butter into a pot and wait for the sugar to dissolve. Don’t add the pectin just yet; that’s the final step. While you’re waiting, you want to preheat your oven to 200°C. Set your jars to heat up, having the lips in a small pot of boiling water to warm up the seals. Once your mixture has come to a rolling boil, stir in the content of the pectin pouch. Keep the mixture at a rolling boil, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Then, remove it from the heat and skim the remaining foam off the top.
Though the jarring process is very easy, I recommend getting someone to help you, for the sole reason that you work a lot faster with double the hands. You want to ladle the jelly into the hot jars, leaving ¼” or .5cm headspace. Cover the jar with the hot lids and screw the rings on: not too tight, just snug. Once a few jars have been completed, you find yourself with an impromptu concert, as the lids of the jars begin to pop, signalling that a seal has formed and you’ve successfully jarred your jelly.