I made grape jelly recently—something I do when I get my hands on at least 20 lbs of luscious Concord grapes. The fruit guys from Follow the Harvest offered subscribers 20 lbs of grapes, and I snapped them up. This enormous box arrived and it perfumed my house for days prior to the weekend when I would cook them up.
They were beautiful, musky, shadowy tinged grapes. Pop one in your mouth and the scent goes right up your nose even before you bite it. Squeeze the skin off and slide that grape-y slimy pearl around your palate before a quick munch and swallow. I had some loose ones rolling around on the bottom of the box and threw them to the turkeys. They (birds, not grapes) were ecstatic. The dogs were jealous, and they kept trying to steal them away from the turkeys.
My grape jelly recipe is the one on the pectin label (liquid or powdered—doesn’t make much difference in my experience). I think the difference is in how I get the juice. I don’t boil the grapes on the stove top. I use a Weck Juice Extractor, which steams the grapes, roughly filters them and pasteurizes the juice in the process. I think you could do this with any kettle steamer.
The key to sparkling jelly is making sure you have enough sugar and filtering out the sediment from the juice. Sugar is easy—just follow the recipe. Filtering is more difficult.
You will need several filters for this in order from largest to smallest screen: a large colander, a wire mesh sieve, and a cheesecloth filter. Each is done separately to remove the largest sedimentary elements.
Whatever you do not use for the juice to make jelly, you can make into fresh grape juice (add sugar to taste) or freeze for future juice or jelly.
I made 30 pint jars of jelly and 3 quarts of grape juice from my 20 lbs of grapes. I also had a lot of dregs, which I donated to the pigs. (They loved it! Their little snouts were all purple.)
After my jars were filled and processing in the water bath, my teenage son (No. 1 Son) came in from outside and said it smelled good in the kitchen. He walked over to the large stock pot with leftover jelly in it and stuck his finger in it. Sampling it, he asked, “Do you still need this stuff?” Nope. Up went the pot and it was gone in an instant.
I guess my son is a pothead!