Muscadine Jelly

In the south we have a special kind of wild grapes.  Some people know them as Scuppernongs, but we know them best as Muscadines.  They come in many varieties both red and white, sweet and tart.  Many vineyards in Alabama make several sweet varieties of Muscadine wine.  There is one such couple aspiring to produce wine commercially just outside of Auburn.  While they are working on their winery they open a pick-your-own Muscadine patch in August and September.  We are very happy to reap the benefits of this work in progress.

Last year we tried to make jelly from some of the sweet red muscadines, very similar to traditional concord grapes.  It turned out that we did not follow the recipe close enough (following a recipe is almost impossible for me and why I am still working on my baking skills) and the Jelly was more like syrup.  This year Mom was in charge of the recipe and we were going to redeem ourselves.

We began with about 8 cups of freshly picked Muscadines.  In order to follow the Sure-Jel recipes in the package there were two ways to do it: start with grape juice and do a quick jell or start with fruit and do a true canning procedure. Since we had fresh fruit, but no canner, we decided to make the fruit into a concentrated juice and use the juice to make the quick jelly.  This took us about 45 minutes to decide since we were hesitant to stray from the recipe after our grape syrup disaster of last year.

Once we had a plan we got to work.  Using a large pot we put all of the fresh Muscadines into it with about 2 cups of water and 1 teaspoon of salt (to help draw the moisture out of the fruit itself and into the liquid).  We let this boil, stirring and crushing the grapes every 5-10 mintues for about 30-50 minutes (when the water turned purple and began to reduce).  Then we used a food mill with the finest hole attachment to remove the seeds and the skin.  This took about 15 minutes and would have worked better if we had let the grapes cool more before hand.  To make sure that the liquid concentrate was as smooth as possible we passed it through a fine sieve (the directions recommended cheesecloth).  Once this was done it was time to add the sugar.  Using a large pitcher we mixed almost 1:1 sugar into the liquid.  It became a viscous, thick consistency and the sugar did not dissolve all of the way.  The boiling water and Sure-Jel was added to this mix and thinned it slightly as well as helping to dissolve some of the sugar.

Finally it was time to fill the jars, 8-8oz jelly jars, the pitcher made it much easier to pour into the jars without spilling.  We covered them with their lids and set aside for 24 hours.

Two days later I came to visit Mom, pick up the granddoggies from her house and check on the jelly.  She had moved it to the fridge after the 24 hour waiting period.  With much anticipation, knowing that we had followed the directions carefully this time, we opened the jar.  Hoping to find a sliceable, solid jelly inside we scooped out instead a semi-thick goo, about the consistency of apple butter.  The taste was great, much stronger than a typical Concord grape jelly from the grocery store, but the consistency was far from jelled.  We concluded that we would leave the jelly making to the professionals and buy a home made variety at the Loachapolka syrup sopping later this month.

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