Three years ago we watched our neighbors plant 500 Petite Sirah grapevines, and then cut and discard the green grapes for 2 years in order to train the plants. This year was their first harvest and after the picking crew had taken the bulk of the grapes they asked us if we’d like to glean the vineyard for chicken treats.
We arrived with buckets and baskets and started to pick…and taste! Chickens Schmickens! There is some excellent juice in those berries, I thought. I looked for recipes online and found one for Gingery Wine Grape Jelly. My first batch didn’t gel, though it is a fine syrup, so I canned it like that. I have always made jams and preserves the French way, by cooking them down, but had never used pectin or made jelly, for that matter.
For the first batch, which became syrup, I used this list of ingredients.
7-1/2 cups wine grape juice
2/3 cup lemon juice
½ cup chopped fresh ginger
1 box SURE-JELL Fruit Pectin
7 cups sugar, measured into separate bowl
I started with approximately 10 pounds of grapes and got almost 8 cups of juice. The first step is to wash and stem the grapes. In small batches, in a fairly deep container, crush fruit with a potato masher. The deep dish is important, as the grapes pop and squirt quite vigorously when they are crushed.
Place grapes in a deep cookpot and bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes.
Let cool and then strain juice through a fine sieve to remove skin and seeds.
Place 6 ½ cups grape juice in a deep stainless steel cookpot, reserving 1 cup. An extra large pot is best because when jelly starts boiling it wants to go up, up and away over the edge of the pot…at least mine did, leaving me a sticky purple stovetop.
Peel and chop fresh ginger. Place ginger, lemon juice and 1 cup of grape juice in blender to pulverize ginger. Strain this mixture through a fine sieve into grape juice. Stir in 1 package Sure Jell and bring to a full rolling boil over high heat, stirring constantly. Reduce heat and simmer while you measure sugar into a separate bowl.
Stir in sugar, return to a full rolling boil and cook for exactly 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and ladle into hot sterilized jars, filling to within 1/8 inch of tops. Wipe jar rims and threads. Cover with two-piece lids. Screw bands tightly. Place jars on elevated rack in canner. Lower rack into canner. (Water must cover jars by 1 to 2 inches. Add boiling water, if necessary.) Cover; bring water to gentle boil. Process 5 min. Remove jars and place upright on a towel to cool completely. After jars cool, check seals by pressing middles of lids with finger. (If lids spring back, lids are not sealed and refrigeration is necessary.)
I had an abundance of grapes, so I tried it again after consulting the Sure Jell site, and the Joy of Cooking and Betty Crocker cookbooks. This time, to be sure it would gel, I reduced the amount of grape juice to 5 cups, lemon juice to ½ cup, used a little less ginger, and then cooked it at a higher heat for 2 minutes. This batch was perfect on pancakes!
Today I was almost out of grape juice, but I had some pomegranates, so I decided to try that combo without ginger or lemon juice so that the pomegranate could shine. For this batch I used the following ingredients and cooked it the same way.
1-1/2 cups pomegranate juice
2 cups wine grape juice
1 box SURE-JELL Fruit Pectin
5 cups sugar, measured into separate bowl
Bottom Line: Wine grapes have a great deal more complexity than the Concord grapes typically used for Grape Jelly; and if you like ginger or pomegranate, both flavors pair spectacularly well with them.