Great Grape Jelly

This beginner’s guide makes it easy.

| March/April 2008

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    iStockPhoto.com/Norman Eder
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    Careful hand picking is a great way to select the best bunches for your jelly and other grapey treats.
    iStockPhoto.com/Michael Major
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    Sterilizing lids, rims and jars is essential to the jelly-making process
    iStockPhoto.com/Jennifer Sheets
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    Nothing adds sunny cheer to a ranch breakfast like homemade grape jelly.
    Jenny Burtwistle
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    Pour or ladle hot jelly into sterilized jars before placing jars in hot-water bath.
    iStockPhoto.com/Jennifer Sheets

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A few years ago, we planted a couple of grape vines to add variety to our vegetable and flower gardens. We expected the plants to be a fun addition, but little did we realize what flavorful jelly they would offer, or that making grape jelly is so easy.

 

Our ranch borders the eastern Sandhills in north-central Nebraska, so we selected standard Concord vines that are winter hardy. The vines were easy to plant in our sandy soil, and, in traditional ranch-innovation fashion, we used a couple of discarded hog panels wired to three steel fence posts for the trellis.

 

The grapes didn’t seem to mind because within two years they produced enough fruit to make a batch of jelly.
Picky about picking

 

Great jelly comes from great grapes, so it pays to be selective. Pick grapes when they are in their prime and their color and flavor are intense. Pluck them in clusters to minimize damage, and remove the individual berries from their stems after washing.



 

Although it is best to make jelly right after picking, this is not always feasible. You can store grapes (for a few days) in the refrigerator until you have the time to process them. Jelly-making doesn’t have to be done all at once. It can be put on hold at several points until you have time to complete the process.

 

Proper pulp processing

 

Select firm, unblemished grapes and place them in a kettle. You will need about 3½ pounds of grapes to make about 8 half-pints of jelly. If you find you do not have quite enough grapes, try adding a few from the store or local farmer’s market.






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