So, it's Saturday, not too far from Sunday. My grape jelly experiment is finally over. I was never very good at guesstimating anything, so my projects tend to run long and require multiple trips to the store the first time I try something new. Grape jelly was no different. At least this project didn't require something from Home Depot. Allen's Grocery store is a lot closer.
I figured our box of grapes held enough for a couple batches of jelly- that would require about 9 pounds of grapes and give us about a dozen cups of jelly. I bought the appropriate containers and pectin. Thursday after school we started de-stemming grapes. I should have gotten out the scale. Turns out we had nearly 30 pounds (told you I don't guesstimate very well) of grapes. Two days later I have 32 cups of jelly and 7 cups of syrup. (Yea, I know, who eats grape syrup? We will because I was trying a different recipe that didn't use pectin. You just boil the juice and sugar until it's thick enough. After 45 minutes of boiling and stirring, I decided we had enough grape jelly to be getting on with and we'd just go for a little grape syrup instead. I'll let you know how or if it goes. My advice, buy pectin!)
The whole jelly thing was kind of fun. The boys loved helping me squish the grapes. It was strangely therapeutic- like popping the bubbles on a sheet of bubble wrap. Then you boil the grapes and run them through a strainer (Victorio Strainer. For my siblings- it's the same kind we used to use for making applesauce with Mom.) to get rid of the skins and any stems that may have snuck in. That was Steven's favorite part. We ended up with one of those giant silver bowls full of grape juice. You have to let it sit overnight in the fridge because, something new I learned, grape juice will develop tartrate crystals. They look like lots of pulp that just appears in the juice. You can strain them out after the juice has sat overnight. So, grape jelly is at least a 2-day project. We made room in the indoor fridge for the huge bowl because my white counters already had purple blotches all over them and I wasn't about to risk the same with the white carpet as we walked the giant bowl out to the fridge in the garage. I felt very homemake-y for providing such copius amounts of homemade grape products for my family.
Day Two was fun. The recipe said to remove the tartrate crystals by straining the juice through several layers of cheese cloth. This is just a marketing ploy by the cheesecloth people. If you make grape jelly do not use cheese cloth. Many more purple blotches were added to the white counters. (Good thing they come right out with bleach!) There is probably a great product out there for this part of the process, but I don't own it. I ended up just using the little strainer I had in my utensil drawer. I used to use it to sprinkle powdered sugar evenly on brownies. I have a shaker for that now. Now it's pretty much used only once or twice a year to strain pulp out of someone's orange juice. It worked much better and made less of a mess than the cheese cloth. I made a double batch of jelly and felt very pleased with myself.
By Day Three (today) the excitement had pretty much evaporated for that big bowl of grape juice that was staring me in the face every time I opened the fridge. This afternoon I decided to try the no-pectin version mentioned above as I had used all the pectin I had bought and didn't want to go to the store. An hour later I found myself headed to the store to buy more pectin. The last batch went into jars about 7:00 tonight. I am very grateful to have the grape jelly in jars and the big silver bowl clean and back in the cupboard where it belongs. Greg was a total dear and helped do the dishes. It still feels good to have learned something new and have something tangible to show for it. Right now, though, any thought of eating anything grape flavored is pretty repulsive.
So, feel free to stop by for a visit sometime. We'll have peanut butter and grape jelly sandwiches for lunch and pancakes with grape syrup for dinner. (I don't know what your mornings are like, but there is no way pancakes will happen most mornings here.) We could even try a little vanilla ice cream with grape syrup for dessert. If you come before Thanksgiving, we'd love to see you, but I'll probably just watch you eat. I know, you can't wait to get here.