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Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Great Grape Jelly Experiment

I must confess, I am new to a lot of things when it comes to preserving my own foods. I have the Bell Blue Book of Canning and it is my preservation Bible, my go to source for canning knowledge, but I am new to many of the recipes. This Great Grape Jelly Experiment started when I made freezer jam for my family. I preserved a dozen and a half jars of strawberry, blackberry, and triple berry jams to keep in my freezer and use throughout the year. I was such a proud little homesteader with my fruits frozen or made into jam and then frozen.  I love to look at my freezer and see all the goodies I have worked to put up for the winter. However, after the first jar of blackberry jam had to be sampled, my family decided that they did not like the seeds in the jam. I didn’t notice them, I personally thought my jam was spectacular just like any mama does with her little prize possessions. My family, it turns out, likes seedless jellies more than jams. In fact, the chock full of high fructose corn syrup grape jelly is their favorite. So, I set out to make the men in my life happy and whip up some grape jelly.
Into the pages of the Bell Book to find grape jelly recipes, I found 2, one that used pectin and one that did not. Seem simple enough right? Ingredients needed 7 cups of Concord grape juice. Well, I can handle that. I headed right out to the store to find 100% Concord grape juice. I got out my trusty stainless steel pan and started mixing the juice, sugar and liquid pectin. I heated it to a boil…then I realized that I was supposed to actually juice grapes…Who would have thought? Well, I was too far into the recipe not to at least finish and try to see it this experiment would pan out. 

Jars going into the canner
The recipe in my Bell Bible said that the jelly needed to be processed in a waterbath canner for 10 minutes. I went ahead and filled my jars and processed the jelly. I listened for the telltale “pops” of the lids to show that the process was complete and that the jars sealed. They did, they popped. The excitement at my little experiment grew. I sooo out smarted those men in my life. I could totally make grape jelly. Nothing to it right? Well. . .  well the jelly did not really jell. . . at all. Instead, I had 4 pints of really sweet grape juice. I actually cannot imagine what it would taste like to just drink it with all the added sugar and pectin and all.  This non-jelling could be from using the juice, but I am beginning to suspect it was because I rushed the boil, heated it as fast as I could... There I go, fumbling through again. 
Water Bath is a going : )

Unable to accept defeat, I read up on the internet about jellies not jelling and decided to have another go at my grape jelly. I opened the sealed jars and returned them to my pot. I slowly brought the juice, sugar, pectin mixture to a boil like I would when making candy. Once the mix was boiling, it really started to smell like grape jelly. I knew it was going to work out this time. I continued this boil for 10 minutes. While the jelly was still hot, I ladled it into my waiting sterilized jars. Into the waterbath they went for another full ten minutes in the boiling canner. 

And . . . . as those jars came out and the “pop” sound of a successful seal was made…they began to really jell. Yay!!
Some of my jars cooling

So, lesson learned, when canning, follow the recipes to the “T”. Read thoroughly first, before assembling the things you need. Jelly can be made and preserved in a waterbath canner, it just needs to be done following tried and true recipes and utilizing a nice slow boil.  Some time may have been used up in my Great Grape Jelly experiment but it was valuable in the lessons learned.  I am glad to be able to make the products my family enjoys as much as possible.  I really do prefer to feed my family foods that are whole or minimally processed, even if that processing is done by me. The things that are put in foods these days are scary, from the factory farms, hormones, GMOs, antibiotics and lots of high fructose corn syrup, the list goes on, but it is scary not to know what goes into your food. You are what you eat right?
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