Wild grapes are so plentiful on our farm that they are a nuisance. Wherever the seeds land, new vines spring up. Songbirds plant them. While it was another dismal year for our domestic grapes, the wild grapes grew a bumper crop. So I decided to try making wild grape jelly. The bunches of fruit hold grapes about 3/8″ in diameter. The juice is plentiful and deep purple-red.
I gathered all the bunches I could find, thus saving ourselves from a lot of weed grapevine removal down the road, and filled a big pan to overflowing with fruit. Placing a few bunches at a time in layers of cheesecloth, I crushed them by hand to extract the juice. The pan full of grapes yielded eight cups of juice. Because the juice held considerable crushed pulp in suspension, I let it sit in the refrigerator for a couple days to settle. I poured off six cups of clear juice before hitting the sediment. Coincidentally, six cups is exactly the amount of juice needed to make a recipe of jelly!
I like to use reduced sugar pectin for jam and jelly making. Six cups of juice required 4.5 cups of sugar. For this recipe I used all-natural Florida sugar that has a pale tan color. The pectin is mixed with 1/2 cup of the sugar then stirred into the juice. After the juice is heated to a full boil,the rest of the sugar is added. The juice is returned to a full, rolling boil and stirred for one minute. Then the jelly is skimmed to remove foam and ladled into clean, warm canning jars. I use a ten minute hot water bath, gentling boiling the water in the canner of filled jars, to sterilize the jelly.
After the jelly cooled and the jars sealed, I had 8.5 cups of wild grape jelly. I opened one to sample the wares. The wild fruit has unbelievable flavor compared to domestic grapes, rich and faintly reminiscent of currants or mulberries. The jelly is a bit piquant for my husband’s tastes (he loves sweets) so I would probably add another 1/2 to one cup of sugar to the recipe if I want him to eat it. I think it’s delicious the way it is and very tasty on toast!
Wild Grape Jelly
About 10 lbs small wild grapes, pressed to yield 6 cups fresh juice
2 boxes Reduced Sugar powdered pectin
4.5-5.5 cups granulated sugar.