Making jelly is probably one of the simplest things you can do. As folks are becoming more aware of all the chemicals and preservatives being put into store-bought food, some of my generation of “Millenials” seem to be becoming more interested in continuing the generations-old tradition of home canning. If canning your own jelly is something you have wanted to do, but you have never learned how, this post is for you!
Homemade jelly makes a nice gift, whether it be for a birthday, Christmas, or a simple gesture of appreciation to someone. If you want to make this simple gift especially nice, you could make a little gift basket with the homemade jelly and add a loaf of homemade bread or a special biscuit mix. After you have made the initial investment in canning supplies, making jelly is a lot cheaper than purchasing it, plus you know exactly what’s in it because you made it. You also have the pride of enjoying a product of your own hands. There’s something very satisfying in going to your own canning shelf to grab a jar of something you’ve made yourself.
I do not have any grape vines of my own yet, but my parents have four Concord grape vines that they planted when I was a little girl. Last year they had an extremely abundant crop, so my mom had plenty to share with me.
I myself prefer to use the quilted 8 oz. jelly jars as they make a nicer presentation in my opinion, but the plain ones are also just as fine. It’s a matter of personal preference.
When you are ready to begin, lay out everything you need so you don’t have to start searching for it in the middle of canning.
Make the Grape Juice
You will need:
- 4 lbs Concord grapes
- 2 large bowls
- Two stock pots
- 6 – 8 oz. jelly jars
One pound of grapes will yield a little under a cup of juice, and you will need 3 cups to make your grape jelly.
1. Prepare the jelly jars.
Proper preparation of your jars is extremey important. If you don’t do it correctly, bacteria and germs will be able to infiltrate your canned items, and your work will be to no good. Inspect each jar to be sure they are completely free of cracks, nicks, or chips. Set any damaged jars to the side as they aren’t sutiable for canning. Wash the jars you will be using in very hot soapy water. Place the washed jars in a 225-F oven to dry. Keep the jars in the hot oven until you are ready to fill them.
2. Prepare the grapes.
Set two large bowls out. Fill one large bowl with the grapes and cold water. Pick each grape off the stem and place it in the empty bowl. Be sure to discard any shrivled or green grapes.
3. Mash the grapes.
Use a potato masher to break the rinds. Once you have mashed them all, put the grapes and juice into a stock pot.
4. Cook the grapes.
Place the pot on medium heat on the stove and simmer the grapes for about 10 minutes, being sure to stir the pot so the grapes don’t stick to the bottom and burn. About halfway through cooking, mash the grapes again in the pot to be sure you get out as much juice as possible.
5. Strain the grapes.
While the grapes are finishing cooking, rinse out the cheesecloth under running water. Place the wet cheesecloth over a large bowl.
Once the grapes have finished cooking, carefully pour the grapes over the cheesecloth to strain out the juice. Once the juice has drained through, pick up the cheesecloth by the corners and lightly squish the remaining pulp to remove as much juice as possible.
Make the Jelly
You will need:
- 3 cups grape juice
- 1 cup water
- 1 box Sure-Jell Fruit Pectin
- 4 1/2 cups sugar
1. In a small saucepan, bring water to a boil.
Once water has begun to boil, cut back to simmer and add the lids to the canning jars to the water. This kills any bacteria on the lids and also softens the wax on the rims. Leave lids in water until ready to place on the jars.
2. Pour the grape juice and water into an 8-quart pot. Make sure the temperature is set to high heat and bring to a rolling boil. Stir the mixture continuously, or it will scorch.
3. Add Sure-Jell Fruit Pectin to the pot, and continue to stir while the juice returns to a rolling boil.
4. Carefully stir in the sugar. Stir continuously until the liquid returns to the rolling boil. Once you have achieved a rolling boil, time the boil exactly one minute while continuing to stir the liquid to keep it from scorching. Remove from heat after one minute.
5. Use a metal spoon to remove and discard any foam that has formed on top of the liquid.
6. Remove the glass jars from the oven and immediately pour the liquid into the jars, leaving a 1/4 inch gap to the top. Use a metal spoon to remove any foam that may have formed.
7. Remove the wax lids from the hot water and place on top of the jars, and screw on the rims.
8. Let the jars sit overnight to seal and cool. When the lids have formed a seal, you will hear them “pop”. In the morning, check the seals of each jar by pressing down on the center of the lid. If the lid pushes down, the seal was not formed and that jelly will not keep. Store any of these jars in the refrigerator and use them as soon as possible. Store the sealed jars in a cool, dark place until you are ready to use them.
Of course, the Victorians didn’t have Sure-Jell; they extracted the pectin out of the grapes in a very long process which I sadly didn’t have time for with this batch. Come next jelly season, I hope to show you the way to do it with the Victorian method. The results, however, are the same. Good, homemade jelly, with no chemicals or preservatives.
If you try this, let me know by sharing it below!