Thursday, September 23, 2010

First Day of Fall

I thought I should usher in the first night of fall with an apple pie, so yesterday afternoon, I grabbed one of the jars of Gravenstein pie filling from August and went to work. I made up some pie crust quickly and chilled it while I got some housework done. From there it was as easy as pie! ;) I rolled out the dough, popped open the jar, filled the shell, topped it off, egg washed the top, cut the vents, and added some rough sugar. I thought it looked just as good as a professional pie and tasted wonderful.

Last weekend, while my sister was visiting, I found some Concord grapes at the Friday farmer's market. They were super huge in size and very juicy. I picked up five pounds, so I could make both jam as well as some juice for later this year. It was interesting seeing people taste them at the market. Some knew what they were and expected their tart and sour taste. Others thought they were some kind of black sweet table grape. They were the fun ones to watch as their lips puckered up and comments of dislike followed.

I love these grapes for jelly. Here I have placed three pounds of stemmed, rinsed grapes and a half cup of water into the big stock pot. This mixture is brought up to a boil and then reduced to a simmer for ten minutes. During this time, I use my spoon to separate the skins and their flesh. This results in the green "grapes" that you see in the picture and the purple skins tend to sink to the bottom during this. When they sink, it is easier to see which grapes still need to be separated, so go after those next.

Once the mixture has simmered for the ten minutes, it should look something like this, a bright royal purple mess. There will be skins, seeds, and some still solid pulp. All of this will go into your jelly bag or jelly strainer. I let it strain for two hours, but there was still quite a bit of juice left. I stirred the pulp down in the bag for a while until all the juice was removed from the skins and uncooked pulp.

I measured out the juice and had the four cups that I needed. My Mom's old Ball Blue book is almost always right about the weight to juice conversion as it was here. I added the three cups of sugar to the juice and started my boil. I have read in some places that it would help to let the grape juice set overnight to be able to remove the solids that contribute to crystals that can form in the jelly. I skipped this step and did not see any form when the jelly was finished. To make the jelly, cook the juice and sugar mixture to the jellying point, or eight degrees above the boiling point of water.

This jelly did not have any foam form as well, so I got four good jars of foam free grape jelly. I was rather pleased. If you find foam on your jelly, skim it off quickly and start to fill your hot, sterilized jars. Fill to a quarter inch of headspace. From there take the jars and place them into your water bath, and process the jars for 15 minutes. Once the process time is over, remove the lid from the canner, turn off the heat, and wait five minutes before removing the jars of jelly.

I finished with four jars of the darkest grape jelly. It is a beautiful purple black. I like that we now have the final store bought jam out of the house. Grape is Dan's favorite, and I had not been able to find the grapes until this year. Now, with the smaller jars, we can hopefully finish the jelly before it goes bad in the fridge. Somehow, with homemade jelly, I do not see finishing them up as a problem.

I also made some grape jelly in the way my mom made it. In the hot, sterilized quart jars, add a half cup of sugar and one cup of grapes. Then, fill the jars with boiling hot water. I did find this to cause some problems. I am not sure if my mother used less sugar or if I just did not have the water fully boiling before adding it to the jars, but my jars had some residual sugar at the bottom of the jars when filled and also after the processing time.

I think the next time I make the grape juice, I will add the sugar to the pot of boiling water and make sure it is all dissolved before adding the liquid to the jars. This will prevent the crystallized sugar from forming at the bottom of the jars like it did this time. I cannot wait for this to finally be ready. This is one of those tastes of my childhood that I miss the most. I hope that I got the sugar to grape ratio correct. I am banking on the thought that my Mom did not use the full cup of sugar that the book says you can use.

Here are the jars after just a few days. It takes a few weeks for the juice to fully be extracted from the grapes that are canned inside of the jars. Once the juice is finally dark in color, it is time to enjoy. My Mom would crack the lids open and use them to strain out the juice from the spent grape pulp and seeds. I can barely wait to see if the juice is the same. I hope it is!

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