Member Spotlight: This is a guest blog with GrowIt! member Belinda Starnes. Belinda has a passion for growing her own food and canning using her grandparents’ recipies. Connect with Belinda (tap from mobile) on GrowIt!.
My fond memories of canning:
At a very young age, I was exposed to gardening & canning as a way of life by both sets of my grandparents. I remember thinking at the time “what a pain, why can’t we simply buy stuff from the grocery store?”. Little did I know what a valuable lesson I was being taught. Looking back, my fondest memories are from my time spent in the kitchen with both “Mim” and “Nana”
Today I’ll be sharing my family recipe for Grape Jelly
Let’s start with a few basics:
- Always sterilize the jars, rings & lids (the dishwasher works great!)
- After sterilizing, place the lids into a small saucepan and cover in water. Heat over medium heat until the water is simmering, then remove the pan from the heat & allow them to rest in the hot water until ready to use. (you will do these two steps regardless of what your canning)
Mim’s Fantabulous Grape Jelly – (yep, that’s it!)
8 cups of wild grapes
6 cups granulated sugar
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 teaspoon unsalted butter
Liquid Pectin, 6 ounces
We’ve always picked and used wild mustang grapes, simply because they grow well here. Over the years I’ve used concord & valiant grapes and both turned out delicious.
Once you’ve gathered everything you need, it’s time to get down to business.
Preparing the grapes. This is your time consuming step. Rinse grapes thoroughly and place into large stockpot adding just enough water to cover the grapes. Cook over high heat until the skins start to soften a bit. (usually 12-15 minutes) J Grab your potato masher & work those grapes over fairly well.
Get your colander strainer and place over a large bowl. Carefully pour grapes into strainer (beware it splats everywhere & it’s HOT!) and begin working them through with your wooden pestle. Force out as much pulp & juice as you can and discard the seeds.
Place juice pulp into a large stockpot & add the sugar, lemon juice, and butter.
Bring mixture to a full rolling boil that cannot be stirred down. Add the liquid pectin and heat again to a full rolling boil. Boil hard for 1 minute. Remove from heat, skim foam off quickly if you need to.
Ladle the hot jelly into your jars, leaving 1/4” headspace. Wipe the rims of the jars well, cover with warm lids and screw rings on until just barely tight.
Place jars into pressure cooker filled with 2 to 3 inches of water & 2 tablespoons of vinegar making sure they are not touching each other. Place lid on securely and heat to boiling without the weight on yet. At this point steam should be escaping from the vent or weighted gage opening. Allow steam to vent for 10 minutes. This is an important step, it pushes all the air out of the pressure cooker. After 10 minutes, put your weighted gauge on and let the pressure build to your predetermined setting. (follow your specific pressure cooker’s instructions). Once the correct level is achieved, turn heat off underneath pressure cooker and let the cooling begin.
Once all of the steam has escaped and the pressure cooker lid becomes easy to open, grab your tongs and carefully remove jars and place them onto a wooden board or kitchen towel to cool off. Carefully wipe off any residue on the jars with a warm, moist towel. Resist temptation to press on the lids at this point. I know it’s hard, but trust me they’ll do their own thing in their timeframe. I like to leave mine on the counter overnight or a minimum of 12 hours. As the jars cool, you’ll hear the infamous “popping” sound indicating they sealed perfectly.
After resting period, check each jar to make sure it sealed properly. The seal should be sucked down in the center. If you find a jar that did not seal, simply put it in the refrigerator and plan on using it within a couple of weeks.
Be sure to label each jar with its name and date of canning. This is the perfect spot to get creative! I like to use the wooden mason jar tags (simply because they’re too cute) and colorful bakers twine. I also love using chalkboard labels.
Lastly, store your jars in a cool, dark, dry environment. Your pantry typically works just fine. When I run out of pantry space, I put my jars in their original box and slide them under the bed in the guest bedroom. Works great there too!
Before you know it, you’ll find yourself canning all sort of garden goodies. Another one of my favorite garden delectable items is cucumbers. You can’t beat a homemade dill pickle….YUM! Maybe that might be my next gardening blog…..hhhmmmm. For me, there is tremendous satisfaction in growing your own food. It warms my heart to know exactly what is in the food I am serving my family and friends. I’m always happy to share my family recipes with any of my fellow gardeners. The most important part of a good recipe is to SHARE. Don’t let those family gems get lost in todays instantaneous, quick-fix world we all live in.
You can reach me anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org