Monday, September 21, 2009

Putting Autumn in a Jar (by Kat)

Have I mentioned before how very very much I love autumn? You see, I really really do love this time of year...passionately.

So what does a person do in the deep dark depths of winter after fall has gone far far away? A person eats grape jelly, that's what! Then, a person can think back to watching the plants turn green in the spring, the flowers starting to develop in mid-summer, and the hard little fruits appearing in the late summer. But most importantly, one can remember that gorgeous day in early fall when the grapes were ripe and everything else was dropped in order to make grape jelly.

First, pick about five pounds of grapes. It doesn't really matter what kind, as long as you like their flavor. I used a mix of green and purple grapes, because that's what was ripe on Sunday afternoon. My colander, generously filled, is about five pounds.

How do I know? I weighed the grapes on my kitchen scale. I love this guy! Until he came to live on my counter, I had no idea how useful one of these puppies could be! The more I bake, the more I've come to love weighing out my ingredients. And with jelly, it's nice to know that I'm starting with the right amount of fruit at the beginning in order to get the right amount of juice at the end.

So, throw all five pounds of washed and stemmed grapes into a good-sized pot, add about 1/4 cup of lemon juice, a cup or so of water, and bring the slurry to a boil. As it's heating, mush it a bit with a potato masher. Or, mash it with a potato musher. The choice is yours.

Cook your grapes at a hard boil for at least 20 minutes. I boiled mine even longer because I added too much water and needed to cook some off. I also forgot to add the lemon juice, so I just threw that in later with the sugar.

Do you see how fool-proof this is? Two mistakes already, and the jelly still turned out great.

Now that everything is cooked down and your kitchen smells yummy, take a clean flour-sack towel and line a bowl with it. Some of you fancier folks might actually have cheesecloth on hand, so use that if you do.

Next, dump your hot grape mess into the bowl and pull up the corners of the fabric to make a sack. Try not to burn yourself. Slip a rubberband over the top, poke a wooden spoon through, and hang it from a cupboard.

Now, kick yourself for never coughing up the money to buy the jelly bag and stand at Bi-Mart...

Please ignore the toast in the picture. The bread had just come out of the oven, and was schmeared in this year's apricot jam. But really, please just ignore it's existence, ok?

Interestingly, the juice from green grapes is pink. Kinda weird, huh? Also, I added a few purple grapes this time, so maybe it's just a little bit pinker than normal, but certainly not much.

Let the juice sit for a few hours, at least, to let the sediment drop out of the solution. I kept mine on the counter overnight and finished up Monday evening after work.

Pour off 3 3/4 cups of grape juice without stirring up the sediment from the bottom. Add the lemon juice now if you forgot to add it to the boiling grapes yesterday. If you see crystals in your juice then congratulate yourself on making potassium hydrogen tartrate, aka cream of tartar. Don't you feel cool? Of course you do! You can strain the crystals out if you like. Do science on them, if you dare!

Ok, to the juice, add your box of pectin, and after that boils add 5 1/3 cups of sugar, and bring to a boil again. Boil it hard for two minutes, and you're done! Carefully pour the liquid into jars, put lids and rings on top, and boil in a canner for 10 minutes.

And there you go! Autumn in a jar!

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