As usual at this time of year, we have a glut of grapes; our plot of vines is for making wine, but in the old days people often planted a few table grapes amidst the others. So every now and then when harvesting you come across heavy bunches of sweet, greenish-gold grapes instead of the deep red Carignan.
The trouble with grapes is they don’t keep long, and you’d better believe you can’t give them away around here at harvest time. So we often end up throwing many of them away. This year I was determined not to, and grape jelly was about the only way I could think of for preserving them. A bit of googling turned up a site which looked interesting and had not one but two recipes for preserving grapes. And unlike many sites it was clear that they really had tried the recipes, repeatedly.
So these two recipes come from The Cottage Smallholder; I’m only copying them here because it would be unfortunate if next time around their site had disappeared! It looks well worth bookmarking if you are interested in home-grown food.
Grapes in grape liqueur
This one is a doddle to do. Verdict in a couple of months!
- 850 g grapes, any sort
- 1 litre vodka
- 1 tsp sugar
Use a 2-litre wide-mouthed preserving jar. Sterilise it by washing and draining it, then put it in an oven at 110C for 10 minutes. Wash the grapes, remove from the stems and dry with a clean tea towel or kitchen paper. Drop into the jar, filling close to the top. Sprinkle over the sugar, pour in the vodka to cover, and seal.
That’s it! Leave in a cool dark place for six weeks, turning the jar occasionally. Serve after dinner in small glasses (a few grapes with a little liqueur spooned over). Keeps for up to a year
- Grapes (see note below)
- 1 apple (optional).
Note: Our grapes have pips, which apparently contain enough pectin to set the jelly. I wasn’t too sure, so I added an apple, not cored or peeled, just chopped up, as recommended in the original recipe. If you are short of grapes, apple will also bulk it out a bit.
Wash the grapes and remove from stems, discarding any bad ones. Put in a deep heavy bottomed saucepan or preserving pan. Barely cover with water, bring to the boil, and simmer gently until the grapes are soft, squashing them occasionally with a large spoon or potato masher. This took about 15 minutes for me.
You need to rig up a jelly bag; for this you need a clean square of muslin (ironed to sterilise it), a pole or broom handle, a stool, and a piece of string. You’ll turn the stool upside down, put a bowl inside it, and suspend the bag full of fruit from the pole lodged on the bars of the stool, so that it drips into the bowl.
When the grapes are soft, place the muslin over the bowl, pour the grapes into it, bring the corners together and secure firmly with string before tying it to the broom handle. It needs to be high enough so that the bottom doesn’t touch the liquid in the bowl. Leave the jelly bag to drip overnight (or about 12 hours). Do not be tempted to squeeze it, or your jelly will be cloudy — just let it drip naturally.
At this point my juice was a nasty sludgy pink colour and I was not optimistic for the final result. But I needn’t have worried; after cooking it turned a beautiful gold colour. So don’t despair if it looks unappetising.
Measure the juice the next day, and sterilise some jam jars as above. Pour the juice into the preserving pan and add 1lb/454g of white granulated sugar for each 1pt/570ml of juice. Heat the juice and sugar gently, stirring from time to time, so as to make sure that that all the sugar has dissolved before bringing the liquid slowly to the boil. It will expand enormously so don’t overfill the pan! I had about 700 ml of juice and this made 3 small jars.
Continue to boil for about 10 minutes before testing for a set. Test every 3 to 5 minutes until setting point is reached. (mine was very firmly set after 10 minutes, but it obviously depends on the wateriness of your grapes. I would test earlier next time). Remove from heat while testing so it doesn’t continue to cook. Tossing in a nugget of butter towards the end will reduce the frothing that can occur.
When jelly has reached setting point pour into warm sterilised jars using a funnel and ladle. Cover immediately with plastic-lined screw top lids or waxed disks and cellophane tops secured with a rubber band. Label when cold and store in a cool, dark place.