Thursday, September 29, 2011


I'm spending my evening making grape jelly. Again.

From grapes. Grapes that look like this.
 When my parents moved a few years ago, they bought a house that has a pear tree, a fig stand (I'm going with stand because I don't know what it's really called; it's not a tree though), and four grape arbors. The people who had lived in the house made their own wine, and had a whole room set up for it in the basement, with a stomping tub (it was one of those blue kiddy wading pools, no joke), strainers, big five-gallon carboys to ferment the juice, and even a corking machine. It was quite the set-up.

My parents are not interested in learning to make their own wine. (They are also not interested in raising chickens, even though part of the shed on their property was converted to a chicken coop and even though I offered to buy the chickens and take any extra eggs off their hands. Selfish.) They have a friend who makes wine, so every year he has come over to collect a bunch of bushels of grapes, which he returns several months later as bottles of wine. This is as invested in the wine-making process as my folks want to get. The grapes they grow are not ideal for snacking - the nearest guess lately is that they're Catawba grapes - so we decided to make jelly out of some of them!

Yesterday I went over and we picked a laundry basket full of grapes. It had rained all afternoon, so we took advantage of a dry few minutes to get as much picked as we could. Unfortunately, most of the grapes grew above my head and the vines and leaves were still full of water from the rain, so I was thoroughly damp even BEFORE it started to rain again. Which it did. A lot. But we were over half done, so we just kept going and finished picking clean the entire arbor.

Once the grapes were picked, we had to rinse and de-stem them. This took approximately forever and resulted in very pruny fingers and gunk under every single one of my fingernails. Then we took the de-stemmed grapes and smashed them with a potato masher. We smashed them in colanders set into big bowls, and every once in a while we'd empty the bowl into a container with the rest of the juice. With enthusiastic smashing, we got two full gallons of juice. We also dumped the smashed skins and innards into cheesecloth and hung the cheesecloth over the bowls, to rest overnight, so we'll get some extra juice that way.

Today, we'll start cooking the juice with pectin and sugar until it starts to set. Then we'll funnel it into jars and can them in boiling water. Apparently if you try to make a giant batch of jelly it can refuse to set properly, so we'll be making a bunch of smaller batches instead. We expect to get somewhere between one and two dozen pints of jelly made tonight. (And we only cleared one arbor, so we could do this a few more times. None of us are particularly keen on grape jelly, but we don't know what the hell else to do with these grapes.)

This was a really long post about making grape jelly. Sorry about that. More exciting stuff next time.

Hey! I have an exciting idea! If you want a jar of grape jelly, leave a comment. I'll pick one at random and one of you lucky four readers is getting a jar. (Nikki, you're getting some for Christmas anyway, so you can comment but you're disqualified from the winning.)


  1. That's distinctly unfair. What if i want some now? On second thought, i refuse to be the guinea pig for testing your jelly-making skills. Pick jenny. She seems to trust your domestic-goddess abilities. If she survives to comment again, then i'll try some.

    Ps my lack of capitalization is due to the ipad being a less-than-ideal typing platform.

  2. Ha! Jenny it is. Jenny, email me (makingitawkward at gmail dot com) your address so I know where to send the booty! It will get mailed out Tuesday or Wednesday of next week.