I have been gone a couple of weeks perking on a couple things I can NOT control. Even went to far as to draft a post on this line of thought. I wanted to share it, but feared internet trolls would make an example of me because my opinion was contrary to theirs. Well today that stops. I am going to write about things I can control and things in my life that may be helpful, bring a smile to your face or give you some input or insight. So I am back on track and writing again.
Summer is coming to an end and for the first year in memory I have not put a single thing by for the winter or to share with others. This is not me. I have been canning, freezing and drying food for as long as I can remember. In a normal life, in a normal year my freezer would be full of things I had froze for the long winter months. I would have ran the dehydrator for hours to save our special recipe fruit, leathers or jerky. I would have canned something to use as gifts for friends during the holiday season. Living in this apartment made any of this seem impossible. Enough of that woe is me. It might not be easy or “normal” but anything was possible.
Last week at my favorite roadside market got in their first batches of grapes. They stopped me in my tracks because they almost looked like a miniature plum. I asked the owner what you did with the grapes and was told most people make wine but that some people also made jelly with it. I was game for the jelly, not giving a lot of thought about how I might do that. I bought two quarts of grapes, one dark and one light. I tasted my first grape as I put them in the car to take home. The skin is tough, seriously tough. I think even more so than the Concord grape I grew up with. It was clearly one of those grapes you were supposed to squeeze the grape out of the skin into your mouth.
I got home and asked Google about my new grape purchase. I learned North Carolina has tons of grapes. They even have a state grape. It is a grape that has two names Muscadine when it is ripe to the reddish purple stage and Scuppernongs when it still yellow. Never heard of it? Neither had I. The mother vine here in North Carolina is estimated to be over 400 years old. It is an indigenous grape that grows quite well here and resistant to pests. There are several wineries across the state that use this type of grapes to make wines. I am going to have to make a roadtrip to do some up close and personal investigation into that. Of course, I was able to find a recipe for small batch Scuppernongs jelly on the internet and I was off and running.
I apologize for not taking pictures throughout the process. It wasn’t on my radar as I was making the jelly that I would blog about this. One of the things I learned online is that you slit the skin when cooking down the grapes so that they would not explode as you cooked the raw grapes to extract the juices. I also spent some serious time thinking about all the canning supplies I had in storage back in Montana that I did not want or need to duplicate. I did not mind buying jars but the tools I was going need would require some serious workaround hacks. I found some old fashion methods to help me and some inventive hacks to make my jelly.
I got some good old-fashion muslin to drain my cooked grapes in to separate the pulp for the the juice. I put two layers of muslin in my colander for spaghetti and rinsing fruits and veggies and poured my cooked grapes in it it over a bowl. I allowed it to sit overnight so that I was able to get two cups of juice the next day for my jam. Problem one solved.
I got jars and lids at my local discount store. I was perfectly okay with that. I always seem to be buying some jars each year to replace what I give away or the customize the size for what I am canning at the time.
My next problem was the hot water bath to properly sterilize my jars and then cook them for sealing once they were filled with jelly. I have perfectly size pots for just that along with a couple of funnels with marks for proper head room when filling them and jar lifting tongs for working with the hot jars. I did not want to duplicate what I already owned. I found the perfect hack, a crab cooking pot. I now live close to the coast and could use something like that. I had nothing for cooking crab back in Montana. No big call for cooking fresh crabs there. The insert to put in and pull crabs out of hot water was perfect for getting my new jars in and out of the hot water. I put the jars and lids in the bottom of the strainer pot and let them boil to sterilize them. I would later put the jars of jelly with seals back in that same sieved pot insert and use it to immerse the jars in the water bath for my final step. It was a hack but it worked.
I have now nested and completed a ritual that is part of the changing seasons for me. It makes the fact that after 11 weeks in the temporary quarters while our new house is puttering along with construction, but we are still without an end date not so overwhelming. I have a collection of little jars of bright fuchsia jelly that looks like jewels to share with others. I have a wonderful sense of accomplishment. I am ready for fall, whatever it looks like in North Carolina.