Sunday, 1 February 2009

Make Your Own Grape Jelly

Beauty That Moves
As a busy mom, I have made my fair share of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches over the years, I bet you have too. My daughter and her friends are pretty happy with various types of jelly and jam on their sandwiches, but there is something so classic, so perfect about grape jelly with peanut butter.

I started making and canning all of our jams and jellies this past year. The price of a jar from the store, made with organically grown fruit and not loaded with high fructose something or other makes it a ridiculous weekly purchase. Not to mention the number of jars and transport involved in all of that merchandise, over and over again throughout the year. Sure, the glass is recyclable, but if it doesn't need to be brought into my life in the first place, all the better.

For the last two years I've been meaning to wild-harvest grapes in our area to make homemade grape jelly. I've somehow missed the window of time both years. We still have plenty of selections in our pantry; peach jam, blackberry jam, pear ginger jam, strawberry rhubarb jam, apple butter... all perfectly fine, but no grape. Kids of all ages around here wanted grape jelly.

I use Pomona's pectin when making jam. It can be found at the health food store and is a citrus based calcium activated pectin. It does not require sugar to gel so very little or no sugar at all can be used. When looking over their recipe for grape jelly, I noticed it basically called for cooking down the grapes and straining until you have 'grape juice' which you then use to make your jelly. Hmmmm... if I missed grape picking season, and all I really need is the juice anyway, maybe I could use organic grape juice and start the process from there!

And that is just what I did. It worked out great! For less than the price of one jar, I now have several. My jars were already on hand and will be re-used for the next batch. I opted for the can of juice concentrate instead of a large jug or bottle for the reduced packaging.

Next time I would get two cans and make a triple batch. The recipe calls for 4 cups of grape juice and one can of concentrate makes 6 cups. I was left with 2 cups of grape juice which we used for drinking, but I would rather have it turned into jelly. So, two cans of concentrate would have resulted in a dozen 8 oz. jars of organic grape jelly, not bad at all. That is my plan for next time.

I did the math (for a triple batch using two full cans of juice) based on the prices of ingredients in my area. The final cost per 1/2 pint of organic grape jelly is .80!!! Less than a dollar! I could save even more money if I purchased my pectin in bulk (you can learn about that on their website), I plan to do this for next year.

My plan for autumn, like the previous two, is to wild harvest grapes locally... maybe this year it will happen. I'm sure the flavor of truly homemade grape jelly is beyond compare, but this method is satisfying also, for so many reasons.

If you are interested in making your own, here is a link to Pomona's recipes.
And if you are in need of a great whole wheat sandwich bread recipe, you might like to try ours.

Have fun!!