It’s just the most awesome thing ever when you come upon free, organic food. It seems like the more people who know I preserve the more who bless me with unwanted produce.
A dear friend of mine has a neighbor who has in his yard the most glorious row of muscadine and scuppernong vines. They’ve been there forever… and he doesn’t use them! Sure he picks a handful here and there to snack on, but for the most part these beautiful grapes usually go to waste.
When my friend got permission from this neighbor to pick all she wanted from his vines, she included me in the hook-up. I promised the guy some jelly in exchange for his generosity.
You guys, you should see these vines! There is SO much fruit on there it’s almost overwhelming. You don’t know where to begin! Huge purple muscadines and smaller golden scuppernongs hang everywhere. You can practically milk them into a bucket.
So far, I’ve been to the man’s house twice and spent about an hour each time picking. And I’ve brought home about 8 gallons of gorgeous grapes. For the past couple of days, I’ve been busy canning grape juice and making muscadine jelly. I still have about 3 gallons to get through, which I froze over the weekend ’cause I knew I wouldn’t get to them soon enough. I plan on picking some more this week if I’m able. I can’t believe how much more is left on the vines, and I know they won’t last too much longer so I’d better get them while I can.
The first day I went, I took Jada with me. She always enjoys when we pretend to be living in the wilderness, wild foraging for our survival. We picked a chilly day to go, knowing the bees wouldn’t bother us in cold weather.
We arrived at my friend’s house at about 8:30 in the morning, dressed warmly and with gallon sized buckets in our hands. Heading through her backyard, I spotted the open chainlink fence to the neighbor’s yard which she’d instructed me to go through to find the vines. She’d boasted of their abundance, but I was still shocked when I saw the clusters of muscadines with my own eyes. Jada squealed in excitement as we set to work.
As I filled my bucket, I couldn’t help but examine how the vines were trellised. They aren’t done like we did ours, straight across one line, but are sprawled out over about five lines creating a tunnel of dense leaves and fruit. It looks like the vines are growing over a short set of clotheslines.
The tunnel the vines created was really cool. It didn’t take Jada long to discover an entrance which she excitedly scrambled through. Hidden behind a blanket of foliage, her voice came with delight as she exclaimed, “Mommy! There’s a ton of muscadines under here!” And then she contented herself to sit and eat to her heart’s delight. I teased that she wasn’t much help, but it was great watching her enjoying the morning with me.
So far I’ve made 16 Half-Gallons of Grape Juice, and 14 pints of jelly. Speaking of which, here’s a Muscadine Jelly recipe you might like to try some time. It’s amazing.
- 1 gallon muscadine grapes
- 4 1/2 c. sugar
- 1 (1.75 oz) package dry pectin (like Sure-Jell)
You’ll also need:
- Canning jars (pints or half-pints); lids and bands
- wide mouth funnel
- large bowl
- potato masher
- large pot
- small pot
- jar lifter
- Water Bath Canner
1. Wash the muscadines well, removing any stems and leaves. Pour the grapes into a large pot and add just enough water to cover the grapes by two inches. Cover the pot and bring to a boil over med-high heat. Reduce heat to medium and continue to cook until the grapes are tender (about 30 min.).
2. Do NOT Drain. Using a potato masher, mash the grapes very well. You can use a food mill to separate the juice from the pulp, though I haven’t found this step necessary. Pour the juice out of the pot and into another container (I like using a gallon mason jar), straining to remove all skin and seeds. You should end up with at least 6 cups of juice. Return the strained juice back to the pot.
3. In a small bowl, mix together the pectin and 1/4 c. sugar; add mixture to juice and bring to a rolling boil over med-high heat. Add remaining sugar, stirring to dissolve, and bringing back to a full boil. Reduce heat to simmer over med-low heat. You should continue to see small bubbles popping as it cooks. Allow to simmer for about 15 min.
**While the liquid is cooking make sure your jars are sterilized and remain hot until ready to use. Also have your lids in simmering water (do not boil).
4. Using a cold spoon, test the jelly by scooping a small amount of the liquid out and allowing it to cool at room temperature for a few minutes. Continue simmering while you wait. When the jelly sets (gets gel-like) on the spoon, you know it’s ready. If it remains runny allow the liquid to simmer for 5-10 more minutes and then try the spoon test again until it sets after cooling to touch.
5. Using a funnel and ladle, fill hot jars with hot liquid to 1/2″- 1/4″ from rim. Wipe rim with wet rag to remove anything sticky, then place the two piece lids on the jars and screw tight to seal.
6. Using a jar lifter, gently lower filled jars into hot water in water bath canner. Make sure there is enough water in the canner to cover the jars by 1-2 inches. When the canner is filled, cover with lid and bring to a rolling boil. Allow to boil for 10 min, then remove the jars from the canner using a jar lifter.
7. Allow the jars to cool at room temp for 24 hours before testing the lids to make sure they sealed properly. Store any unsealed jars in the fridge.
I just love muscadine jelly and juice. What’s your favorite way to use them?