I was driving home from the library when a bear ran across the road in front of my car. It’s the third bear I’ve seen that wasn’t behind bars in the zoo. The other two were performing bears, dressed in vests and hats on the street in Istanbul. This naked, energetic, black bear brought to mind, Blueberries for Sal, Robert McCloskey’s book for children that combines the joy of finding and gathering wild food with the possibility of meeting an animal or two in the process. Although it was too late to look for blueberries, the sight of the bear reminded me that September is wild grape time in Vermont.
It’s easy to spot wild grape vines that have climbed trees, utility poles and wires to reach the sunlight and their yellowing leaves are the signal that it’s harvest time. When cooked with sugar, the grapes that Charles and I harvest each fall become an intense grape jelly. I made eighteen jars of jelly with this year’s harvest. We will spread it on toast, use it to flavor yogurt, give it to friends and enjoy the rest slathered on sponge cake in divine jelly rolls. With just grapes and sugar and a bit of water the jelly is easy to make. Here’s how I did it:
I removed leaves, moldy grapes and large pieces of vine from the grapes but didn’t separate the grapes from the smaller pieces of vine and stems. After rinsing the grapes in cold water I put them into my largest pot. I added a cup of water and stirred the grapes frequently as I heated them over medium heat. After about fifteen minutes, they had softened and released their juice. I used a food mill to separate the juice from the stems, seeds and peels.
I cooked the jelly in four-cup batches – four cups of juice combined with six cups of sugar. I used a ladle to skim the foam that formed as the juice and sugar boiled. When the jelly reached 220º, I poured it into half-pint mason jars and followed the directions that came with the jars for heat processing.>> Print This Post <<