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One of the best things about the changing seasons is the new fresh fruits and vegetables that come with them. While we're wrapping up most of the fresh produce for winter around here, I still have grapes to harvest.
We grow two kinds of grapes on our arbor. One is called Interlaken and ripens early in the season. It's a white seedless grape that doesn't get too sweet, but doesn't leave you puckering from the tartness. The other one is called Niagara. It's a cross between Concord and Cassidy grapes, leaving a yellow grape with tiny seeds. I'm not sure if it's our shorter growing season, but even after letting a light frost hit it, they're not very sweet. This makes them a perfect candidate for jelly!
If you've read any of my jelly/jam posts before you know I don't like huge amounts of sugar or store bought pectin. That's how I invented my Low Sugar No Pectin Strawberry Jam. Grapes have a high level of natural pectin, but to make it set, you need equal amounts of sugar to the grapes. Not going to cut it in my kitchen.
At our local co-op I'd noticed a packet of (this is from our affiliate partner Amazon One 1 oz Pomona's Universal Pectin) There were a few things I instantly liked about it, no preservatives or dextrose and it's jelling power comes from calcium, not sugar! Be still my heart. Seriously, I just about squealed in the aisle.
I put my box front and center in my cart. I made two batches of jelly this weekend, a red pepper garlic jelly and a double batch of this grape vanilla jelly. It worked amazingly in both of them and I still have enough left for one more batch of jelly. All from one box.
It's a little bit different process than commercial pectin, but not hard to use at all. For starters, you can decide how much sugar or honey to use, following their loose guideline. I opted for the lower end of course.
First thing you do is mix some of the calcium powder into a small jar with water. Shake it well. (You then store it in the fridge for the next time you make jelly).
I went out and picked a big old pot full of grapes. After months of deliberation, I finally ordered this steam juicer for my birthday (my hubby knows to let me pick out these types of things) from my affiliate Amazon Cook N Home NC-00256 11-Quart Stainless-Steel Juicer Steamer. If you've never used a steam juicer, it's amazing. You dump the grapes in and the split vanilla beans, I left the grapes on the stem, put it on the stove, and let it steam for 40 minutes. Then you have crystal clear juice to either drink or make into jelly. No more jelly bags, cheese cloth, and overnight draining. I've used mine for all my jelly making this year and table juice.
I ended up with 8 cups of grape juice. Ready for the recipe now!
8 cups grape juice
3 cups organic raw evaporated cane juice (organic sugar would work fine)
2 vanilla beans
1/2 cup lemon or lime juice
Pomona's Universal Pectin
Prepare your jars, either sanitize them in a pot of boiling water for 10 minutes or wash in hot soapy water. Keep them warm. Prepare your water bath, keeping water hot, but not boiling.
Place grape juice, vanilla beans, and lemon juice in a large stock pot. Add 8 teaspoons of calcium water and stir well. (Note: stir it well, in the second batch I didn't stir long enough and had small little cloudy gelatinous gobs I had to spoon out due to not stirring in the calcium water all the way)
In a small bowl, mix 8 teaspoons of pectin and one cup of sugar. Bring contents of stock pot to a boil. Add pectin sugar mix and stir hard for 1 to 2 minutes. Now add in the rest of the sugar and stir until dissolved. Return to a boil and remove from the stove. Take out the two vanilla beans.
Fill your jars to 1/4″ headspace. Wipe rims clean and screw on your lid and bands. With rack in place, put jars in water bath and boil for 10 minutes. Remove from water onto a folded towel. Allow to cool for 24 hours. Check seals. Store on a cool dark shelf for up to a year. If any jars didn't seal, put in fridge for immediate use.
Makes 5 pints or 10 jelly jars. You can half the recipe as well.
Don't toss out those vanilla beans! Rinse off the jelly and let beans air dry. Put them in a glass jar and fill it with sugar. You'll have vanilla sugar to use in your Christmas baking.
What's your favorite jelly? What kind of pectin do you use?
Melissa K. Norris inspires people's faith and pioneer roots with her books, podcast, and blog. Melissa lives with her husband and two children in their own little house in the big woods in the foothills of the North Cascade Mountains. When she's not wrangling chickens and cattle, you can find her stuffing Mason jars with homegrown food and playing with flour and sugar in the kitchen.