Every now and then certain projects bring more than just a checkmark on our inventory or accomplishment lists. Yesterday was one of those projects for us. We collect eggs every day and we have rabbit meat put up in the freezer and we often harvest foods from the garden to add to our pantry. Yet it was yesterday’s harvest that made us feel that we are beginning to turn the corner to being successful at what we do. About a year and a half ago Val directed and our sons built a grape arbor in our back yard. We love the arbor and my sons enjoyed promptly hanging a hammock to sleep in! But yesterday was a banner day for us. We harvested the first of our Muscadine grapes off our arbor!
It was exciting to taste a few – they are incredibly sweet! Gosh – so much better than the almost tasteless ones we often purchase. But we had a plan for these grapes yesterday – jam! Ultimately we hope to harvest enough to make homemade Moscato wine but that will be another year or two before our vines produce enough for that project!
Making the jam was easier than you would expect. The hardest part was sitting and picking apart the grapes to remove seeds. It isn’t as difficult as it is time consuming but Valentino and I have a great time working together in the kitchen and I find he always manages to surprise me with another story of his childhood – even after all these years! Yesterday was no different as he shared another tale. His sister had decided one year that she wanted to recreate how wine was made in the villages many years ago. He was about 14 at the time so agreed to help her. She found a large half barrel used to stomp the grapes in and her son and Valentino began the task. They found it was extremely cold so she had them use VERY clean rubber boots instead of being barefoot and they stomped away! Once all crushed, the grape juice was put aside to ferment naturally and soon enough they had wine!
Well, we meanwhile finished picking the seeds and then I rinsed the seeds well and left in a strainer to drip. The seeds will be spread out on a towel and left to dry —after all if our vines should die, we will want to be able to plant more! Seeds will also prove to be a great barter tool some day. Then a large canning pot was set on the stove to bring water to a boil and to heat the jars. Another pot was used to heat the rings and lids for the jars. This softens the seals on the lids so that they seal tightly after.
After we finished removing all the seeds we chose to use our grinder attachment on our Kitchenaid mixer and minced all the grapes and skins. This gave us a fairly uniform mix to then cook. We added no water but used all of the pulp, skin, and juice to which we added almost 6 cups of sugar and 4 tblspns of pectin. This was all cooked at a strong boil stirring constantly to prevent burning or sticking for about 20 minutes until we could see it beginning to firm up and cook down. Then the hot jars were filled to within a ¼ inch of the rim. I wiped the rims with a hot water rag and then again with a vinegar rag to be sure the rims were clean. Lids were placed on followed by the rings finger tightened. I then water bathed the jars for 15 minutes after the water returned to a boil. I absolutely love listening for the ping of each jar when removed from the pot signaling a perfect seal! I know these jam jars won’t last long with our family – and they will taste twice as sweet because they came from our own garden!